"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

25 June 2007

Flyin' High

"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"

"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober. Which accounts for my talking so much."

(from Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey novel Gaudy Night, Harriet questioning Peter)

I am not quick with witty words in speech like Harriet and Lord Peter, far from it, but I am often drunk on words -- the words of brilliant writers like Sayers, and the words that place their demand on me for my own wordcraft . . . how much have I written just because I love the beauty of words, the power of words, the look and the sound of words on the page . . .

I begin to feel like Emily Dickinson lately. Just leave me alone in a quiet room removed from the rest of the house so that I can immerse myself in words . . . ah, the bliss that would be!

21 June 2007


I have been reading my poor allergy-prone eyes into blindness every evening this summer, but it's been well worth it. This week one of the books I've read is Anne Rivers Siddons' Islands. This was my first read of Siddons' work, and I will definitely be looking for more, hoping not to be disappointed. (Note to self: put this name near the top of the list for the next used bookstore visit.)

Islands is literary fiction, so it's slow-moving and character-oriented, both of which traits I love. It follows the lives of a group of childhood friends from Charleston who have remained close, buying a beach house together where they and their families spend much time on weekends and in the summers. Of course there are tensions and conflicts and, as they are getting older, deaths. The novel is really about the ways we react to disappointment, tragedy, and betrayal, and does a good job of showing these quite realistically, ending on a note of hopefulness that is rare for the modern novel of this type.

Siddons is a good writer, too. I wouldn't put her in the top tier, but she brings Charleston to life quite well and especially the beach scenes, which are not cliche but help one to see, hear, taste, and feel the setting. She also sets the story up extremely well with the prologue, a dream of the main character. Anything more would be a spoiler.

I think what I like most is how true to life the characters seem. I didn't feel at any particular point that anyone was behaving out of character, and even her rather off-the-wall folk rang mostly true. This tells me Siddons is a good observer of human nature and willing to tell it as truly as she can, rather than trying to propagandize us into some ideological agenda.

11 June 2007

Thinking . . .

Just for fun, today, a quote from Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm, after the moth description:

"A nun lives in the fires of the spirit, a thinker lives in the bright wick of the mind, an artist lives jammed in the pool of materials. (Or, a nun lives, thoughtful and tough, in the mind, a nun lives, with that special poignancy peculiar to religious, in the exile of materials; and a thinker, who would think of something, lives in the clash of materials, and in the world of the spirit where all long thoughts must lead; and an artist lives in the mind, that warehouse of forms, and an artist lives, of course, in the spirit. So.)"