I’ve been watching Sherlock with my parents in the evenings this last week, so I haven’t been getting in as much reading time as usual. But I did finish In Our Timeby Ernest Hemingway.
I’ve written at length about Hemingway before on this blog- about how originally I didn’t want to read him because he wrote about things I didn’t care about (hunting, bull fighting, war). Reading through this collection of stories, I thought about that again- about how I am so NOT a girl that Hemingway would admire, I’m not tough, I don’t like to fish or drink- but how much I appreciate his writing for making me care about things that I don’t care about. I deplore bull fighting, but Hemingway’s descriptions put me right in the center of it and make me invested. His descriptions of fishing don’t make me want to go out and fish, but with his precise sentences I find myself caring about whether Nick catches the trout. This collection is short but has a lot in it, about war, about death, about love, about being alone, about bull fighting and horse racing; and the throughline of all of it is the need to grapple with life, to face it head on, whatever it brings.
There’s a line from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry that I included in the last post- “Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That’s basically the highest compliment I can give.” This is the highest compliment I can give as well- this is when a book sings to me, when every word is exactly, precisely right. Hemingway does it, Evelyn Waugh does it, Fitzgerald does it. There is no other way that their books could be, because every word is perfect. Hemingway does it in such a sparse way that it’s magical- the images that he can evoke with so little words are unbelievable.
They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning. In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.
That’s the only book I finished this week, though I started A Personal Matterby Kenzaburo Oe last night.
The girls and I have finished some fun books in our before bed reading lately, which I thought I’d share.
Pi in the Skyby Wendy Mass is absolutely wonderful. Mass is the author of The Candymakers, which we love so much, and Pi in the Sky is just as great. Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. His whole family (as well as all of the inhabitants of The Realms) are in charge of ensuring the flow and existence of the universe and everything in it. Everyone has an important job except for Joss, who just has to deliver the pies that hold the gravity that help in the creation of new suns. It’s a job anyone could do. Or is it?
When someone on one of the planets accidentally sees into The Realms, drastic measures have to be taken, which result in Joss’ best friend disappearing from the fabric of time and an Earth girl named Annika appearing in The Realms. She and Joss are going to have to create a solar system to fix things, but neither of them knows how to do that…
In the middle of this book, Tiny sat up and bellowed gleefully, “This is SCIENCE!” and it is. There is so much information packed into this book, about how planets and suns are made, about solar systems and Carl Sagan and wormholes and all sorts of things. It’s done in such a way that either kids will get it or it will slip over their heads, but they won’t feel like they’re missing anything. It will challenge thinking and imagination, and hopefully get them looking upward into the night sky.
I wasn’t really sure when I should read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis to the girls- I wasn’t sure how they would do with Edmund and events with Aslan- but one night I found myself opening it and starting. I hadn’t read it since I was little, and I was transported back to my childhood self as I read about Lucy visiting Mr. Tumnus the faun. As I suspected, the girls were really not fans of Edmund (he is a little jerk for most of the book) but my reader momma heart was full when Zoe said, “I don’t like Edmund at all. But I have to trust him because I didn’t like Phillip [from The Candymakers] either, and he turned out to be a good guy.” Oh, books are a wonder, aren’t they?
For anyone who doesn’t know this book, it is the story of 4 siblings who find a magical world through the back of a wardrobe. A villain has control of the world, and they must work with the good creatures to over through her regime. It a wonderful, wonderful story.
We read strategically, so that we could get through the dramatic elements all in one go. I actually was quite surprised by the brevity of Aslan’s main section (trying not to spoil for anyone who hasn’t read it). It is lovely and wonderful however, and with some prompting, the girls made the allegorical connections.
The Secret Zooby Bryan Chick is the book we are currently reading. A little girl notices something escaping the zoo next to her home, and then goes missing. Her brother and his two friends investigate, discovering stranger and stranger things about the zoo. The girls are having a great time with this one, and get mad every night when we have to stop reading.
We are also doing imagination games each night before bed from Put Your Mother on the Ceiling. My mom did these games with us when I was growing up, and when I ran across the book at her house I thought it would be fun to do with the girls. It actually has worked out really well, because the girls love the games (imagine a penguin. Give him a blue hat. Change the hat to a green hat. Make the penguin the size of an elephant.) but they are also practicing skills that I can then have them use when they complain to me at bedtime that they can’t stop thinking about zombies or whatever scary thing it is that night. (I have no idea how they even know about zombies.) Anyway, it’s a fun book and easy to use.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. What are you reading?