Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On unexpected complementarity

Over on the Other Blog, I have draft post that starts off about Marcel Dorney's play Fractions, veers into Leslie Cannold's The Book of Rachel, which was my theological book club read at the time, and wanders from there into the Indigo Girls' version of the ALW musical Jesus Christ Superstar.  All those wanderings may be the reason that post is still in draft.

In the last few days, I've finished reading (but not yet written my reviews of) Marie Munkara's Every Secret Thing and Vivenne Cleven's Bitin' Back.  I started the Cleven a month or two ago, powered through it for about half the book, and then got stuck.  Somehow I couldn't get back into it, couldn't find the way to read it productively rather than counter-productively, until I'd read Munkara's absolutely stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking Every Secret Thing.  That was when I worked out how to approach Bitin' Back, and I finished it the same day.

When Cannold's Book of Rachel was our book club read, I couldn't get into it, even though I'd been wanting badly to read it ever since it was published.  I skimmed through it, and found a lot to like and enough to discuss at book club, but I hadn't really read it.  May's book club book is Three Gates to Paradise, a collection of Clare Boyd-Macrae's pieces written for the Saturday Age.  It's an odd read for me, because I know Clare's husband quite well, although I don't really know Clare herself.  But I'm absolutely loving and adoring the book - rediscovering columns I remember reading back in the day, remembering where I was at the time, and getting a great deal out of Boyd-Macrae's quiet but firm approach to her faith.  I'm really glad I already owned a copy of the book, because I can see it's going to be important to me in the years to come.

But what Three Gates to Paradise is also doing for me is allowing me to get back into The Book of Rachel.  Where Cannold's Miriame tears at my heart, Boyd-Macrae's thoughts on the holy family of the First Christmas, keep the Mary that I know in view - not, mind you a saccharine stereotype of a Roman Catholic Mary, but not Cannold's bitter Miriame, either.  The two books are playing with and against each other in beautiful ways that make it easier for me to read the one I was finding difficult.  Just as happened with Munkara and Cleven.  They're all wonderful books, it's just that I've needed the leavening of one in order to fully appreciate the other.

This, I suppose, is why I can't just read one book at a time.  If I did, think how many I'd never finish at all!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Heidi. This is such an interesting post.

    I've always disliked reading more than one book at a time because it feels like I'm not giving the first book my devoted attention. But that means, if I get stuck, my reading rate slows down. If I give in and switch to another book, often I don't make it back to the original one, even though I may have wanted to finish it. That is especially true with a library book when due dates loom and the book may have been reserved by other readers.

    I like the idea that one book may help the reader get an angle on another. It'll make me feel less negative about putting a book aside - not down.