For a guy who claims to be pagan, my roommate has a lot of Buddhas lying around the house. Which is fine; if I’m going to be surrounded by images of male deities, the Buddha’s pretty cool (yeah, I know, the Buddha isn’t supposed to be a god, much in the same way the Virgin Mary isn’t supposed to be a goddess, but if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck, you know?)
And I figure a guy famous for enlightenment would be a good person to help out with my book blogging. So this is what I’ve been reading lately.
I’ve only finished the title story in Gigi, and that was ages ago. But I haven’t forgotten it. It’s Colette, after all! Still, can’t read it without my dictitonary by my side, so I have to wait till I’ve got a spare hour and an alert mind (a rare combination).
I came home from the UK ravenous for some feminist thealogy, who knows why, so I got Carol Christ’s Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on a Spiritual Quest. Literary criticism meets feminist spirituality, as it turns out, as Christ examines the religious themes in Kate Chopin, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, and others. Must have this book.
I also decided to read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from the Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, or as I like to think of it, Baptist Woman Gets a Freakin’ Clue, which is kind of like Carol Christ (Ivy League thealogian) meets Oprah (you go, girl!). It’s nothing new or revolutionary, or even particularly challenging, but it’s not supposed to be really, and it’s more like companionship-reading, as I think of it: it’s comforting to hear the stories of someone who’s been there too.
Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman’s Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess is also companionship-reading; I really liked Phyllis Currott’s Witchcrafting, which manages to be both a smart and straightforward intro to Wicca, and knew I had to read her memoir. I’ve read this before, so I just picked it up to have it to glance at now and then. Books being the closest thing I’ve got, at the moment, to a coven or circle.
Which didn’t stop me from grabbing a copy of Marija Gimbutas’ The Language of the Goddess from the library as well; a balance of the academic and the reflective. It’s a pretty exhaustive archaelogical survey of prehistoric goddess figures and artifacts, more of a catalogue than something you sit down and read. But plenty of fodder for inspiration.
And in the midst of all this magic, metaphorical, literal, and historical, is Austen and Byatt (probably disgruntled at being in such company). Sanditon was fun, but, as I told Aphra, it was like ordering tiramisu and getting a Twinkie. As far as Austen sequels go, Another Lady is one of the better writers out there, but when the first 10 and a half chapters are Austen herself, it just can’t hold up. So I had to make up for it with Persuasion as my official Austen Read of the year (not pictured, because I had to return it to the library, but it was the nice Everyman’s Library 1995 movie edition, with Anne and Frederick smooching on the cover). And now I’ve started on the fourth book in Byatt’s quartet of novels about Frederica Potter and her family; her utterly rational (and utterly British) intellectuals forever grappling with the irrationality of emotion. Thankfully you don’t have to read the novels in order, cause I haven’t gotten to books 1 and 3. A Whistling Woman begins with a character reading a Le Guin-type fantasy story that ends abruptly and unsatisfactorily (ooh, the symbolism, the foreshadowing!), and for all that she may present herself as the second coming of George Eliot, I think A.S. Byatt would be an incredible High Fantasy novelist, if she’d only let herself try something so disreputable and unacademic.
Now that I’m in the habit of waking up early (thanks, jet-lag!), I’ve found myself picking up Mary Oliver’s poetry while having my cup of green tea. I hesitate to describe Dream Work as nature poetry, because that always makes me think of Wordsworthian knock-offs and Hallmark sentiment, but it’s true nature poetry: raw and beautiful and sometimes brutal.
And certainly not least, Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ Stardust. The movie was fun but oh how it can’t hold a Babylon candle to the illustrated book. Over a hundred watercolor paintings! It’s my bedtime story; it has all the wonder and awe of a children’s story with the knowlegde and wit of an adult storyteller.
And somewhere in the midst of all this I’m studying for my national boards…