"The first purpose of a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty such as will give delight to the eye and repose and refreshment to the mind."
Gertrude Jekyll, A Gardener's Testament.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The Talented Mr Ripley
For nearly three weeks I have been reading the tortuous biography of Patricia Highsmith, author of the above. At one stage I'd been reading for over a week and she was still 27. I don't read biographies, and I certainly don't read autobiographies, but I'd always had rather a thing for The Talented Mr Ripley which I read between shifts in the 1980's and which caused me to wake up with nightmares a couple of times each year since thinking I had murdered someone. Patricia Highsmith; expert at psychologically damaging her readers. Thanks Pat.
My best friend adores biographies and she especially adores autobiographies. She's read everything by everyone who has ever appeared between the covers of Hello! magazine. She can describe the childhood traumas and marriage details of every vacuous trollop who hired a ghost writer and committed to print their blathering, self-obsessed meanderings. She loves it. The last time we were on holiday together she brought Jordan with her. What can I say. Part of me thinks she's got holiday reading taped; you only live once, after all...
Andrew Wilson's book is tortuous because it is so beautifully researched. It's rather like trying to eat an enormously rich chocolate cake or reading the poetry of WB Yeats. Eventually you have to throw the thing down and admit defeat.
If I don't finish this book tonight, I'll have to drag it to the airport again tomorrow, and as CCTV images are probably stored for decades, the people checking the images will classify me as a problematic reader.
"Here's that slow reader again," they'll say. "Still reading the same book."
"Do you think she's a bit thick?"
"Probably. Why else would she take so long to finish it?"