I’ve just returned from my trip to New York for the launch of the Open Letters Monthly Anthology. It was a great night for everyone on the Open Letters team, I think, and once we recover from the festivities, we’ll all enter with renewed vigor into getting the September issue ready for its eager public. I also hope to be back to a more regular blogging routine. One important part of that will be getting back into the habit of more frequent but shorter posts. Starting a new teaching term will help with that, as I will suddenly be too busy with the hectic miscellany of lectures and tutorials and assignments and wiki projects to linger over other things. On the other hand, I will also look forward to blogging more once it becomes, again, more of a rarity to have time and attention for things I choose to read.
And speaking of choosing things to read, naturally a great highlight of my trip to New York was my visit to The Strand bookstore (sadly, I didn’t really have any time to browse at Housing Works, where we held our reading, but just knowing that its secret sub-basement exists will be spiritual nourishment for me). I didn’t have enough time to explore all the layers and recesses of The Strand either, but I did find a couple of titles I’ve had on my ‘most wanted’ list for a while, plus a couple of others that were just too enticing to pass up at those prices. Here’s my haul:
Laila Lalami, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. I have followed Laila Lalami’s blog for some time and I’m really looking forward to reading her novel, which I hadn’t been able to find around here.
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Leaving Brooklyn. I’ve mentioned Schwartz’s Disturbances in the Field as one of the ‘books of my life’; though sometimes when I really love a particular book I don’t necessarily even want to read others by the same author, in this case I’m keen–and I already like the first sentence: “This is the story of an eye, and how it came into its own.”
Penelope Lively, Family Album. Moon Tiger is another of those books I’ve loved for many years, though in this case I have followed up with several others by Lively–who has never disappointed me so far.
Anita Brookner, Strangers. They had a lot of titles by Brookner and I had a hard time choosing one. I’ve only read Hotel du Lac, which I really enjoyed. This is a very recent one. I admit: I chose it from the many options there partly because I liked the cover.
Shirley Hazzard, The Evening of the Holiday. I also picked up The Transit of Venus recently, so I guess I’m about to go on a very small scale Hazzard binge. So far the only one of hers I’ve read is The Great Fire. I loved the writing but didn’t love the book–this is not a common response for me. In fact, I think usually I would deny that the writing can be separated from ‘the book.’
Henry James, English Hours (introduction by Leon Edel). This was out on one of those $1 tables that line the outside of the store. The first sentences are, well, Jamesian: “There is a certain evening that I count as virtually a first impression–the end of a wet, black Sunday, twenty years ago, about the first of March. There had been an earlier vision, but it had turned to gray, like faded ink, and the occasion I speak of was a fresh beginning.” Now really: could you have resisted this book, for $1, if only to find out what the heck he is going on about in such lovely, nuanced, but oblique language?
Just as an aside, on my visit to The Strand, I happened to be wearing one of my favorite (and oldest) scarves: it’s kind of purple/green/black strips, with a bit of shimmery thread running through the weave. On my way in, the greeter (I don’t know his actual job, but he seemed to be saying ‘hello’ to everyone who came in) said “Hello. I like your scarf. It’s very distracting.” Distracting from what, I had to wonder?
These aren’t the only books I brought back with me, either. I have SD to thank for yet another two, The Art Book (which I only regret not having had in hand at MoMA, where as is actually quite predictable, I bumbled around quite a bit wondering where the actual art was hidden–though I did enjoy the Matisse exhibit) and a review copy, stories by Joe Meno. I’ve promised to write up at least one here at Novel Readings, so more about that eventually.
And at the Metropolitan Museum gift shop, there on the sale table, just as if they knew I was coming, I found this beautiful book on ‘Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers, and Weavers in Art.’ I did come to regret its heft as I lugged it along while walking all the way back down through Central Park, but it promises hours of browsing pleasure, and perhaps some encouragement for the little needlework project mentioned in an earlier post–which I have begun.
But before I can finish any needlework, much less any blogging or other actual intellectual task, I have to recover from several days of poor sleep (sirens, car horns, and garbage trucks not being altogether lullabies to my small-town ears) and really early rising (note to me: it’s all very well to prefer early flights because “then you have the whole day ahead of you when you get there,” but you aren’t as young as you once were and it will cost you).