Ducks, Newburyport - week 3
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(Page numbers are from two editions: US Biblioasis and UK Galley Beggar Press. All weekly breaks occur at a break in the text of some sort, as noted.)
March 7: US 1-189 : UK 1-199 ending at the PTA sign: LET THEM EAT CAKE, ~19%
March 14: US 189-397 : UK 199-406 - 4-dot break begins: “Puddles favored by crows have a sweet, earthy taste.”, ~39%
today: US 397-581 : UK 406-591 - 4-dot break begins: “The shock of losing her cubs reverberated like rain on water.”, ~57%
March 28: US 582-777 : UK 591-786 - 4-dot break begins: “A lot of wilderness exists between the cracks,”, ~76%
April 4: US 777-988 : UK 786-998 and appendix
the fact that I wonder if Newcomerstown would be any different if I’d never been born, the fact that I don’t think it would, the fact that as far as I know I haven’t contributed much to this place, the fact that I haven’t saves anybody’s life, except maybe with my own kids now and then, as any mom would, without even noticing
the fact that it still seemed to take everything that I had in me to stop sicking my thumb, and to learn to ride a bike too, and I think I used up all the willpower I had in me for life on those two tasks
the fact that I’ll wake up one day and find everyone will have suddenly changed their minds about me, or about moms in general, or pie, and I won’t realize because nobody kept me in the loop
the fact that I just realized that when this monologue in my head finally stops, I’ll be dead, or at least totally unconscious, like a vegetable or something
the fact that after Mommy got sick, I read the phonebook, just to feel even more alienated
I’m busy, tired, and home alone
the fact that motherhood sometimes makes you feel unfit for normal everyday activities like parking
the quiet back alley, the fact that the dandelions are just coming out, the fact that they look so small and compact that I didn’t even recognize them as dandelions at ﬁrst, the fact that they look good with their petals still clenched up like that, dandy lions, the fact that I think maybe brand-new, uptight dandelions are better-looking than the older, laidback dandelions, even better than daffodils maybe, or marigolds, the fact that many things are just starting to turn green now, the fact that the seasons still come and go despite climate change, ﬂoods, the fact that it’s always a relief though, to see them come, the seasons, not the ﬂoods, the fact that on some level I think I still believe I can ﬂy and might just take off in a high wind one ﬁne day if the mood strikes me, the fact that today the sun was out and there was a nice breeze blowing and every red-winged blackbird was declaring his love, and it really seemed like I just might be able to ﬂy, and then there was a big commotion, wild whooping sounds and laughter coming from behind me, and knew I was in for trouble, keys, Adam’s apple, pinching temples,
Meanwhile, real life. The world has changed on us, so I'm sure we're all just trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Reading of any kind has to fit in in a new way - both in time, and in mental place. I think at this point most of us are behind. I want to encourage everyone to take their time and enjoy the book. And, if you're not enjoying it, don't torture yourselves. Take a break, stop, slow down, read something else, whatever is best for you. We're here to enjoy a very strange and long book, and that's are only real purpose. I don't want anyone to feel they are getting dragged along. So, of course, relax on your pacing. You can still comment here now, and you can revisit when you catch up. We'll all still be following all these threads.
This weeks questions
1. How is your progress?
2. How has COVID-19 impacted your reading of this book?
3. What are your thoughts on these pages?
4. So, we reading about all these movies (and novels), most of which I haven't seen. I'm not sure I could even identify Katherine Hepburn, or most of the other famous actors for the era before my cinema life. Tell us a movie of book Ellmann has inspired you to check up on.
• All that Heaven Allows p397
• Pie p405?
• Silver Bridge collapse. 1967 p414
• Open heart surgery p422
• Julie Andrews p434 etc
• P443 is really beautiful
• Mary Kondo p460
• Ronny just passing by p469
• Sue Bender, author, on Amish p478
• Global dimming was noticed in 1961 p489
• Fanny Trollope p556
• She dwells on disturbing stuff – thinking of goiter where she tells us we shouldn’t even have to think about it, and then goes on and on telling use about it.
COVID-19 has impacted my reading overall - I'm just reading less. Having my kids home all day and trying to develop some sort of learning plan for them is taking a lot of time. We're also watching family movies at night and letting the kids stay up a little later, also cutting into my reading time. And then I'm reading the news way more than normal. The family part of this is a good thing, but the general anxiety is not.
