Reading, Revisited

 

I’ve been given a writing assignment. I like those. Especially when the ability to concentrate is at low ebb. I find myself wandering off lately. Physically wandering off has always been a habit of mine (apologies to everyone who has ever waited for me). Daydreaming, too, is a kind of wandering off (guilty). I mean wandering off mid-thought though. Mid-sentence, even. Nothing sticks in my head for long.

At the bookstore I found Lampedusa’s The Leopard. Or it found me. It’s “the story of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, a 19th century Sicilian nobleman caught in the midst of democracy and revolution.”  Honestly? This description did NOT excite me. It had been so highly praised by a friend though that I thought someday I should read it. I told this to myself repeatedly, the way I remind myself to eat salad. Someday. Now, my writing assignment was to begin: “I went to the bookstore because I wanted to read The Leopard.”  – and it does. But it’s not true and this is not my writing assignment.

I’d gone to the bookstore because I’d gone to the pet store because I was supposed to be grocery shopping. Obviously. I needed escape. The bookstore is almost in sight of the pet store and it is a near perfect place to escape for an hour or two. I rode the escalator just for the view and wandered through the stationery and journals. I looked for Sherwood Anderson’s Poor White, knowing full well they didn’t have it but unable to think what else to want. Walking alone in the woods clears my head so that I can pick out a thought like a string and follow it to its end. It’s productive. Losing myself in a busy bookstore is just that: losing myself. And sometimes I need that, too. Hearing a hundred other voices I’m unable to hear my own. I am free to forget.

The phone in my pocket rang. So much for forgetting. I leaned my head against the shelves and closed my eyes. It occurred to me I must have looked prayerful and so I opened them. There was The Leopard,  directly in front of me. In my head I heard my friend’s voice proclaiming it “absolutely astonishing” and I plucked it off the shelf.

Since Mom died, I haven’t been able to immerse myself in a book. My mind skims over things and refuses to focus. But The Leopard,  lush and lyrical, drew me in. For four days I was in Italy with the Salina family, watching revolution take place on battlefields and in ballrooms. The blurb at the back of the book begins: Set in the 1860s, The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. The dramatic sweep and richness of observation, the seamless intertwining of public and private worlds, and the grasp of human frailty imbue The Leopard with its particular melancholy beauty and power, and place it among the greatest historical novels of our time.

“Absolutely astonishing” is absolutely right. It was good to be engrossed in a book again. Reading, for me, is both the escape of losing myself in a crowd and the clarity of mind I find walking in the woods alone. A dichotomy, and yet there are few more perfect pleasures.

The Perfect Book

 

You know I like books. This gem – a little antique companion I could carry in my pocket – arrived at cold Christmas and I was transported to a Persian garden. I lay on the floor under the glittering tree and read:

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Roses, wine, and time suspended – the imagery of romance… Contemplation, celebration, and carpe diem… Old Omar has it all. Words well-known to me in a book that had been loved but not too much, used but not too harshly. The perfect book.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly – and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot –
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne!

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Book Lover

There is tranquility in a second-hand bookshop. Libraries are quiet because they must be. This is different. A kind of peace. Whatever it is, it suits me. I feel at home. It could just be the dust. Anyway, there I was kneeling in the art books, pulling them out and pushing them back. Have it, read it, not interested… I made my way down the row that way and swung round to continue on the shelf behind me. It was low. It was low and I am short and – on hands and knees – I still had to bend down to see. I was Carter making the tiny breach into Tutankhamun’s tomb. “Yes, I see wonderful things.” Little books. Little books that fit in my hands. Little books that fit in my pocket. Little books that fit under my pillow at night. Rows of little books running along the wooden floor of the bookshop like a literary baseboard. I wondered what perverse person put them there.  A brilliant short person, no doubt. I imagined them laughing maniacally: Bwahaha! Finally! Tall people will need us!

Obviously this is more about the gold and green 1902 volume next to me than the story inside. You can read about that anywhere. The Warden is the first of the much loved Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope. The theme of the book is the clash of ancient privilege with modern social awareness. Blah, blah, blah… What no one else can tell you is this: It is the exact size of my hand! How fantastic is that? The exact size! It was made (and re-bound by Alison Leakey, so states the inside cover) for me!! These are the things I love about it:

#1

#2 There’s a small stain on page 329. Tea. I know exactly what caused it.

