My mother likes to tell people that she cannot remember when I learned to talk because it seems like I have always been talking. Others — my notably silent husband included — would agree.
Blogging has been a great place to locate all that chatting energy. Not just in the posts, but in the conversations that occur in the comments. But lately, I haven’t really felt like talking. I don’t think this is permanent –it’s not as though nothing is happening to me. I’m still reading and writing and working and parenting and cooking and hiking and finding out things I never knew before.
So here’s my plan to ease myself back into chattiness — I thought I’d list the six things I haven’t written about, things about which I normally would have told you more than you could possibly want to know:
1. Our new pressure cooker. I bought a pressure cooker last week, an appliance so weird, but so incredibly useful (and, as it turns out a terribly European thing), that it cries out for appreciation, for some sort of paean to the wonders of this sort of kitchen efficiency that, unlike the microwave, doesn’t ruin your food, but improves it. I did cook in it by the way — two vegetables, because I haven’t had a chance to consider the issue of meat. The broccoli cooked in about four minutes; the brussels sprouts in four and a half. Now that’s not a huge improvement over the normal cooking time for broccoli, but I will tell you here and now that the brussels sprouts were FABULOUS. I don’t really like that vegetable, but they were cooked in some sort of stock and thyme mixture and then a little butter and flour was mixed in afterwards and they were amazing. I’ll get back to you on the meat.
2. Erotic prose. I’ve been thinking about this particular topic a lot lately, as I’ve been warming up, so to speak, for the next novel I write which is about, among other things, sex. The trouble is that I don’t want to — and in fact cannot — write very good erotic prose. But this weekend, I wrote a short story that represented a huge breakthrough in this area. It was both funny and sexy, like the best sexual encounters. If I had time I would write about Lawrence and Joyce, and Anais Nin and Henry Miller, and how not to write a sex scene. And maybe I still will.
3. Jeeves and Wooster. We’ve been watching the BBC series, the one with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, and we love them both. We love how stupid Bertie’s friends are, how good humored he is, and how magically Jeeves sets things to rights. We also like how Jeeves keeps Bertie’s wardrobe miscues under control. Are the books as good as the series? We’re going to have to find out.
4. Colm Toibin’s Mothers and Sons. I’ve only read the first story, but I can already tell that this is a harrowing, beautifully written, wonderful book. I heard him read one of these stories at Stanford a few months ago, a story about a boy whose mother was a famous singer, and had abandoned him (or so he was told) when he was a baby. It’s the sort of story that makes you wish you were alone in the room so you could cry and not bother the people around you. By the way, his name is pronounced like this: “Call-um, Toebean” — I think)
5. Spring. Asparagus. Strawberries. April Showers. Lemons.
6. T.S. Eliot’s Preludes, and why I loved this poem when I was in my twenties. (Because it was so wonderfully grim, and so romantic — that part about the “infinitely gentle/infinitely suffering thing” particularly) It is here, if you are interested:
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.