February. I’m not so sure about February. January is so stark and clean: the year stretching ahead, the diary empty, the slate wiped & resolve high. Then February comes along & things start to get muddied by reality. Who knows whether I’m achieving everything I wanted to when the year began? Certainly not me because I’m not opening my diary to find out. (This is also how I found myself running back to school with a hastily made packed-lunch yesterday morning after forgetting that it was the day of the Moose’s school trip to the science centre.)
Still. Here’s what I know I have done.
I finished Anna Karenina last Saturday night. I loved it & keep waking up thinking about it. Whenever I read a classic I find myself thinking oh! that’s why it’s so famous & beloved! and wondering why I didn’t read it years ago. My mind is still fizzing with remembered connections and echoes, and it seems the kind of book that needs to be revisited at different stages of life. (Clearly I’ve already missed some angles!)
It’s also a book with a surprising amount about motherhood in it, and I still want to read Sofia Tolstoy’s diaries (on the shelf…) to understand more about the reality of life with so many children for her. Reading Tolstoy has also sent my thoughts back to A Suitable Boy (which, incidentally, I just read is longer than War and Peace, giving me hope that I can get through the latter).
Despite missing AK, it’s been fun to remember this week that there are books that can be read in a couple of sittings, I’ve finished Leonard Michael’s Sylvia — picked up because of Sarah Manguso’s recommendation; and I’m halfway through Teju Cole’s Every Day is for the Thief (which I started reading in the autumn and never quite finished). Both recommended.
I’ve also been continuing with a short story a day (documented here). It’s so much fun to have started a habit without really thinking where it will take me. Already, I’d guess that I’ve read more short stories this year than last. And, since I love them so much, it’s a totally joyous project. I still don’t have any grand plan, but I’ve moved on from reading a different author each day (and trying to balance male & female authors) to reading some sequences of stories. My bias so far is clearly for female Canadian authors. I started with the ‘Juliet’ stories in Alice Munro’s Runaway (oh, how I love those stories!). And now I’m reading Mavis Gallant’s ‘Linnet Muir’ stories, which she called “fiction, but as close to autobiography as fiction can be”, a neat link back to both Sylvia & Every Day is for the Thief which also blur that relation of autobiography and fiction.
We always seem to start the year with a strong run of picnics. Last Saturday — sunny, mild unless you encountered the bitter wind — was our second of the year at a spot that, since we moved from London, has become so familiar to us. The photo is of a recent visitor: David Breuer-Weil’s ‘Alien’.