The dead fed you
Amid the slant stones of graveyards.
Pale ghosts who planted you
Came in the nighttime
And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.
You are of the green sea,
And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.
You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside.
David and I just got back from our annual trip to Squam Lake in rural New Hampshire, a vacation full of good times with family and friends we haven't seen since last year this time. October showed us no lilacs, of course, but there were old colonial graveyards, and little shops selling kites and marbles, and the green sea and the stone hills which reach a long distance. Unlike Lowell and her lilacs, though, I am not "of" New England, so it's always equally nice to be back home in the gray and evergreen of the Pacific Northwest.
We took an overnight trip up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and spent a pleasant hour at local indie bookshop River Run Books, where the staff was all abuzz about an upcoming Stephen King book-signing. I imagine it will be VERY much abuzz when the event actually takes place, as the shop is charmingly small and King is hugely famous. It will probably be like the time I and every other Portlander under the age of 25 all showed up to watch Elliott Smith perform at the 900-square-foot Music Millennium record store. Best of luck to them!
I did not pick up anything by King, but my mother-in-law did very sweetly treat me to a couple of new finds:
Amusingly, there is one Oxford World Classic and one NYRB reissue, so I could dip into either end of Sasha's 2011 project.
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. Which I've been meaning to read for years on the assumption I will love its rambling, pre-postmodern trajectory. A novel in which the hero doesn't manage to get born until Volume Three is my kind of book.
- Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar, which promises to be an intriguing trip along the thin line separating "happiness" from "mania," with bubbly yet unreliable narrator Rachel Waring.
And then, as if to prove that coming home is just as lovely as starting out, when I arrived back in Portland last night these three goodies were waiting for me:
- La force de l'age, by Simone de Beauvoir. I bravely resisted for several weeks, but yes I did eventually break down and order the second volume of de Beauvoir's memoirs after falling in love with the first one a month ago.
- Palace Walk and Palace of Desire, by Naguib Mahfouz. For Richard's readalong of Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy, scheduled (I believe) to take place during December, January and February. I adore these covers, and plan to order the matching Sugar Street barring any unforeseen disasters like hating the first two books or getting struck by lightning.
So, all in all a productive trip! I also managed to get some actual reading done, but no books finished: I'm chipping away simultaneously at Madame Bovary (in French) and Wolf Hall (in English), which was plenty to keep me occupied over the last week. So far I'm delighted and intrigued by both reads, which made the screaming toddlers across the aisle on both flights that much more bearable.