The wimmin

In Artists, Current reading, Film, Poetry, Revision, The Crab Walker on May 30, 2014 at 7:07 am

I remember the green baize on the cover. I remember the line illustrations (woodcuts? I didn’t ask the question, at the time). I don’t remember if I read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling before or after the incident with my dog Pogo. I don’t remember how the book came to be in my hands. At the time (I was nine? ten?) the only thing missing from the reading experience were the smells of Northwestern Florida. I encountered those some forty years later. Plus the clinging humidity, the yellow flies, the ten different flavors of churchgoing for a small community of a bit more than a thousand – something like one church for every twelve local people. Plus the beach, the tree stumps, the shrimp. Palmetto scrub, poison sumac, crepe myrtle, magnolias. Abject poverty cheek to jowl with the shiniest cars and the fittest bodies money can buy.

In the mix of movies for all tastes, the manager of the local cinema over here programs what she calls films for her buddies. Grand Hotel Budapest was one. Last night, Nebraska was another. I walked back home slower than slow, taking in the gorgeous evening light around me and the memories of times out on country roads in all those places in North America that don’t make the headlines unless something awful happens there. Maybe “something awful” provides such a thrill because of the stupendous, crushing boredom of the ordinary? In Nebraska, the old man, dragging his lawn chair to the edge of the street, to watch the cars go by. And the endless drinking, of course. The movie’s a beautiful piece of work.

Now. If you think braiding strands of story in the right order is as easy as popping a store-bought pie in the oven, I have to say: not for me,  it isn’t.

George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Hilary Mantel’s Woolf Hall are the two main pieces of reading by bedside these days. The second moving along faster than the first. I admire everything I read of Eliot’s but I wouldn’t describe the experience as a page-turner. Wit, fine observation, stamina; I find her daunting and intent on proving something damn important. Something with which I agree. Maybe, once you agree, you need to read something else. I doubt George Eliot would enjoy my writing. Plus – sorry, George – there’s always the problem of the first encounter. In my case, excerpts of Silas Marner delivered to bored and snickering fifteen-year old French-speaking convent girls by a sad, sour-faced old teacher with bad hair and frumpy clothes. She looked out on us with despair, except when she soared with her beloved Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “And slowly answered Arthur from the barge …”


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