There’s a recommendation that’s sometimes given to bloggers (at least, it used to be), and that is not to apologise if they are returning after an absence if it wasn’t signposted ahead of time. True fans will just be glad that you’re back and indifferent or one-time readers won’t really care. While I understand the thinking behind the advice, it’s not really how I go, is it? So – to explain. A virus went through our household last week, leaving us adults laid up in bed, alternating between sweaty fever naps (yuk) and coughing episodes. At one point Keira walked into our room and stopped short. “Your room stinks,” she said, wrinkling her nose before stepping back into the hallway. And she was right.
But the lemonade I extracted from this lemon of a week was to finish Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (on an Audible audiobook, narrated by Pullman himself). I began this well-loved novel in the famed series a few years ago and for some reason couldn’t get past the first page. Contrast this to now, when I got through all ten hours over two days (in between said naps and twelve-hour night sleeps). I dislike the wasted time that comes with convalescing, plus reading hurt my eyes, so I recommend audiobooks to anyone who feels similarly while they’re unwell. You’re still doing *something*, being productive. Now I just need to decide whether I’m willing to wait for my next free credit to get its sequel or go to the library and get a hard copy now I’m better. The agonies of choice!
My local public library’s collection of Chekhov titles pales in comparison to another service I visited a few months ago. I took Riley to a birthday party across town and had a few hours to spare before picking him up and so spent a few hours in this new library – bliss! Of course, I joined up and one of the titles I got was The Duel. My knowledge of ‘The Russians’, as they are often referred, is spotty and as Chekhov is regarded as ‘the kindest of the realists’*, I especially wanted to become more acquainted with his work. The Duel was a great place to start – smart, insightful, witty and moving.
Like Wendell Berry and Carol Ann Duffy, I borrowed Thirst by Mary Oliver because I wanted to familiarise myself with her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry and understand how she came to be, as described by the NYT, America’s best-selling poet. Perhaps it was because of her “consistent, shimmering reverence for flora and fauna” (the New Yorker) or her work’s readable (some critics call it simplistic) accessibility. I took away from Thirst a grappling of what it means to be alone; of what selfhood means while grieving for the loss of a loved one and what solace can be found in nature.
Finally, we come to the book I’ve been reading the longest, The Bloody Chamber and other stories by Angela Carter. It’s slender, gothic, sexy, sumptuous in its vocabulary and imagery – all the things I would expect to have me finish it in a sitting or two. And yet, I’m finding it difficult to get through. Partly because I’m writing a lot of short fiction at the moment and I typically form an aversion to reading a certain mode while I’m writing it. Maybe that’s what it is. I’m about ninety percent done. That can be tonight’s task.
What are you reading this month?
* A phrase I read once and can’t now track down the source. I remembered it because it was an elegant epithet. If anyone knows who said it, let me know.