Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Heavy or Lightweight Books

The other night when I came to the last page of The Fountain Overflows, I turned right back to the beginning and started it all over again. I couldn't bear to leave the Aubrey Family, or Rebecca West's lovely writing. I kept my pen in hand so that I could note even more phrases or passages that were notable examples of her masterful style, or of the psychology of children. And this time through I mean to circle words I don't know from the very start, to look up in the dictionary sometime -- maybe. Most of the time I forget to do that.

I don't research those words as I go along because I am usually lying in bed and can't handle something as heavy as a dictionary; most books I buy these days I get in paperback so that I can read them while curled up or generally horizontal under the blankets. Sometimes, though, I fail to notice that a particular book in the catalog has 800 or 1000 pages between its paper covers, and when it arrives at my door I realize that it can't be accommodated at bedtime.

Vacations don't seem to include the long afternoons I'd require to enjoy the big books in a lawn chair next to a lake or under a tree. That's what I thought I would need if I were ever going to start The Cypresses Believe in God: Spain on the Eve of the Civil War (806 pages), by Jose Maria Gironella.

But last week, after leaving the library, of all places, my foot folded over at a curb and my ankle was sprained -- voilĂ ! Here was my chance! -- and for three days I've been living in the world of Spanish culture and politics in the 1930's, at the same time I am lying in the recliner with my foot up.

I was going to tell also about the paperback copy of The Brothers Karamozov, and Stephen Lawhead's Hood (first book in the King Raven Trilogy about Robin Hood), who are both waiting on the shelf, but as I look at them more closely I notice that they are not at all in the same weight category as Cypresses. They are smaller in cubic inches, nearly the same size as each other, though Hood is under 500 pages and Brothers K about 700. Dostoyevsky is much heavier physically -- the book, I'm talking about now -- and I am confident in other ways, too. No taking that one to bed.

c. 1923
But maybe when I finish Fountain I could manage to heft Hood or at least have it lying next to my pillow. Unless I feel the need to read Rebecca West's The Birds Fall Down again. When I came to the end of that novel I also had that urge to read it again soon, for somewhat different reasons.

The first time I heard of this author it was for her book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. That title captivated me right off, but I thought the subject of her famous book would be helpful to me in understanding Balkan history and culture.

I borrowed it from the library, a hardback and huge book with small print, when I still had plenty of teaching and childraising to do, and I don't think I ever got through one chapter. But now that I've read two other compelling books by her, and see that these three I've encountered are completely different from one another....I wonder if I can get Black Lamb and Grey Falcon in paperback?

15 comments:

wayside wanderer said...

I've added The Fountain to my tbr list.

M.K. said...

Thanks for the recommendation of Ms. West's books. She sounds very good. I remember making lists of unfamiliar words when I read Trollope's books for the first time. Quite a list! It was interesting.

Sarah in Indiana said...

I resisted getting a smart phone for quite a while, because I've never been that into cell phones, anyway. But I find that it's an amazing technology that is so useful in a million ways. One thing I love is that I keep it at hand to look up words when I'm reading. So convenient!

GretchenJoanna said...

Sarah, I had to laugh at your comment, because right after I posted this blog my cell phone died and I had to buy a new one. My husband and I discussed my getting a smart phone, and I decided against it. I told him I'm not the type to need all of that. But did I think about the WORDS I could look up? No! If I had read your comment before I ordered my new phone, I might have sprung for the smart one. :-)

margaret said...

I had Black Lamb and Grey Falcon in PB years ago from Virago. Hardback books with dense print are for people who can devote a week at a time to getting through a book and nothing else!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your ankle, but thrilled that you get some solid reading time! I'm off to see what Rebecca West my library has in its collection.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I am so sorry to hear of your ankle but so glad to hear of your reading time...there's always a rainbow -smile-.
Many thanks for visiting Thistle Cove Farm; I'm going to enjoy visiting your blog. The Chesterton quote is fabulous and am headed to the sorghum bread recipe now.

Victoria said...

thank you for these book reviews! I will definitely be looking these up.

Nancy @ A Rural Journal said...

I admit I am a bit envious of people who tote around large books all the time -- I find the books to be rather foreboding. :)

Amanda said...

I didn't know R. West had written so much. Now I must find these others -- I've only read The Birds Fall Down, which was an amazing book.

beach babies said...

Hmmmm. . .Not much of a novel person, but you've piqued my interest. I may have to check out this Rebecca West chick.

E Helena E said...

It's been 30 years since I read "The fountain overflows". I remember that I was quite captivated, but I can't remember why! Your post has stimulated my curiousity.
By the way, I don't comment much, but I do enjoy all your posts!

Gigi said...

Rebecca West's book sounds wonderful - must jump over to Amazon and look it up.
Have you ever read any of Kathleen Thompson Norris's books? They're rather light (which I like), and they're almost all set in the San Francisco Bay area -- early 20th century. I think I like reading them for the setting as much as anything. They're sweet books.
Blessings,
G

hopeinbrazil said...

I have some Rebecca West on my Kindle (yet to read). I'm glad you like her so much. Hope your ankle heals nicely.

Nicola said...

I've not read Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. In fact, I'm almost scared to read any more West in case it's not as good as The Fountain Overflows trilogy. Of course, The Return of the Soldier is a wonderful novel. Enjoyed your post.