Well, that was certainly a longer hiatus than I anticipated, but while this blog was languishing, yours truly was relocating from Fairfax, Virginia, back to my native Ohio. Husband Nat and I found a charming apartment in an old house, and we are at last happily settled in. Or I should say, settled in enough that I can resume my daily habits of reading and writing.
But not all that space from July to now was void of literary pleasures. In September, I had the great privilege of escorting Allegra Goodman around Fairfax. Not only did she give a wonderful reading with Alan Cheuse, but she also proved to be as generous and kind in person as you might deduce from her books. In preparation for her visit, I read Kaaterskill Falls, a finalist for the 1998 National Book Award, and found that I appreciated it more than her recent Cookbook Collector. She read, however, from The Cookbook Collector, and the passage she delivered made me think again about the good amount of wit and observation behind that book. (For more of my thoughts on Cookbook Collector and Goodman’s fiction, see my post of April 5.)
Another highlight for me was reading Alan Bennett’s novella The Uncommon Reader in the midst of my moving mayhem, a perfect break from boxes and bubble wrap. Talk about witty: the premise is that the queen of England discovers a love of reading, and Bennett doesn’t miss an opportunity to satirize society’s attitude towards books, nor to reveal the transformative power of reading. Never have I seen the reasons for reading so clearly and so un-sentimentally presented. The novella itself is just the right length: it tells its story economically, uncluttered by side characters or subplots—in short, it is a true novella, well-executed and deliciously fun to read for those who love to read anyway. It’s a little like the recent movie Midnight in Paris in that catching allusions and references is more than half the fun of the book. But for those who don’t love to read (how mysterious you wound up at my blog!), this novella is imperative—it just might inspire you to visit a local library.
Finally, I have been at work on drafting my second novel, albeit with interruptions. Since I’ve been writing this one by hand (a topic for another post—stay tuned!), I decided my first real day of writing here in my new place—yesterday—should be a survey of what I have so far. I typed up the pages I hadn’t yet typed and found to my happy surprise that I have 77 pages. True, they’re not all brilliant; true, writing is ultimately about quality, not quantity; but my approach to writing is to first cough up the stone and worry about sculpting it later. Yesterday was a blue-eyed, sun-kissed day, so I took my little manuscript to Schiller Park, and there, in the presence of the great German poet himself (okay, okay, just his statue), I read it. The verdict? Hey, it’s a first draft.