Thursday, August 30, 2007


It is midnight, and Timm has been asleep for nigh unto three hours, while I lie beside him, reading. Such is our pattern of late. Tonight when I finally forced myself to put the book down I was left with thoughts tumbling through my mind of literature and the love I feel for it. I have always met those who claim they do not like to read with a guarded skepticism and even some pity. It is a good thing that most of the treasured people in my life enjoy books.

Right now I am reading Michelle's copy of Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. It is one of Shell's favorites, and we have a nearly identical taste for books, as well as a matched need and reverence for them. I do not know why I have never read it until now, especially considering my affinity for contemporary American Literature.
This said, I could not stop pondering how I love to read...Everything. Some books are fun, a lighthearted distraction, a look into another's life, a different time and culture. Some are merely am acceptable form of escape, leaving me momentarily placated, but not necessarily changed. This is not one of those books.
This is one of those books that while reading I am so consumed by it, not only because of the thoroughly flushed out characters that you have a conflicted concern for- even somewhat of a mirrored representation, but also because the pure music of his prose leaves you wanting. After relinquishing the book, strings of words still flit through my mind, trying to piece together a semblance of that beauty to describe what I read, what I feel. It also leaves me wanting. But I enjoy the exercise. I do so love words.
What came to mind is this analogy... Reading Stegner, and more specifically, Angle of Repose, I feel a voracious need to consume the language. I wish I could be more poised like Jill and take a more conscious note of what I am reading, while I am reading it. I wish that I stopped to make notes, or at least underline, or scribble a page number, but I do not. I read, hurriedly along, devouring words and paragraphs and pages like succulent fruit, that I then read and reread again to catch the drops that have fallen on my lips in my haste.
Such is the delight and ease I find while reading tonight. It may not sound like ease, but even in that ravenousness, I am more at peace than any other activity could bless me with.
I hope to make a more thorough assessment of the novel later- indeed, Pulitzer Prize winning novel- but for now, I have one simple excerpt that made me smile. Keep in mind, this is a departure from the writing in most of the book. It is not a very good view of the writing or subject matter as a whole, nonetheless, I am smiling at the music of his prose.

"It happens that I despise that locution 'having sex', which describes something a good deal more mechanical than making love and a good deal less fun than f*cking."

Perhaps this gem is more representative of the general tone:

"What really interests me is how two such unlike particles clung together, and under what strains, rolling downhill into their future until they reached the angle of repose where I knew them."

Pick it up.


michelle said...

I am so glad you are reading this book! The prose is so beautiful, it forces you to savor it -- to devour it, as you said.

I love it when a book is so good it makes me stop and contemplate literature in general and how much I love words and language! I have been planning a spread in my art journal about favorite words...

Anonymous said...

I have this book sitting, waiting for this weekend and my camping trip. It has been hard to resist picking it up before, but I want to read it in full over the three days. I am even more excited to read it and get that stirring inside for language and words.

I used to be good about marking and taking notes, but it seems I press on and devour the story- thinking I will go back to the important points. They can be so consuming. I love it. Oh how I wish I could read in the car!

Jill said...

This is my all-time favorite book! I've read it 3 times and it's better every time. Your writing about it about it is beautiful and makes me wish I was reading it for the first time too!

Diana said...

Hearing all the good things about his book makes me want to read it. I'll have to go get it from the library.
How I wish I could analyze literature like you do. All my AP English skills some how left my brain when the babies came :)

Sarah said...

I love this book too, I can pick it up and read it from any point and become totally immersed. Another one of my favorite books by him is "Crossing to Safety" - sometimes I can't decide which book I like better. You picked excellent quotes from the book!

charlotte said...

I really like this book! I read it last summer and think it's quite a gem of modern literature. I'm so glad that those I love love to read like I do--language and literature and writing is such a part of who I am, what I love that I can't comprehend not loving words.

dpw said...

I'll have to put this one in my queue. Your description alone is great prose! I'm a fast reader, once I get around to it, but I'm usually so tired at the end of the day that it's all I can do to fall into bed and get up 5-6 hours later to start all over again.

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