The Great Divorce. I am planning to read a bunch of C.S. Lewis this year; I started with this one because it was on our shelf. Short, intriguing, and timely in view of book #7 of '06 (which will get its own post one of these days). The narrator describes a bus trip from hell to the outskirts of heaven, in which any interested residents of hell are invited to stay. They decline -- an artist because he cannot see that "if you are interested in the country [heaven] only for the sake of painting it, you'll never learn to see the country," a mother because she will not subjugate love of her son to love of her Father. Good stuff. I liked the quote Lewis put in George Macdonald's mouth: "There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy -- that is, to reality."
Henry IV, Part 2. Every year I read a Shakespeare play, in hopes of getting the complete works read by menopause. In the beginning I loved this plan, but for the past few years I had been enjoying the plays less. I do a lot of reading, but it's mostly in fits and starts -- five minutes while the water is boiling for the mac and cheese (oh, wait, I mean for the organic brown rice with tahini-miso sauce), ten interrupted minutes while I am supervising the Lego pickup, a few pages at the park. And it doesn't work very well for me to read Shakespeare like that.
I took the first part of Henry IV with me in December when I went to visit my brother and his wife and baby. Because of a travel snag I ended up spending a whole day in the city, arriving at my brother's house in the small hours of the next morning. That day I read Shakespeare whenever Pete slept and loved it. I couldn't wait for part two, and I resolved to carve out some time for uninterrupted reading since it made such a difference. But uninterrupted time is in short supply (isn't it ironic that I stopped in the middle of this very sentence to save in draft form and deal with a sibling blow-up?) around here.
Now I wonder: did I like Part One more because I read it away from the usual clamor for band-aids, snacks, and justice, or is it a better play? I enjoyed the Hal/Hotspur contrast in Part One, with its reminder that parents need to love their own children and not pine for somebody else's. (In my head I was calling their opposite trajectories "chiasmus," but apparently chiasmus is only a smaller-scale kind of crisscrossing. Is there a word for it when one character triumphs and another character tanks?) I'm not a fan of Falstaff on the page (too many obsolete puns about booze and unfaithful wives) -- does he play a bigger role in Part Two or did it just seem that way?
Anyway, resolved: Shakespeare is best read in larger chunks with fewer distractions. Maybe that means I'll be past menopause before I finish the complete works after all.
gods in Alabama. Joshilyn Jackson's blog makes me laugh out loud consistently, and her book is even funnier. It is also a well-plotted mystery and I stayed up late galloping through it. Interesting stuff about love, family, and race, and the battleaxe aunt brought to mind my own tough-as-nails Aunt Mary Bob. I'll be reading her next one when it comes out.