When Does My Vacation Start? And What I’ve Been Reading

Emma (Kate Beckinsale) and Harriet (Samantha Morton) in “Emma” (1996).

I have not been on vacation this year. Wow, am I ever cranky! I would love a vacation for a day at a library. That’s how desperate and cooped-up I am.

Are you a fan of Jane Austen’s saucy heroines? Do you feel more like one of them now that you take walks for “fun”? Emma is my favorite–the most controversial heroine. To those who dislike Emma, all I can say is, I empathize with her fantastic misreadings of character, because who wouldn’t live in a fantasy world if she had to take THE SAME WALK EVERY DAY?

So why don’t I stop walking and go somewhere in a car, train, or plane? A trip to California, or is it under lockdown again? (I checked, and it is.) Or to New York, which is the most expensive, exhausting, and crowded American city. Do I really enjoy masked glamour and sophistication? Somehow the vibe isn’t right. I’d be tired before I even got to the Strand.

Oh, she’s so cowardly, you say. We’ve been on so many adventures this year! Some of you spent spring break at Yellowstone Park, where the sewer analysis proved you’d been pissing and shitting Covid virus. Others spent summer vacation at Black Lives Matter camps, or waving guns at the governor of Wisconsin for imposing lockdown. And my favorite rockin-vacation is the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Think of the Covid spread! And think of the articles I could have freelanced! I don’t have a driver’s license, but I bet somebody would have let me drive a motorcycle in Sturgis!

Meanwhile, enough about vacation. I know you want to know what am I reading.

I gave up on Angela Thirkell’s Marling Hall. Though it is mildly funny, it sags in the middle. Darn, Lettice isn’t going to marry David Leslie after all, and the other guy is too bland. It is a short book, so I’ll probably finish, but why? Time’s a-wastin’! If you want to read Thirkell, I can tell you honestly that her ’30’s novels are better than the later ones. She wrote one a year, like her character Laura Morland, and they vary in quality. After a while she gets her own characters mixed up.

I read parts of Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language, an earnest, well-written book by Nicola Gardini, translated from Italian by Todd Portnowitz. Why did I pick this one up? Susan Hill recommended it on a Best Books of the Year list. I assure you it is a lovely, enthusiastic book, but it isn’t quite for me because I am already a Latinist. Gardini explains in the introduction that he wrote it for people who may have studied Latin in high school or college and liked it then, or for those who are simply curious about it. This is a book I would recommend to my students.

And what’s on my bedside table? Please, God, help me choose a cozy mystery. Do I want a Michael Innes, a Josephine Tey, something in Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics series, a Robert Barnard, or maybe an Amanda Cross?

Let me know if you have suggestions!

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