When the archdeacon left his wife and father-in-law at the Chapter Coffee House to go to Messrs Cox and Cumming, he had no very defined idea of what he had to do when he got there. Gentlemen when at law, or in any way engaged in matters requiring legal assistance, are very apt to describe such attendance as quite compulsory, and very disagreeable. The lawyers, on the other hand, do not at all see the necessity, though they quite agree as to the disagreeable nature of the visit; gentlemen when so engaged are usually somewhat gravelled at finding nothing to say to their learned friends; they generally talk a little politics, a little weather, ask some few foolish questions about their suit, and then withdraw, having passed half an hour in a small, dingy waiting-room, in company with some junior assistant-clerk, and ten minutes with the members of the firm; the business is then over for which the gentleman has come up to London, probably a distance of a hundred and fifty miles. To be sure he goes to the play, and dines at his friend’s club, and has a bachelor’s liberty and bachelor’s recreation for three or four days; and he could not probably plead the desire of such gratifications as a reason to his wife for a trip to London.

Married ladies, when your husbands find they are positively obliged to attend their legal advisers, the nature of the duty to be performed is generally of this description.

Shocking. No, I’m telling you, it had nothing to do with the warden resigning. The chapter’s titled The Warden Resigns, for crying out loud. The warden resigning can’t have been a surprise. But something made a long-ago reader’s tea splash over the edge of the cup and onto the page. Only this page. Was it disbelief? Or recognition? Perhaps a married lady suddenly remembering: I have GOT to get to my lawyer.

#3 There are pages where every line begins with a single quotation mark. Sometimes it goes on for two or three pages. Every single line. Although Trollope was a great lover of punctuation (a semicolon on every page – sometimes as many as six), I don’t think this was what he had in mind. Clearly the typesetter is trying to get my attention. Page 228, with its 30 quotation marks (and 4 semicolons), is a serious poke in the eye to, well, pretty much everyone: government, church hierarchy, and especially journalists. Noted. Thank you. Highlighted by 100 single and seemingly meaningless quotation marks, pages 320-323 contain Mr Septimus Harding’s resignation letters and give you the man’s character in a nutshell. It’s like Cliffs Notes by Typesetters. The whole point of the book in a few pages. So why bother to read the rest?

#4 Because it’s fun, that’s why. Trollope knows people and his characters are memorable. Yes, they have ridiculous names that make me laugh, but that’s the intention. It’s satire. Playfulness with a point.

I did wonder if being an American who knows nothing of 19th century church politics would make the story less accessible or even irrelevant to me. Would I get the jokes? Yes, it’s accessible. It’s written in a realistic style and I didn’t need anyone to explain the archdeacon setting the scene as if he were writing a sermon, locking the door, and pulling Rabelais from a secret drawer. My only question is what else was in that secret drawer. Yes, it’s relevant. People haven’t changed. And yes, I got the jokes. At least I think I did. If not, I was laughing at something or Trollope was laughing at me and either way I don’t really care; it was fun.

God, I love semicolons.

 

aaah… New books. Yes, I know that’s not what you’ve come here for (yes, you), but it’s all I’ve got at the moment. I cling to them. They’re a means of escape. Here’s how I filled my basket at Borders this week and how I’m now filling my nights:

Anthology of American Literature, volumes A and B, because, well, I’m American and the price was right.

Twinkle the Tooth Fairy because we have need of another tiny purple bag for exchanges with the Tooth Fairy (and the book that goes along with it).

Stephen King’s On Writing, because deep down I’ve always loved Stephen King – despite the many times he’s scared me so that I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone, much less read the next chapter. Also because I’m afraid of loving the borrowed copy so hard I’ll be ashamed to return it.

Kit Donner’s The Notorious Bridegroom because it’s sexy!

And Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, hot off the press and into my hot little hands. But there’s something wrong. It’s not just the cover. I can deal with that. There’s this bleed of pink neon on the inside jacket at either side of the book, but I know that’s just for atmosphere. No, the problem is I think I understand it. Has there been a mistake? Is this some other “enigma shrouded in a mystery veiled in anonymity” Thomas Pynchon? The words still swirl around my head, but more staccato than the strange music of Mason and Dixon. Staccato suits it though. Thus far a seemingly hard-boiled/noir detective story, set in the psychedelic sixties. Psychedelic is the catch word used to describe this book but, when you’re reading things like

*

and that pink neon is glaring at you from the edges, ‘psychedelic’ is all that comes to mind.

