Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don’t dig there, dig it elsewhere, You're digging it round when it ought to be square.

...The shape of it's wrong, it's much too long
and you can't put a hole where a hole don't belong

November has been a funny old month for me so far. I wonder if I have been suffering from some mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, because nothing has been wrong but I've felt low, and like something was lacking. Even on Sunday when I was internet window-shopping, it did little to raise my spirits. I get too easily into a rut, and recently the rut has been working all day, then coming home from work and watching endless DVDs with Nic. That's good too – we've been watching good programmes, but it's not great for conversation, and I have been dwelling on things rather too much.

Over the past few days I've been trying to make a change and it has already made a difference. Nic and I went out for a drink last night, and the change of scenery combined with the lack of distractions like internet meant that we were able to talk about all sorts of things, which helped me back to myself. I only had one glass of wine, but getting out of the house was really good for me. The home-work-home pattern I'd fallen into was getting me down. We're going to go out for a walk tonight as well, and I'm meeting dear C for a coffee after work – all small things, but the things that make a difference to me.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I have been getting my reading mojo back. M lent me two Barbara Pym novels a few months ago, Excellent Women and No Fond Return of Love, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm now racing through Jane and Prudence, found on the shelves of Leamington library. The library also had a copy of Excellent Women, which included an introduction by Alexander McCall-Smith. I read through it and felt very irritated by it indeed. In fact, I have been feeling this way about the introductions to a number of Virago paperbacks recently (poor M was on the receiving end of a tirade about the Sophie Dahl introduction to Stella Gibbons' novel Nightingale Wood) I have a number of those lovely old greenbacked Virago paperbacks, many of which contain very thoughtfully written, scholarly introductions to the novels. This tradition seems to have been cast aside and replaced by getting any published author to write down whatever they happen to know about the book or the author. The Sophie Dahl introduction to Nightingale Wood was shockingly bad. It outlined the plot of Cold Comfort Farm, said that maybe Stella Gibbons was a bit anti-Semitic in her representation of Mr Mybug, but that it was a long time ago and things were different then, and then a description of what happens in the book you're about to read. There was no craft and no originality to it. Alexander McCall Smith did a slightly better job with his introduction to Excellent Women – mercifully he didn't give the plot away. However, he did very lazily compare Barbara Pym to Jane Austen, and this was the whole thrust of his argument. Presumably this was because both Pym and Austen wrote about spinsters, but any similarity ends there. These kinds of introductions (and the garish book covers) are disappointing because I feel they trivialise the novels, which seems to me to be contrary to Virago's project. The Jilly Cooper introduction to Jane and Prudence annoyed me less, but she again gave away the ending of the book. If the publishers are going to allow this then I think they should put these essays at the end of the novel, rather than at the beginning. Jane and Prudence is great fun, however, so I'm not going to get too upset about knowing the ending. Barbara Pym is very good at showing the invisible battle lines that groups of women draw about them, and as this is something I have been thinking about a great deal recently, I'm finding the book very enjoyable, and plan to finish it on my train journey home this evening. Then it's onto reading Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgins, partly to help Nic with his thesis, but mainly because I'd like to read it!

I'm also feeling relieved that I will be able to buy that lovely Dazzle dress by Fever for C and N's wedding, as it is definitely available. I hadn't found a satisfactory plan B, so I'm very happy that I don't have to worry about this. Nic and I are going to head down to London at the start of the month to get the dress, and to do some Christmas shopping, and possibly to see a film at the NFT. It feels good to be feeling enthusiastic about things again.