I finally finished “The Summer Without Men” today, and I say finally not because it was a chore to get through it, for au contraire: it was a delight. I loved this little book with the bright yellow cover, a red-skinned woman leaping across it. I was sad to finish it, but did so with a smile on my lips, sated and pleased.
I read a review of it that said something to the effect that it is a book about nothing, really, but told by a poet. What a master (mistress?) of words Siri Hustvedt is! And what a tale teller, her characters alive and odd and her descriptions of them sensitive and humorous and sweetly honest. Here’s a passage from the end, which I found particularly lovely (and with that I put the book on my shelf, a keeper, and one of the few actual, versus virtual, books I’ve bought of late.)
Time confounds us, doesn’t it? The physicists know how to play with it, but the rest of us must make due with a speeding present that becomes an uncertain past and, however jumbled that past may be in our heads, we are always moving inexorably toward an end. In our minds, however, while we are still alive and our brains can make connections, we may leap from childhood to middle age and back again and loot from any time we choose, a savory tidbit here and a sour one there. It can never return as it was, only as a later incarnation. What once was the future is now the past, but the past comes back as a present memory, is here and now in the time of writing. Again, I am writing myself elsewhere. Nothing prevents that from happening, does it?