Other books came home with me as well, but it was the Pynchon I went for. I was hoping for the kind of endless, erudite, mad sentence-paragraphs that, in Mason and Dixon, made me swoon. These do not make me swoon. They tickle. Not what I was hoping for, but it’s fun.

 

 

*What, are you crazy? I can’t quote anything from this book! My dad might see it!

The Blind Assassin

 

blind assassin

 

My apologies to those who’ve already heard my thoughts on this book. I liked it. A lot. More apologies to those who expect some sort of synopsis of the book in a book report. We don’t do that here. While I can’t promise coherence of thought, I will offer two warnings. First, Kim needed aspirin after reading what follows. Second, I’m halfway through another of Margaret Atwood’s – Alias Grace.

After reading The Blind Assassin, I tried writing a review. Instead I scribbled some words into a cheap notebook and went on an opera binge. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, loud and non-stop. And I SING. My musical talents are not largely appreciated here. Eyes roll. They beg me to stop, but I can’t. I’m inspired.

 

When I am laid, am layyy-ed in earth…  

Remember meee. Reeemember meeee. But, ahhh-ahh-ah, forget my fate…

Remember me. But, ah, forget my fate.

 

It started like this:

This is the life story of Iris Chase Griffen as she would tell it to her estranged granddaughter, conversational but in letter form. (Because they’re estranged. Pay attention please. This is the easy part.) In this first of three overlapping stories people are not always what they seem. At least Iris isn’t. There’s the persona of the complacent child, the granddaughter of…, the daughter of…, the wife of…, the sister of… and then there’s Iris herself. She’s wry. She made me laugh. There’s something else you should know about Iris though. The people around her tend to die dramatically. Murders? Suicides? She’s like the Greek goddess of the same name, sent to do the job of death and set souls free. Murder? Suicide? It’s hard to tell the difference.

Then there’s the story-within-a-story. Her sister Laura’s novel, also titled The Blind Assassin, follows the love affair of a married society woman and a pulp fiction writer on the run. Their meetings invariably include sex and a story. Yes, I know. You think that’s wonderful. So do I. The story he improvises for her is pure fantasy; an escape. Like their relationship, like sex, like death.

It’s also the story-within-a-story-within-a-story. Sci-fi packed with zombie women and spaceships and lizard men in flammable shorts, invented by the lovers and mirroring… what? Society? Themselves? An assassin made blind by unconscionable child labor is tasked with killing a sacrificial maiden made mute to silence her protests. The two, so abused, find solace in one another. They find love. The true identities of this inner story’s blind assassin and mute sacrifice seem obvious, but nothing is only what it appears on the surface. Hold that thought. In sorting the classical references and symbolism I begin to feel I’m following the spiral of a nautilus ever further in. I’m dizzy. The myth of Dido and Aeneas is central, with Iris to cut the golden cord binding Dido’s soul to her body. Or is she Dido, awaiting another Iris to do the same for her? And what of her sister’s novel? Is she the sacrificed maiden? Yes. Is she the assassin? Yes. Is she mute? Blinded? Yes and yes. Here the whole story spins back out for me. I can find a way to pin those labels on almost every character at some point in the book. The vertigo is back.

I ignored the quotes at the beginning of the book. I generally do. But look what I found when I went back and read them at the end. Three epigraphs, three themes: blinded children left to sing the songs of those that don’t survive, death as escape, the power of words. Three themes, three nested stories, three suicides, three love triangles… I’m reminded of the ancient symbol of three interlocking spirals. A triskele.

But maybe I’m reading too much into the book. Maybe it’s just a painting of a woman’s life. Two sisters surrounded by dark shadows of tragedy and the historic objectification of women, a love affair in bright colors to draw the eye away, the negative space of death to rest in. In short, life.

Turn the music back up, please. I feel an aria coming on.

Twilight

 

I could still feel warmth where his skin touched mine. The moisture of his lips was on my throat and the silken bristles of his hair brushed over my face as he drew his mouth down. The smell of him lingered in my nostrils. It was not like flowers.

I wanted him to bite me. Instead he pulled his head up and looked at me curiously. No question came, but I knew he was trying to understand. Trying to see what had brought me to this place. He looked like a cat with his head slightly cocked, as though listening for the words I couldn’t dare to utter. He was beautiful. Eyes aglitter, cunning written plainly on his face. Then the cat became a tiger.

