There’s a woman at work who calls me Shug (Sug?). I think that’s short for sugar, but I’m too afraid to ask, just in case it’s not, in which case I’d rather not know…

Everyone, stop whatever it is that you are doing. Go out and beg, borrow, or steal a book entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. I thought the title sounded somewhat like what a middle-aged housewife would read (no offense to middle-aged housewives!), all cliche and sap, BUT this is very very untrue. It is the most glorious book I have read this year, and I’m not sure when I’ve ever fallen in love with a book so quickly. READ IT NOW.

I read Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss today, and it was also delightful! I highly recommend it to any English majors, lovers of the English language, and grammarians who may be reading this blog. (And if you are, why on earth haven’t you introduced yourself yet?) The book is all about the love of properly used punctuation. As an illustration, look at how much punctuation matters in the following two letters:

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?
Jill

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours,
Jill

Identical words in identical order, but what a difference punctuation makes! This book has revitalized my love of those lovely dots and dashes, I must say. I’m not terribly careful of my grammar on here, I’ve realized. Probably because I type my entries in a hurry and don’t bother proofreading. More shame to me!

I confess, The Portrait of a Lady was not enthralling. I enjoyed it more towards the end, but I just could not get inside James’ world. I loved The Turn of the Screw when I read it, so I don’t really understand myself. Maybe I’ll try some more of his works someday and see if Lady was just a fluke. After that, I read Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which had some very nice lines but was overall rather too sappy. I can only handle that sort of thing in very small doses.

I just finished Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse yesterday, a book that had originally been on our reading list for Love and Death last semester. I’m sorry now that we didn’t read it for class after all because I would have loved to have discussed it as a group! I’m still sorting out what I think of it (I sort of wolfed it down, if you’ll pardon the pun, and my thoughts aren’t quite coherent yet), but I thought it was fascinating. Among other ideas, it occurred to me that this reminded me a lot of the fairy tales class. Just as in Little Red Riding Hood the wolf is the Other, the outcast who has no place in society, Steppenwolf is unable to live in the society to which he was born; in Little Red, this makes the wolf a danger to be warned against. Steppenwolf is a danger to society because he is a non-participant, even an aggressor, against that which society is based, yet he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the very thing that he hates. He will always be unhappy because of this. I also found one of the questions that he and Hermine discussed terrifying in an intriguing way: is it only now that man feels this way, caught between two ways of life and two eras? Or has man always felt this way, regardless of the time period in which he lived? That question in particular would have been great fun to wrestle with in class. Gagh, I miss school already.

It is still my never-ending delight to have this magnificent inner world of books and questions and ideas and deep thoughts in my head at the same time that I’m answering phones. Every time I pick up the phone and help someone with a mundane, usually-inane request, I smile a tiny smile because no one suspects the wonders in my head. I love secrets (the good ones like this, that is). I love the not-telling of them. Except now I’ve told you, of course, but that doesn’t really count, since my thoughts are still my own. You only know that I think them. Shh…

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