scribblingwoman2

Now with vitamins and minerals.

Reading

kepler.jpgRecently read John Banville’s Kepler. A beautiful novel, densely packed though short. It came out in 1999 and I can’t imagine it was too widely read, despite the laudatory reviews by various heavy hitters, because of its somewhat arcane subject. But passing it up because of a lack of familiarity with or interest in Kepler or early-modern astronomy would be a mistake; it is first and foremost about the impulse to knowledge. And if you had told me ahead of time that I would have felt so indulgent towards a person so oblivious to others, so self-absorbed, I would have snorted. But such was the case. And not because genius forgives all, because it doesn’t. Because this particular genius is amusing. I mean, what can you say about a surly scientist, aggravated beyond measure to have been deflected from his life’s work in order to deal with his mother’s having been accused (with some justification) of witchcraft? Another element I liked: Banville has no romantic illusions about how rough or difficult life was in 16thc Europe, but he demonstrates beauty, for all of that.

The word “beauty” has appeared twice in one short paragraph. Do you need to know more?

montagu.jpgAt the moment reading Isobel Grundy’s Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Yes, it’s been on my shelf for some time but right now it’s Reading Week at UNBSJ and for the first time in I don’t know how long, we aren’t dashing down to New York. It’s a wonderful biography. Rich and well-researched as one would expect, of course, but I am most taken with Grundy’s authorial choices. She is fond of Montagu, certainly, but one senses because of her foibles rather than in spite of them, with the result that the reader (this reader) feels considerable trust. Also, she wears her learning lightly: it is there, and it is formidable, but her tone is so deft and at times even amused, that one is charmed as well as engaged. She even uses the first person — rare in biography, one would think — and without intruding herself, but rather, as a means to draw in the reader. I am enjoying it immensely (though I am at the part where the forty-something Montagu is chasing after a twenty-something young man and I just want to shake her. Lady Mary! He’s just a punk! You deserve better!)

I blame Alexander Pope.

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One comment on “Reading

  1. Bojan
    May 1, 2008

    Thanks for the tip on Kepler! My high school graduation paper (it’s a big deal in Croatia, you have to defend it in front of a commission and all that) was in physics on Kepler’s laws and, like you, i found the guy amusing :) another book for my endless reading list…

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2008 by in book reviews, books, C18th and tagged , , , .
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