More Wordless Wednesday fun here.
…but for the sake of this book let’s consider here the English alphabet: twenty-six purely abstract symbols that in and of themselves mean absolutely nothing, but when put together in the right combinations can introduce into the heasd of readers an infinite cariety of sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, places, people, characters, situations, feelings, ideas. In the righ hands entire universes are born out of just a few sentences and can be just as quickly destroyed. Regimes are upended and then re-created through these groups of little, seemingly harmless, glyphs.
- Chip Kidd, forward, Just My Type: a book about fonts, by Simon Garfield
My first book of the year is The Doctor’s Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I read her sensational novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, a few years ago and it remains a favorite. I’ve been meaning to read more by her for ages, so when I discovered The Doctor’s Wife on Girl eBooks, I snatched it up and put it on my new Nook Tablet.
It is delicious and everything I expect of Ms. Braddon.
But for the pure and perfect love which makes marraige thrice holy,-the love which counts no sacrifice too great, no suffering too bitter,-the love which knows no change but death, and seems instinct with such divinity that death can be but its apotheosis,-such love as this had no place in Isabel Sleaford’s heart. Her books had given her some vague idea of this grand passion, and on comparing herself with Lucy Ashton and Zulieka, with Amy Robsart and Florence Dombey and Medora, she began to think that the poets and novelists were all in the wrong, and that there were no heroes or heroines upon this commonplace earth.
The Doctor’s Wife is Braddon’s rewriting of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I’m wishing I’d read Madame Bovary before I read this, so that I could compare, but the one time I tried to read it my eyes rolled back in my head and I drooled a little bit. Just. couldn’t. do. it. I may try again, however, because I am enjoying the heck out of this book and am feeling extremely sorry for George Gilbert, the simple country surgeon who has fallen in love with the above mentioned Isabel Sleaford, who, as you can tell, doesn’t exact reciprocate his feelings. Of course, maybe it’s good that I haven’t read MB, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I had, I would probably have a better idea, instead of the vague notion that something BAD is going to happen; thanks to the foreshadowing on page 66. Brrrr, it was chilly!
Okay, I’m off to read more. Reading anything good today?
I finished a reread by audio of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (read by the amazing Kate Burton) last week and as always, I was captivated by the way Smith regards books and reading. One of my favorite quotes ever is from this book:
The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste, and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at mass.
This is another favorite:
“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere-be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is every lost.”
After this new rereading, I think ATGiB has moved up on my all-time-favorites list. Watch out Princess Bride.
I read Illyria by Elizabeth Hand (review) earlier this year and instantly fell in love with her marvelous way with words. I managed to snag a copy of her short story collection, Saffron and Brimstone, via Paperbackswap and picked it up yesterday. I was completely captivated by the first story, Cleopatra Brimstone, from the very first paragraph, which I am going to share here now:
Her earliest memory was of wings. Luminous red and blue, yellow and green and orange; a black so rich it appeared liquid, edible. They moved above her and the sunlight made them glow as though they were themselves made of light, fragments of another, brighter world falling to earth about her crib. Her tiny hands stretched upwrds to grasp them but could not; they were too elusive, too radiant, too much of the air.
Could they ever have been real?
Oh my goodness, she just has a way with words that just capture me.
I started a new book today and, from page one, the writing has grabbed me.
Within each horseradish leaf, where it unwinds from the steam, there’s a small bead of rainwater. He sees one there, shining brilliantly in the morning sun, as if it’s been placed, a jewel, pure and dazzling. It’s perfect. This will be lovely he things, leading his daughter toward the plant, her hand so small and cool in his own, both of them crouching over the leaves till their shadows merge. Briefly, the sunshine becomes extinguished from the drop of water, he repositions himself and it sparks back to life. He images a direct unbending shaft of light, taut and without substance, stretching between the sun and its own captured sparkle, a miniature sun in itself, caught in some bend of the refraction.
She is captivated. Surprises like this, especially beautiful ones, always bring a brightness in her, too. She’s four years old, and already there is a sense of such conspiracy between them, father and daughter, such gorgeous intimacy.
I don’t know why, but that passage just struck me as so beautiful.
I dug out my old quote notebook for an oldie but goodie:
Books have weight and texture; they make a pleasant presence in the hand. Nothing smells as good as a new book, especially if you get your nose right down in the binding, where you can still catch the acrid tang of the glue. The only thing close is the peppery smell of an old one. The odor of an old book is the odor of history, and for me, the look of a new one is still the look of the future.
I don’t remember where I collected that from, but I’ve always loved it. It is so true.
I don’t think I’ve said this enough lately; I love Terry Pratchett!
The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince”… was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long”… well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories don’t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told…
From The Wee Free Men. I think it’s high time I read another Terry Pratchett.
This past week, I’ve been flying through The Wilder Years by Wendy McClure, the audiobook. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to an audiobook so raptly. I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was younger, just like Wendy McClure. It’s like my 8-year-old self has met her best friend. This quote says everything about how I feel about Laura now.
“Sometimes, Laura World wasn’t a realm of log cabins or prairies, it was a way of being. Really, a way of being happy. I wasn’t into the flowery sayings, but I was nonetheless in love with the idea of serene rooms full of endless quiet and time, of sky in the windows, of a life comfortably cluttered and yet in some kind of perfect feng shui equilibrium, where all the days were capacious enough to bake bread and write novels and perambulate the wooded hills deep in thought (though truthfully, I’d allow for the occasional Rose-style cocktail party as well).”
I am loving this book and have found a new favorite reader to boot! Teri Clark Linden is an amazing reader.
I thought it was time to freshen Mondays up around here, especially given that I am not currently finishing even a book a week at the moment. So I’m going to share a favorite quote from what reading I do do, or just a favorite quote in general, every Monday for awhile. Feel free to join me if you wish.
My quote today comes from The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. I tell you, from page one, I fell in love with her writing. I’m going to show you why….
Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint. Some are strange siren songs of rarer origin that call from violets hidden in woodland, or irises after spring rain. Some scents release a rush of half-forgotten memories. And then there are the scents that seem to express truths about people and places that ou have never forgotten: the scents that make time stand still.
That is what Lavande de Nuit, Marthe’s perfume, is to me. Beyond the aroma’s first charge of heliotrope, as the almond and hawthorn notes rise, it carries sights and sounds, tastes and feelings that unfurl one from the other: the lavender fields, sugar0dusted biscuits, wild0flowers in meadows, the wind’s plainsong in the trees, the cloisters of silver-flickering olives, the garden still warm at midnight, and the sweet, musty smell of secrets.
That perfume is the essences of my life. When I smell it, I am ten years old again, lying in the grass at Les Genevriers, on one of those days of early summer when the first fat southerly winds warm the ground and the air begins to soften with promise. I am twenty, as I toss my long hair and walk on air toward my lover. I am thirty, forty, fifty. Sixty, and frightened…
How can I be frightened by a scent?
Bliss. The richness of language, of words, of meaning…I am carried away and can’t wait to settle down with this beauty. Don’t forget, the special RIP readalong of The Lantern begins this week. Check Carl’s blog, Stainless Steel Droppings, for the first round of discussion.