Tuesday 21 May 2024


No month more than May pushes reading out of doors. Different books for different moments, different pockets of the garden. What to read where is the great question.

Alix Cleo Roubaud, a portrait in fragments by Hélène Giannecchini, translated by Thea Petrou, a young Canadian woman in France in the seventies and eighties, who took photographs, wrote letters and journals, had an affair with Jean Eustache, married Jacques Roubaud, died young, of a pulmonary embolism. Where do you read that?  

Not up at the pond on a sunny afternoon. Or up at the reservoir, with swims. Where Guy Davenport reigns, this year, or William Saroyan, for their intimate rhetoric, their matching of words to moments. Gilbert White for the small hours. Consideration of the swallow family and their variety, or why the cuckoo farms out her eggs. He hopes for a physiological explanation but there is none. He considers hedgehogs, witchcraft. He wants the swallow to hibernate in his village, though all the evidence is for winter migration. He loves the word, nidification. It is a pleasure to think of him in his house called The Wakes in the mid-late eighteenth century, observing his place, Selborne, in Hampshire, writing letters to like-minded scholars of the natural world, as I lie there, less interested in sleep than I was.

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