Sunday, May 4, 2008

The irresistable lure of unassigned reading (Books - Fools of Fortune by William Trevor)


Final exams are approaching in the coming weeks and that means I am going to be straining at my tether wanting to read as much unassigned work as I possibly can. In fact do anything I can other than study what I am supposed to - witness two posts today. That is why I have begun William Trevor's Fools of Fortune. With work at the lab as well as several hours of studying for my statistics exam yesterday, I haven't gotten through very much of the book yet but here is a sample of what I have read:
We reached the mill and I accompanied my father to his office, where Mr Derenzy was copying figures into a ledger. A fire was blazing in the grate, its coal recently renewed, the hearth swept. Mr Derenzy brought sandwiches every day and ate them at his desk during the lunchtime break. Afterwards, if the weather was to his liking, he went for a walk and was often to be seen staring down into the water of the leat, a man devoted to Kilneaugh Mill and to my father - and in a different kind of way to Aunt Pansy. Red hair fluffed into a halo about Mr Derenzy's skull-like head and his blue serge suit shone here and there, polished where his bones protruded. Clipped to the top pocket of this suit was a row of pens and pencils, their neat presence a reflection of his pernickety nature. He disliked rain and heatwaves and warned Aunt Pansy against drinking from a cup with a crack in it. He carried a supply of snuff with him at all times, in a tin that had originally contained catarrh pastilles: Potter's,, the Remedy it said, red letters on a blue ground.

The song of the story teller can be heard in his sentences. There is a sense of precision to the writing. Each word follows the next with elegance, but it is the elegance of simple objects on a kitchen table - it's not fancy. Trevor's prose feels clean, like it has been polished by the wind.

There are three other books sitting on the top of the pile that my exams are making look very enticing, almost irresistable in fact:





Proust and the Squid is about reading and the brain - right up my proverbial alley. I think it was Jonah who told me about it.

The Walter Benjamin books is a compact critical biography of a man I only know as an icon. I know he was an archivist of sort, read about him when I was researching the artist Joseph Cornell, but beyond that I know nothing about him. Hat tip: Mark Thwaite

Magic Mountain if I really do tackle it, will be a re-read, but my first go with this more recent translation. There are some family connections to this book, so I'm looking forward to having another go at it.

7 comments:

TJ said...

I am quite familiar with the lure of unassigned reading at such times. My your the three up next sound great! I have read a bit of Benjamin, so would probably enjoy that. I have been planning to read the Proust as Neuroscientist book, so I would probably also enjoy this Proust-related book. Have not read Magic Mountain.
By the way, I so appreciated your comments on 1001 Books in the previous post. I second them heartily! TJ

Eva said...

I had to laugh at your opening! Final exams time was always when my room/apartment was the cleanest...because obviously it's much better to scrub floors than study for finals...

Ted said...

TJ - Let me know what you think of Proust was a Neuroscientist - obviously I liked it quite a bit.

E - Usually my desk is super organized and the stove sparkles. Haven't quite gotten close enough to exams yet.

Sheila O'Malley said...

Not to toot my own horn, but whatevs. I was especially proud of the fact that my piece was excerpted on the back cover of Sewanee Review alongside William Trevor's. As though we could in any way be comparable! My dad and I just stared at that, hardly believing our eyes. Kind of a nice moment.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on re-reading Magic Mountain whenever you get to it!

verbivore said...

I've only read a few Trevor short stories but every time I am so impressed with his writing.
Unassigned reading is just wonderful isn't it? Like cheating on the other half of your brain without any guilt.
I've also had the Proust/Neuroscientist book in my sights for a while now...

Mark Thwaite said...

Thanks for the hat-tip Ted -- appreciate it.

You might like to know that Esther Leslie -- author of that excellent little Walter Benjamin book -- was interviewed by me over on The Book Depository website (http://tinyurl.com/6m3aqd)

And if you like Sarah Salway -- look out on my Editor's Corner blog over on The Book Depository next Tuesday where Sarah will have a Tuesday Top Ten list of her favourite books ...

Ted said...

S - I remember that! I have the issue to prove it. Sooo cool.

V - Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I remember reading Lucy Gault, but sometimes I think I just imagined it and this is my first experience w/ Trevor's writing.

M - I am constantly being introduced to great stuff over at your site. Thanks for letting me know about those. I really enjoy personal book lists. It will be fun to see what Sarah S picks.