Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comments from Sherrill, for Book Readers, especially

Sherrill spent many years traveling the world, and her accounts of her travels were wonderful, and I have saved some of them: Africa, Russia/Poland, Malta, Spain, Mexico, etc.
She also reported on her voracious reading. As her friends and husband knows, she retreated to her bedroom after dinner every night with a pot of tea and a stack of books. I am sure that if I did a Search for “Sherrill” on my computer I would come up with many entries, but here are some of her comments that I saved in a particular file over the years.

Some comments by Sherrill, mostly those concerning her readings and movie going....

Sherrill wrote:

-- I am struck by how many of our sayings have rural references even though we now live in urban environments, The following are ones I have noticed used often. Can you think of others?

Till the cows come home
Flew the coop
Lock the barn after the horse is stolen
In a pig's ear—[in a pig’s eye]

Observations on Her readings:

1990: “Just finished Elizabeth Hardwick’s first novel The Ghostly Lover which reminded me of Jane Austen and Elizabeth Taylor (British). Geek Love by Katherine Dunn is imaginative and inventive. The Life of Nate Shaw (an oral history of a black sharecropper) is great....”

5/4/1990: “ Philip Roth’s slight, but amusing Deception and a fabulous, new Canadian first novel by Nino Ricci, Lives of the Saints as well as Francine du Plessix Gray’s Soviet Women which I am reviewing. About to begin Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps (Cuban). If you like Remains of the Day, I think you will also like his earlier A Pale View of the Hills and Arftist in a Floating World....Speaking of writing and authors, I was fortunate enough to have drinks and conversation with Margaret Atwood this week....I’ve often wondered about Ross Lockridge Jr. [son of the author of Raintree County] his memory haunted me. We went out a few times between my Junior & Senior year and he seemed so young, intense and fragile. He saw his father’s suicide at 33 as similar to Jesus’s death on the cross and said then that he’d have to die by the age of 33. I’m glad he’s still alive but sorry he may still be troubled.”

8/19/1990: “My Russia trip (Sept. 7 21) takes me to Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev, and Warsaw/Cracow....Ursula Le Guin stories Buffalo Girls (outstanding) and Jeanette Wintersan (young British novelist, lesbian excellent: Her novels are Oranges are not the only fruit, Passion, [Something] the Cherry.

10/19/1990: “Byatt’s Possession (Booker Prize winner) is most inventive an excellent read. I’m also reading Matthiessen’s Killing Mrs. Watson and Sue Miller’s Family Pictures.

4/13/1991: “I read some more Zora Neal Hurston, but Their Eyes Were Watching God remains my favorite. The Southern African writer Bessie Head’s A Woman Alone was autobiographical and has spurred me on to read her fiction. The Book of Marjery Kempe, the autobiography of a 14th Century mystic was fascinating for insight into a woman’s life at that time. Mark Salzman’s Iran and Silk about his time (1982 84) teaching English to Chinese medical students in the Hunan province is beautifully written and memorable. I loved Rosamond Lehmann’s novel The Echoing Grave (English 1940s) and a first U.S. novel (hard cover) How to Make an American Quilt.”

6/9/1991: “It sounds as if Washington is looking at the Canadian model for health care. It will be interesting to see revisionist history about ‘socialized medicine.’ ... I think Games Mother Never Taught Me may be dated now.”

9/1/1991: “I’ve just finished reading Diane Wood Middlebrook’s fine biography of Anne Sexton as a poet. It explores the poet’s inspiration and craft and the influence of other poets, and their work on her life...I couldn’t put it down, in spite of the fact that, as a person, Sexton is not very likeable.”

4/5/1992: “The sun shines off the ice on the lake and we snow shoed in so don’t let daylight savings time fool you. Some of us are still in the land of ice and snow although cozy inside, listening to Mozart and reading Toni Morrison’s latest outstanding novel, Jazz.”

