Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Sunny Day Slacker

Someday soon, (maybe when it starts raining again), I will come in out of the sun to write a "proper" post. But in the meantime, I feel that it is a crime against nature to be inside the house.

The English character has been formed by constant complaint, much of it against the reliably miserable weather, but on a sunny May day I would favorably compare England's beauties to anywhere on this earth. The wisteria and clematis are blooming, our shaggy green lawn has been strewn overnight with yellow daisies, and the air is like champagne.

It is the kind of weather that is celebrated in Romantic poetry. Indeed, a long-haired poet to read me sonnets and peel me grapes would be just the thing. But as the next-best (and certainly more achievable) thing, I think that I will haul out a chair and spend an hour or two catching up with The Blind Assassin. I will make a cup of tea; I will add a cashew cookie or two; it will be pretty close to blissful.

What with the tennis and the walking and the other whatnots (children, domestic duties), I'm struggling to make it through my Booker list. I keep seeing pictures of Mariella Frostrup (one of the Booker judges this year) at glamourous parties and wondering how in the world she is managing all of HER required reading -- what with her two small children, assorted journalistic jobs, and the swanning around with George Clooney. She must read a lot faster than I do, or else have the sleeping requirements of Margaret Thatcher.

So how is everyone "gettin' trew?" (Trini expression, phonetically spelled)

I am nearly halfway through "Assassin" now, and although I am the first to bang on about how I don't care about the plot and just read for detail and characterization, I am starting to want the "plot" to coalesce and pick up some momentum. Yes, Atwood is technically proficient and full of cleverness, but I feel as if I'm at an emotional remove.

Is it just that glorious sun which is distracting me?


Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Bee, that glorious sun is distracting me to no end. I have houseguests coming next week, which means chores aplenty--but as you say, it would be a crime against nature to waste it on such mundane activities like laundry or dusting.

This afternoon, I was talking to a neighbor of mine (British) who leaves tomorrow for a three week holiday in Florida. It seems like such a waste to miss any of this beautiful weather!

Anne said...

Good for you for going outside and taking advantage of the glorious weather! It sounds lovely.

I finished The Blind Assassin about a week ago. For much of it I felt as you do: get on with the plot already! I was admittedly feeling rather apathetic about the book as a whole, but take heart: it does pick up, and I think that you will, as I did, get into it. In the end, one of the things I find fascinating about the book is how so much of the plot seems to happen in one's peripheral vision.

Now I'm reading The English Patient, but I've been so busy that I've hardly had any time to read! I hope to return to it tonight.

And I can't post this comment without mentioning that your reference to Mariella Frostrup made me laugh. Have you seen the British sitcom Coupling? One of the characters has a thing for Mariella Frostrup, and she even appears on the show once or twice.

Bee said...

I did my ironing last night -- whilst watching "Weeds." (Have you seen it? Hilarious. Great ironing material.)

Last year we went away for three weeks in April -- and it turned out to be the only nice weather of 2007! I hope that won't be the case for your neighbor (or us)!

Your comments about "Assassin" were really interesting . . . I will stick with it for the pleasure of later understanding.

I hope you like "The English Patient" -- it is one of my favorites. I have been meaning to read Ondaatje's "Running in the Family" for ages now. (It is about his childhood in Sri Lanka.)

No, I've never seen Coupling . . . but I see Mariella in party pictures every time I open a magazine!!!

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

Bee, the weather is just glorious this week but couldn't we have had some of it on the long weekend? What you need is wireless so you can blog in your garden or better yet just sit out there and read as you are doing.

The Blind Assassin was pretty lame, perhaps because I had such high expectations. Atwood is one of my favorite authors. Stop reading and pick up something better. I've reviewed a whole bunch under my books label if you need suggestions.

Bitty said...

Despite all that I have going on right now, I've managed to get about 200 pages into The Blind Assassin. I have some keeping-them-to-myself notions about what's happening in this book.

I took the book to a restaurant and the hostess wanted to talk about it. She reads Nora Roberts; would she like this book?

I had to tell her no.

Years ago when I would literally read anything, I read a lot of romance novels because my mother in law had them by the bagsful, given to her as discards by a sister. I had a friend who read the same stuff. When The Accidental Tourist was released, the friend read it and declared it the worst book she'd ever read. I had always been far more eclectic in my tastes, so I read it too just to see how bad it was.

Of course it was nothing of the sort.

But I wouldn't recommend Margaret Atwood to a Nora Roberts fan, unless she was expressing a desire to widen her reading horizons, which this young woman was decidedly not. And even then, I'd probably recommend The Handmaid's Tale.

One swell thing that Atwood does in this book (Assassin) is to write many very short chapters. Maybe she does that in all her books; I just don't remember. This is how I'm getting through it! A chapter at lunch or dinner; a chapter on the toilet (yes, I just admitted to that), a chapter or two at bedtime. In another two weeks (ha!) I'll be finished.

Bitty said...

Oh, and yes, gather ye rosebuds and all that. I am blessed with long stretches of lovely weather, but I don't get out nearly enough and enjoy it. Probably if I had less of it, I'd value it more.

Anonymous said...

Lost my first comment, I think. Trying again...

Good weather is such an unpredictable treasure, nothing we can do to invoke it. Enjoy all your al fresco days. Here’s hoping you have some sprinkled throughout the spring and summer.

