Today’s topics—so far: (1) my morning; (2) Dunes Review; (3) books that welcome you back. There is a progression here, moving from present irritations to new pleasures to old friends.
Trouble with the van, so David wanted to take it up to the garage, which meant Sarah and I would go in the “little” car. Got it loaded, but Sarah had taken off to find her friends (our neighbors’ dogs) and wasn’t interested in car or leash. In the midst of dog pandemonium, the loose right lens fell out of my glasses. Yes, of course, into the snow. I didn’t dare move from the spot. Soon there were three adults scraping around in a small area, like archaeologists at a dig, while Becky held Sarah’s leash and kept the other dogs at bay. Miracle! The lens was found! Okay, David would take Sarah in the van and wait for me at the top of the hill to make sure I got out all right.
Back to the little car, loaded and warming up. Put it in reverse and stalled out. Started again and stalled out again. Not wanting to flood the engine, I got out and started out up the hill for the second time that day. At the top, no van! David and Sarah were out at the very end of the driveway, by the highway! I jumped up and down, waving my arms like a crazed scarecrow in the wind. No response. Well, sorry, I was not in the mood to walk all the way out to the road. Turned around, went back to the little car, got it started—and at the top of the hill came bumper to bumper with David, coming back to see what was going on with me. He backed out, let me lead the way, and off to Northport we went. I had to keep my right eye closed (lens was safe in my pocket) in order to navigate.
Dogs, glasses, cars—what next?
But the morning turned around in Northport, where the post office had six copies of the new Dunes Review for me. Northporter friends Al Bona and Marie Bahlke are both among poets published in this issue. I love the cover, too. My first thought on seeing it was, “It’s somewhere in the old state hospital.” All that old, thick, crackled paint separating into raised pieces like colored tiles. There are some new names inside, too. It’s a handsome issue.
My third topic for the day is one I’m stealing from the “Shelf Awareness” newsletter. What books “welcome you back” every time you pick them up and begin to re-read? Many of the ones that leap to my mind initially are young people’s books, ones I read as a young person: Wind in the Willows (which led off the SA piece); The Little Prince; The Black Stallion and all the other Walter Farley books; The Borrowers and The Borrowers Afield; Anne of Green Gables; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet; Little Women (despite the formulaic writing, the characters come alive); Mistress Masham’s Repose (which I did not discover until adulthood); The Silver Nutmeg—the children’s story, not the novel—and if only it were available in reprint! And how many more came to mind this morning that have escaped me at this moment!
Adult novels A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith, welcome me back time and again, as do all of Jane Austen’s books and anything by Marcel Pagnol. Even murder mysteries can have this quality: I think of those by Agatha Christie, Harry Kemelman and Georges Simenon.
As I carried this question further, it seemed to me that even “difficult” books can be welcome-back books. Why else would I have re-read Joyce’s Ulysses so many times? And while I never expect to drag myself through all of Proust, I’ll certainly revisit the first and last volumes. Aristotle and Marx, Shakespeare and Homer—don’t they belong here? Bergson, for me, and de Toqueville. Too many poets to name….
It’s no wonder there’s not enough time to keep up with new books. Old friends keep calling me back.