Wednesday, September 4, 2019

If, Then, Joy, Misty Mirror, and a Poet

Not all of my reading in August consisted of mysteries. Here's the rest of the books I read (and one I listened to):

Joy and 52 Other Very Short Stories by Erin McGraw
This was recently added to the short story category at the e-book section of the library website, so I borrowed it. I wasn’t sure about it at first and considered returning it without finishing it, but I decided to read on for a while longer and I’m glad I did. The stories got stronger as I passed the early part of the book. Some were linked stories, in which we read about an episode or relationship from various points of view.

If, Then by Kate Hope Day
I came across this book in the e-book section of the library website and it sounded intriguing. The title comes from a philosophical formula—if x, then y. One of the characters is a philosophy grad student. The setting is a small community at the base of a dormant volcano in Oregon. All of these people begin to question their choices as the story unfolds. The foundation of the book is the idea of the multiverse and the story moves back and forth between characters and different versions of each character’s life. In the multiverse, the same people are making different choices which lead to different outcomes. This was a great book. I’m glad I found it.

Object Lessons: The Work of the Woman and the Poet by Eavan Boland
A friend gave me this book and I am thrilled to have it. As I recall, I was looking for this book and some of Boland’s poetry collections 6 or 7 years ago when we lived in Maine, but the library didn’t have any of her work. I was glad to start reading it when we got to Ireland, but I’d not read this book until now. It was published in 1996, so Ireland has changed a lot since she wrote this. The book is a memoir, but also places the author in the context of larger poetic and place-specific historic traditions. She write about her struggles to come to terms with herself as an Irish poet and as a woman in Ireland. The two were mutually exclusive when she was coming of age. The Irish poets of earlier times were mostly men, many of whom wrote about nationhood in the context of fighting for independence. Ireland was portrayed as a woman in these poems, so as the object. Boland could not find herself in that tradition, especially when she married, moved to the suburbs, and had children. Her everyday suburban life did not seem to be the kind of subject for ‘serious’ poetry. She was able to overcome this and it may be that this is one reason why I like her poetry It is precisely because she deals with everyday life as a woman that I can relate to it and find meaning in it.

She recounts an experience she had when she was at university in Dublin and had borrowed a friend’s cabin on Achill, in County Mayo. She wanted a quiet place to study and think. There was a local woman who came and did things for her, including bringing water, since there was no running water in the cabin. One day, the woman started telling the poet about the experiences of local people during the famine. She talked for some time and it got dark. When the woman left, Boland went back to her studies, realising that she was working to memorise forms and structures that described the very system that created the situation of suffering those people had experienced. It made her very uncomfortable and she began to consider traditional forms and what counts as valid poetry and subject matter.

Boland’s attempts to situate herself as an Irish poet and an Irish woman were complicated by the fact that she had left Ireland when she was quite young. Her father was a diplomat and the family moved to London, a place she didn’t like all that much. When she was a teenager, the family spent time in New York City. At some point, she went back to Dublin, attended boarding school, and then at 17 began studying at Trinity College. Even though she was born in Ireland, she’d spent most of her early life elsewhere, so she did not have the same reference points that other people had.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I was interested in all of it—her thoughts on poetry, her life experiences, her discussions of the culture and how it impacted her, and her overcoming the obstacles, both systemic and in her own mind, that led her to a space in which she could express herself and create her art.

 The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill (audiobook read by Matt Addis)
James Monmouth returns to London after a life abroad. He’d spent his childhood with a guardian in Kenya, not knowing anything about where he came from. During his childhood, he developed a fascination with a traveller/adventurer named Conrad Vane. Upon the death of his guardian, he set off to follow in Vane’s footsteps. After a couple of decades of this, he decided to go back to London, both to learn more about the country of his birth and about Conrad Vane. He had an idea of writing a book about Vane and was surprised when people began to warn him against going any further, but without being specific. He dismissed these warnings and proceeded. But who is the distraught boy who seems to follow him and why is he the only one who sees him?

It rained a lot yesterday and when I popped out to snip some scallions, I noticed the rain droplets hanging from the montbretia--so lovely (more so in person than in the picture).
Today is a mix of showers, cloud, and sun and there's a fresh gusty wind. I hope it's as pleasant where you are. My heart goes out to people in the Bahamas. What a terrifying experience for people to have such wind and rain going on and on and on. Now their suffering continues as they grieve for lost loved ones and try to come to terms with losing homes. Heartbreaking.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

I love the raindrops on the leaves! I also feel very sad about the damange Dorian did in the Bahamas. I pray it goes farther out to see and does no more damage to people and property.