While I didn't get in as much reading over the weekend as I would have liked (that almost seems like a silly statement, since when do I ever get in as much reading as I would like--and I bet you can relate, too), I did get in a little reading and came across some very interesting bits and pieces from a variety of books that I did read and have marked (discreetly and with a pencil, don't worry). And now to share a few.
I sort of want to shake Antonia White's character, Clara Batchelor, in the fourth book of her Frost in May quartet. In Beyond the Glass, Clara is twenty-two and going through a major upheaval in her relationship with Archie, a friend of her youth and rather something more in the last book. This is a longish quote, but I thought it very poignant. Clara is with her parents on a summer holiday visiting two aunts and she and her mother and father are standing just outside the cottage looking in.
"Something in her blank, stony heart melted as it had not melted in a long time: it felt swollen, yet lightened as if it had expanded to take in sorrow and joy, others' as well as her own. She was aware of her father and mother having moved imperceptibly away from her and standing close together. She did not resent it. She wanted to savour this sense of being apart from these two pairs of human beings; each pair so dissimilar, yet so deeply united. For a moment she felt neither old nor young, as if some part of herself were as unchangeable as the rest was amorphous and unpredictable. That part seemed to have no other desire than to stand outside, watching, observing, registering every shift of shadow on the two old women's faces, every sound and scent in the clear darkness outside. Then, all at once, without warning, the smell of stocks and nicotine and trodden grass awakened an overpowering longing in her . . . a longing not to be alone but to be loved, to share her whole life, her whole being with someone else. It was so overwhelming, so violent that she would have burst into tears had she not broken the spell by flinging open the gate and stumbling up the path to tap on the window."
Clara has been (and might well continue to be) a little maddening (I didn't go into why as I want to write about the books properly, but suffice it to say I think she is sort of beastly towards her mother), but she makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about her with that last thought.
I've been reading Benjamin Black's most recent Quirke mystery set in Dublin. As I have a galley copy from the publisher, I can't share a direct quote, but I thought it really interesting how Quirke was reflecting on a fellow (and much younger) pathologist's work in the laboratory. He admits to himself that he is jealous, but then reconsiders--not jealous but envious. I've never really thought much about the distinction between the two, but there is one, and it makes a lot of sense. Jealousy is not only wanting what someone else has but wishing that they no longer had it. Envy, however, is just noticing someone else's talent and wishing you had it as well. So, I guess the latter is somewhat more generous than the former! I'm hoping to finish this in the next day or so and will be writing about it soon.
I really like the Quirke mysteries but definitely they are more about the characterization and psychology and maybe less about the crime solving. I read the very first in the series years ago and have jumped ahead by many books. Needless to say I want to go back and fill in all those missing slots.
And I have finally settled on a nonfiction read. It is a memoir that I know was making the rounds in the last year or so, Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year. It is out in paper and recently caught my eye, so it seemed the perfect fit when my copy came in the mail over the weekend. I have only just started reading. I think this is going to be very good, very bookish and entertaining.
"On my first day at the Agency, I dressed carefully in clothing that struck me as suitable for work in an office: a short wool skirt, in Black Watch plaid, and a dark green turtleneck sweater with a zipper up the back, from the 1960s, purchased in a London thrift shop. On my legs, thick black tights. On my feet, black suede loafers of Italian provenance, purchased for me by my mother, who believed 'good shoes' a necessity, not a luxury. I had never worked in an office before, but I had acted--as a child, in college, after---and I regarded this outfit as a costume. My role being the Bright Young Assistant. The Girl Friday."
Maybe it's because she mentions Sylvia Plath in the first few pages (who was a guest editor for Mademoiselle in the 60s), but I thought initially she was writing about the 60s as well. It seems as though her New York experiences came much later. I like books that have a certain bookishness to them, and this one should fit the bill nicely.