Thoughts for a Friday

First of all, thoughts about my dog. He went through surgery today and just came home a couple hours ago. He is fine, thank God. The procedure was to remove a benign growth on his side that was getting too big for comfort and was steadily growing. So now he just has to take it easy for a week or two unless he’s all healed up. It’s no fun putting your pet through surgery. It’s no fun for anyone to have to go through it, of course, but it’s a different kind of difficulty when you can’t explain to your pen what’s going on. Poor thing. He has no idea what hit him. Luckily for us, he doesn’t get angry or hold grudges.

And now on to books. I recently finished my first Sybille Bedford novel, The Legacy, and I’m thinking it’s going to be my last. I wanted to like it, I kept reading it because I was hoping to get into it, but that never happened. It tells the stories of two very different families in Germany and how they become connected by marriage. It also tells of one of the families’ sons, Johannes, who is sent off to a horrible military school, which makes him completely lose his wits. His family hushes the whole thing up with results that come back to haunt them. I think to really appreciate this book, you need to have more of a feel for the culture of the time (pre-World War I) and place than I do. And you have to appreciate satire more than I do. Unless I’m really familiar with what’s being satirized (such as in academic novels), I have a hard time appreciating it. The writing had an exterior focus, which also doesn’t work so well for me; I didn’t develop a sense of the characters’ personalities in the way I wanted to. I just wasn’t engaged. But perhaps some of my readers have read and enjoyed Bedford?

But I finished it and am now on to other things. Yesterday I began Julia Spencer-Fleming’s detective novel In the Bleak Midwinter, and it’s going along very well. Her protagonist is an ex-Army woman who has become an Episcopal priest and is serving in a small town outside the Adirondacks in New York State. That might sound a little contrived and gimmicky — let’s see how unusual I can make my character! — but Spencer-Fleming has so far pulled it off. Clare’s counterpart is Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, and the sexual tension between them is slowly ratcheting up. But, alas, Russ is married. We’ll see where that goes.

I am also reading a collection of essays by Cynthia Ozick, Quarrel and Quandary. I’ve read just a handful so far, but they are good. So far they have all been literary — on Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Job, but I believe there are some personal ones in the collection as well. Her writing is good — serious and meaty, and very, very smart.

To close, I’ll tell you about some new books I’ve acquired. Last weekend Hobgoblin and I went book shopping with our book shopping friends (here and here) out at the Book Barn in Niantic, Connecticut. The Book Barn is truly one of the best used bookshops I’ve ever been in, although it’s really more like three bookshops, since it has three different locations around Niantic. We had already acquired a large stack of books before we even made it to the main store, which is really a series of buildings, carts, and structures of an uncertain type, all chock full of books.

From that trip, I brought home the Julia Spencer-Fleming book, as well as Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, Anita Brookner’s Look at Me, Sarah Caudwell’s The Sirens Sang of Murder, and Hermione Lee’s huge biography of Virginia Woolf (in a pristine paperback edition for $5). Also this week a friend sent me a copy of Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book, which I am excited about and eager to dive into.

So, happy Friday everyone, and enjoy the weekend!

14 Comments

Filed under Books, Life

14 responses to “Thoughts for a Friday

  1. Nice bookish scores!! I adore the Lee bio of Woolf, and The Little Stranger was a very fun & spooky read (although for me it was a listen). And after Frances’s recent post I’m very curious about Anita Brookner.

    I know what you mean about putting your pet through surgery. We have yet to face that (knock on wood), but our dog has been very sick & we’ve had to hospitalize him – how do you make them understand? :-( Anyway, glad your canine buddy seems like he came through the operation OK.

  2. Poor Muttboy–it sounds like it all went well and hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon! One of my cats had to have a few teeth extracted and I was a nervous wreck–when she came home she looked so pathetic from the anesthesia I felt really bad, but she’s fine now and hopefully we avoided more problems down the line! I’ve not read Sybille Bedford, but the WWI angle sounds sort of appealing to me–I have a few of her books on hand so will see if this is one of them. I really need to try Julia Spencer Fleming, too–I keep hearing how good she is. Have a great weekend, too!

  3. Eva

    I’m glad you dog’s recovering well from surgery! Poor boy.

    I was surprised by how well Clare came to life too, despite her somewhat gimmicky backstory. I wonder what you’ll make of the ending of this one and, if you read it, the second one! What a haul from that bookstore! I loved Lee’s Woolf bio and The Little Stranger was wonderful. I’ve just recently ‘discovered’ Caudwell, but I’ve got her second one on hold at the library; I hope it arrives soon!

  4. Oh poor Muttboy. Do hope he’s feeling better soon – he’ll be the best-looked after canine invalid, I feel sure! Funnily enough I have read two Bedford books – A Legacy which I gave up on and couldn’t finish, and A Favourite of the Gods, which I loved. The latter is more like a Persephone or Virago book, whereas A Legacy was just a drag. Lovely finds at the bookstore and I would love to read essays by Ozick. I’ve heard such good things about her.

