Have you read anything great recently? I read the tome everybody's been talking about and completely loved it too, savored more Mary Oliver poetry, got around to a French classic, and read a book I have no idea how to describe besides telling you that it involves apricots and Iceland and illness and fables. Here are tastes of all four:
1. The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) – "I remember a few weeks before she died, eating a late supper with her in an Italian restaurant down in the Village, and how she grasped my sleeve at the sudden, almost painful loveliness of a birthday cake with lit candles being carried in procession from the kitchen, a faint circle of light wavering in across the dark ceiling and then the cake set down to blaze amidst the family, beatifying an old lady’s face, smiles all round, waiters stepping away with their hands behind their backs [...] I thought about it again and again after her death and indeed I’ll probably think about it all my life: that candlelit circle, a tableau vivant of the daily, commonplace happiness that was lost when I lost her."
2. Dream Work (Mary Oliver) – "Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing / kept flickering in with the tide / and looking around. / Black as a fisherman's boot / with a white belly. / If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile / under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin / which was rough / as a thousand sharpened nails. / And you know / what a smile means / don't you?"
3. The Stranger (Albert Camus) – "At the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it. I would have waited for birds to fly by or clouds to mingle, just as here I waited to see my lawyer's ties and just as, in another world, I used to wait patiently until Saturday to hold Marie's body in my arms. Now, as I think back on it, I wasn't in a hallow tree trunk. There were others worse off than me. Anyway, it was one of Maman's ideas, and she often repeated it, that after a while you could get used to anything."
4. The Faraway Nearby (Rebecca Solnit) – "A pie might be eaten warm from the oven by the cook and her companions but a book is read many months or years after it’s written, out of sight of the writer, who never knows quite what she’s done. Ars longa, vita brevis—art is long, life is short—used to be a popular saying, and cooking is usually on the side of life, but making preserves is an art of stalling time, of making the fruit that is so evanescent last indefinitely. [...] I wish that I could put up yesterday’s evening sky for all posterity, could preserve a night of love, the sound of a mountain stream, a realization as it sets my mind afire, a dance, a day of harmony, ten thousand glorious days of clouds that will instead vanish and never be seen again, line them up in jars where they might be admired in the interim and tasted again as needed."