Thursday, June 04, 2009
An Evening Outing at the University Library
It was such a beautiful evening that we made the 40-mile trip to the university library, staring at lush green fields, a bright blue sky, and occasional cows and horses. Rifling through our CDs, I could not find anything we could agree to listen to. Query: why are there so many Talking Heads albums in the car? A few weeks ago I mentioned that David Byrne has a new book on bicycling in the fall, and suddenly Talking Heads CDs are GROWING in the car. But we can’t really sing along with those: we don’t know the words, so we compromised with 10,000 Maniacs, though I haven’t the faintest idea what Natalie Merchant is singing, either.
The campus is beautiful: we passed softball fields, the Union, the Bell Tower, the Administration Building with the exhausting staircase, Caribou, and then arrived at the library. Nobody was there: too lovely for students to stay inside, but perfect for doddering adults like us. This is an unusually pretty library: lots of light, comfortable chairs, and five floors of good browsing. You can find everything here from coal miners’ narratives to Compton Mackenzie to Persuasions magazine (the JASNA journal) to small-press books of poetry.
This time I went mainly for non-fiction and poetry, operating on the premise that my house overflows with great novels, letters, and literary diaries.. Waiting on the shelf was Elaine Showalter’s A Jury of Her Peers, the new acclaimed study of American women’s literature, which, at a glance, I can tell I’ll be skimming rather than reading, as I have read everything she mentions after the first 125 pages, from the Civil War on. (There was a fantastic American Studies department at my university.) Switching over to my typical English obsession, I found Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems, edited by R. A. Rebholz (Yale University Press), with great notes, which I needed and appreciate. I added a mystery, Nicolas Freeling’s The Janeites, because, temporarily at least, I'm obsessed with Jane.
Speaking of Jane, I’m almost finished rereading Mansfield Park. This novel has grown in my esteem: I can't tell you how much I admire this muted comedy, though last summer I was lukewarm (read here). Fanny is a quiet kind of heroine, but she certainly has spirit and a sharp intelligence, and I'm fascinated by the theater scenes that enliven and in many cases render insensitive the Bertram and Crawford families. Strangely, I rather guiltily prefer Henry Crawford to Edmund, though of course Henry has bad morals, betrays the Bertram sisters, etc. Edmund is dull, not my ideal romantic figure, and his flirtation with Mary Crawford irritates me more than Henry's flirtation with the Bertram sisters, because poor Fanny has to witness it. Of course Edmund is meant to be handsome and animated, as Mary Crawford AND Fanny fall for him; Fanny's crush develops over many years: the two have an affinity. The best i can say for him is that he's quietly witty. In the end one doesn't really want Henry for Fanny: the Crawfords let us down in a BIG way, a result of their light morals and tainted education.
This summer I appreciate the slower pace and less rackety voice. I'm not expecting a satire like P&P, so I'm enjoying it for what it is. As always with good books, I'm in suspense, wondering if maybe the ending will change...
Posted by Frisbee at 8:33 PM