Bet you're dying to find out what THAT's all about, aren't you?
Well, I will have the trumpeters up on the battlements and the banners, which are now being printed at the local UPS store, unfurled the very moment that you will be able to get your own copy. The book is titled Up, Back, and Away, for your near-future reference. (It had a different working title for the four and a half years of its gestation, but it occurred to me one night recently that I ought to check on whether anyone else had used MY title. Two people had, and in the not very distant past. You can't copyright a title but I didn't want to share and I am sure those who had already occupied that title's ground would feel the same).
In the meantime, when I am not editing and correcting my own writing, I am reading that of others. When I read, I am after entertainment, uplift, wisdom and, whenever possible, Towering Genius. That last criterion need not be met every moment and it's probably best that it isn't. It would be like trying to live on lobster. Still, I admire it so much when I see it that I am sometimes compelled to come here and share a passage or two. I have done so over the years with bits pulled from Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy and Somerset Maugham. Maybe I'll go back and tag those posts so those (very few) of you who might be interested can find them easily. (And then, I have a book to finish so maybe that won't happen right away - you could find them without too much trouble in the search box.)
In the last week I have read a couple of essays by living Towering Geniuses. If you follow along with literary goings-on, you probably have already heard about the Hilary Mantel essay in the London Review of Books, "Royal Bodies." I have long admired Hilary Mantel, without giving her my heart. That is, I am in awe of her writing, but she's almost too smart. She's scary. (I put A.S. Byatt in this camp as well. Geniuses who are not natural smilers). My esteem for Mantel's virtuoso powers was just elevated to new heights AND I also warmed to her after reading this essay.
If you're not up for the whole thing right now (it's longish and not all easy sledding), here's a little excerpt that I found particularly captivating. It loses from being pulled from its context so I'll fill in just a bit. Mantle is speaking here of a reception that she attended at Buckingham Palace, complete with an appearance by the Queen. Mantel had discussed in an earlier (gorgeous) paragraph the strange world of the modern royals, who are always a sidelong glance away from the stacked chairs and other banal stage craft that accompanies their public occasions.
Of course it's a brilliantly expressed and very interesting deeper-meaning-of-it-all observation, but equal to the toothpicks, the image that struck me was of gnomish, little-and-big-all-at-once, Hilary Mantel sitting behind a sofa at Buckingham Palace. I guess I'll have to love her for that. Could it be true that she did such a thing?
My second wonderful encounter with a modern English-language maestro came just this morning. I finally got around to glancing through the March 7 issue of the New York Review of Books. (I know March 7 has not yet arrived, but the NYRB has already been fluttering around here for days). Checking the table of contents this AM, I found that Michael Chabon had contributed an essay called "The Film Worlds of Wes Anderson." I'm a big Wes Anderson fan, and I knew that I had heard of Michael Chabon - I must've seen his name in the NYRB and other places over the years. (I believe I have had him confused with the actor Michael Gambon. I know, but that's how my brain works these days). Anyway, I read the first few paragraphs and my jaw dropped. The NYRB has made this bit publicly available on its website, along with the next few paragraphs. After that you have to pay if you are not already a subscriber. I think you'll find it worth the money. Here is Mr. Chabon's opening on his Wes Anderson essay:
Also, by the way, the banner today is a picture I took of my father on our recent trip to NYC. We waited together in the freezing cold at the TCKTs booth in Time Square twice last month. I think I snapped this picture right after we had secured tickets for "The Other Place"(q.v.) Dad is the one who has subscribed to the NYRB for me for years. I am glad he brought his hat on our trip.