I’m just back from seeing my first student of the term, a charming young French woman who wanted a bit of help with her English. Is it wrong of me that I preferred her errors of idiom to the correct expressions? Her statement that something had ‘completed to convince her’ gave me pause for thought. It wasn’t really the case that she had ‘finally’ been convinced, because in the context that seemed to imply a mental struggle, and that wasn’t it. No, it was like something had been the ‘last straw’ but that was no good either, because it is only used pejoratively. In the end we just left it that she had been convinced, as we don’t really have a phrase that implies conviction occurring at the end of a process of accumulated impressions. Then she delighted me by saying about another topic that ‘this interested her, being European peoples.’ I think she meant ‘as a European citizen’ but it sounded so sweet, being peoples of Europe, that I was very loathe to correct her.
Anyway, I am wittering on as I am in the middle of three large books and have nothing left over to review. Things have been so busy lately. I’m back at the bookstore again after the Christmas break, propping up the counter with Ms Thrifty as we attempt to withstand the chill of the store. We were both dressed like Michelin men last Monday and still we were hopping up and down to keep warm by the end of the shift. Then I’ve been catching up with a lot of friends, with more sociable engagements to come. I don’t know how anybody gets anything done at all if they have people coming round or social calls to pay on a regular basis. It’s fun but it all takes up so much time.
Still, I can tell you what I am in the middle of reading. I’m three-quarters of the way through The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, which I’m loving. She is such an amazing writer. You feel so safe in her hands, and the story unfolds in front of you, perfectly realised in a way that only narrative could achieve. That’s for my real life book club and I’m looking forward to discussing it. Then I am only a fifth of the way through a big biography of Agatha Christie. I’ve read biographies of Christie before, but I am still waiting for the one that explains her character in a way I can actually visualise. She seems to have been a complex but ultimately elusive person, tucked away behind a shield of charm and good manners. At the moment she is in her late teens and attracting a lot of suitors; she was clearly a fun-loving, bright and jolly girl, sweet and pretty and easy-going, artistic but totally unschooled. Yet only a year or two later, she’d be writing her first detective story, and then six or seven years later, she’d be staging disappearances and claiming nervous amnesia. Evidently the disaster that was her first marriage has a lot to do with all this. I’ll be interested to see how the author, Laura Thompson in this case, deals with the transition.
Then I have literally just begun George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. This is a chunkster, isn’t it? I said I’d read more 19th century literature last year and although I began well, I didn’t exactly follow through. And ahead of me is another large book, The Selected Works of T. S, Spivet by Reif Larsen, the pick for the Slaves of Golconda book group this month. I have to admit, this book is scaring me. It’s the outsize format for one thing; it is about the size and weight of one of those hefty instruction manuals for performance cars. I feel very reluctant to pick it up. Then the text is strewn with diagrams and pictures and long side notes in the margins that sort of makes me fear for the quality of the writing in the main text. This is pure prejudice and not sensible at all, and probably enhanced by reading someone like Sarah Waters, who does the straight novel and does it brilliantly, no tricks needed. Is anyone else reading this yet from the Slaves? A word of encouragement would be a marvellous thing. And at this rate, I can see that February will be the month of the novella!