Saturday, March 01, 2008

I'll Try Something New

I'm doing lots of reading lately--no, that's not the new thing--as indicated in the consumption sidebar. I got a lot out of Wayne Muller's Sabbath, not as much from Blessing of a Skinned Knee, and nearly nothing from Every Child has a Thinking Style. I am making my way through Memorize The Faith, more slowly than I would like, but this is one of those situations in which I am snatching time away from the mysterious devouring force: because last Lent I announced my intention to work my way through MTF and then never even cracked the spine.

Recently I began A Heritage and its History by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Miss Compton-Burnett is frequently mentioned in the same breath with Evelyn Waugh, and as a favorite (along with Waugh and Ronald Firbank) by readers I admire, notably Stephen Fry and Alan Bennett. It wasn't easy to come by one of her works, and I see the situation is no better in England. Every time I saw her name mentioned, I thought, "Right! Got to try that!" and then I forgot, and was never reminded because I never came across her accidentally. Until last September, when I was strolling through the Village and came upon the Strand, the wonderful Strand. I dared not go inside but there were lots of wonderful things on the carts outside, including A Heritage. It's appropriate that I didn't get to it until now, because this book is, despite being fiction, a worthy Lenten read. It's nearly all dialogue, and one can't let one's attention waver for a moment, lest one miss something subtle, crucial and devastating. It's chock full of quiet, deadly Edwardian sin and the wages thereof.

I'm three pages from the end and I still can't decide whether my opinion is "Phew! Now I never have to do that again!" or "Please sir, may I have some more?"

1 comment:

Levi Stahl said...

Did you reach a decision about Ms. Compton-Burnett?

I remember having a similar feeling midway through the first of her novels that I read, A House and Its Head. But by the end I was convinced, and it's just a matter of pacing now: I've read one more, Manservant and Maidservant, have another on my shelf waiting, and (a sign that I really have been seduced) am even considering reading Hilary Spurling's two-volume biography, if only because Compton-Burnett's life seems to have been so very odd.