You’ll excuse me, I hope, for not posting extensively, or nearly at all, during my vacation. But I did want to take a few of my last moments here to blow New York kisses to all. What a long, strange trip it’s been–except for the long and the strange parts. It’s been maddeningly brief, and wonderfully familiar despite the two-and-a-half-year gap since the last time I was in town.
To get here Friday I braved high winds and heavy rain in the fragile carapace of a mini-jet from which four souls had been evicted due to weight concerns. Even more distressing, the book I had intended to read was very, very bad. Excruciating. I can’t be more specific just now, as I’m going to be reviewing it. Suffice it to say that after 25 pages I put the offending volume away–oh so far away, into the very depths of my carry-on–and submitted myself with relief to the potent charms of Shirley Hazzard’s Transit of Venus, which I’ve been reading very intermittently for a few months now.
I don’t believe it has ever taken me so long to read a book that I find so pleasurable. Weeks may have passed, but every time I pick it up again, everything snaps back into place and I’m instantly absorbed, the picture of a happy reader. In January, when I was on page 75, I suggested to a friend that he pick up a copy and we read it together. He also loved it, but he zipped right through, and six weeks later I’m still in the middle. We had a drink before dinner tonight and talked about how much we both adored it. But the embarrassing fact remains that I can’t seem to finish it. (See also Cup of Chicha’s inventory of the unfinished books on her floors.) Which leads me to scare up alternatives to the unsettling theory that I am just a hopeless slacker.
Alternative theory #1 cites the quality of Hazzard’s prose. You could never call it dense; there’s nothing the least bit tangled about it, and the sentences in particular are crystalline things. But every second or third sentence seems to contain some startlingly astringent perception about no less sweeping a subject than human nature, or love, or women, or men. I find myself reading almost every sentence a second time successively. It’s the first book I’ve ever read and reread simultaneously. Is it possible to compare something to quicksand and mean it as praise?
Alternative theory #2 is simply that I don’t want to reach the end of the novel.
But I may get a lot closer to that point during the flight home tomorrow (depending, perhaps, on how soon I wrap this up and get to bed). And later this week, beginning late Monday or Tuesday, I’ll be posting a series of Transit of Venus fortune cookies. Also more on the delightful events of this weekend.