Women’s Road Trips in Literature

Reese Witherspoon in
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

I don’t take many road trips.

Nothing could compel me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, as Cheryl Strayed did in Wild (played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie).

I would rather take the train or fly.  And I like a nice hotel at the end of the day

I do not drive, and I generally pass on road trips with the goal-oriented men in my family

The guys are all about getting there, taking the interstate rather than back roads, and know the words “coffee” and “camping”  but not “motel.”

There was the time we were on the New York thruway in a blizzard and I had to stick my arm out the window and wipe snow off the windshield with my mitten. I was never so happy as when the Highway Patrol closed the road.

During an 11-day bicycle trip, the only way to get the guys to take a break was to pretend I was yearning to heat up Dinty Moore stew (yum yum)  at a campground.

But  I do like reading about travel.

At Atlas Obscura, Richard Kreitner has written a very clever article about literary road trips,  “The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips.”  A good list and a great map, but where are the women?

Only one woman has made the list, and that is Cheryl Strayed, whose beautifully-written book, Wild,  a memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to Portland, is a literary page-turner.  The poor woman was mourning her mother, did not work out or hike before her trip, and had just shot some heroin, so could she have hiked in that kind of shape?  Well, yes:  she was raised in the country and is outdoorsy.   (And she is a fantastic writer.)

Surely there must be some less extreme women travelers, I thought.  And so I  decided to list a few  other women’s road trip books.  Guess what?  All the trips are demanding.

von arnim the caravaners 11407011. In  Elizabeth von Arnim’s charming comic novel, The Caravaners,  a young woman blooms during a caravan trip in England. Edelgarde has persuaded her much older husband,  the narrator,  Baron Otto von Ottringe, that the trip will be cheap and healthy. He has envisioned himself sitting cozily inside the caravan, but it rains all the time, and he must tramp in the muddy road beside the horse, guide it through narrow gateways, and hold umbrellas over cooking pots.

Edelgarde loves the outdoor life.  She shortens her dresses and stops taking the Baron’s  orders.  She refuses to wait on him.  She points out that he can do everything she does if he puts his mind to it.  She is inspired by the companionship with the politically radical German woman who suggested the trip, her sister, Mrs. Menzies-Legh, who has lived in England for many years, and Jellaby, a socialist, whom Otto refuses to acknowledge until  finds out that Jellaby is “Lord Sigismund.”

I hope I could behave so well as Edelgarde on a caravan trip in the rain!  But actually it’s quite a bit like Wild when I think about it…

mona simpson Anywhere_But_Here_book_cover2.  Mona Simpson’s Anywhere But Here.  I loved this novel when I read it in the ’80s.   The narrator, Ann, and her mother, Adele, take a road trip to California from Wisconsin on Adele’s ex-husband’s credit card.  Adele has a dream  that Ann can be a child star in Hollywood.  It’s actually a novel about a mother-daughter relationship, but there is a road trip.

The first line is two words:  “We fought.”

Typical of mothers and daughters, yes?

Nevada Imogen Binnie3.  In Imogen Binnie’s bold, if wildly uneven, novel, Nevada , the heroine, Maria, a transgender woman, works at a bookstore in New York.  After she breaks up with her girlfriend, she takes a road trip west in her girlfriend’s car (reported stolen, of course). In Nevada, she meets a boy, James, who works at WalMart, who she believes is trans without knowing it.  And then there is much discussion with him about what it means to be trans.    Maria’s road trip in a broken-down car is something most of us can relate to, and Maria is an intelligent source of information about transgender women–much better than interviews with Cait Jenner, who, in my wry womanly view, stands for money, Kardashian reality, and hair extensions.

towers of trebizond macaualy 51xRuH-4gLL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_4.  Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond.  I read this wonderful novel years ago.

The following description is from the jacket copy:  it is :

the gleefully absurd story of Aunt Dot, Father Chantry-Pigg, Aunt Dot’s deranged camel, and our narrator, Laurie, who are traveling from Istanbul to legendary Trebizond on a convoluted mission. Along the way they will encounter spies, a Greek sorcerer, a precocious ape, and Billy Graham with a busload of evangelists. Part travelogue, part comedy, it is also a meditation on love, faith, doubt, and the difficulties, moral and intellectual, of being a Christian in the modern world.

mary morris nothing to declare 5179G9elPbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_5.  Mary Morris’s Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone  is a remarkable travel memoir.  I read it in the ’80s so it isn’t fresh, but here is a quote from the writer  Wendy Smith’s  Amazon review:

…Mary Morris’s category-defying 1988 memoir was an instant classic as much for its candid revelation of the author’s turbulent emotions as for its sensitive, unglamorous portrait of a Latin America most tourists never see.”