We went to the arts and crafts fest in the park last weekend. The sun was hot (first sunscreen of the year) but the air was cool. That doesn’t happen too often here; I made sure to soak it up.

Bitty, I also found the short interleaved chapters of The Blind Assassin made for easy reading. Even when I lost patience with the docility of one character, it wasn’t hard to get through 4 or 5 pages at a go. I really enjoyed the ending. When you finish the novel, Bee, my review is here, in between some complaints about my family’s recent illnesses.

I have read a few pages of The Life of Pi but I am slacking too. I’m a little worn out after finishing two whole novels. My book devouring muscles are not in shape.

The name Mariella Frostrup makes me laugh. Very British. Last night my husband was mocking the name of baseball announcer Rusty Kuntz. That last name is pronounced ‘coonts’ in case you were wondering. --Jenine

Bee said...


Well, it's not "Cat's Eye" (which I loved, straight off the bat) -- but I will stick with "Assassin" as it WAS my bright idea to do a "Best of the Bookers" reading group of sorts.

And I will check out all of your book recs, even though I have groaning shelves and teetering piles of unread books already.

RE the weather: how many days of this glorious stuff do you suppose we will get?

Thanks so much for taking time out from the grading mayhem and madness to visit. I enjoyed your story illustrating how one's criteria for a "satisfying story" may vary from person to person. But how could anyone not love "The Accidental Tourist?" One of my true loves. And that reminds me, I had a very detailed dream the other night in which I had to prove why Anne Tyler was the definitive American writer. Yes, I'm not kidding. I was composing essays in my sleep. Cogent essays, too.

I burned my shoulders playing tennis yesterday -- because it did not even OCCUR to me to put on sunscreen. Let's just say that it is usually not an issue.

Are there massive spoilers in your review? I want to read it NOW.

Actually, Mariella is Norwegian -- but the Frostrup is just so icily British, isn't it?

"Kuntz" -- well, phonetically it could win prizes for embarrassing surnames.

JaneyV said...

In weather like this I wish I had a laptop so I could write outside. I actually resorted to pen and paper yesterday - (they recommend a writer's journal in this course I'm doing) - and it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. But I have huge problems reading in the sun - even with sunglasses on! It might be the glare of the page but I think I just like to close my eyes and daydream.
I am reliably informed that Mariella's best asset is that amazingly husky voice of hers.
If you ever get the chance to see Coupling (the first 2 series anyway) do take it - it was hilarious!

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

Bee, oops - I just realized the Atwood I didn't like was Alias Grace. I haven't read Assassin. Too many A's - I am sleep deprived with eyes tired from proof reading my MS.

Nonetheless, if you don't like a book halfway through, just stop. Life is too short to read things only because someone else said you should - even if that someone is the Booker Committee or yourself!

Generally, reading the Booker list sounds like a fine idea, but so many fine contemporary writers, especially the new emerging ones, don't get recognition from the literary establishment. The committee may very well have been recognizing an impressive lifetime of achievement more than just that one book of Atwood's. So try another if this one isn't grabbing you.

There are plenty of good Atwood books. I too liked Cat's Eye. I'll never forget The Handmaid's Tale - I'm with Bitty on recommending it - especially in these times. Surfacing is a classic and her Dancing Girls stories are great. The Penelopiad was interesting - the Odyssey retold from Penelope's and the slaughtered maids' (as chorus) perspective, written in verse. Plenty to choose from!

I'm going out this morning to enjoy the weather before I get back to typing in missing comma's etc. It's meant to be gorgeous all week!

Bee said...

janeyv and Sarah,

Sadly I don't have a laptop -- because the weather is beautiful again today!

And I will try to find "Coupling!"

I agree with your "life's too short" philosophy, but actually I'm curious to see where this Atwood is going . . . but a little impatient for it to go ahead and get there.

Actually, I read a bit yesterday and I think it's starting to hot up.

BTW, in case anyone's interested, I walked 15 miles today and my bottom feels a bit sore. I actually got a shorts and socks tan.

Brave Sir Robin said...

15 miles!! Don't hurt yourself!!!!

Please, enjoy the sun, I'm guessing you will have your share of rainy days to sit inside and blog.


Alyson said...

"The English character has been formed by constant complaint..."

I loved how you phrased that, and I agree!

Anne said...

I hope you feel better, Bee! It's funny which muscles end up complaining sometimes, isn't it?

I am getting some amusing tan lines of my own, not so much from socks and shorts as from my cap and goggles (and swimsuit, but those tan lines are somewhat to be expected). The goggle tan is exacerbated by the fact that I run with sunglasses on. I'm starting to look like an inverse raccoon!

Bee said...


Actually I don't mind a bit of moaning -- particularly about the weather!


The dreaded sunglasses tan!! Remnant of many a skiing vacation.
BTW, I did 8 miles this morning -- SO much nicer than that 15 mile ordeal. (Unfortunately, I have to ramp it up to 16/17 this week.)

Anne said...

Do you typically walk with a friend, or at least an iPod? 15 miles seems like an awfully long way to be walking alone, even in the most picturesque of surroundings.

monster paperbag said...

I guess The Blind Assassin isn't that accessible but it's definitely a worth read :)