Looking Back: Books of January (2010)

First, J. D. Salinger has died.  Coming clean: Self never read Catcher in the Rye.  But of course, the book is/was everywhere, mentioned in every single anthology of American literature self has ever perused or taught.

Then, she heard that Elizabeth Edwards is finally divorcing John Edwards.  This news made self sad, because even though she didn’t like JE, she knew Elizabeth loved him.

Self lived in Tacitus for fully a third of January.  But she closed the book at last a few days ago (of course in the wee hours of the morning!). The book didn’t so much end as stop —  self didn’t actually get to see the end of the reign of Nero. Too bad, as she was fervently hoping he would meet an end as satisfyingly cruel as the ones he imposed on his helpless Roman subjects. But the rest of Tacitus’ manuscript is lost. This is a mystery some novelist (preferably on the level of Iain Pears) should be able to weave into a fascinating novel!

Then she zipped through Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters with Che Guevarra, and liked his first story the best (about a young American who is captured by some revolutionary guerrillas).  Interestingly enough, there were a few stories set in Haiti (stories far removed from Edwidge Danticat’s) and even a story set in today’s Burma.  Self found the stories’ greatest value to be in offering her a chance to experience these countries through the eyes of Americans (and what a strange experience that sometimes was).

Then self turned to Lynne Cox’s Grayson, and she was entranced, though the book was too short, for it took self barely a day to read (It was only 140 pages).

And now self has begun a big whopper of a book, Marilyn French’s In the Name of Friendship.  The book is about four women who range in age from 30 to 76.  All lead interesting, productive lives, and all met in the Berkshires.  Since none of these women seem to have financial concerns on their minds, they are able to live fully in their intellects.  Or at least, that is what it seems like to self, who’s read only to p. 27.

Self is always fascinated with books that depict how artists live.  Especially, artists who seem under no financial constraints.  So, here’s a passage about one of the women, an artist, who is married to another artist, Tim.  While the woman works in her studio, she thinks of her husband:

Funny, Tim hadn’t come in today.  Most days he came into the house for something to eat or to replenish his coffee jug . . .  He would go out to his studio early, around ten, with his thermos of coffee and some fruit.  He usually came back around two for lunch, but maybe today he’d taken his lunch out with him.  He had a little fridge out there.  Most days he worked until afternoon, then drove into town, did errands at the hardware store or the post office or just meandered around, looking at junk in antique shops, picking things up and laying them down again.  Some days he didn’t paint at all, but drove down to the city to see his dealer or have drinks with a friend.  He was self-sufficient.

So that’s how a self-supporting artist lives! Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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