I have begun a new book of nonfiction, Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious, a collection of essays that look at science — what it is, how it works, and what its connection to language and the arts is. Lightman is both a scientist and a novelist, so he’s got some intriguing ideas about how, for example, metaphor works in science as opposed to literature and about the creative process in science and in the arts. He starts off with a personal essay telling about his love of both science and writing and about how he’s managed to make both disciplines work in his life. He started off with science because he figured out that most scientists do their best work while they are relatively young, and many novelists produce their best work when they are older. Science, he points out, doesn’t require much experience of the world; you need agility of mind, but not necessarily years and years of living. Novel-writing, on the other hand, benefits from that experience. So he made a career for himself as a physicist, and then later began writing essays and eventually novels. His novel Einstein’s Dreams was a bestseller, and I’m very curious about it, as I like his essay writing. Has anyone read it?
I’m also still reading Wuthering Heights, or rather looking it over again as I teach it. I’m learning to love the book as I’m spending so much time thinking about it; it’s so wild and gothic and deeply weird. My students seem to be enjoying it too, somewhat to their surprise, I think. One student asked what makes this book anything more than a potboiler, and in response we generated a list of ideas it deals with and themes it takes up, and I think this student ended up surprised and impressed by our long list.
I’m looking forward, though, to picking up a new novel, and I have no idea what it will be. I alternate between wanting something challenging (Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives maybe? or another Brontë novel? — I have three unread ones on hand after all), something more familiar (another Alison Lurie novel? another Rosamund Lehmann?), and something new and fun (Clare Clark’s The Nature of Monsters?). We’ll see what mood hits when I’m finally ready to pick up something new.
I have also acquired a couple new books, including Edward P. Jones’s collection of stories All Aunt Hagar’s Children, which I’ve heard wonderful things about and am looking forward to. I’ve been wanting to read some more short stories, after all. I mooched a few books, including William Gass’s book Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation, which promises to be wonderful, and two Georgette Heyer books, Venetia and The Masqueraders. I feel lucky to have gotten these, as they get snapped up quickly.
But now I’m off to do a little reading before bed …