I read widely and compulsively and my fancies are ever changing. My love of reading, however, is no mere fancy.
This is the tale of my nasty book-buying addiction. Since 1998 or so, for every five or six books that I bought, I'd read maybe one, leaving something around 80% of my library (over 1000 books) unread. Most of my library is still in boxes: we don't have enough room in our house to display all of them. My office is a mess of boxes and books, and I can't work in there because of it. To fix this problem, I've instituted a new system I call the Clearing: for every new book purchased, one book from the stacks must be read, and then a decision made: keep or give away. The Clearing, step 2.0, continues with The Pursuit of Love.
How long has The Pursuit of Love been in the stacks?
2008? I can't remember if this came from the great trove I amassed during the shortlived years of Goodreads Bookswap, or if I purchased it around the same time.
Why did you buy it?
I needed it for my bookshelf, duh! And it was probably cheap, and Modern Library edition, which look so lovely on a shelf. . .
Why didn't you read it when you bought it?
I needed it for my bookshelf, but I didn't have time to read it. I was too busy buying other books I needed for my bookshelf.
What was it about?
Linda Radlett, and her family. Possibly also about beauty and maybe about the dangerous trap that we set for ourselves when we worship objects, or people as them. The difference between love and idolatry or love and the idea of love.
This is an uproarious comedy with a black heart of cold cold stone, friends. I can't believe how hard I laughed (mostly at Uncle Matthew, and references to Uncle Matthew . . . and people's reactions to Uncle Matthew . . . who hunts his children with dogs and says things like: "I reckon . . . that we shall be able to stop them (the Germans) for two hours - possibly three - before we are all killed. Not bad for such a little place."
Would you have felt differently about it had you read it when you bought it?
Oh my word, yes. Yes, yes yes yes yes. I hadn't read The Thinking Reed . If any book should be considered mandatory side-by-side reading with The Pursuit of Love, it isThe Thinking Reed - they are almost opposite sides of the same coin. You have two women, one who marries for love and repeatedly ends up in embarrassment, and one who marries to prevent embarrassment, but ends up in love. You have two capitalists: one a banker who squirrels away funds in foreign countries to which he can flee at the soonest hint of a German invasion that will never come, the other a manufacturer willing to turn over everything his family has spent generations building to his country to fight the invasion that is completely inevitable. And both novels, at the end, are about safety in the fortress of family, whether that fortress is that love you and your husband have found in one another, or an actual fortress that your father has built out of horsecarts and bicycle tires to fend off German tanks.
It can be very difficult to reconcile one's hatred of inequality with one's love of tales of the arristocracy. And yet I try. There isn't a cheesy period piece on Netflix I will not watch three or four times. I devour Downton. I took a very strong stand on Facebook in defense of the Royal Baby, as He is still referred to in this household. I have no desire to offer an argument in favor of their return, good republican (lower case r and mark it!) that I am, but I know there must be a reason beyond fine clothes and table-settings that gets me and my ilk so worked up, so nostalgic for a time we never lived in a class we never would have been born into. And a quote from The Pursuit of Love had me thinking that I'd found that reason. "Linda took no interest in politics, but she was instinctively and unreasonably English. She knew that one Englishman was worth a hundred foreigners, whereas Tony thought that one capitalist was worth a hundred workers." Perhaps I've lost hope in true equality, and maybe I never believed I could have both equality and liberty and that one must always suffer (though, this is probably a product of a typical (i.e., conservative in the most general of senses) bourgeois American upbringing) and that rich people are a fact of life and they predominantly come in two flavors: aristocrats and capitalists. I think all of this nostalgia for the aristocracy must come from the fact that the capitalists are being such assholes right now, and likely our taste for the aristocracy declined when the capitalists seemed to be on our side.
So: Keep or Give Away?
Get your dirty, stinking hands off of my book.
[cross-posted on Goodreads and The Stacks (shelvesandshelves.tumblr.com)]