Swimming With Books

A writer's reading journal, & sundry other notes.

Janet Frame’s Towards Another Summer

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Towards Another Summer
Feb 6th: I copied the following paragraph onto the whiteboard for my writing class yesterday, offering it as an on-the-button description of what might happen if you don’t ‘look sharply after your thoughts’, as Emerson said. It comes towards the end of the novel, at the beginning of a chapter in which Grace has been invited to view her host’s office in the attic:

She sat before Philip’s huge desk, considering the drawers and pigeonholes crammed with papers…How could he dare to give a stranger permission to enter this room! Or was this room not the repository of his secrets? Perhaps he himself had no access to his treasures; perhaps he hoarded them elsewhere without ever recognising them; perhaps he discarded them one by one without ever having known them?

There were several passages like this one, that made me stop and wish to commit them to memory. Now, of course, I can’t really remember what they were about…there’s one that describes the subtley shifting expressions on Philip’s face as (she surmises) his feelings change. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that deal with the book’s present moment, in the cold northern city that Grace is visiting. But those chapters act as coat hangers for the chapters about childhood memories, and after a while, wonderfully evocative as they are, those representations of memory seem somewhat self-indulgent & not to fill any larger purpose in the narrative.

Jan 26th: Having finished Patrick Evan’s Gifted, I picked up Towards Another Summer again and took it on our camping trip to the Whangaparoa Peninsula. I bought it when it came out but, at the time, wasn’t in tune with Frame despite having loved her writing since first reading her at 20. Evans’s wonderful novel has helped, and possibly so have my experiences over the last 18 months. Camping didn’t leave much time for reading so I’m still less than halfway through: oh, also, I temporarily put it aside, in the tent, for the more easily accessible stories in The Return by Roberto Bolano. (Must note here that Gifted is still burning in my consciousness.)

Side note: I read the first few paras of Pride and Prejudice on my new Kindle (!!!) this morning, just because it’s the only book on there at the moment, and while I’m determined to enjoy the Kindle (cheaper books, portability, special gift from my love, etc) my first five minutes of use freaked me out a little. I noticed myself reading very self-consciously, hearing my voice echo inside my head rather than, as I’ve been used to since childhood, the text bypassing any inner auditory sense and going directly to my understanding so that I seem to absorb the words rather than having to ‘read’ them. Also, I appreciate the choice of text sizes but am startled by the wide gaps between paragraphs and the frequency with which I have to turn the pages.

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Written by Susan Pearce

March 27, 2011 at 3:56 am

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