I decided that I need to read something funny, and the latest book I bought is by an author who is not at all funny–she’s good, but not one bit of funny.
So it came to me that I had not read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson, in some time. I do love the British voice, and especially the British voice from the middle of the past century. I’ve already done a post on the novel and author Watson; you can read it here.
From the introduction to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day:
“I suppose I first read this novel some time in my early teens, because it was my mother’s favorite book, the one she went to, I now understand, not only for an escape into laughter and joyful fantasy, but because in some ways Miss Pettigrew, middle-aged, poor, and a governess, mirrored my mother herself.” ~ Henrietta Twycross-Martin.
I have nothing in the life I’ve led that makes me like Miss Pettigrew, except perhaps inside, the gumption waring all the time with dipping hope. Perhaps the same can be said of all of us.
The first paragraph:
“Miss Pettigrew pushed open the door of the employment agency and went in as the clock struck quarter past nine. She had, as usual, very little hope, but today the Principal greeted her with a more cheerful smile.”
It is the ‘as usual’ that adds so much to the sentence. It what makes me smile and have hope myself in a bit of fun. Maybe that’s because I understand it so. I think it is those two words that enable just about everyone to relate.
In the process of looking for my copy of Miss Pettigrew, I came across Reynolds Price’s novel, Roxanna Slade. I spied little bits of torn Post-it Notes marking a couple of pages. Of course I had to find out why I’d marked the pages and turned to read. Here is what I found on page 72:
“But again nobody touched on my feelings, and nobody seemed to notice what I could feel–that I was beginning to pick up speed in the long process of sliding down into a siege of the blues.”
Maybe my sense of humor is odd, but I find it is both the wording and the cadence of the sentence that makes me chuckle and shake my head. I know exactly what Price is talking about; I never just get the blues but I slip and slide into a siege of it. Makes me think of Jello. In Price’s description you get the gist of the character, and that she is sad, but the book is not sad. There’s just so much hilarity in that sentence. So much life. And even more understanding and compassion for what it means to be human.
Just as we are what we eat, our minds are what we put into it. I make it a practice to read authors who are much better than myself, who craft sentences that make me smile and make my heart jump up and dance. To write, you have to read, read, read, and read only writing that is better than your own, to draw you up higher. What you put is is what you will get out.