And, yes, that’s how I remember it!

Mara and Dann Lessing 5125ZTWXP0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_6.  Doris Lessing’s Mara and Dann, a stunning science fiction novel about the odyssey of a brother and sister during a dystopian future.   After a palace coup, the children Mara and Dann flee to a primitive rural village.  Eventually, during a drought, they join a great human migration northwards.  They survive war, enslavement, and famine.  They grow up. At one point, they are fighting on opposite sides of a war.  They escape.  Mara especially is articulate about their experiences.  She wants to remember.

In 1999 Michael Upchurch wrote in the New York Times:

”Mara and Dann” has the shape of a myth or a folk tale in which a humble foundling’s illustrious origins are eventually revealed after much hardship. But the book’s proportions are those of an epic; at more than 400 pages, it feels inflated, repetitious and strangely devoid of surprise. All the necessary elements are here, often dazzling in their invention, but only intermittently do they coalesce into tension-filled narrative. Mara herself describes her ”adventure” as a ”slog of endurance,” and those same words, unfortunately, sometimes apply to the book itself.

I obviously admired this much more than Upchurch did, but you get the drift!

*******************************************************

Okay, what are your favorite women’s travel/road trip books?  And are the trips always rugged?

On Corfu: Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell, Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, & Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic

Corfu1a

Our life on this promontory has become like some flawless Euclidean statement.”–Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell

I am pretending to be in Corfu.

I would love to be on a Greek island right now.

A commenter at my post on Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet recommended Durrell’s travel books, among them  Prospero’s Cell, a memoir/history of Corfu that includes journal entries, poetry, history, a travel guide, dialogue, and letters.

Durrell writes lyrical, dense, rhythmic, imaginative prose. You either fall in love with it or you don’t.  In the passage below,  he writes unconventional fragments about the sea.

The sea’s curious workmanship:  bottle-green glass sucked smooth and porous by the waves:  vitreous sells:  wood stripped and cleaned, and bark swollen with salt a bead:  sea-charcoal, brittle and sticky:  fronds of bladderwort with their greasy marine skin and reptilian feel:  rocks, gnawed and rubbed:  sponges, heavy with tear:  amber:  bone:  the sae.

Durrell Prospero's Cell A1ILhrTQcnLDurrell, his wife Nancy, and his mother and siblings moved to Corfu in 1935 and stayed for five years.   Both Durrell and his younger brother, Gerald, wrote about Corfu.  After World War II broke out, the family fled and Lawrence ended up in Alexandria, Egypt, where hw wrote Prospero’s Cell.

Lawrence Durrell describes the gorgeous island and their idyllic life of writing, gardening, picnicking, swimming, and climbing cliffs.  He also captures the intensity of the conversation of their many friends, who share information about Corfu’s history and myths.

The mythic traditions are the most interesting to me.  There is a rich tradition that Corfu is the home of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Durrell’s elegant friend the Count, a wealthy, hospitable man, explains at length his theory.  Among other thing, he claims that Sycorax, the name of Caliban’s mother, is an anagram for Corcyra (the Greek for Corfu).

Durrell descibes mythic spots associated with The Odyssey.  Three towns claim to be the site of the site of the meeting of Odysseus/Ulysses and Nausicaa.

In this landscape observed objects still retain a kind of mythological form–so that though chronologically we are separated from Ulysses by hundreds of years in time, yet we dwell in his shadow.  Like earnest mastodons petrified in the forests of their own apparatus the archaeologists come and go, each with his pocket Odyssey and his lack of modern Greek.

Durrell maintains that it is the fishermen who “ratify” the existence of Ulysses and that the poem applies to the culture of Modern Greeks very well. He also tells the story of a fisherman who stays up past midnight when his daughter reads her school book about Ulysses.  They had never heard of The Odyssey, and are surprised to learn that this epic is read in England.

He also writes about the island saint, Spiridion, the olive trees, and Edward Lear’s drawings of Corfu.

(By the way, this is available as an e-book.)

In Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, a very light memoir of the family’s time in Corfu, I chortled over the eccentric Durrell family’s idiosyncracies.

