This morning I began reading Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) was born 30 November 1835, so reading this book takes me back nicely into the Celebrate the Author Challenge, a challenge where you “celebrate” an author’s birthday each month by reading one of their books during their birthday month. Huckleberry Finn is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and never got round to it – so this November I am. So far Huck has left Miss Watson’s house, stifled by being “civilised” but now his drunken brute of a father has got him locked inside his cabin. I plan on reading a few chapters a day.
Next up is Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge, letters between Gladys Taber and her friend Barbara Webster (Shenton). Today I read a few of their letters written in June and July – so very different from the season outside my window. At Sugarbridge Barbara is writing about the way the garden runs riot in the summer, particularly after prolonged heavy rain followed by a hot spell. I do like the way she describes it:
A wave of vegetation sweeps over everything. In a twinkling grass and weeds grow up the gravel drive, poison ivy impudently snakes its vined tongue up the very front steps, the creek bank is a jungle, and what has happened to the garden? Weeds tall as trees wave a united front there … The worst of it all is that midsummer languor has descended, and I have no longer the enthusiasm I could muster earlier in the season. Things have got beyond me. I admit it; I am beaten. So I take refuge in philosophy, always the shelter of defeat.
She could have been describing our garden, which has been really neglected this year. Not that we have had the hot spell she describes – just the heavy rain.
Gladys, meanwhile, on a hot July day is looking forward to Barbara’s visit:
We shall go right to the pond as soon as you unpack your bathing suits. On the terrace the ice bucket will be frosty and fresh mint leaves will be ready for your glasses, and we shall stay ourselves with cheese and crackers and smoked tid-bits so we won’t have to rush dinner.
It sounds perfect. And I like Gladys’s idea of bringing a book to read aloud after dinner. As she wrote:
I feel reading aloud is an art which we have almost lost sight of, and it is a great pity. Nothing is better than to sit quietly and share the experience of a good book.
This sounds wonderful:
The quick lanterns of the fireflies make a pattern of flickering gold tonight in the meadow, the sky is deep with stars. After a hot day, a summer night is dramatic and wonderful. The cool breath from the heart of the woods slides so softly over the lawn, the world is very still as if the heat of the day had tired it. One feels suddenly the urge to stay up all night, following the moonlit country roads to the pale edge of the horizon. Surely, if we did that, we should find something strange and wonderful!
I can just picture myself there!
Later today I’ll be reading more from Les Miserables. I’m making good progress and am about halfway through now, so I’ll easily finish it this year. Although there are many digressions from the story it does move along quite quickly. I have to keep reminding myself who all the characters are, though, as there are so many. In my last reading session after a longish description of what was happening in Valjean’s life after he evaded being re-captured by Inspector Javert, I met Marius, who is going to be another major character in the story, I think.