It’s April, which means I’m focusing on at least one book right now in addition to the usual suspects from the library or my shelves, and that one book is “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim. Von Arnim was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield, if you’re hunting for a literary connection, but that’s not how I found her, despite all the chances I could have. When I lived in Missouri, back in the 90’s, my best friend from California who had moved to Missouri recommended the book after checking it out from the library in the month of April (her birthday was in April, so she gave the book a try and loved it) she recommended it to me. It wasn’t until a decade into reading it every April that I found out that von Arnim was a relative of Mansfield’s, but not that many people know about von Arnim. She also has a summer book that I bought with my first Kindle about a decade ago but have never read…maybe someday.
I read this book every April because it level-sets me, like “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” brings me back to life if I’m on the edge of doing something rash. “The Enchanted April” is set in London and Italy just after World War I and basically is a pleasure trip out of rainy old Big Smoke in March to sunny Italy in April. The Italian sun means less to me now that I have an over-abundance of sun in my current place of residence, but the point of the novel wasn’t a lecture on Vitamin D accrual–it was about finding renewal in the spring to lead the rest of one’s life. So far the novel isn’t doing it’s usual trick (heck, I may have to dig out “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”), but it’s some small comfort to read it anyway, like taking a vacation in one’s mind.
In addition to Italy in April, I’m also reading the last novel by Ruth Reichl, entitled “Delicious!” If you aren’t familiar with Ruth, she writes about food in general on Twitter and was a food critic in New York City for a time. If you love food, follow her on Twitter–every morning she tweets about her breakfast in such an artful and mouth-watering way that you’ll be hungry in 140 characters. I found this book in the Carlsbad Cole branch after eating a succulent meal of sashimi at the Land & Water Company (one of three restaurants in Carlsbad that isn’t a chain and that genuinely does everything well) and by the end of the first paragraph I thought, “This is a 374-page breakfast tweet!” I’ve been relishing every page. It’s not great literature, but like von Arnim it’s a sensory relief from the sun-bleached desert I’m in.
How do you find solace, or how do you look forward to the future when there seems to be a prison sentence in front of you? The world is dulled lately; no wonder I find it necessary to read rich novels that beat me up with exquisite imagery. I find it difficult to even get interested in the baseball season–so many of the writers of the sport seem snarky and vicious these days, and the internet in general seems doubtful or of a rush to judgment on everything. I attended a baseball game last Friday and was surrounded by people in the stands who either didn’t care or didn’t like baseball–why spend $60+ on a ticket to talk or walk in and out on the whole thing? The woman sitting next to me spent the entire game stretching out her arm to position her cell phone in front of my face so that she could get a whole collection of selfies with the other woman she was with. How many selfies does one need, I wonder? One, maybe two? But two hours and forty minutes of selfies? If I took that many my phone would have died by the fifth inning. But I took only one myself, so there we are.
So baseball is hurting my heart…the workplace is breaking my soul, and my home situation doesn’t feel like home; it feels like a second job. My kingdom for a magic wand to transport me anywhere where I can work in a team and live with a family. Expecto LowStandardUm.