Friday, July 01, 2011

Catching up, What I'm Reading, What I Want to Finish, and What I Want to Read

Not quite in Katharine Hepburn's class...
My husband told me a friend was coming over in an hour.  Having been out of town, I'd hoped to relax and read Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Club.   Oh my God--what?  Hospitality!  Did we have any drinks to offer? How about cookies?   Found some cranberry juice and realized the home-baked cookies were gone.  Rushing here and there, I crossed my fingers in the hope that lights out would hide the mess.

I quickly CLEARED ALL SURFACES OF BOOKS (my main approach to cleaning) and vacuumed.  Then I  polished three tables.  I recommend creamy lemon polish.  So shiny!  

Then I spilled spaghetti sauce on my shorts and rushed to the bedroom to change my clothes only to find nothing but jeans available for the 96-degree night.  So there I was in sweaty jeans, having also located a bra and clean t-shirt, and glided out to the porch as he arrived.  Well, at least the vista from the front door had a nice, clean look. 

"Hi, hi" to the husband's friend and then they went out to the coffeehouse anyway. 

WHAT I'M READING.  I began Elizabeth Jane Howard's Slipstream:  A Memoir.   I've enjoyed her novels and was curious about the memoir partly because of her marriage to Kingsley Amis.  Isn't it astonishing how celebrity buzz makes a difference? 

Howard's memoir is rapturously written, unsentimental, and enthralling.  Her childhood in the '20s and '30s is not idealized.  It is characterized by little parental involvement, nice governesses and good teachers, learning Shakespeare,  staying in the country at her grandparents' home with her cousins, many fears of people and being left alone, friendless for years except for siblings, and eventually attending a domestic science school with a friend.

Here is an account of one Christmas.

"Christmas Day of my sixth or seventh year had been a haze of excitement.  There was feasting and everybody was smiling.  There were wonderful presents that were deliciously divided between things I'd always wanted and things I'd never even hear of, the best being a little toy pony with real pony fur, and a cart for him to draw, and a stable for him to sleep in.  Suddenly, after tea, a stroke of doom--a ripple of departure in the room, an acceleration of bonhomie and then the blinding moment when I realized that both my parents were going away, that minute to a place called Switzerland for a holiday.  They'd kissed me and had gone.  I was left sitting on the nursery floor surrounded by a sea of presents and undulating waves of tissue paper.  In vain did various aunts and uncles point out their generosity to me. The gorgeous presents became valueless as the front door distantly slammed."

Poor Jane!

I am nowhere near the end of this memoir.

WHAT I WANT TO FINISH.   I am determined to finish Keith Donohue's Centuries of June, a strange novel of magic realism and linked stories I took a shot at last week.  And by the end of July I will have finished John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun, which is very good, well-researched and quick reading, but simply got lost in the pile.

WHAT I WANT TO READ.  Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl in the Blue Beret, a historical novel "about a World War II pilot who returns to France to find the people who helped him survive." 

Lynne Tillman's new collection of short stories, Someday This Will Be Funny.  I enjoyed her very funny novel, American Genius


Ellen said...

I never finished Slipstream. After a while I just tired of it. She seemed to "get nowhere," but I regretted it for there was much to ponder in her life. I'd like to read more of her novels. Ellen

Frisbee said...

Slipstream is one of those books I could have read in the car.

I'm not very far in it so don't know how it will work out for me, but memoirs can be disappointing. I very much enjoy Penelope Mortimer's books, but didn't care much for her memoir.