Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fermor, Patrick Leigh (A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube)

You ever read a book that you know deep down is a work of art, but its style keeps you from truly engaging with it? That's this book.

In the details, I really loved it. How he wove sentences out of what felt like pure air, to show us in words what he saw with his eyes. His descriptions of German country life, and how the language changed from region to region, and his befuddlement with what he saw against what he knew was happening politically. His funny little passages about walking through the snowy woods quoting full chapters from his favorite books (in Latin! German! French!) and scaring the local people who would happen upon him. His hushed description of a Maundy Thursday service in Bratislava and how it felt when all the candles were blown out, because that's how Maundy Thursday has felt in the past for me.

All of these things made me laugh or gasp, usually in surprise. But this book was written in a different time. It's likely it's written in the pop culture style of its time, and it's a pity that style is not something we recognize or understand or have patience with any longer. For instance, after about halfway through, I gave up reading the passages describing his visits to churches. They would go on for pages, and they brought in so many historical or sociological or political figures and places that it wasn't worth slogging through them with my limited knowledge. I did learn some things, and I was surprised by what I am aware of in these realms, however, it just wasn't worth the effort.

It was much more worth it to let all those sentences wash over me, ignore the facts, and move on to other sections of the book that were effortless.

No comments: