Discover more from learning to interrupt.
a floating return.
To Bed with Grand Music, amorality lessons, and a few other things.
Long time, no post, but I am back!
In the intervening time since I last wrote to y’all I have been promoting Foundations with readings at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, Martuni’s Literary Speakeasy in San Francisco, and Sea Wolf Books, an indie bookstore in Port Orford, Oregon. If you haven’t bought your copy of Foundations yet, you can find it online at: Bookshop, Amazon, and the WhiskeyTit website.
In a bit of personal news, I was promoted to a copywriter position at my corporate day job and have spent the last couple of weeks settling into that role which has subsequently diluted my personal writing time a bit. Though I did get two stories accepted to online lit mags, to be published this summer – (more on that soon)! But I finally feel as though I can lift my head above the waves and hopefully get back to my creative work and reading habit.
May was a mixed bag as far as reading went. I couldn’t find much to hold my attention longer than fifty pages, so I feel like I started a lot of books that I eventually just set down and didn’t pick back up. However, I did finally read (and enjoy!) To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski, a Persephone edition I bought off ThriftBooks a few months ago. I read most of it on the beach in Port Orford while we were blasted with a heat wave.
The novel opens with Deborah saying a tearful goodbye to her husband, Graham, who is going off to war. He promises not to be unfaithful in any way that matters, while Deborah swears she will be totally faithful regardless. They discuss their son and she promises to make sure he remembers Graham.
When the noise of Graham’s taxi had died away, Deborah’s first sensation was of relief. The strain of his embarkation leave had been almost intolerable, and now that he had inevitably gone, the release from emotional tension was immediate. She had plenty to do.
It soon becomes apparent that Deborah is not cut out to be a military wife and is, at heart, still the young woman who went to art school for the social opportunities presented therein. Rather than wasting away in the country, she decides to take a job in London and live with her fashionable diva of a friend, Madeleine. Initially, Deborah returns home on the weekends to spend time with her son and tend to the house, but her mother and her housekeeper eventually convince her she’s not the ‘mothering’ kind and encourage her to live her life in London instead.
Free from the constraints of the country, Deborah takes a lover. And another. And so on. Until she’s become a fairly proficient mistress, living as luxurious a life as one can during wartime.
Some women can do without a man and some can’t, and I’m one of those that can’t.
To Bed With Grand Music exemplifies the double standards present at the time, that men who go away to war are free, even encouraged, to have affairs, but women should stay behind doing patient needlework and waiting, like a WWII-era Penelope. Deborah’s self-delusion is also on full display as she justifies her decisions, assuring herself that her son is safer in the country and that living her own life is good for him as well. Maybe she isn’t the mothering kind, but so what?
I also enjoyed how Laski avoided offering any morality check for the reader. As the story progresses, we are left to make our own decisions about Deborah. It felt freeing after so many modern books I’ve read lately that are so quick to explain what is bad and what is good, as if there is a black and white binary and everyone must abide by it, even in fiction. The novel invites a natural comparison to Madame Bovary, though I find Deborah to be a much pluckier main character.
Right now, I am in the middle of Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza and received my pre-order of Deborah Levy’s new novel, August Blue, so I am hopeful June will be a much richer reading month! We also have plans to go camping a couple of times and I do love reading in the silent stretch of night under the stars.