When they arrive in Corfu, a taxi driver takes them under his wing and helps them find a villa with a bathroom, his mother’s only requirement.  They live a leisurely, idyllic life there.  Mrs. Durrell cooks exotic meals, Larry (Lawrence) gets fat and complains that the world will be deprived of his deathless prose when he is interrupted by a donkey braying and his brother Leslie taking pot shots out the window at birds, their sister, Margo, spends all her time dieting and driving men crazy in her bikinis, and Gerald, the youngest, is obsessed with animals and spends hours in the garden watching animals and insects.

I love their pets:  Gerald raises a pigeon who believes he is a human being, and refuses to fly.  The pigeon takes walks with them (and puffs himself out with pride).  Eventually he lays an egg.  He is a she!

At one point Larry forces his mother to find another villa because he has invited eight guests and there isn’t enough room.

It is very comical.  Nothing like Lawrence Durrell’s books!  Gerald is very simple and charming.

Mary Stewart this-rough-magicSet on Corfu, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic, a Gothic novel of the ’60s  (now known as romantic suspense), is one of my favorite books.   I reread it endlessly.   The narrator, Lucy, is an actress out of work and is happy to escape London in the rain to visit her sister, Phyllida, on Corfu, where her rich Roman banker husband owns a villa.

This witty, highly literate novel begins with references to The Tempest.  There is an epigraph from The Tempest in every chapter.  Phyllida tells Lucy that if her new baby is a boy, she will name him Prospero.

I laughed.  “Poor little chap, why on earth?  Oh, of course…  Has someone been telling you that Corfu was Shakespeare’s magic island for The Tempest?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, the other day, but for goodness’ sake don’t ask me about it now.  Whatever you may be used to, I draw the line at Shakespeare for breakfast.”

On the beach, Lucy swims with a playful dolphin, but someone shoots at it.  She jumps into the water to protect it, not caring if she is shot herself.  Her suspects?  Phyllida has three tenants, the famous actor Julian Gale and his son Max, a musician, in the Castello, and Godfrey Manning, a photographer, in a villa.  It takes a while to unravel who are the good guys and who are the bad, especially when Spiro, the son and brother of Phyllida’s female servants, dies in a boating accident.

Anyway, yes, eventually there is romance.  And there is much suspense.

Stewart always weaves travel into her mysteries.  Each one is set in an exotic place.  I never get tired of reading her descriptions of bays, beaches, woods, mountains, and cliffs.  And actually I can imagine being in her Corfu more readily than Lawrence Durrell’s or Gerald Durrell’s.

And so I’m on Corfu this weekend!

If only I could swim with that dolphin.

Marriage and the Family in Doris Lessing’s A Proper Marriage

Doris Lessing A Proper Marriage 6a00d8341c674653ef012876eeae79970cMarriage and the family were dead.

I was a 19-year-old woman who read classics and feminist criticism, wore bell bottoms and Earth shoes, and enjoyed sex: but I would never marry.  And then suddenly I married an older, often drunken, man, in a casual ceremony by a justice of the peace.  The marriage lasted three years.

You would think Doris Lessing’s autobiographical quintet of novels, Children of Violence, which I devoured in my teens, would have taught me to avoid the misfortune of early marriage.  Alas, books do not work that way.

The heroine of A Proper Marriage, Martha Quest, is a rebel, but she, too, impulsively marries at 19.  She has left her parents’ farm and believes she is independent, though she does not find quite what she wants in a small African town.   She is bookish, analytical, leftist, and  determined to live a different life from her mother’s. Then she falls in with a group who attend sundowner parties , gets drunk every night, and she marries Douglas, a hearty, red-faced civil servant, in a civil ceremony.  . She is stuck in an apartment with Douglas and their  child, Caroline, until the beginning of World War II when Douglas enlists.  Then she and Caroline are alone.

A Proper Marriage is very much a young woman’s novel.  Although I love the later books in the quintet, I have reread this with some reluctance.  Young women suffer so much pain and insecurity.

The Children of Violence series consists of five novels, which follow Martha from adolescence through old age:  Martha Quest (1952), A Proper Marriage (1954), A Ripple from the Storm (1958), Landlocked (1965), and The Four-Gated City (1969).  The last two, written after the success of her experimental novel, The Golden Notebook, are mature works of fiction.

A Proper Marriage is a raw naturalistic account of Martha’s thoughts and feelings, and remarkable for that.  Lessing uses the third-person singular point of view, but the narration does not feel detached:  we are inside Martha’s skin, even though it is at a remove.  Occasionally Lessing switches point of view:  Mr. Maynard, an older man , a judge, is attracted to Martha, and we see her from his perspective. Critics have complained about Lessing’s “flat-footed” style, but the  precision and straightforwardness of Lessing’s early naturalistic novels give her a voice that does not spare the terror of a woman’s hating her life and the inability to go beyond stating a problem.

