“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper – just running down the edges of different countries and continents, ‘looking for something’.”
- Elizabeth Bishop
Today’s trip to the library turned up three lovely books:
1. The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys: follow-up to three novels of hers* I devoured last month in quick succession. This is a small book, a hardcover chopped in half, which is kind of enticing. Even more enticing is the jacket blurb:
“…forty vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the river froze between 1142 and 1895. Humphrey’s achingly beautiful prose acts like a photograph, capturing a moment and etching it forever on our imaginations.”
It’s true of Humphreys’ prose. She has the poet’s way with words, an ability to combine them in such a way that will rip your heart out or feed an image you never thought could be adequately described. Can’t wait to get started.
2. Knitting Without Tears, by Elizabeth Zimmermann. How appealing a title is that? I’ve been hearing about EZ for years, and have only recently taken it in that her approach to knitting is rather organic; in other words, her patterns are more like recipes that require you to use your wits and trust your own good sense as you go – kind of like writing fiction.
The jacket blurb refers to EZ’s wit and good humour, which is abundant in her introduction, The Opinionated Knitter:
“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.” Have already started reading and chuckling.
3. Elizabeth Bishop: The Collected Prose. A poet friend, who is a leading Bishop scholar, has recently infected me with her enthusiasm for EB. She has recited for me a few lines of EB’s poetry, which caught my ear and my imagination. My friend has invited me to this weekend’s Elizabeth Bishop Birthday Bash at our local Writers’ Federation office. There will be readings, cake, and prizes for best costumes based on EB’s writings. Last year’s winner was costumed as a thunder and lightning storm, which I think is just great.
Where I’ve never read any of Bishop’s work, I figure I ought to do a little homework. The book was on reserve for a few weeks, so it comes in the nick of time. I’m especially looking forward to reading her short story, “In the Village,” which the jacket blurb tells me is “…an extraordinary account of a Nova Scotia childhood.” It appeared in the New Yorker, as did three of her eight published stories. I can’t wait to get started.
A Helen and two Elizabeths, all of them fascinating and fine writers.
Did I mention… I can’t wait to get started.
*Coventry, Afterimage, and Leaving Earth