Weekend Reading

And now I’m sick! Wonderful, isn’t it? I’ve got a cold that is not quite bad enough to keep me home from school, but just bad enough to make me unhappy about it. It was a beautiful fall afternoon with perfect weather for a bike ride, but I spent the time curled up in bed sleeping. Oh, well, I’m very grateful to have had a chance to take a nap.

The books I took with me on my Albuquerque trip turned out to be different from the ones I listed here. I did take along Sophia Lee’s The Recess, but I didn’t end up opening it; instead I spent my airport time switching among Dale Spender’s Mothers of the Novel and two new books — Rosamund Lehmann’s A Note in Music and Phyllis Rose’s The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time.

The Lehmann novel has turned me into a fan — score another one for Virago Modern Classics! I am nearly finished and so I’ll wait to say much about it until later, but for now — what a great book. I feel as though in the last couple years I have discovered so many women writers who are new to me — writers including Elizabeth Taylor, Anita Brookner, Alison Lurie, Barbara Pym, Georgette Heyer, and now Rosamund Lehmann. All of these women write similar types of novels, although there are great differences among them as well, of course; they tend to be quiet, character-driven novels about the emotional landscapes of women’s lives. I love this stuff. Lehmann’s novel is about two married couples — focusing mostly on the women (and one of them in particular), although occasionally veering into the consciousnesses of the men — who find their lives disrupted by the visit of a young man and his sister. The book described visits and conversations and outings, but mostly it describes what the characters think and feel; it has Proustian passages on memory and time and Woolf-like analyses of gender dynamics and moments of consciousness.

The other book, Phyllis Rose’s book on Proust, I’m still figuring out. It’s a mix of her thoughts on Proust and her thoughts on her own life; sometimes these two things are clearly connected, and sometimes the connection is more tenuous. I do like meditations on art and life, and I do like essayistic, rambling, all-over-the-place nonfiction books and memoirs, but I’m not entirely sure this one is making sense to me. I need to give it a bit more time. Maybe the problem is that one of her first chapters describes her love of television, a subject I cannot relate to and one only very loosely connected to Proust. And then the next chapter is about collecting ancient artifacts, and although she connects this topic more closely to Proust, it’s another area that doesn’t mean much to me. This may be a matter of a personality clash; perhaps Rose and I just don’t hit it off. But we’ll see.

P.S.  I forgot to describe one of the best parts of the conference, which was the closing poetry reading.  About a dozen of us gathered to read favorite poems from the 18C.  I didn’t come with any prepared, but ended up reading Anne Finch’s “A Nocturnal Reverie,” which is a beautiful poem, and another woman gave a very dramatic, funny reading of Aphra Behn’s “The Disappointment,” which I strongly encourage you to read — you won’t regret it!


Filed under Books, Fiction, Life, Nonfiction

13 responses to “Weekend Reading

  1. Sorry you are sick! I hope you feel better soon.

    I had the Rose book checked out from the library about a year ago and didn’t make it past the first couple of pages. I think I was expecting something different than it was and I didn’t really find it Proust-y enough. I’ll be curious to see if you are able to reconcile your differences with it.


  2. All those women you mention are also favorites of mine or authors I plan on reading (the Lurie and definitely the Lehmann, though I have two different books by her–aren’t Viragos great?!). I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the Lehmann book. Slightly off topic, but since this is your area–you are the person to ask–Victoria left a comment on my Washington Irving post about famous American authors in the 18th C. I could only think of people like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine, but they weren’t writing fiction. I did think of Susanna Rowson (because I own Charlotte Temple), but I don’t think she is at all well known now–perhaps she was popular then. Surely there were some “famous” American 18th c. authors? Or maybe not until later? I really do need to read more American lit.

    And I hope you feel better soon, by the way.


  3. Edd

    You know me, I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on the subject of your Conference, but it is good to have you back safe and sound albeit with a minor cold.


  4. What a, er, deflating poem!


  5. Poor Dorothy! Do hope you feel better soon! I love Rosamund Lehmann too – Invitation to the Waltz probably being my favourite. I did enjoy the Phyllis Rose book as well, but it was a while back now and I can’t recall that first chapter. Perhaps it just takes a little while to get into. But if it’s more than that, never mind. Ditch it and pick up something that does hit the spot.


  6. In the past year or so, I find myself craving more and more those type of novels you just described. I still need to read Elizabeth Taylor and Rosamund Lehmann but I have a feeling I will like them.

    Anyway, hope you feel better soon!


  7. Maybe I should try Lehmann again. I read The Ballad and the Source a few years back and, although loved it at first, was bored and disappointed with it by the end. I have Invitation to the Waltz (packed away somewhere) and have always been meaning to read it to see if I liked it better.

    Hope you’re feeling better.


  8. I agree with you on the Rose book: just not what I really wanted from it. I preferred Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can change your life.

    So glad you’ve enjoyed the Lehmann! I love her books, but this is one I haven’t read yet.


  9. LK

    Feel better! Good recommendations here, thanks. Have a spooktacular Halloween!


  10. Thank you Stefanie. Yeah, it’s not all that much about Proust — which isn’t necessarily a problem for me, as I like memoirs of all types, I just haven’t quite figured out what this book is doing.

    Danielle — I don’t know the American side of things all that well, but I asked Hobgoblin, who added Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, Olaudah Equiano (only arguably an American), and Charles Brockden Brown to your list, but he said fiction writing doesn’t take off until the 19C, that mostly you get political and religious writing before then. I should know more about that period!

    Edd — thank you!

    Sylvia — hah! 🙂

    Litlove — I’m keeping my eye out for Invitation to the Waltz. And the Rose is interesting, I may well get into it, it’s structure is just eluding me a bit …

    Iliana — me too! I think you will love both of those authors when you read them — I hope so!

    Thanks Emily — I can see how Lehmann might get a bit dull — not much is happening in my book, after all. I’m liking it, definitely, but if you want more action, or if she doesn’t keep the beautiful writing and insights up, then the pleasure might fade.

    Melanie — I’ve got the de Botton book too, so I’ll make sure to check it out soon!

    LK — thank you! 🙂


  11. Sorry you’re not well, but thanks for the poems. I’ve just printed out ‘A Nocturnal Reverie’ it can be our ‘poem of the day’ (http://web.mac.com/ann163125/Table_Talk/Table_Talk_Blog/Entries/2007/10/24_Poetry.html) for today and help to extend me in two directions.


  12. Dorothy–Thanks for checking with the Hobgoblin. It’s funny that Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow happens to be carrying around one of Cotton Mather’s book in the story! I’ve never really thought about the history of the American novel, but it is interesting to see how things developed. I really do need to read more American lit, too.


  13. Thanks for the link Ann; I’ll check it out!

    Danielle — interesting about Ichabod Crane and Mather! Irving is doing something with the American tradition, as short as it was at that time.


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