Lessing’s description of a woman’s anger and boredom is astonishingly honest.  Martha believes she will leave her marriage and her baby someday; it is just a matter of when. . When her husband, Douglas, enlists in the Army, she is both stuck and more independent.  She often hates her strong-willed baby, Caroline, with whom she fights daily battles trying to get her to eat. She is terrified that Caroline, who will not eat according to the Baby Book rules, is starving to death

Here is one of Martha’s battles with Caroline, observed by Mr. Maynard:

He saw a small lively girl striving energetically against the straps that bound her to a high chair, her cheeks scarlet and tear-stained, her black eyes rebellious….  On the platform before her was a heavy china plate, and on that a squelch of greyish pulp. Martha, planted on her two sturdy legs, her own lips as firmly set as Caroline’s, who was refusing the food she was trying to push between them.  As the spoon came near, Caroline set up an angry yell, and bright sparks of tears gleamed through squeezed lashes…  Martha was pale with anger, trembling with the contest…

This is a sad, horrifying scene, not what we expect from Martha, but we see that Caroline is not behaving like the Baby Book baby, and Martha has panicked.  Eventually Martha learns to ignore Caroline at meals, and finally Caroline begins to eat.  But Martha has to teach herself everything.  The books and other young mothers often fail her.

When Douglas returns from the war after a year with an ulcer, he moves the family into a big bungalow with black servants.  Martha does not know how to “handle” servants.  She “spoils the natives,” her mother says.  Martha tries to ignore her mother and Douglas and to live her life.   She joins a Communist discussion group. She gives a lecture on Russian education.  She is naive and passionate.  Not until the very end of the novel does she leave Douglas.

Mr. Maynard says ironically when he sees her leaving,

I suppose with the French Revolution for a father and the Russian Revolution for a mother, you can very well dispense with a family.”…After a while she conceded, “That is really a very intelligent remark.”

Not a great book by Lessing, but each one in the series improves until finally we read the last two masterpieces.

I’m hanging on for that!

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant Ishiguro.BG.jacketI have been long been a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.   His latest novel, The Buried Giant, is another masterpiece. Set in a post-Arthurian mythic world, this literary novel is elegantly crafted and emotionally disturbing.  Oddly, it has generated controversy among science fiction fans and the writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ishiguro’s poetic, rhythmic narrative slowly unfolds in the shadowy reality of a post-war England inhabited by Britons and Saxons in a mist of forgetfulness  They cannot remember what happened yesterday in their villages, let alone during the wars in King Arthur’s time.. They barely remember who they are.

Important questions are asked about memory and forgetfulness.  Is it better to remember painful things, or to forget?

The two main characters, an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, are regularly taunted by the villagers for being slow and denied a candle because they are so old.  Axl cannot quite remember the past. He and Beatrice have separate memories.   He cannot remember even if they had children.  Beatrice remembers a son.

Ishiguro’s omniscient narrator says aside,

You may wonder why Axl did not turn to his fellow villagers for assistance in recalling the past, but this was not as easy as you might suppose.  For in this community the past was rarely discussed.  I do not mean that it was taboo.  I mean that it had somehow faded into a mist as dense as that which hung over the marshes.  It simply did not occur to these villagers to think about the past–even the recent one.

Axl and Beatrice decide to leave their village (and no wonder!  what a ghastly place) and travel to visit their son.  On the journey, they meet a woman who has been separated from her husband by a tricky boatman (i.e., like Charon, who rows the dead to the Underworld) .  The boatman rowed her husband across to the island of the dead, promising falsely he would take her next. She does what she can to torment the boatman, because she wants to be with her husband.  Later, Ishiguro brings us back to this episode.

On their journey, they meet a Saxon warrior, Wistan, who has saved a child kidnapped by ogres.  The child, Edwin, now has terrible bites on his chest, and the  villagers want to stone him  Are the bites by vampires?  No, they are not. But they are horrifying.

And so Wistan saves the boy and they travel with Axl and Beatrice.  They meet Gawain, the knight of Arthur, who has been trying to kill a dragon for many years..  They learn that the enchanted breath of the dragon has caused the mist of forgetfulness.  It was a spell designed by Merlin

Wistan, who wants to kill the dragon, too, does not trust Gawain.  The two are almost equal as warriors.  Gawain tries to discourage Wistan.   Both think they recoginize Axl from the past.  Eventually Axl himself has vague memories of a battlefield.

