Some of you may know that with this stupid depression thing through which I've been floundering this several years, I have had little or no concentration to read. And some of you may remember the days when I was a two-or-three-book-a-week kind of gal. When I was a reader of both fiction and nonfiction. When I liked to learn things from reading about something new, or a new take on old knowledge.
Those of you especially who remember those days will rejoice with me, and totally understand my deep, deep joy, when I say I can read again. Nothing very heavy. Nothing scary or intense. Still not much nonfiction. But I read. Read. Read! I love it!
I've been picking up cheapo books at my second hand stores. I whip through them and then send them back where I got them. Or at least that's the plan. Mostly they just sit in stacks on my dressers because I forget to put them in the second hand bins.
I've read three Zane Gray novels in the last month or so. Although those white covers with the red spines and the Texas Longhorn imprint were a staple of just about every home when I grew up out west, I had never read any Zane Gray. I find them appealing. Not great writing, but somehow, appealing. I love the descriptions of the colors and light and sounds of the wide open spaces. I love the cowboy type settings and characters. The West. And I like that there's always a little love story. A clean love story, too—something that's not found in much of today's fiction.
I've read some fantasy by Raymond Feist, Magician: Apprentice, the first book of the Riftwar Saga. It was an average book, or perhaps a little above average, but it brought me a disappointment. The Ranger's Apprentice series of children's novels is a favorite of our family's. It saddened me to find that the plot of the first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series, The Ruins of Gorlon, is very similar to this other title written for adults some twenty years earlier. In general, the bigger plot of the fantasy world is not identical, but the character histories and sketches and much of the interpersonal relationships are very like.
I recently picked up a copy of A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Ahhh, this book remains one of my all-time favorites. Like Jane Austen, I love how Forster plays on the societal foibles of the time. The book is a love story, full of passion, discontent, confusion, deceit. But it so well portrays some of the silly things we all do as we navigate our lives.
The time setting of A Room with a View, being early Edwardian, gives Forster fertile ground to set up fun scenarios involving the clash between the prim and proper tail of the Victorian sensibilities and the free-thinking modern ideals. The Honeychurches are the normal family, stable, proper, loving, and real. Aunt Charlotte, or Miss Bartlett, is the poorer spinster aunt who is prudish; prim to the point of judgmental; and proper to the point of perpetual martyrdom. Mr. Beebe is the perfect universalist parson who sees the good in everyone. Cecil is über prim and proper, and vacuous. The Misses Alan are two elderly spinsters, also prim and proper, but disposed to think well of those who are not altogether so. Eleanor Lavish is the daring modern woman. An author. And of course the counter-culture Emersons are kind-hearted. Mr. Emerson, the father, is portrayed as a kindly socialist buffoon; while his son, George is the brooding introvert, fixated on the meaning of "it all."
When Forster right at the beginning of the story, places these characters in the Pension Bertolini, in Florance, Italy, he shows his mastery of the art of satire in the behavior and dialog of the diverse personalities. Before the end of the first chapter Forster has readers first chuckling, and then even hooting in mirth, as we get to know the characters. And although I've read the book numerous times, I still laugh. I still find new insights into the humor. And I enjoy once more the old favorite dialogs and mannerisms.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Miss Bartlett is telling Mr. Beebe about their unfortunate beginning, without really want to gossip, of course.
"The first evening means so much. When you arrived, we were in for a perculiarly mauvais quart d'heure."Mr. Beebe continues a few minutes later with a more in depth sketch of Mr. Emerson's character.
He expressed his regret.
"Do you, by any chance, know the name of an old man who sat opposite us at dinner."
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"We are friendly, as one is in pensions."
"Then I will say no more."
He pressed her very slightly, and she said more.
"I think he is [nice]; nice and tiresome. I differ from him on almost every point of any importance, and so, I expect—I may say I rather hope—you will differ. But his is a type one disagrees with rather than deplores. When he first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up. He has no tact and no manners—I don't mean by that that he has bad manners—and he will not keep his opinions to himself. We nearly complained about him to our depressing Signora, but I am glad to say we thought better of it.And finally, as young George Emerson agrees to offer once more, his and his father's rooms with a view in exchange for those of Miss Bartlett and Miss Lucy Honeychurch, who have no view. He scores a great coup that leaves us cheering and laughing.
"Am I to conclude," said Miss Bartlett, "that he is a Socialist?"
Mr. Beebe accepted the convenient word, not without a slight twitching of the lips.
The young man gazed down on the three ladies, who felt seated on the floor, so low were their chairs. "My father," he said, "is in his bath, so you cannot thank him personally. But any message given by you to me will be given by me to him as soon as he comes out."But these little snippets, as much as they are enjoyed by those familiar with all the personalities, barely scratch the surface of the pleasure of this book. You must read it yourself.
Miss Bartlett was unequal to the bath. All her barbed civilities came out wrong end first. Young Mr. Emerson scored a notable triumph to the delight of Mr. Beebe and to the secret delight of Lucy.