Because it’s dark at eight o’clock now I’m feeling depressed. Not big depressed: a little depressed. Summer is not officially over, but I’m imagining the winter. And although I accomplished a lot this summer–visited Bess Streeter Aldrich’s home, read Dickens, and took numerous bicycle trips–the darkness makes me think about all the things I didn’t do.
1. I DIDN’T LOSE 20 POUNDS. Am I the only one out there who gains weight every time she takes a 40-mile bike ride? But I did lose 10 pounds and at least my pants are loose now.
2. I didn’t read Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. I tried to get my Latin group to read this Austrian novel with me, but they’re really more interested in military history. There’s nothing like Caesar or Tacitus if you’re a historian with no time for poetry. Of course I push the Latin literature on them and did manage to get a couple of them to read Virgil, some of it in the original. And I can’t really blame them for not reading Broch, because even though Virgil is the protagonist, Broch’s writing is so bad…I should revive my German so I can judge properly. It’s probably a lost novel because of the translation.
3. I didn’t take that gardening class I’ve always intended to take. Damn! But we do have a lot of zucchini out there. I actually saw a few bees among the flowers. Yea! They’re not all dead.
I want more light and time outdoors. We have three more months of sun, don’t you think? And then the snow falls.
WHAT I’M READING NOW: I am completely absorbed in Rose Macaulay’s Staying with Relations. It is far from her best novel and I shouldn’t recommend it except to Macaulay aficionados, but this lovely entertaining hybrid of a novel is just so much fun! Set in Guatemala, Mexico, and California, it combines family drama, witty dialogue, exotic descriptions of the jungle, adultery, a kidnapping, a theft, a satiric episode about American con-men in Central America that reads like a wild West adventure, and a crazy ship-and-car road trip in which Catherine and two of her step-cousins track the fattish little man who robbed the buried treasure on the hacienda. Catherine, a novelist lecturing in Philadelphia, is invited by her aunt to come stay with the family on a hacienda in Guatemala. The story begins from Catherine’s point-of-view, but Macaulay shifts viewpoints and evenly divides the narrative among Catherine’s relatives: her high-strung young cousin, Isie, who looks like an empty-minded Juno but is actually nervous, demanding, and emotional; Isie’s shell-shocked husband, Adrian, who is having an affair with Isie’s stepsister;and three lounging languorous English step-cousins, the spinsterish Claudia, beautiful Julia, and witty Benet. Catherine’s assumptions turn out to be mostly wrong about her relatives, and Macaulay has fun satirizing novelists’ observations.
Here is a passage from one of the serious parts of Macaulay’s novel, from the point of view of Isie, who recites poetry to herself as, escaped from kidnappers, she tries to find her way home through the jungle.
“It was gentle and consoling to be thus for a space withdrawn into poetry and tears. Drained at last of emotion, she lifted tired, swollen eyes and looked about her, and saw how the little plants and leaves grew out of the crevices in pillars and walls. There, near by, was the fever grass, that one eats to cure malaria, and beneath it the nettle that one chews when one has inadvertently been spattered by the milky juice of the poison-wood tree.”
I have no idea whether Rose Macaulay traveled to Guatemala or not. But the descriptive parts of her novel make me want to rush to Guatemala, though it’s not a vacation spot these days (is it?), and the beautiful passages about the jungle reminds me of the scenes in W. H. Hudson’s Green Mansions, which I love.