There are some truly eerie scenes.  Monks want to kill them, but they find their way through a tunnel built over human bones while Wistan fights a whole army single-handed in a terrifying tower..

When we learn that Gawain wants to save the enchanted dragon for some reasons we cannot altogether reject, we listen.  We know we are heading toward tragedy.  Is it indeed dangerous to remember so much?   And is remembering worth the price?  There is a price.

Most reviewers recount the whole plot of the novel, and usually I tell more, but I do think most of this depends on surprise.  SO READ THE REVIEWS LATER!

The novel has been controversial.  There have been  misunderstandings about genre.  Ursula K. Le Guin, the great science fiction writer who has grown increasingly querulous in recent years about literary trends (and many, many other things),  labels Ishiguro’s novel a fantasy, and does not think it is a good one.  (It’s not a fantasy, so what can I say?)

At my public library Ishiguro’s novel has categorized as science fiction, and, yes, is on the new science fiction shelves.  Mind you, this is not a national trend:  Barnes and Noble (and probably everyone else)  knows it belongs in the literature section.  But  fewer readers at my library will stumble across the book in the SF ghetto.

Ishiguro himself has said he does not consider it fantasy. He said in an interview with the New York Times in March that this novel about memory was inspired partly by the medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Ishiguro says,

I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

What can I say?  I loved the book.  And it is not science fiction/fantasy, though I love genre fiction.  It is not swords and sorcery, nor Arthur and Merlin.  No one but Ishiguro could have written it.

Do We Need Footnotes?

Anthony Trollope
Do we need footnotes in Trollope’s novels?

In Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great, she is adamant about her loathing of footnotes.

In Chapter 94, she writes,

I once got into an argument on a Trollope mailing list with people who like footnotes.  (I hate all footnotes not written by the authors.)  The people I was arguing with maintained that they needed footnotes to understand the story, because Trollope wrote expecting his readers to know what a hansom cab was and to understand his jokes about decimalization.  I argued that they’d either figure it out by context or they didn’t need to.

I have had this same comical argument many times.  Mind you, I enjoy footnotes.  They are an art, though often of interest mainly to scholars. When I have time on my hands, I’ll skim footnotes.

But even when a footnote is necessary, it is often too protracted.  I  have gleaned everything I know about England in the 19th century from reading many, many, many novels, and I am often too involved in the story to stop.  How many times have I interrupted my reading to skim long footnotes on the history of Corn Laws or Corn law repeal, not only in Trollope, but in George Eliot, George Meredith, and Charlotte Bronte?  So far, Trollope hasn’t required me to take a test.

And sometimes the footnotes are a bit dippy.

For instance, in Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right (Penguin), Note 1 in Chapter 3 tells me that the Acrobats (a club in the novel), may have been “the Garrick, originally in King Street, a block away from Pall Mall.”

The Dover edition (left) doesn’t have footnotes, but it’s fine with me.

Jo Walton says she tries to find editions of Trollope without footnotes.

One must have notes to read Satyrica.I admit, there are times when you need footnotes.  If you read the extant fragments of Petronius’s Satryica (formerly known as the Satyricon), you rely on notes.

We have only fragments left of this risque Roman novel. Only one manuscript (in very bad shape) survived to the ninth century:  The monks did not go out of the way to copy it, and I admit there is much that might not appeal to them:  men losing their boyfriends to other men, buggering, rites of priestesses of Priapus, and witches attempting to cure the hero’s impotence.

This irreverent, sometimes obscene, masterpiece was written by Petronius Arbiter, Nero’s arbiter of taste. It is probably (so scholars hazard) a Menippean satire (a long work of prose mixed with verse) of the first century A.D.  (Some are not sure that Petronius the author is the same as Nero’s Petronius.)   The longest chapter extant, “Trimalchio’s Dinner Party,” inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Fellini’s movie Satyricon.

If you have time to read only a bit of this, I recommend “Trimalchio’s Dinner Party.”  It requires the fewest footnotes.  Trimalchio is a hilarious, kindly, vulgar millionaire, a freedman who started as an accountant.  He pisses in gold chamber pots, washes his hands with wine, dries his hands in slaves’ hair, serves gourmet dishes shaped like the Signs of the Zodiac, and has acrobats jumping through flaming hoops during dinner.  Yes, like Gatsby, he’s nouveau riche.

During dinner, when an accountant  interrupts to read  to Trimalchio about the day’s happenings, Trimalchio is shocked to learn there was a fire in the gardens at Pompeii..

