Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Day Without Politics - Almost

Ever since our drive to Maryland, listening to talk radio all the way, I've been so depressed about the state of our country that I feel practically suicidal! Seems that I've been calling my sister an inordinate number of times just to hear her tell me that "all will be well." Easy for her to say, you see, she still lives in Massachusetts. Down here in Southwest Florida there aren't as many, dare I say it? Liberals!
I decided yesterday to take a day off from politics after reading a very funny entry to the Huffington Post saying that we must, to preserve our sanity, walk away every now and then from all news media, be it NPR, blogs, your local or national papers, The Nation, etc. It felt so good to get my blood pressure down to an acceptable reading.
But wait, late in the day I popped downtown to a library gathering, a farewell for a co-worker who's retiring, and within minutes of being around all my forward thinking librarian pals, we were positing questions about which nation we'd move to if the election doesn't go the way we want it to.
Then I came home to catch the Moyers show and had confirmed for me what I've already known and worried about for quite some time. That is, that the media rules and we only know what they allow us to know. How frightening it is to think that so few corporations now own every major television and radio station and the publishing empire to boot. If you haven't see it in a while, it's time to rent Network.

That said, I was also asked by one of my faithful readers, why I haven't written anything lately. The truth is that I was just waiting for a book I could get enthusiastic about. I've started and given up some so-so titles, using Nancy Pearl's trusty "rule of 50," as my new guideline; among them John DuFresne's Requiem, Mass (another dysfunctional family that's supposed to be funny and I find anything but...) and Alan Furst's The Spies of Warsaw which received glowing reviews in AudioFile but didn't grab me. I did finish, while up in Maryland, Margot Livesey's The House on Fortune Street, which I enjoyed, as I do all of her twisted, strange novels, but didn't think any of my regular readers would go for it. Divorce, suicide, potential pedophilia, friendships abandoned.......that's my Margot. The woman has a lovely way with language and a deeply disturbing take on the human condition. If you've never read her work I would suggest beginning with Eva Moves the Furniture.

I do have a glowing recommendation, a book you could read in one night if the spirit moved you. I had read an essay about the author, Elizabeth Maguire, in Publisher's Weekly. In fact, it was an obituary written by a long-time colleague and friend about Ms. Maguire's untimely death and the effort to get her book published. The Open Door is a fictional look at the life of feminist and author Constance Fenimore Woolson ( ) and her controversial and often misunderstood years-long relationship with Henry James. I just fell in love with Constance, the plucky kind of woman you'd hope you'd have been if you'd been an adventurous, open-eyed, 21st century soul stuck in a 19th century mold.
Apparently, though descended from the James Fenimore Cooper family of upstate New York, she lived in St. Augustine, Florida for several years and wrote about her travels and the area. She was published in Harper's and enjoyed some popularity which MaGuire indicates may have been a source of professional jealousy to James whose work was not likely as accessible to the "average" reader as was Contance's.

Woolson spent much of her life in Italy, so you can imagine how enamoured I was of the descriptions of her life in Florence, Venice and Sorrento, but she also traveled widely, renting digs in London, Salisbury, Switzerland, Egypt and Greece. She had several lovers, one in particular with whom she had a long, loving relationship, but she eschewed marriage and the drudgery and loss of independence that she assumed would come with it. Maguire's depiction of Woolson's deep friendship with James is so realistic that it's difficult for the reader to distinguish which is fact and which is fiction. The author quotes from supposed correspondance between the two and I'd have to do the research to find out if these letters did actually exist. The truth is, I don't care. They exist now in my mind and I just loved this little gem of a book!

Suddenly I have so much more to say........but I'd better not, since we know I tend to be a tad wordy. I'll be back.

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