“Get up.” The dream memory broke off and I opened my eyes. The tiger was alive and pacing. “Get up. NOW.” I scrambled to the other side of the wide bed, finally afraid. Two thoughts clicked into place simultaneously:

This is what he’d warned me of. He’d been watching me sleep.

And there was no hope for me. No escape. I was alone with this beautiful man and this ravenous beast and the danger was of my own design. He’d tried to tell me but, headstrong and foolish, I didn’t believe. And now, when I believed it to the very core of my being, there was no escape. Not that I’d have wanted one anyway.

Yeah, I just made that up. I am such a girl. We’ll come back to that. First, be warned: This is going to be another sloppy nonreview that tells you nothing of character, setting, or plot (There was a plot?) beyond the next sentence, which you may hate me for. This book is not well written. It’s just not. Meyer’s a storyteller but this is not great literature. The typos I grumbled about while reading? I wasn’t complaining so much about the typos themselves – okay, I kind of was – but what really bothered me was the type of typos. It’s clear someone has actually done some editing, but to improve the writing rather than to add a dropped period or correct a misspelling. It didn’t help.

And yet I enjoyed the book. I am such a girl. This is, I am convinced, where Meyer has struck the mother lode. Edward is handsome. Beautiful even. A marble statue of masculine beauty. I hesitate to say hot because the fact is he’s not. He’s cold to the touch, which makes him all the more attractive because he’s a challenge. Untouchable, so obviously all I can think of is touching him. Did I mention he’s handsome? And he likes me. Me! He spends pages and pages and pages fighting down his attraction to me but I’m so sweet smelling, so delicious, so special, he just can’t. I’m his own brand of heroin. More dreaminess: Edward’s beauteous and smart. Brains are sexy. Can I get an ‘Amen’? But so is brawn and Edward’s as agile and athletically gifted as he is beautiful. Did I already say he’s beautiful? Sorry. It’s just that he’s sooo beautiful. And rich. And he likes me. Me! And he’s bad. But he’s good. He’s struggling against his bad side because he’s so good and he likes me. Me! I must really be special.

And there it is. Special. We girls like to be made to feel special. Like we’re the only one. The only one whose mind he can’t read and the only one whose mind he wants to read. The only girl he could spend all day talking to and still want to spend tomorrow with. The only girl he’s ever kissed. I’m so extraordinarily special that he’s fighting his very nature for me. Never forget Edward is a vampire. He’s dangerous. And he likes me so much he’d like to feast on me. But I’m (almost, maybe, not quite) safe because he’ll protect me from himself. “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb. What a stupid lamb. What a sick, masochistic lion.”   Aww… He loves me…

* sigh *

Anyway. Points given for bringing my teenage daydreams to life. Points taken away for making my hero a vampire. Points given for writing a long book. Points taken for filling several pages of it with a girl googling and sending emails to her mother. Points given for not including sex in my teenage vampire love story. Points taken away for not including sex in my adult vampire love story. Points given for creativity. (Vampires sparkle in the sunlight??) Points taken for trying to undo hundreds of years worth of vampire lore in a mere 480 pages. (Several of which have been wasted on google searches for “vampire”.) What does that tally up to? I’d say three stars and two fang marks. Cause I really wanted him to bite.

 

Note: Star ratings are based on an out of five. That’s five stars possible. Got it? Good.

Love Songs in Minor Keys

 

 love songs in minor keys

 

Last week my quiet moments were spent with a book of short stories by Joe Cavano. I’m a fan of short stories. Yes, 900 page novels do it for me too. There’s such felicity in picking up a big brick of a book knowing it’s going to last a good long time. But short stories satisfy in a different way. I’ve heard them described as the literary equivalent of a Whitman’s Sampler. A variety of bite-sized pieces, each individually contained and complete.

Joseph Cavano’s clean, clear style is an excellent contrast to the complexities, the confusion, the clutter of our relationships. They have a deceptively simplistic feel, fable-like at times. The nine stories are mostly character-driven and, like Mr Cavano’s writing, the characters first appear straightforward. Stereotypical in some cases. But are any of us that simple? Full of lights and darks and contradictions, the characters come to life and stay with you beyond the stories they tell. And they love. Romantically, companionably, steadfastly, brokenly, selfishly, sufferingly. They love for the right reasons, the wrong reasons, for no reason. Like me. Probably like you. Sometimes they love only themselves. These aren’t conventional “love stories” so check any preconceived notions at the door.