Hold it,” Trimalchio said, ‘when did I buy any gardens in Pompeii?”

“Last year,” the accountant told him, “that’s why they haven’t been entered in the accounts yet.”

Trimalchio blew up.  “Whatever properties’ve been bought, if I don’t get told within six months, forget it.”

petronius-satyricon-folio1This excerpt is from Frederic Raphael’s lively translation (only available through the Folio Society, alas, but now out of print and hence cheap on the internet):

Petronius’s Latin is odd, using vocabulary rarely used, and as you can imagine, one needs the notes.  But I am laughing as I read the Latin.   The guest Seleucus philosophizes on death after a friend’s funeral.

My translation?

We walk around inflated bags.  We are less than flies.  Nevertheless, flies have some virtue; we are not more than bubbles!

Yes,we are not flies but bubbles!

What to Do When It’s Hot, Part 2: Reading Barbara Trapido at the Coffeehouse & Shades of Green

Prairie grass on the coffeehouse patio.
Prairie grass on the patio at the coffeehouse.

My friend Janet and I biked to the coffeehouse.

And then we got out our “girl books” to read,  because we were hot and tired.  I am reading Barbara Trapido’s Brother of the More Famous Jack, and she is reading Elizabeth Taylor’s The Soul of Kindness.

Photo of book and coffee drink.
Photo of book and coffee drink.

The winner of the  Whitbread Special Prize for Fiction in 1982, Brother of the More Famous Jack came up as a recommendation at a couple of online sites.  It has a foreword by Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  Semple is a Trapido enthusiast.  She found the book at a library sale.  She has corresponded with the author.  She writes, “The first page was so charming it made my chest ache.”

It is slightly reminiscent of the early novels of Margaret Drabble (The Millstone, etc.).  The heroine, Katherine, a very pretty  girl who loves fashionable clothes and gets picked up by a middle-aged bisexual man at the bookstore, has applied to a university in philosophy.  The philosophy professor, Jacob Goldman, is very amused by her. He asks her what she reads.

Somewhat to my retrospective embarrassment, I remember telling him, among other things, that I thought Wordsworth had possibilities, that dI thought Jesus Christ had been a Utopian Socialist and that I didn’t like the sex in D. H. Lawrence.

It continues like this–very funny. When her bisexual friend John takes her to visit the Goldmans  for the weekend, it is awkward–she hadn’t realized it was her professor’s house.  But then she falls in love with the whole family:    Jane, the wife, always pregnant, would rather garden than clean; her oldest son, Roger, is a brilliant, moody musician; Jonathan, the next son, is a rebel who reads Finnegan’s Wake, Vogue, and comic books; Rosie is nine and gets on her mother’s nerves; and then there are the twins.

Katherine falls in love with Roger, but he is cold and controlling.  He criticizes what she reads, pretends to his parents he isn’t in a relationship with her, and occasionally snubs her when visits him at Oxford.. Eventually she realizes that he doesn’t love her so much.

Well, I won’t tell you what happens because I’m not done myself, but may I just whisper, Italy?  And the back tells me that she visits the Goldmans 10 years later.

I love the book!

And I don’t remember Elizabeth Taylor’s book, but I read it years ago and she is excellent.

Shades of Green.  It is the time of year when the shades of green change.

It is July 19, and the green is now silvery and the leaves are sagging and a little blowsy.

The green's a little blowsy now.
The green’s a little blowsy and worn out now.

I love summer.  I love rushing out of the house coatless.  I love the fresh green, and I love the worn-out green.  But how did it get to be mid-July?

I must enjoy the rest of the summer!

When It’s Hot: Do’s and Don’ts

IMG_3205 Do.  Go to a coffeehouse and have a cold coffee drink.  Take a picture of your e-reader and cold drink.

IMG_3199Don’t  bicycle on this lovely grassy dirt trail.  It is a tough ride on this surface even when it’s medium hot.  Today the canopy of leaves will not cool you off.

IMG_3209Do.  Stop at a Little Free Library. It takes no energy.  You’re bound to find something, even a summer thriller.

IMG_2077Don’t water your outdoor plants till night.  The water is smokin’ hot in this heat.  (And, no, these plants aren’t mine.  I do have some, though.)

troll on booksDo turn on the air conditioner and take a book off your TBR pile.  An ancient troll doll stands on top of my Top Three in Progress :  George R. R. Martin’s Clash of Kings, Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland.

Enjoy the 90-degree weather!