Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius

I just finished a second read-through of my favorite book from 2008, Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early. (Side note: Who has parents awesome enough to come up with the name "Haven"? Especially in 1965 in Indiana?) Actually, it was just the second half--I had finished The Flame Trees of Thika and needed a palate-cleanser before Cryptonomicon, and remembered that I'd wandered through the first half a few months back and gotten distracted. I picked it up again. This is the joy of comfort reading: come and go as you please.

I liked Leaving Early the first time around; I loved Langston Braverman (Ph.D. drop-out, impossible, lover of orphaned girls and her dog Germane, as in "germane to the conversation") and Amos Townsend (minister, doubter, constantly getting tangled in tree branches). But I don't think I saw it and I know I didn't get it. I'm not sure I have a proper grasp now, either, but it's starting to take shape, the mass of mothers and children and loss and gain and belief and backwardness, plus the Virgin Mary (Kimmel went to seminary; she's allowed). I almost want to pick it up again now, as it's fresh in my mind, and try to figure out exactly how it's made, how we get from A to B and end with a scene so unexpected and romantic I almost had to put it down this time around. I wonder if I could get it if I just read it one more time? If I could see the strings twisting together?

In the mean time, I continue to not read Cryptonomicon and have started The History of Love, of which I do not know what to make.


Xerxes said...

Of course there could be nothing to get!

If you want something to contemplate try Augustine's "Confessions" or C. S. Lewis' "Screw Tape Letters".

Teri said...

You've read Cryptonomicon before, haven't you? I thought I read it because of you. It's an odd little book (except for the little part).

Liz said...


I haven't read Confessions, but I've tried The Screwtape Letters a couple of times and just can't get through it. I don't know if I don't like it, or if I just get distracted, or what. C.S. and I usually get along just fine. (Though, have you tried any G.K. Chesterton? He is also excellent.)

Liz said...

I have read Cryptonomicon before, but my 20th-century novels book club on Ravelry is reading it. (Actually, it's only a *technical* 20th-century novel--it came out in 2000.) And I do remember really loving it, but I am not looking forward to carrying it around in my purse. :)

Xerxes said...

The only thing I have read of GK Chesteron is his "Orthodoxy" and I loved it!

What else have you read from him?

Liz said...

Uh, Orthodoxy.

But I *almost* did a thesis on theologians who are also mystery writers, and he is one of them: he wrote the Father Brown mysteries, which I hear are good.