8/9/1992: “Good fiction is still hard to find in the new offerings but Alverez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is good and Lynne Willilams’ new short story collection Things not seen is outstanding. I haven’t read any writing this memorable since Raymond Carver. In non fiction, Stuart Hampshire’s Innocence and Experience (moral philosophy) is most satisfying. I am also enjoying the 2nd volume of the Shaw biography, having just seen an excellent produciton of Pygmalion at the Shaw Festival.

8/29/1992: “Two outstanding books I think you would like: Malfouz’s novel Palace Walk ...Proustian & magnificent writing. Storming Heaven by Jay Stevens, I may have mentioned, is a history of LSD in America fascinating cultural history.

4/10/1993: “How do people on General Assistance [in the USA] clean the streets? I mean in Paris, they do it with a bundle of grey rags that they rinse out in the gutters. In Leningrad, it is women’s work and they begin very early in the morning with worn down whisk brooms.”

9/24/1994: “I am trying to read John Irving’s A Son of the Circus but finding it unfocused.”

2/21/1996: “I’m loving Holroyd’s bio of Lytton Strachey.”

2/29/1996: “Jamaica Kinkaid’s Autobiography of my mother is haunting and strong, negative and memorable beautifully written. Next Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blond.

6/3/1996: “Have you read reviews of a new book by an English lawyer about T.S. Eliot’s anti semitism? It sounds different than the others and worthwhile, from a poetic point of view. I saw Fiona Shaw act The Wasteland in April and she was fantastic. “

5/30/1996: “Reading your poetry reminds me to ask if you have read the poet Virginia Hamilton Adair...Her new (first) book is Ants on the Melon. I quite like her writing but she may be too formal for your tastes.”

9/15/1996: “Lake of Bays, Ontario....We’re relaxing at the cottage on a rainy fall weekend with a charming, small furry gray coated deer mouse who has a white belly, long tail and full face, the latter taking up 1/3 of his body length. His full face, dark beady eyes and small ears make him look like the mice in children’s stories. As he is unafraid of humans and prefers the indoors to the outdoors, we have named him ‘Bernard.’....I think you’d really enjoy Sebastian Faulk’s The Fatal Englishman, Three Short Lives (a painter, Christopher Wood, Richard Hilary, Jeremy Wolfenden). I may have mentioned his novel, Birdsong which I loved.

12/1996. [Sherrill was reading a memoir of someone who had been an Indian houseboy as a child: Reef, and a book called Reading in the Dark…]

1997: “...Sebald’s The Emigrants (translated from German, published by New Directions) is brilliant about memory and how to retrieve it beautifully written.”

1997, or earlier: “I read and liked Sue Miller’s A Distinguished Guest...also really liked Hillery Mantel’s (British) A Change of Scenery....I was very disappointed in Ishiguro’s latest The Unconsoled....”

9/1997: “I started reading some amazing American short stories last night by Andrea Barrett, Winner of the National Book Award.”

1/1999: … The day MLK was shot, I came home from work at UBC in Vancouver, and Andrew ran from the house, to greet me, wildly crying. I thought he was injured in some way and he was -- by the violent death of King. What a time the Sixties were -- so much happening politically, so much violent death both in America and Vietnam! And now, as Phyllis says, "Vietnam is a tourist destination.” Be good to yourself: find some time each day to rest, relax, pamper yourself a bit. xoxoxo In spite of snow, snow and more snow, below zero temperatures, hazardous roads and a failed subway system, due to ice on the track, I am enjoying being indoors seeing the sun glisten on humoungous icycles and watching the brilliant red cardinal sit on snow encumbered branches. I am now working on a committee planning a Women and Philanthopy forum in May, writing an article for their newsletter about this Forum, researching and compiling a fact sheet on women's giving and heading up a donor challenge. Strange that starting out together as students in Indiana, we are now both working on fund raising for Foundations isn't it? Did I mention to you that Karl and I are planning a ten day trip to Malta in March? We are looking forward to this holiday to an island full of so much history as evidenced in archeological ruins. I have been reading some excellent fiction: McDermott's National Book Award CHARMING BILLY is an outstanding book capturing so well America (Long Island) right after WWII and the nuances of family love and loyality; William Trevor's DEATH IN SUMMER is extremely well written and wonderfully imaginative. Karl lost himself in Wolfe's A MAN IN FULL (or as I may have already said, "a man full of himself," or as a publisher friend said .."of testosterone"). Karl is now reading Roth's I MARRIED A COMMUNIST which I found too claustrophobic in its interior monologue. Marc, Diane and Kate were over for dinner last eve and we enjoyed the visit. Kate, at seven months, is pulling herself up to tables and chairs and wanting either to walk or to climb up onto them. If she does not topple, she turns her head around to see who is watching and waits for applause! Hope you are well, not working yourself crazy and enjoying your life. Appreciate the lovely Bay Area climate. Thinking of you. Much love,Sherrill

Hope you are well and writing. I continue to read: Inga Clendinnen's READING THE HOLOCAUST led me to Gitta Sereny's books on Spangl (commandantat Treblinka) and Speer - extremely well written, clear headed and compassionate while looking at what motivated the perpetrators of the Final Solution. I may have mentioned that I found Coetzee's DISGRACE (South African novel and winner of the 1999 Booker Prize) profound in the way I found Camus' THE STRANGER profound. Today Amazon delivered the novel MALINA by the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachman which is what I purchased with your birthday gift certificate.

September 15, 2000 9:52 AM
I saw only one film at the Film Festival but am looking forward to the new releases this fall. I saw ENDGAME , a British production, with David Thewlis and the acting was superb. This afternoon I am going to see INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS, about the kindertransport. Friends who saw this
documentary raved and the reviews have been top notch. I am not really a fan of the epic saga films so I got sick of Ralph Fiennes in three generations and the predictability of SUNSHINE. What
I did like were those fabulous Hungarian interiors and exteriors, a number of which we had seen when we were in Budapest two years ago. Everyone is raving about the Agnes Varda film THE GLEANERS.

My book group discussed Sebald's THE EMIGRANTS last eve. I wonder what you think of his writing? I seem to be one of the few people who love it. One of our group, Elizabeth Abbott, got a good review of her book on Celibacy in the Sept. 18 NEW YORKER.

September 14, 2000 1:31 AM
Subject: FILM

SUNSHINE was very good. If I had any reservations it was that the
characters seemed intellectual figures in an historical essay, but then part of that too was that they were part of a sort of "poem" a family that lost its integrity for a while. Saw a French film based on a Fassbinder story that he had never filmed. It was good, but strange looking back on a period of emptiness (like Fassbinder's YEAR OF THE THIRTEEN MOONS or Bergman's THE SILENCE) but, because it's from the past, with nostalgia!: WATER DROPS ON HOT ROCKS. A couple times German songs dripping with weltschmerz. One might as well say it was a French film done in the German

Dear Jim,
Just a note to let you know that my mother, who had been ill this last year, died last week at the age of 93 and her strong personality was with her until the end. Marc, Karl, and I drove to Indiana and Andrew flew in from L.A. and joined us in Osgood. My father, at 95, is still healthy and living on his own. Unfortunately, his eyesight is no longer good enough to drive or read so he is feeling a number of loses.
I was hugged by people I had not seen in 50 years, including high school literature, Latin and history teachers!
The funeral of course was pure Bible Belt but I was fairly numb during that part and only now feel angry that I did not insist on eulogies which would have celebrated Myrtle's lively spirit. Oh, well....Love, Sherrill

After Sherrill’s stroke in November 2004, email correspondence fell off for a while, of course, and somehow I did not continue to place comments from her emails into this file, but they are undoubtedly in my CHRON file, which preserves certain dialogues with friends, and maybe I will do a SHERRILL’S COMMENTS, PART II, in the future.

1 comment:

mouse (aka kimy) said...

sherrill sounds like someone who would be a wonderfully stimulating friend to have.... I hope she has recovered well from her stroke in 2004. and should the spirit move you please do part II!