Remember what it felt like being read to? What a joy! My beautiful mom, Dorothy, had a lovely voice and she often read to us as kids. she read lots of different things, from Nanuck of the North (why do I remember that title?) and Bible stories to Winnie the Pooh, which my beloved sister Judy absolutely adored.
What a soothing yet energizing feeling it is to hear words float through the air and into your mind and heart! Back in the fall, when I visited Alex at Middlebury, we went to hear the popular poet Billy Collins give a reading. He was fun and funny. It was just so delightful to share his playful love of words in a communal setting.
Tonight, another amazing set of words floated out to me, not from the page, but from the stage. I went to a reading of The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton’s wonderful novel, held at the Center for Fiction in Manhattan. The reading was staged in honor of the 150th anniversary of Edith’s birth and all the proceeds are being donated to the Mount, Edith’s restored mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts. It’s a stunning house and the grounds are lovely. David and I have visited a number of times and we always enjoy it.
The Center provided wine, snacks, and a lively group of readers who tackled Edith’s tale of the lovely and ill-fated Lily Bart with style and verve. Poor Lily!
Listening to the novel being read aloud was a revelation to me. I realized how snappy and witty the dialogue is and how artfully Edith entangles her heroine in social and financial disaster. As one reader after another took the stage, the novel just raced along. You could feel the urgency in the story and the crackle of clever repartees. Hearing the story read out loud also made Lily seem more real and dimensionally rich as a character.
Totally inspired, when I came home, I pulled my copy of The House of Mirth off the shelf — I’m going to try reading some of it aloud myself and see how that influences my feelings about it. This should be fun — why not give it a try with something you really enjoy?