I had two big "moments" in this section. One was figuring out the title. Every time I pick this book up my kids ask "What page are you on now?" and "did you figure out the title yet?". I'm not surprised that it has to do with her mother since it seems to be her deepest, most returning thought to think of her mother and say "I'm broken", "it broke me".
I also am embarrassed to admit I was envisioning the lion and her cubs living in some far off country so figuring out the the lion was an American mountain lion struck me. And seeing the sad interactions with humans shifted that story for me.
We are well past the half way point and I will keep going.
Kudos, Jennifer, and power to you to keep going! But sorry about the general anxiety. You're a good mom. My kids aren't doing anything yet, but supposedly tomorrow they will start receiving some remote instruction.
About the title, do you mind explaining more. I think I might have missed parts. I know her mother lived in Newburyport (Connecticut?)...but I don't remember any reference to ducks there. I wrote down what I think is the section, p491-496. And...really cute about your kids. My kids are curious too, but older and with some eye-rolling type of curiosity.
page 494 "the fact that Mommy was about two when she walked straight into the pond saying "Ducky! Ducky! Ducky! and Abby rescued her"
and then it goes in to Abby and her mother's relationship during her illness
page 495 "the fact that Abby saved Mommy's life in that duck pond"
page 496 "ducks, Newburyport"
I don't have so many thoughts on this week's reading. I've found it difficult to concentrate on it - a combination of what's going on in the world and at home, and also I think I've reached my interest level with the book. It feels like a task rather than enjoyment at the moment - about 15 pages seems to be my reading max, and I feel like I'm getting slower and slower in my speed to read one page.
This section again felt different to the previous two. Less stress about her business and global issues, and more feelings of loss and regret over her parents and Abby.
One quote that really struck me:
p537:"the fact that kids grow, while their parents gradually subside and disintegrate".
This resonated with me. I think that there are many times as a parent when you're putting so much effort into doing the best for your kids that your own needs and time to nurture yourself get put on the back-burner, and rather than continuing to grow yourself at times it can feel like you're getting crushed with the weight of it all.
I'm not knowledgeable on old classic films, and I'm getting increasingly irritated with the many, detailed references to them. It's like a friend boring you with the minutiae detail of a film you've not seen in the cinema - unless you've seen it yourself there's nothing to connect to. Also, the detail on the many dreams she has - I don't think anyone is ever interested in anyone else's dreams.
I find myself looking forward to the mountain lion scenes. They offer some respite, both in form and subject matter, from the intensity of the rest of the book.
Ploughing on, nonetheless. I'm definitely stressed by COVID-19 for reasons put on that other thread, which is affecting my reading. If it was on my normal commute and dipping into this twice a day on the bus I feel I'd be getting a lot more out of it. For the moment, I only seem to have time to read after 10pm, and this feels the wrong type of book to be reading at that time of night.
I'm enjoying Ellmann, but I prefer this in small bites. And I noticed you mentioned 15 pages, which, in hindsight, is I think the ideal pace. Read 15 pages and be done for the day, satisfied (perhaps even enjoying the dream parts.) Maybe it's time to have that as the daily goal. I'm certainly happy to switch to that myself. Plough on...but with a smaller ploughshare.
Please forgive me, I actually like the dreams and the movie talk. I find the dreams relatable, more so then most literary dreams, because they're all anxiety and that's exactly what my own dreams come down to. The only lesson in them is what's galling me (and typically what I just need to chill about). As for the movies, I haven't seen them either, but I'm curious and she makes me _want_ to see them. I'm curious about these iconic old films and movies stars. But I am with you on the parenting.
Wish you well.
Over on FB Darryl says he's started reading... I think he started today.
Pilling a cat. Seems like the right phrase for that. One of ours needs a nightly liquid medicine - forever. He has serious allergies. It’s a lot easier than a pill, but still a struggle.
Glad you’re making progress.
The lion's journey is really interesting to me as the shift from life in nature to human interaction happens.
I found the second half of the book to really get into a flow and I ended up really liking this. I hope everyone else has a good experience too!
I'm going to put up the week 4 thread, even though I'm not there yet.