Thursday, August 29, 2019

Ocean Reading

Wrapping up a busy summer of little local jaunts back from writing workshops in Denmark and in Port Townsend. We spent last weekend at our friend's ocean cabin near Iron Springs and met up with my sister and her family at Seabrook. The sound of the ocean, brilliant blue skies and enormous Engelmann Spruce trees are conducive to dreamy hours of reading, writing, beach strolls and Scrabble We've eaten well, as we do, and Leo the Labradoodle has enjoyed the ball-throwing and closeness of the pack. All three of us were able to lunch outside on the deck at the Ocean Crest for razor clams and burgers.
I am reading Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the story of a Polish astrologist-teacher-retired bridge engineer-caretaker who reveres animals and investigates a series of mysterious killings of hunters and abusers of four-legged critters in her tiny town. Funny and well written, much more than a mystery but a compulsive reading experience.

I'm also browsing Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror includes a piece on Ecstasy recalling my own experimentation with MDA "the love drug."in the early Seventies. I pick up the new Alexandra Fuller: Travel Light, Move Fast and Robert Macfarlane's masterful and thoughtful Underland, a Deep Time Journey which calls out for slow careful reading; perhaps I need to buy it.
Next I pick up a New York Times Magazine from last spring to read about a Nobel Literature Prize contender from Australia I have never even heard of named Gerald Murnane. I want to track down his Stream System, a collection of short pieces.

The same magazine has Anne Carson translation of the Sappho Fragment 31 as the poet watches a woman sitting next to a man, laughing:
"...thin, fire is racing under skin
and in eyes not sight and drumming fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead--or almost
I seem to me."

Leo looks longingly at me for a walk and who can resist Leo? I'm struggling. Unadulterated joy is his m.o. as I rise and grab the Chuck-it.

At last, I've finished Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett, another of the odd utterly introspective poetic books I favor lately. A series of connected stories, chapters? (about) the thoughts of a young woman in a rental cottage in England or Ireland and her daily ministrations in the kitchen, the garden, the pond, on her bike. She's on leave from her academic career. She sleeps with lovers, eats, drinks, throws a party, writes, talks on the phone, chats with her landlady, fears an underwater monster and muses heavily on all of these preoccupations as she studies the stars. Her writing is dense and introspective and the narrator's voice and quotidian thoughts kept my interest and admiration in recent weeks. She circles round and round in her thinking arriving at the most surprising conclusions, or just pond-ers. Example passages below:

After spying a young man on her walk as he "made his way back down the hill. Away from me, head in hood, hands in pockets. It was as if the sifted moon, weak as chalk dust, hand been abruptly discarded. Just for a moment everything gathered in dreadful suspension, my eyes gaped cold and enormous--and then it all glided backwards into an atmosphere of broadening redundancy, intersected by a sense of abnegation." p. 139

An interaction about buying Christmas holly: "The whole thing was sullied and I remember at the time feeling faintly that I should just leave it but then I located the cause of that regrettably irresolute sensation to an area in me where snobbery and superstition overlap most abominably and I chided myself for being so affected and fey--what are you some sort of overstrung contessa, I thought--certainly not, then wish them well and get going." p. 159

"He came to see me, and in fact he ate some of the vegetables I'd grown and he said they were lovely, which they were. We ate oranges, too, quite often in fact eating Spanish oranges became a bit of a thing. They are very nice to eat oranges, when you've been having sex for ages. They cut through the fog and smell very organised, and so a sort of structure resumes and then it is perfectly possible to make a plan, such as going out somewhere nice for dinner." Morning, Noon & Night, p. 17

Where have you gone this all-too-short summer? What are you reading?

No comments :