Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Sunday Question

Which literary settings do you find the most compelling at the moment?

I've been unwell for the last two weeks. Our house is a wreck. It looks like a small tornado touched down in the living room, and strewed books and dirty dishes and clumps of dog hair and used tissues everywhere. I can't bring myself to describe the state of the kitchen. Every time I take the dogs out in the yard I risk a broken limb, even with ice grippies on my boots. I think T.S. Eliot was wrong. April isn't the cruelest month, February and March vie for the title. At least in New England. If I had a small fortune (or a large one, for that matter) these are the months I'd choose to be elsewhere. Since I won't be going to Barbados anytime soon, or even Florida, I use books for my escape. 

Some writers can evoke the spirit of a place so completely, you feel as if you'd been transported into the world of the book. I just finished Alice Hoffman's amazing new novel, The Red Garden, and its magical, imaginary town of Blackwell, Massachusetts still haunts me. 

But as I said, I'd rather be anywhere except Massachusetts just now. What book will I read next to transport me, and where will I go? Where would you go literarily, dear reader, just for a little visit to escape the dregs of winter? Which literary settings compel us right now?

I asked Emily Crowe before I'd really formulated the question, and her reply was that J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth was the most completely imagined literary world she'd like to visit. 

Rebecca Fabian, the Odyssey's former children's bookseller extraordinaire, popped in for awhile yesterday, and her answer was Scarlett O'Hara's house in Ireland, Ballyhara, from Scarlett, Alexandra Ripley's sequel to Gone With the Wind.  

My own desire is to re-read Barbara Pym, go to that world of slightly dowdy (but usually clean) British vicarages and villages. What I'd like most of all is to visit Harriet and Belinda Bede, the most excellent women in Some Tame Gazelle, and have them fix me a nice tea in their comfortable uncluttered house, with maybe the post-WWII luxury of a boiled egg, or thin slices of toast with quince jelly. Maybe I could even stay in their guest room for awhile, and be invited to a jumble sale.

Which literary setting most compels you?

~ Chrysler

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