Why is it so hard to talk about books?
The first time I read Anna Karenina, I wanted to share it with someone. I dragged my huge paperback copy to work and to restaurants and read it in hallways between classes, but none of my friends had read it. I kept up with Cicero and Homer but bluffed my way through German and chemistry until I turned the last page of Anna. I was swept away by life in nineteenth-century Russia. I empathized with beautiful, kind, intelligent Anna, who leaves her husband and son to live with her lover, Vronksy, whom she meets, ironically, on a visit to fix the marriage of her brother Stiva and sister-in-law Dolly, who is shattered when she learned of Stiva’s affair with the governess.
“This is such a brilliant book,” I told my then boyfriend. He sat smoothing his moustache and staring at a cup of coffee, because he was extremely hung over. He was a big-time partier, a guy who told stories about getting kicked out of the Peace Corps because of his antics at a fiesta. It is a sign of my tremendous immaturity that I thought this anecdote funny.
And so I had to talk to other people about Anna Karenina. I needed a book group! A friend and I occasionally got together at Grace and Rubie’s, a women’s club in Iowa City, for book talk. I chatted earnestly about Levin and Kitty, my favorite romantic (though not very romantic) couple in the book, and between my blathering she talked about Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It was cross-talk, since neither of us had read the other’s books, but it is comforting for readers to spend time with each other.
Is it hard for you to chat about books? I can put down on paper what I cannot express in talk.
That’s one reason blogs are so nice. I find it easier to share my enthusiasm on paper, though still not very easy.
AND NOW 4 LITERARY LINKS.
- At Tor’s science fiction blog, Caitlyn Paxson writes about finding the right book at the right time.
I spent my 16th year as an exchange student in France, living with a French family, attending a French school, and being completely immersed in the language—which I barely spoke a word of when I arrived. Even though I was an obsessive reader, I left my books at home. The whole point, I’d reasoned, was to forsake English for a year while I learned a different language. I rapidly realized my mistake—I was forlorn without books that I could understand.
So I wrote a letter to my Great Aunt Joan. In my reading life, my Aunt Joan was the Gandalf to my Frodo, the Merlin to my Arthur. She was responsible for most of the great literary loves of my childhood: the Moomins, Oz, the Dark is Rising series—all of them came from her. I wrote to her and I told her how forsaken I felt without any books that spoke to my heart.
The book was John Crowley’s Engine Summer.
2 At Lenny, the actress Amanda Peet writes about drawing the line at plastic surgery.
It’s painfully obvious, but I’m still ashamed to admit this: I care about my looks. How else can I explain my trainer, stylist, and Barney’s card? I’ve bleached my teeth, dyed my hair, peeled and lasered my face, and tried a slew of age-defying creams. More than once, I’ve asked the director of photography on a show to soften my laugh lines. Nothing about this suggests I’m aging gracefully.
Yet for me, it would be crossing the Rubicon to add Botox and fillers into the mix. I want to look younger (and better), trust me. The only reason I don’t do it is because I’m scared.
We hear you, Amanda. I look like a witch now but still wouldn’t consider Botox or plastic surgery.
3. The blogger Kate MacDonald writes amusingly about Dorothy Sayers’s Murder Must Advertise.