Books

The Days Dwindle Down… As

As my vacation draws to a close, I realize I didn’t accomplish much, but at least I am well rested! I had some thoughts about cleaning out the basement, but the work being done on our kitchen was distracting. I did finish knitting a sweater for the Little Princess and a scarf for the Church Fair, with another underway. And I found a lot of time for reading.

Books I’ve read during vacation: Washington Square and Daisy Miller (Henry James), both discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran. The latter I haven’t quite finished. It’s one of those books you have to put down and recover from reading. The other books referred to I either know quite well (Gatsby, Jane Austen’s works) or remember well enough to follow the thread of her writing (Lolita). With James I had a yen to really go back and re-read. Daisy Miller I read in college, but Washington Square I really knew only as a play and a movie (The Heiress). Now I have a whole list of James’ titles I want to read: The Ambassadors (a favorite in my American lit class years ago), Princess Casamassima, Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl. I didn’t realize until I started a Book Group at church last year how much I missed reading fiction. All through seminary I just didn’t have the time. Reading James I remember how influenced I was by notions of innocence and goodness as a young woman. I wanted to be Daisy Miller, to flirt and not care, but I also wanted to be safe. I wanted to be swept off my feet like Catherine Sloper, but I also had a hard time believing in myself as anyone’s romantic object. And even in the 1970’s, in my family, it felt fairly revolutionary to be a young woman and decide to do something just because you felt like doing it.

That’s the danger and confusion facing the young women who meet with Azar Nafisi to discuss English literature in Tehran during the revolution. They can actually endanger their lives by pursuing what they wish. They can actually endanger their lives simply by wearing their scarves the wrong way.

I didn’t have to face that sort of danger, of course, but I do remember feeling that my seemingly small rebellions felt deeply significant. My father’s approval was certainly as important to me as Catherine’s father’s was to her.

And I wonder if I would have married Pure Luck if my parents were still alive, if I would have dared to bring someone so unusual into their lives (unusual by their standards, that is), or really anyone!

Book I meant to read and never did: Anna Karenina. I really was sidetracked by RLIT and my desire to refresh my memory of James. It may have to wait for winter.

Leave a Reply