I wanted to kick off April with my March book haul but it’s already April 10 here. It feels a bit late and my notes for the aborted draft ballooned to insane length. I shall spare you that baggy monster and give you something shorter. Still about new books, but in gift form aka I don’t have to record my own gross consumerism.
Someone lovely spent March in London and asked me if I would like a book. I didn’t even have to think; I almost screamed “PERSEPHONE!”
Greenery Street and Heat Lightning
(Actually, you can order Persephone books from their website and they will ship it to you, even internationally. What? You expect me to be logical when it comes to books?)
And so to the Persephone website I went for “research.” There are always Persephone books I kind-of-want. Miss Buncle’s Book, for one. The Victorian Chaise-longue is another. I dithered between Little Boy Lost and High Wages too. I just really love Persephone, okay?
Eventually, I settled on Heat Lightning by Helen Hull, a relatively new Persephone reissue –or number 101 from their current list of 115 books. The plot follows Amy Norton, who returns to her Michigan hometown to escape her family problems in New York only to find her home is no longer an idyll. The moral seems to be: don’t run away from your problems, face it. Heat Lightning’s blurb really hits home. On the spectrum of fight vs. flee vs. accept, I definitely flee. No wonder I have crippling anxiety. And so Heat Lightning became my pick, bypassing Miss Buncle’s Book and the other Persephones I sort-of-wanted.
But wait! I knew Persephone sometimes runs out of a specific title and takes a while to restock. So I needed a back-up option. I relied on this wonderful list of recommendations by the equally wonderful bookssnob. She lauded Greenery Street as a splendid, joyous, positive gem about a happy marriage. A dear friend and I lamented the dearth of enduring loves in literary fiction. It must be so much easier to sound “deep” when your subject material is 100% depressed and dysfunctional. On to the back-up choice Greenery Street went. I gave specific word that Greenery Street was to be purchased only and only if Heat Lightning was unavailable.
Imagine my surprise when the lovely one sent a message late March saying “I have your books.”
Books? As in plural? I cautiously replied, “Books? But I only asked for one.”
Reply: “I got them both.”
Happiness can be such a simple thing. I found it so easy to smile that day.
I met my lovely benefactress last week to pick up Heat Lightning and Greenery Street. Of course I told her I would transfer money for them but she would have none of it. She went on a ten-minute tangent on the ‘joy of receiving’ and how important it is for healing and a well-rounded life. Being so grateful, I was at full attention for eight minutes but nodded off the final two minutes.
(Actually, that probably was her master plan. To bore me into not asking for her account number. Gambit successful, madam!)
And yet, I find myself mulling over the ‘joy of receiving’ a lot. When I was younger, my philosophy was ‘Expect nothing from others. You are the only variable you can control in life, everything else is unreliable.’ I’m beginning to think that I was arrogant and presumptuous, that having faith takes a lot of bravery. I also suspect my anxiety was caused by burnout or overcompensation. Maybe. Could be. I don’t know yet.
I’ve been thinking of self-care a lot too. Being productive and meeting deadlines is self-care because it keeps anxiety and depression at bay in the long run. Pleasure reading is self-care as no other leisure activity makes me happier and teaches me to be a better writer. Writing every day is self-care. I am my worst critic and defeat myself if I ever so much as write a mediocre sentence. Yes, writing is hard. Yes, I need to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite again. But I love writing so much. If I stop often, I’ll never the good writer I aim to be.
I’m currently in the middle of six books and I’ve lost passion for all of them. The one book I really want to read right now is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I’ve been saving it for, well, something. I always save Persephones for special reading occasions, most likely because it’s not easy for me to get ahold of them. But my books are not more special than I am. I think I’ll take out Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day from my shelf. I’ve been doing well at my new job and rewarding myself with a good book is also self-care.