  5. Oh, Lee’s biography of Woolf! I loved it so much – seminal I think, not just about Woolf but in the art of biography itself. :-)

    Bless Muttboy. I’m sure he’ll be pampered back to perfect health. My childhood dog, Ella, had a huge benign lump removed from her side when she was older, and seemed very confused by its absence afterwards.

  6. Aw, poor Muttboy. I’m glad he came through the surgery OK. I’ve had to deal with multiple animal medical crises, including a weeklong cat hospitalization followed by daily fluid injections. It is hard when you know you can’t explain what’s happening, but you’re right about their not holding grudges. My cat would cuddle right up to me within minutes of my poking him with needles.
    I have the Julia Spencer-Fleming book on my “someday” list, so I’m glad to hear you’re liking it. I love good mysteries, but there are so many out there that aren’t so good.

  7. Know that anxiety about a pet’s health so wishing you both a quick recovery. There is something so sad about those first few days home after surgery – the shaved bodies and whatnot. :(

    Love everything I have ever read by Ozick much for the meaty writing reason you mention here, Look at Me was a most pleasant surprise as was The Little Stranger and Miller’s memoir. Also acquired the Lee bio at a sale but have yet to read except in pieces. Soon. Just not this month.

  8. So glad to hear your pooch is ok! It is so stressful when pets are ill, in part because they can’t tell us what they need, and we can’t tell them what we’re doing. Thankfully your baby is doing ok (and the lump that necessitated the surgery in the first place was benign)!

  9. Emily — I’m glad you enjoyed the biography so much and also The Little Stranger. I’m even more eager to read books when I know my blog friends like them! Thanks for your thoughts about our dog — I’m sorry yours has had to go through hospitalization!

    Danielle — I’m afraid I goofed a bit on the pre-World War I thing; I think the book is actually more in the 19th century, so earlier than I thought. The truth is, I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. That’s the problem with a book that doesn’t engage me! I know just what you mean about how pathetic pets can look when coming out from anesthesia — it’s kind of funny while being pathetic at the same time. Poor things!

    Eva — I have all three Caudwell’s now, and I’m very happy about that. You make me curious about the endings of the Spencer-Fleming books :) I’m so glad everyone seems to agree that Lee and Waters are great!

    Litlove — well, it seems I read the wrong book then! I have A Favourite of the Gods on my shelves, so I wish I had picked that one up. Perhaps I won’t get rid of it and will try it another time. It makes me feel better to know that you didn’t get on with A Legacy either! The Ozick essays are great; I think you would like them.

    Victoria — oh, how funny to think of that poor confused dog! I’m not sure mine ever noticed the lump, which I guess is good. I’m so looking forward to getting to the Lee biography, although I need to be more willing to take on a HUGE book than I am right now …

    Teresa — how hard it must have been to have your cat in the hospital for a whole week! We struggled enough having our dog gone for the day … it’s great that your cat didn’t hold those needles against you! So far so good with the Spencer-Fleming.

    Frances — now is not the time for me to read the Lee biography either, although I’ll be eager to get to it soon enough. I’ve been meaning to reread Mrs. Dalloway, so reading the biography around the same time would make sense. I’m so glad to hear you have good opinions of the other books I got!

    Steph — thank you for your thoughts! Yes, I wish pets could tell us what they need, although my dog manages communication pretty well even without words. But he can’t be specific!

  10. I’m glad that Muttboy’s lump was benign. It seems like once you know that, everything else is at least a little easier. We haven’t had to go through a real pet surgery yet, only an “outpatient” one, but it’s still scary, and you never feel peaceful until they’re back home again, sleeping in their favorite spots. I know Muttboy’s going to be tromping through the woods with you both again very soon.

  11. Poor Muttboy! I hope he recovers quickly. It is just so hard when they look at you with big confused eyes. On the bright side, all those new books!

  12. Debby — thanks! It was certainly wonderful having Muttboy home again, and he’s been doing very well since the surgery. He’s got his usual energy back and is now getting anxious to run around, which he can’t do just yet. But soon!

    Stefanie — thanks! He is doing very well, and that’s a relief. He only had to wear a funny-looking t-shirt for a few hours, and so he should consider himself lucky :)

  13. Oh, that bookstore looks so ADORABLE. So quaint. So lovely. I could spend an entire day there! I looked at all the pictures of it. Beautiful.
    And I think you are going to LOVE The Little Stranger. It is a terrifically enthralling [spooky] read!

  14. I hope Muttboy continues to recover nicely. Our dog Lady went through similar surgery and was fine, except for getting a little overly rambunctious at one point and ripping her stitches. It’s hard to keep dogs inactive, isn’t it? The book buying spree sounds great (then again, how can a book buying spree not be great?).

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