Sunday, December 18, 2011

Persephone Secret Santa 2011

I just had to participate in the Persephone Secret Santa again this year--as it was such a treat last year. I have so much fun being introduced to another person out there that loves to read these interesting books as well. This time I was Santa to S out in Washington State. Her blog is here at luxe hours (great name!). I specially like this aspect of the Secret Santa because inevitably I gain many more book titles to add to my "To Read" list through getting to know these other Persephone fans.

From my Secret Santa (who still remains a secret!), I received Bricks and Mortar. I am very excited about this, and truly grateful for the effort my Santa put in to procuring this particular volume for me. I had no idea when I wished for this title that is is currently out of print! Thankfully my santa was able to find one and sent it along to happy me.

I haven't been blogging very much this year... I think I wrote a grand total of 22 (not including this one). Anyhow, after such grand ambitions for the year, it seems a little disappointing to have not been writing very much this year--however, the lack of posting has not been due to any waning of interest or lack of activity. Much to the contrary. Our life has been very full this year, and for that I am grateful. I am going to try and come up with a more manageable, and yet still active posting schedule--perhaps a little more focussed topically. We'll see.

Back to Persephone... I have been reading a lot of the books that J gave me for my birthday last year recently (all Persephones). Every Eye, Dimanche and Other Stories, The Journal of Katherine Mansfield, Cheerful Weather for a Wedding, and now Greenery Street. By far my favorite so far has been Every Eye. It is such a tight story, interesting narrative structure, and fabulous Modernist imagery. Greenery Street is already promising to be my number two, but I haven't finished it yet, so it's hardly fair to the others to say yet!


Dimanche has a couple fantastic stories, and many that made me kind of hate French social culture and were loathsome to finish. It is not fun to read story after story about self-absorbed misanthropes who do very little. Many of the later stories in the book showed the cutting brilliance of Suite Francaise, so I was happy over all.

I described The Journal of Katherine Mansfield to J as a book that I really want to have read, but was not happy reading. The Journal is interesting because each of the sentences or paragraphs jotted down in it were these dense images--intense but utterly disconnected from one another or any narrative arch. So it was tough going. I had not finished it by the time our book club rolled around to meeting on it, but have since. Since finishing it I have a much better idea of why it's considered so brilliant. It's a very intimate glimpse into how a writer jots down and begins to form or re-form characters, situations, or fleeting moments. I sat down and tried to write down a common scene of my every day life to see if it was really so hard--since KM makes it seem so natural and effortless. It was nearly impossible for me. That exercise made me appreciate what she was doing with The Journal a lot more--but don't expect this to be an enjoyable read, or indeed really like a journal in the more prosaic sense--it's more like a writer's sketchbook. This "journal" contains almost no personal information ("I am going to X and with Y."), only intimate, detailed vignettes. The only real glimpses into KM's state of mind was her preoccupation with suffering. The reader does not get any progression of events or life changes really--so reading it is slow going.

Cheerful Weather for a Wedding was a surprise to me. From the title I thought it would be somewhat saccharine and light. It was not. It is really a long short story or novella about one day in a household that happens to be a wedding day. The fact that we know it is a wedding day provides all of the unity of plot and tension of character for the reader. As. V. Woolf said of it, "It is astonishingly good."

I will just touch on Greenery Street here, and hopefully do a complete posting on it when I finish reading it. I would love to just post quotation after quotation of it up--but I will just say that as the book opens with the Grandmother giving the young couple an enormous rocking horse for the nursery, which displaces the linen cupboard, which then has to join the sewing machine and the cook's trunk in the young husband's closet--which of course he does not mind--I could hardly stifle my laughter quaking body so as to not wake up my own dear young husband. I put the book down and turned out the light smiling.