It’s been hotter than normal around here, and it’s not even true summer yet. We’ve been dealing with the kind of hot and humid where you step outside and immediately start sweating, then spend the rest of the day feeling grimy and gross, and no amount of iced coffee can make you feel better about the weather.
I haven’t been reading much, sadly, though I’ve been doing a lot with books- cleaning, arranging, organizing them. I bought a new bookshelf to replace the now-rickety one I’d bought way back in college. I’m still not sure how I managed to get a heavy box that was taller than me up three flights of stairs all by myself, but I did and it felt like quite the accomplishment. My arms did not agree, but they have since forgiven me. I’ve spent the last few weeks making minor adjustments to the arrangements on the shelves, trying to make the clusters of books attractive but findable (I keep finding pictures of “well-designed” bookshelves where the books are stored with the pages facing outward. Pretty maybe, but maddening if you ever plan to read one of those books). I think I’ve come to a good solution. Though the books aren’t in alphabetical order anymore, they’re not difficult to locate.
I’ve also been buying flowers on a weekly basis. It’s amazing how even a bouquet with blossoms of a single color can brighten up a room.
While I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do (between the heat-inspired slump and an increase in the amount of fiction writing I’ve been doing), I have finished a couple of books this month.
I’d been looking forward to reading Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele since I bought it, and so it seemed like the perfect choice for this time of year. Faye’s prose was as lyrical as ever, and while it’s not as quotable as its predecessor, Jane Eyre, it does tell a story every bit as compelling as Miss Eyre’s. While it’s not quite as hard-edged as the initial review on NPR had led me to believe it was, I think I would much rather have Jane Steele at my side on a journey through early Victorian England.
The ending felt a bit too clean at times, where certain crimes were glossed over and forgotten like they didn’t happen. But overall, I believe in the ending of this story more than I do in the ‘happily ever after’ between Jane Eyre and the brooding Mr. Rochester.
I finished J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story The Story of Kullervo last night. It’s not a finished story by any means, and doesn’t have the elegance of Tolkien’s later works (he wrote it before 1914, and didn’t actually finish it). Like many of his posthumously published work, though, you can see the structure that Tolkien was building- the world of Middle-Earth that culminated in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. While Kullervo is more a retelling of part of the Finnish Kalevala, it is clearly a precursor to The Children of Hurin, which is very much a part of the history of Middle Earth. So while Kullervo is very rough, and the book contains more background and essays than actual story, it provides insight into how Tolkien used the stories and tales of Northern Europe to build the world we now know as Middle Earth.
I think my next pick will be The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman, which I bought along with Jane Steele. A newly revealed painting and mysteriously interwoven personal histories? Sounds like a great summer read to me!