If I had to choose a favorite it might be Mayflies. An artist and a storyteller and that first flush of love. True, it’s the most familiar and least shocking of the collection, but its poignancy moved me. Sunday morning I stood watching the mayflies skim the surface of the Greenbrier River. I don’t fish. I’d never really thought of them before. But this story came back to me and I was reminded of how ephemeral life is and how fleeting young love can be.

The blurb on the back of the book says it better than I ever could. A jazz pianist, the author knows very well the power of minor keys. At times exotic, often surprising, they are most powerful when combined with other more familiar sounds; which is what he has done here. The new and the familiar. The dark and the bright. Each blended in such a way as to create a most interesting music. An apt description.

Disgrace

 

PD*416227 

 

Ahem. My official review:

This book made me want to read Twilight. Yes, Twilight: perfectly perfect young people falling in love and never growing old. God, I hope that’s what’s in store for me there. I need an antidote to Disgrace.

It affected me more than I thought it could, in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. At page ten I would have readily given it five stars; the writing is superb. Halfway through I’d have given it four. Excellent, but slightly annoying. At the moment I finished it, shouting “WHAT?? What kind of ending is THAT???” and wondering if I was going into shock, I’d have demanded stars back for ruining my life. A little distance was needed before I could consider it rationally again.

The word disgrace is what struck me with nearly every page. Coetzee’s writing is like that. Tight. There’s no escaping what he wants you to see. It’s not outrageously blatant, but it’s none too subtle either. It’s good. So good you might be tempted to revel in it. Do not. This is not for the faint-hearted. Run. Read something easy, something happy. Anything. If you stay Coetzee will turn that word, disgrace, in your mind a hundred different ways. I’m no stranger to the word. I have been a disgrace, been disgraced, disgraced myself and others. Seriously. I thought I was immune to it.

The main character, David Lurie, is disgraced. Big deal. He disgraces a student. Yeah, I’m familiar with that. She’ll live. He is a disgrace. Yes, clearly. David Lurie is entering the disgrace of growing old. That’s where Coetzee has me.

I can’t find it in me to despise Lurie. He’s a Lothario and possibly worse (“She does not own herself. Beauty does not own itself.”), but I don’t have to live with him. Then there’s the sharp intelligence with too little empathy or emotion to make it truly sing. The bare objectiveness. He claims to have lost ‘the lyrical’ within himself, but it’s doubtful he ever had it. He’s a pretender. I’m amused by the fact that he, a professor of language, begins the affair that causes his public fall from grace by quoting Shakespeare’s first sonnet. The words apply as much to himself as to anyone. But self-delusion is my own stock-in-trade. I can’t condemn him for that. I don’t love him either. I feel as dispassionate as Lurie himself. The disgrace of the dying though – the ‘without grace’ – that younger generations foist upon them. That they’re made to feel as intruders in life, burdensome. This is where Coetzee hooks me. And he reels me in. Reels me in until I find myself suffocating in a world I want no part of. A world of shame, dishonor, humiliation, degradation. Disgrace. That of a man, a father, a daughter, a woman, an unborn child. Now make those plural. Add the disgraces of South Africa, of humanity, of animals. Yes, animals. I suspected Coetzee would sneak in a little commentary on that. He has a reputation. I did not expect to be so affected by it. I, a confirmed carnivore, did not expect to lie awake at night considering vegetarianism. Coetzee brings that passionate quote at the beginning of this paragraph back to hit me square in the face near the end though and – once again – Disgrace.

So a full five stars, but would I recommend it? I’m still not sure. Read it if you dare. Coetzee is brilliant.

 

 

Note: Star ratings are based on an out of five. That’s five stars possible. Got it? Good.

(Needs a Title)

 

Lying in bed last night, he turned to ask what I was thinking about. “Vegetarians.”

I’ve been reading too much. I plunged headlong into JM Coetzee’s Disgrace earlier this week, spurred on by a friend’s disgust. This is generally a sure way to get me to do something. Say you hate it, I’ll hate it, the world must hate it – and I will love it to spite you, me, and the world. And that’s just what’s happened. I am sunk deep in this book. Coetzee has kept me up late, staring at the ceiling, considering vegetarianism. Cruelty and compassion. The many different meanings of the word ‘disgrace’.

This is how I drifted off to sleep.

