First of all, thoughts about my dog. He went through surgery today and just came home a couple hours ago. He is fine, thank God. The procedure was to remove a benign growth on his side that was getting too big for comfort and was steadily growing. So now he just has to take it easy for a week or two unless he’s all healed up. It’s no fun putting your pet through surgery. It’s no fun for anyone to have to go through it, of course, but it’s a different kind of difficulty when you can’t explain to your pen what’s going on. Poor thing. He has no idea what hit him. Luckily for us, he doesn’t get angry or hold grudges.
And now on to books. I recently finished my first Sybille Bedford novel, The Legacy, and I’m thinking it’s going to be my last. I wanted to like it, I kept reading it because I was hoping to get into it, but that never happened. It tells the stories of two very different families in Germany and how they become connected by marriage. It also tells of one of the families’ sons, Johannes, who is sent off to a horrible military school, which makes him completely lose his wits. His family hushes the whole thing up with results that come back to haunt them. I think to really appreciate this book, you need to have more of a feel for the culture of the time (pre-World War I) and place than I do. And you have to appreciate satire more than I do. Unless I’m really familiar with what’s being satirized (such as in academic novels), I have a hard time appreciating it. The writing had an exterior focus, which also doesn’t work so well for me; I didn’t develop a sense of the characters’ personalities in the way I wanted to. I just wasn’t engaged. But perhaps some of my readers have read and enjoyed Bedford?
But I finished it and am now on to other things. Yesterday I began Julia Spencer-Fleming’s detective novel In the Bleak Midwinter, and it’s going along very well. Her protagonist is an ex-Army woman who has become an Episcopal priest and is serving in a small town outside the Adirondacks in New York State. That might sound a little contrived and gimmicky — let’s see how unusual I can make my character! — but Spencer-Fleming has so far pulled it off. Clare’s counterpart is Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, and the sexual tension between them is slowly ratcheting up. But, alas, Russ is married. We’ll see where that goes.
I am also reading a collection of essays by Cynthia Ozick, Quarrel and Quandary. I’ve read just a handful so far, but they are good. So far they have all been literary — on Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Job, but I believe there are some personal ones in the collection as well. Her writing is good — serious and meaty, and very, very smart.
To close, I’ll tell you about some new books I’ve acquired. Last weekend Hobgoblin and I went book shopping with our book shopping friends (here and here) out at the Book Barn in Niantic, Connecticut. The Book Barn is truly one of the best used bookshops I’ve ever been in, although it’s really more like three bookshops, since it has three different locations around Niantic. We had already acquired a large stack of books before we even made it to the main store, which is really a series of buildings, carts, and structures of an uncertain type, all chock full of books.
From that trip, I brought home the Julia Spencer-Fleming book, as well as Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, Anita Brookner’s Look at Me, Sarah Caudwell’s The Sirens Sang of Murder, and Hermione Lee’s huge biography of Virginia Woolf (in a pristine paperback edition for $5). Also this week a friend sent me a copy of Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book, which I am excited about and eager to dive into.
So, happy Friday everyone, and enjoy the weekend!