Since my last bookish post, I’ve moved my daughters back to university; received two offers so delightful that I rethought my ideas about “retirement” and accepted one; survived a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning; and finished the following books:
■ The Followers (Rebecca Wait; 2015. Fiction.)
■ Hamlet (William Shakespeare; 1602. Drama.)
■ The Grip of It (Jac Jemc; 2017. Fiction.)
■ Measure for Measure (William Shakespeare; 1604. Drama.)
■ The Marriage Pact (Michelle Richmond; 2017. Fiction.)
■ Fierce Kingdom (Gin Phillips; 2017. Fiction.)
■ Fun Home (Alison Bechdel; 2006. Graphic memoir.)
■ Othello (William Shakespeare; 1603. Drama.)
If you liked last summer’s The Girls (Emma Cline), and I did, you may appreciate The Followers, a difficult story told well. The Grip of It offers a literary twist on the haunted house genre. The Marriage Pact passed an amiable summer afternoon despite its pedestrian prose and improbable plotting. Fierce Kingdom, however, managed something special. This beautifully written and almost recklessly fast-paced thriller is destined for big-screen treatment. For the commonplace book:
In a year he will be in kindergarten and these days of superheroes will fade and be replaced by something she can’t guess, and then at some point the zoo itself will be replaced and life will have gone on and this boy holding her hand will have turned into someone else entirely.
She does not know when she started imagining the end of things. It’s possible that turning forty triggered it or that Lincoln triggered it from the moment he began changing from a baby into a boy and she realized how he was going to vanish, over and over again, until finally he was grown and gone, and it’s possible she has such dark thoughts precisely because there is nothing she wants more than for life to stay exactly as it is, never changing, and maybe she loves it all the more because she knows it can’t last.
You are supposed to be more forgiving of your parents, aren’t you, after you have children yourself? After you understand what parenting really means?
The Bechdel memoir (an exquisite, smart book I devoured and pressed on all who would listen when it was first published more than a decade ago) was a reread: We will see the Victory Gardens production later this month.
The plays, all rereads, represent some of my Shakespeare in a Year progress. (Yes, I had planned to substitute a Hamlet-inspired novel, but my daughters and I ended up revisiting the play before they finished moving back to university. Still, The Dead Fathers Club (Matthew Haig), a book that has been on my shelves since 2006 may (finally!) end up on this year’s list.) I have also reached Sonnet 111 and pushed Sir Thomas More down the list a bit.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Week 11 in my quest to read War and Peace in seventeen weeks, but the book remains so compelling that I have already finished the reading for Weeks 12 and 13.
From Book Three, Part Two, Chapter 10:
He had managed people for a long time, and knew that the chief way to make them obey is to show no suspicion that they can possibly disobey.
And now I’m reading Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
When we tell a story we exercise control, but in such a way as to leave a gap, an opening. It is a version, but never the final one. And perhaps we hope that the silences will be heard by someone else, and the story can continue, can be retold.
When we write we offer the silence as much as the story. Words are the part of story that can be spoken.