Happy 4th of July! It is a matter of “holding these Truths to be self-evident,” of sipping designer coffee drinks in cold air-conditioned coffeehouses, and listening to Jimi Hendrix’s solo guitar version of the “Star-Bangled Banner.”
And of reading.
O say can you see by the dawn’s early light/ what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Can’t remember the rest.
It’s almost comfortable in the air conditioning, though we’re feeling restless . I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about the heat, but 100 degrees is not a joke. On a bike ride today, my sizzling hot bicycle seat started oozing gummy stuff, so I’ve wrapped it in duct tape for the duration.
“The high temperatures are the result of a slow-moving dome over the center of the country,” says The Chicago Tribune.
And now that global warming has been proved, shouldn’t we get tax breaks for mass transit, walking, and bicycling?
“There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again,” said Ken Kesey of his bus trip with the Merry Pranksters, according to Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Test.
Now this is out of context, and I don’t mean anything electric Kool-Aid-y, but it’s time for all us environmentalists to GET ON THE BUS.
The reading life has continued today. I have been reading “lite” lit: I thoroughly enjoyed E. M. Delafield’s Late and Soon, a novel published in 1943, now available as an e-book from Bloomsbury Reader. Delafield’s Provincial Lady diaries are classics, but many of her other novels are gracefully written, like this one. This one is particularly aimed at those of us who are middle-aged.
The heroine, Valentine, is a charming, self-effacing, 40something widow who has raised two daughters at Coombes, a big, uncomfortable country house. She has given up on personal happiness, and is not very good at housekeeping, nor does she value it: during the war, she has no “proper” help, the meals are terrible, and she is generally noted for domestic incompetence. Her oldest daughter, Primrose, has grown to loathe Valentine so much that she rarely comes home from London, where she is driving a mobile canteen. Her younger daughter, Jess, is a happy, spontaneous, fun-loving teenager with a puppy fixation–her puppy is called Aunt Sophy because she looks like a great-aunt–and is waiting to be called up as a W.A.A.F. volunteer.
Valentine has lived for them, not for herself. Her brother, a retired general with crippling arthritis, also lives with her and needs her help.
Valentine was not particularly happy with Humphrey, her husband, but the years since have been ineffably monotonous. She is always dutifully leading the Women’s Institute meetings and Red Cross bandage-making circles, though she has little interest.
For more than twenty years now Valentine had been answering with gentle and polite phrases that meant nothing at all, most of the remarks addressed to her. She had been trained from babyhood to think politeness of the utmost importance, and she had never outgrown, nor sought to outgrow, the habit of it. But she was sometimes conscious that her own good manners afforded her a sense of superiority and of that she was slightly ashamed.
And much as we like Valentine, Delafield allows us to see how her rude, unemotional daughter Primrose misinterprets her gentleness as weakness. Perhaps Primrose’s unconventionality is a reaction to Valentine’s duty.
Then romance arrives in Valentine’s life. Two officers are billeted at Coombes, and one is Colonel Rory Lonergan, an Irish artist who was Valentine’s first boyfriend in Italy. Her parents broke them up, believing that class was too great a barrier. And now, all these years later, they meet and fall in love again.
The complication is that he has been dating Primrose, who comes home just as soon as it is settled he’ll be living there. And though she says she was not in love with him, she is very hurt.
There are class issues and mother-daughter issues. And Delafield is intelligent enough to sketch both Valentine’s meddling sister-in-law’s and Rory’s doubts about his switch of affections from the daughter to the mother.
I’m not that keen on Rory really. He seems to have more in common with Primrose.
Will it work out?
What will happen?
Delafield’s writing is lovely, though as so often with her novels, it seems not to go anywhere in particular..
Did she write strictly for money? She wrote so much.
But it is a very enjoyable summer read. I’m not criticizing.