Since winter seems to be lingering I have of late been trying to get out of the house on weekend mornings, in order to treat myself. Go somewhere cheerful where there are people yet I can still be alone--solitary but amidst a small crowd of people, if that doesn't sound too odd. I have been going for a nice hot cup of coffee or tea at a local coffee shop that happens to be right across from my branch of the public library. If I am lucky and get there early enough I sit at a table next to one of the big windows with my books, magazines, notebook, pen in hand and read or write letters. All at my leisure for a couple of hours. No telephone or TV, no serious distractions, just me and my reading. It's been pleasant and I think I might continue doing it, though I might see what other places I can frequent for a change of pace (and scenery).
This photo is actually from a few weeks ago, so no snow yesterday, though maybe the same cloudy skies. Strangely I can sit and read even while customers come and go and music plays softly. I sometimes have a hard time reading on my lunch break in the library where I work--maybe it's just too quiet and then when students are chatting or talking on their cell phones it's hard for me to block it out. In any case, I like my weekend morning excursions and must say I look forward to them during the work week (even if it means no sleeping late on Sundays).
Sometimes I take just a book and magazine with me, other times I have a small array of choices to dip into. I thought I'd share a sampling of my reading from this past weekend. You can see how my mind meanders . . .
From Eagle Pond by Donald Hall:
"Her (Hall's grandmother) only literature was letters, but what a letterist she was. Nor did it start with her. In the back chamber, in old chests and boxes, along with diaries and slates and chalk and pens and dried inkwells, there are bundles of letters and postcards--Civil War letters, letters dispatched before stamps existed, letters of great formal intimacy often addressed to names I cannot place from names I cannot place. Nor did it end with her. I inherited the matter of Eagle Pond letters. I annoy my friends by answering their letters immediately. I puzzle publishers and magazine editors and impresarios of the poetry reading by by writing instead of telephoning. I loathe the damned telephone; I prize the bundle of envelopes left each day in the outsized mailbox. Every day is Christmas, as I settle back into my blue chair and hear my friends out, knowing that late in the day I will talk back to them. Last time I counted, I was talking (I dictate) four thousand letters and postcards a year."
From April issue of The Atlantic (Benjamin Schwarz):
" A writer's posthumous renown is often untethered to his life's toil, even when that toil is writing. Edward Thomas is now regarded as maybe the finest poet of the First World War, and one of the greatest of of the 20th century. His marriage of precise pastoral observation to a severe clarity of vision, and his easy technical virtuosity as displayed in his natural use of diction and of the rhythms of everyday speech, has made him something od a poet's poet: Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis said they had 'little or no hope of ever equaling' Thomas, and at Westminster Abbey in 1985, Ted Hughes declared him 'the father of us all'."
An excerpt from a short but very interesting article about Edward Thomas (Yes, am going to read his One Green Field very, very soon!).
Books added to wish/reading list from same issue of The Atlantic:
What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan
From May issue of Vogue (Megan O'Grady):
"'I have for a very long time wanted to write an unapologetic love story,' says Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 'But one that is very much set in a practical world affected by things like getting a visa and paying rent.' The Nigerian writer's third novel, Americanah (Knopf), is that rare thing in contemporary literary fiction: a lush, bighearted love story that also happens to be a piercingly funny social critique."
In the same issue of Vogue there is an article and several page spread about Carey Mulligan and the forthcoming new adaptation of The Great Gatsby that is well worth a glance (beautiful and elegant clothes).
As well an excerpt from Edna O'Brien's forthcoming memoir Country Girl, which I'm looking forward to reading.
A quick perusal of the most recent The New York Review netted the announcement of the next NYRB Classics book club title that I look forward to getting in May: Transit by Anna Seghers. Caroline wrote about it last year, so it had already been on my wishlist. I've finished Vasily Grossman's An Armenian Sketchbook (which I need to write about soon) and will be starting Renate Adler's Pitch Dark soon. Although I'm moving very slowly with my NYRB books, I am enjoying them immensely. They're good and not to be rushed, so it's nice to know I have more good books to look forward to.
And I'll leave you with one more photo. I didn't set out yesterday to go book shopping. Last weekend I discovered a new (new to me anyway, unbeknownst to me it has been there for more than a year now!) used bookstore in a part of my downtown that had just been empty storefronts. When I walked by it previously it was closed and appeared to only be open during the work week (not surprising since my downtown tends to roll up the sidewalks after business hours and on weekends--sadly--it once used to be a thriving area). I assumed I would have to try and drop in some time on a day off from work, but when I happened by it was open! I think it was just a random thing, but since I was lucky enough to go in and browse and since there was a half off sale I couldn't resist stocking up on a few new mysteries and an additional novel or two. They have lots of pulpy sorts of books--you know, old titles with those lurid but strangely inviting covers. The owner said he gets in new stock almost every day, so I hope to get back there for more browsing. Yes, a quick look and I walk away with a stack of books, and all for the low, low, low, low price of $10 and change. I can complain about the weather, but not about my new books!