I had decided that I wasn’t going to come back to this blog until the new year. One of my most important resolutions, you see, is to get it all prettied up and properly rearranged just how I’d like it (even with its own domain), and I didn’t particularly want to be lingering in the proverbial house until all of the remodeling was done.
Except then there was a book — A Book, even — and now it’s all I can do to not buy every single copy of it I can find and pass them out to random people on the street, let alone stop myself from talking about it.
I’d been quite decided, up until this point. It had been effortless to choose my favourite book of 2011 (Will Lavender’s Dominance, just as his Obedience resoundingly won the same honour several years back); I knew which other books had come in very close behind (The Night Circus and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and Liesl & Po); and I wasn’t hoping for anything more than a few simply entertaining reads before the year’s end.
It was with that attitude that I wandered into a library a week or two ago.
Now. I admit freely that I am not a reading-from-the-library sort of girl. I’m very much of the library in general sort; I love being in them and everything about them and most especially their smell. But when it comes to actual reading, I prefer to just buy my books, because what I really want is a sprawling personal library of my own.
So when I went in, I was not really expecting to loan anything out, but decided to wander over to a particular bookcase of A’s anyway and see if any Atwood struck my fancy at the mo’.
Instead of Atwood, though, I somehow ended up toting out two books of random Arabic fiction (an anthology and The Yacoubian Building), to round out my finishing an ARC of American Dervish just before.
And then there was my even more random find of Laura Argiri’s The God in Flight.
The God was a complete whim; I don’t generally favour Victorian romances, though I do adore the general writing style itself. (Take Wuthering Heights, for instance. I thought it was beautiful stylistically and so wanted badly to enjoy it, but in the end the story and characters themselves just made me want to chuck the damn thing at the wall.) And while I thought the fact it was a gay Victorian romance novel was at least an interesting twist, it was one that very easily could have gone wretchedly wrong with bad writing, especially when you add in the dubious student/teacher element as well.
But, for the hell of it, I scooped them all up and took them home.
I read The Yacoubian Building first, and while I was decently impressed with its social commentary, I was not so impressed with the writing itself. Either the original text or the translation had a peculiar lack of decisiveness: It refused to skirt around potentially inflamatory issues such as homosexuality and religious views, but yet unnecessary and unconsequential details were crammed into parenthetical asides on nearly every other page. It was as if the author or translator couldn’t bring himself to believe that they deserved to be worked into the text proper, but also could not bring himself to actually omit them entirely. And these paranthetical asides stood out all the more painfully, considering the brazenness of the text they were shoved inside, and I was too distracted by them to really enjoy the book’s better points.
Once I was finished with it, I decided to let it sit for a while and give myself a little break from the Arabic fiction streak, and picked up The God in Flight.
Within a few pages, I knew that I would enjoy it, that her style of writing is exactly the kind I do enjoy. Within a few chapters, it was already beginning to leave me breathless.
I hope that anyone reading this knows the feeling that I’m talking about. The way that certain books can make you feel as though you’re breathing underwater, where you just want to give up on air entirely because this is so much cleaner and pure, and you’re beyond caring about the practicalities of doing such a thing.
This book was that for me, the first in I can’t even remember how long.
And I knew less than halfway through that I already wanted to announce it as one of my favourite books of all time, first placing it in the top five and then into the top three. This does not normally happen easily, but for this book, it did. I was afraid it had been too easy, that I’d thought this too soon and that the ending would somehow undo everything and leave me regretting it.
It did not.
For the first time I think ever, the ending to the book made me cry. Not because it was sad, or because it was happy, or even because it ached that it was over. Not anything like that.
No. I looked at the last paragraph, which in itself swelled with all of the beauty the book had held, and for the first time ever I cried because I was looking at something so damn beautiful that I couldn’t not.
I can’t speak any more strongly for this book than that. I am not a person given to such things easily, or without bloody good reason.
And even Dominance can’t pretend to hold a candle to this. Not much of anything can, to be honest.
And there’s one more reason for that, as well: This woman has just as terrifyingly amazing a grasp on people as she does on language.
There’s a special flavour of nutcase that is the abusive backwoods West Virginian zealot and absolutely nothing else, and she nails it. I can personally vouch for this, having been raised by one of said nutcases myself. And there’s a special flavour of person that comes from being forcibly and unwillingly raised in such an environment, and she nails that, too. I can vouch for that one as well, being that my childhood was in essence Simion’s own, only plus a century or so and minus the physical abuse.
She gets it. She gets it in a way that I didn’t think any other kind of person ever could. She gets it and she moulds it and she offered up the most achingly perfect picture of what can come after, of the way that even endless pools of filth can be made to reflect something beautiful in the end.
It’s that that I believe in most of all, and to see it carved out in such exquisite prose was one of the single best things I could ever have asked for, here going into this new year. I’ve already bought a used copy of it for myself, despite still having the library’s here in the house; this is one of those grab-in-a-housefire books, the ones that I can’t bear to be without even moreso than books in general.
So do yourself a favour. Give yourself a final year-end gift.
And get your own copy of this book. It’s out of print, now (and what publishing twit let that happen, jesusgod), and you can find the used copies of it online for nearly nothing. You’ve really nothing to lose.
I won’t even say I told you so.
(But I am totally telling you so. ♥)