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!