Appreciation Society

We (finally!) have some summer heat and I have untangled the hammock and moved my reading room outdoors, under the birdfeeder.

Guilt-free reading time during the day (not just before bedtime) has been one of my greatest solaces during this year.

I had thought that writing would help me deal with the stresses of the year, but the muse has packed her bags and taunted me with a trip to distant parts, knowing that I can not follow as following my muse would not be considered essential travel. I sit, I think, my fingers poised over the keyboard, but nothing comes out. Nothing of any import anyway.

Without any motivation or inspiration to write, I have indulged in other’s talents and feel all the better for it.

At first it was the classics, revisiting Austen and Dickens and Elliot (sorry, Evans) and Hardy. Then I went back even further, finding odd parallels to), Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost (and Regained, thank God!), Cicero, Ovid, and Aristophanes. Mary Shelley. That lead me oddly enough to murder mysteries, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Iona Wishaw and Louise Penney and Sarah Caudwell. The idea that something terrible has happened and then everything is put back to rights in 300 pages or so was hugely comforting.

My tastes went to the new and unknown, and I sampled fiction such as Zadie Smith (White Teeth) and Lisa Halliday (Asymmetry), and non-fiction such as Russell Miller (Uncle Bill) and Anton Chekov (Sakalin). Who know one of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights wrote such an in-depth book of investigative journalism that informed resulting changes to the Russian penal system?

I went back to humorous favourites like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and Sue Townsend’s Adrian Moles series and anything by Victoria Wood. (I wonder why no one names their child Armistead anymore?). And old works that I had never read before, by Kurt Vonnegut, and Faulkner and Huxley.

Then some more favourites. Arturo Perez-Reverte (The Club Dumas, as well as the Flanders Panel), Michael Frayn (Headlong) and Svetlana Alexievich (anything she has ever written). Toni Morrison, Jules Verne, Albert Camus (and not just the obvious one), Richard Feynman.

Oh and all the Canadians! Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Robertson Davies, Esi Edugyan, Mordechai Richler, Margaret Lawrence, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Miriam Toews, Thomas King, Joy Kogawa, Yann Martel, and of course Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I read my Dad’s book, my aunt’s book, my sister’s contribution in a book, anyone I knew who had written anything I could easily get.

As I swing through the lazy mornings, or balmy afternoons or hazy evenings, small birds landing for a quick visit on their way to dinner, my hope is that all this reading will make me a better writer, when I am mentally ready to get back to it.