And this is how I awoke, four hours later. I picked up Kirk Curnutt’s short stories thinking to shake off the solemnity. No idea why. I’ve read most of them already; they are not light-hearted. But I like them. In fact, I like each one better than the last. Kirk commented that they were dark and my first instinct was to disagree. They’re certainly not light though. What they are is thought-provoking. Hopefully Kirk won’t mind my reading some of Down in the Flood to you.

 

A dead man’s face tells you all you need to know about his life.              That’s what my dad told me the first time I was around to see the Chattahoochee bust the levee and drown up my hometown…

…I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the water, not on her face. There was just something so exposed about her, though; I couldn’t help myself. I mean, I couldn’t get over the fact that here was someone I’d twice touched, once in life and once in death, and she’d brought out more in me now than she had then. I couldn’t figure why. Maybe death, even after you’re dead, can still strip you down one more layer of vulnerability…

…Some nights, the ones I can’t sleep, I find myself wondering what expression I’ll be wearing when I go. I even go so far as to practice. Silly as it sounds, I’ll purse my lips together and clamp my eyes shut, real stone like, or I’ll just lie back and try to let the most peaceful, relaxed feeling I know stretch out my skin. I do it, I guess, because I want to believe that whatever I’ve been through in my life can’t be summed up in a sentence or two. I want to think there’s a mystery to me that’s beyond observation, a meaning that can’t be reduced by a glance from a stanger’s eye. Maybe there’s not, I don’t know. But for now I’ll assume that there is, just so I don’t have to deal with knowing somebody’s going to claim to read me as I’ve claimed to have read so many others. My story’s mine, after all, and I’m taking my secrets with me.

 

Much as I’m enjoying Kirk’s stories and much as I’m fascinated by Coetzee’s ability to affect me, I need some fun. I remarked to a friend the other day that this is actually the kind of fun I like. Serious, cerebral. And that’s true. But sometimes just plain FUN fun is better for your soul. To be made light.

Walking alone at night in a foreign city I passed buskers on the sidewalk. The song made me pause and smile. I’d never heard it anywhere but on my own ipod. I swung round and called out “That’s my favorite song! How did you know?” and walked back to drop the last of my coins in a battered guitar case. I was delighted. They were delighted. We laughed and sang and that was about all they could do in English, but it was fun. Back in my hotel room I turned the TV on and was immediately treated to an advertisement for iplayer. The same song! It’s everyone’s favorite – Everywhere! I laughed at myself. Cavorting around the world, adventure after adventure, yet clearly I need to get out of my own head more often.

Tonight I turned the music up loud and watched my daughters dance. The boy shook his head and tried to cover his own enjoyment in watching them. He didn’t last long. I put down my book and made him dance with me.

Outlander

 

 

eilean-donan 

Last night I came home from book club, sat down with a cup of tea, began to type… and chickened out. The book? Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. A fellow reader’s favorite quote:

It was a “warm” Scottish day, meaning that the mist wasn’t quite heavy enough to qualify as a drizzle, but not far off, either. Suddenly the inn door opened, and the sun came out, in the person of James. If I was a radiant bride, the groom was positively resplendent. My mouth fell open and stayed that way.
A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight – any Highlander, no matter how old,  ill-favored, or crabbed up in appearance.  A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored Highlander at close range is breath-taking.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Outlander and I’d forgotten that passage. In truth, my favorite lines have nothing whatsoever to do with kilts. But I can assure you Diana knows what she’s talking about there. A tall, bekilted, and handsome Scotsman at close range is quite breath-taking. Yes. Quite…

Back to the book. I’m often ashamed to admit I’ve read – let alone loved – this book. I shouldn’t be. I’m a grown woman and can read what I want. I have no qualms about telling people I’m reading a 640 page book about Emerson, that I’ve read Mein Kampf,  that the biography of General Joshua L Chamberlain sent me into spasms of history geek happiness. And, believe me, I’ve gotten some strange looks when I’ve said those things. I don’t mind. This is different though. It’s… How shall I put this? Can I whisper it? Come closer.

(They enjoy one another. Thoroughly and at every opportunity.) (Extremely hot.)

This seems to bother some people.

Smut, they say. To which I shrug. I kind of like a little smut now and then. The dialect could be sprinkled less liberally as it is in later books of the series, but the characters are convincing, the historic aspects are well researched, and the whole thing gallops along with an energy that kept me rapt from beginning to end. The author doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects and that’s made for some great conversations with both men and women. With myself as well.

So take a wild romp across Scotland. Dare. Surrender and lose yourself in a story.

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