Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Forays in Fiction: Reading Hungers

Hunger's Brides
by Paul Anderson
1358p
counting end notes and acknowledgments

This was in the third box that arrived Tuesday afternoon. One was my Valentine's Day gift from Ed. Another was my Nexus 7 with Keyboard Case from Amazon.  And this from an Amazon seller shipping from Happy Valley OR just half an hour's drive from where I live (lived, will live) in Phoenix.

I've been trying to finish this novel since 2009 the first time I had it out of the library in Longview the year I was here to help after Mom's broken hip and stroke.  I was gratified to discover that our system in Southern Oregon had a copy and I started checking it out there.  Every time it went back unfinished and when I was unable to get it back again inside six or eight weeks I would have to start over or at least turn the pages reading snatches until I identified a scene and if my memory of it felt clear move to the next one.

Oversized
Opened it covers my printer.
The book is heavy both literally and figuratively.  The print is small.  And the prose is both dense and lyrical and thus cannot be read quickly even if my eyes still allowed me to do so.  In all the times I had it checked out--three to four time a year for five years--the furthest I reached was a bit passed page 200.  I'm not even sure whether I recognize the scenes in the previous pages because I'd read that far or because I'd browsed ahead.

I kept watching for a Kindle version to become available hoping that would alleviate the issues of trying to hold a large, awkward to hold book in the light at just the right angle with one hand while holding the magnifier with the other.  Then when it did become available the price dismayed me and while I dithered over it they took it down.  I watched for over a year for them to make it available again.  Then last week I saw a price for a used, very good condition, like new, hardback for only $4.49 + $3.99 shipping.

In spite of the hardback coming with all the issues of difficulty discussed above, at that price I had to snap it up.  The factor that is different and makes it worth a try is that now I won't have to keep sending it back to the library.  I can make a slow and steady plod through it savoring every sentence at my leisure.

To round this out and to provide the who, what, when and where re the novel, I'm going to quote two passages from my 2009 April Dewey's Read-a-Thon::


5:25 AM I'm beginning the day with Paul Anderson's Hunger's Brides. This novel is HEAVY and I mean that in both senses of the word--it's over 1300 pages and annotated like an academic treatise.

It is also smallish print so I know I couldn't stay with it for the duration today even if it didn't need to go back to the library this afternoon. I checked it out on my sister's card nine weeks ago and have used up the two renewals. I started it the first time that first week but set it aside to finish the novel I was already reading. I've restarted it at least twice since then but life keep getting in the way.

It is not the story's fault. It is the kind of story that enthralls me--stories nested inside stories. Anderson handles language like a poet. One of the central characters is an historical figure--17th century poet, nun, mystic Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz of Mexico.

The principle reason I've kept setting it aside is that it does not lend itself well to being read in snatches of moments nor to being schlepped about the house under the arm and held one-handed while stirring a pot or even two-handed while high-stepping on the mini-tramp. Like I said, HEAVY.


4:55 PM This is my entry in the Hour 11 mini-challenge at Flight into Fancy which is to write a letter to a character in one of the stories we read today.

Dear Juana Inez de la Cruz

Your precociousness in verbal and reasoning skills do not amaze me nearly as much as your tender heart. It is one thing to learn how to read at age three by spying through your sister's schoolroom window, it is another to notice and be disturbed by the way in which your family's native born servants are treated as less-than.

It is one thing to read with comprehension the reports of Thucydides at age 9? 10? it is yet another to be heart-broken when Thucydides' Athenian compatriots (representing to your mind the epitome of rationality and civilization) follow their logic to the bitterest of conclusions thus displaying it's empty heart when they slaughter all the males on the isle of Menos and sell their women and children into slavery because the people of Menos refused to swear loyalty and subservience to Athens.

You, at such a young age, 9? 10? were able to see the equality of the Athens and Menos peoples, even the parity of their respective logic (ATHENS: Exceptions would weaken us in our enemies eyes; MENOS: Acquiescing to slavery is cowardice and worse than death.) As head-shaking stunning as that achievement, it is as nothing compared to the way in which you saw your own beloved Abuelo (Grandpa) through new eyes and found him wanting in some unnameable crucial thing when he attempted to explain that ancient conflict as pragmatism (ATHENS) vs. idealism (MENOS) clearly favoring pragmatism.

The only explanation is that you were born with the soul of a poet.

Oh that we had a few such as you living in our generation.

If I could ask you to answer one question for me, it would be: Why, as an adult, did you choose to enter a cloister and take not only the vows of a nun but a vow of silence as well? Based on the reason suffused with heart you exhibited as a pre-teen, I cannot believe it was simple expediency. Not even the expediency of protecting your own life.

Your awed admirer from beyond the 'Unstable Margins'
Joy Renee

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