I have all kinds of posts I’d like to write at some point, several on A Sentimental Murder, one on Don Quixote, one on Rilke’s Duino Elegies, but I don’t feel like writing them now. Instead, I feel like rambling. So this will be a rambling post.
This morning, Hobgoblin, Muttboy, and I went on a walk in a local park (something like 1,000 acres in size with lots of forest) and found that our usual trail had been completely devastated by a storm that passed through here last Wednesday. I heard rumors of tornados, although I don’t know if any actually developed, but at the very least it was brief but incredibly powerful; I don’t usually get nervous when storms come through, but this time I was, and I was ready to head down to the basement at any moment. Our neighborhood was fine — we didn’t even lose power — but other neighborhoods near us weren’t so lucky; roads were closed everywhere, trees were down all over the place, and people lost power for days. A trip that usually takes Hobgoblin 30 minutes took him 1 hour 40 minutes because he couldn’t find roads that were open.
So, at the beginning of our walk, we noticed a few trees down, but it didn’t seem that bad until we got to a higher elevation, and there we saw that trees were down everywhere. Everywhere we looked, we saw fallen branches, tree trunks ripped apart, roots pulled up from the ground. We had to pick our way around fallen tree after fallen tree that blocked our path. The path gets used by mountainbikers a lot, but it won’t be rideable for a long time, until somebody spends hours with a chainsaw clearing things out, if it even gets cleared at all. I couldn’t help but wish I’d seen the storm come through — if I could somehow have known I would be safe, I would love to have been there, seeing and hearing what it was like. Walking through the forest was sad, with all those damaged trees, but it was dramatic and exhilarating too.
I attended graduation at my school on Thursday, so now my semester is officially over (although it’s never really over — I’m attending a work-related retreat next week …); I’ve been slipping into summer mode, which means there still is work to be done, but at a slower pace and with lots more time to read. I’ve been devouring Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, and today I devoured the second section of my friend’s novel, the one I’m commenting on as she works on revising it. It’s such a pleasure to read without work hanging over my head! As much as I love teaching, I do get tired of always having work to do on the weekends, which means guilt is never far away — the feeling that I should be grading or reading for school or prepping for class. I tempted to make some goals for summer reading, but I’m trying not to, in favor of keeping things more spontaneous. I already have plans to continue with Proust and Cervantes, and probably that’s plan enough.
I’ll end with a question: do you ever have the experience where you decide to read an author and you turn to his or her best work, and you read it and love it, and want to read more, but all that’s left is the work that everybody says is not quite as good, and you’re a bit afraid to try it because it may disappoint you? I was reminded of that problem when I read Ted’s post on Nabokov’s Pnin, which didn’t quite live up to his expectations. I’ve experienced this with Nabokov myself — I adore Pale Fire and Lolita and Speak, Memory, and would happily read more, but, at least as far as what people generally say, I’ve read the best already. This is true for Virginia Woolf as well; after Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, will I find The Voyage Out disappointing? Do I really want to spend time with a book that will disappoint me? With an author’s works of lesser reputation? I know reputation isn’t always a reliable way to decide if I will enjoy something or not, but I still feel a lingering hesitation about picking up the lesser-known things.