For instance today I read a book and ate an apple in a claw foot model. Although the book was slim, the point is that I read and finished it. At one time in my life I would spend hours, usually on a Sunday, in my claw foot tub in the top floor apartment of a crumbling Victorian house reading entire books. I didn’t realize until years later how that bathroom looked a lot like Bonnard’s paintings of his common-law wife Marthe Boursin/de Méligny in their tub. Such fantastic paintings! You know the longer you stare at a Bonnard painting in, say, the Musée d’Orsay, more and more is revealed.
After graduate school — a matrix of semiotics, deBord, post capitalism, et al — I had a difficult time reading for pleasure. Then some years passed (don’t feel smug, this will happen to you) and reading made me fall asleep. Now I read on my elliptical for one half hour every other day because I won’t fall asleep up there. It doesn’t seem like much but I am already half way through Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror! I am learning that small increments can add up if one is persistent. (I am also listening to the bible on my phone when I walk the dogs because I have never read it. I am just starting Leviticus so have a long way to go. I wrote on twitter: Listening to the bible –so far lots of eating and decorating.)
Anyhoo, as my friend Page would say, today I read a book that I have saved for years to read, Annie Ernaux’s A Woman’s Story. I was waiting for my mother to pass away before I read it because I knew she had written it after her own mother had passed. (I also read her book about her father, A Man’s Place, after my father passed.) What I didn’t know until today is that her mother, like mine, had dementia. She is a French author so the books are translated by Tanya Leslie and are beautiful. Minimalist without being cold, very moving and intimate. If Ulysses is horizontal this book is emotionally vertical, slim but deep as a well. A Woman’s Story is only 90 pages, but the details that say so much about her mother make it feel large.
Ernaux says the book, “…isn’t a biography, neither is it a novel, maybe a cross between literature, sociology, and history.” Really cool.