Some people read the paper, some read comic books, I occasionally read The Best American Essays of 2004 when I visit my bathroom. I am continually amazed at the way the brain manages to save its place in an essay even when I might not pick it up for several days at a time. All it takes is a little sentence or word back up to remind me of what I was engaged in, and I'm back in it fully.
Here's a segment from the essay "Arrow and Wound" by Mark Slouka. The essay is contrasting Dostoevsky's near-death experience with Seifert's.
To see Dostoevsky's experience as essentially truthful, and Seifert's as some form of artifice, is to limit the dominion of fiction, which, from the moment we wake to the power of language, rules our lives with czarist authority and reach. It is also to forget a more intriguing and complicated truth: that we in some measure shape the events that befall us just as surely as we are shaped by them. (262-263)
Even though I only read about 6 paragraphs at time, I am loving this collection.
After finishing French Lessons, I started Josephine Humphreys' Rich In Love. It is an easy read with an engaging narrator, Lucille. Lucille reminds me of me at times, but despite her familiarity (or perhaps because of it), she is also off-putting in ways. I'm not sure if we are supposed to trust her narrative voice (I don't always) or question it for its youthful ignorance and self-centeredness (I do at times). At other times, she clearly expresses a wisdom beyond her years that makes for a decidedly and interestingly complex character.
Some bits I like:
In explaining the importance of memory as it pertains to childbirth particularly, Lucille's mother (who was given "Twilight Sleep" drugs with her first and merely "a whiff of gas" with Lucille) says,
"Nothing hurts as bad as they say it does, Lucille," she told me later. "And clear, pure memory doesn't hurt at all. What hurts is forgetting. They buried the pain of Rae so deep inside me there is no conscious record of it, but it makes its presence known. It moves at night, or at unexpected moments on an otherwise unclouded day, and I shiver and say, what was that? Remember everything," she advised me. (52)
Librarians, nuns, ladies who write poetry, are all spinsterly; they like a quiet place, they like to think, they don't mind being alone. That's what appealed to me.(33)
Lucille's father in explaining why he wants to buy books after his wife has left him:
"One thing is sure. It's never too late. Am I right?"
"Right." But it is always too late, once you get to the point where you have occasion to say it is never too late.(89)