I just finished rereading one of my all-time favorite books, "Fair and Tender Ladies" by Lee Smith. It's our book club's April selection -- Sonya and I both recommended it -- and I was glad to have an excuse to read it again. It had been about 10 years. But I was also a little apprehensive and wondered whether it would live up to the hype I've built up about it in my own mind. It's so disappointing to read a book, love it, tell everyone you know they should read it, then reread it yourself a few years later and wonder why you thought it was so great. I am prone to this.
However, "Fair and Tender Ladies" was every bit as good as I remembered, although I still think the cover needs a redesign. I fell in love with Ivy Rowe, and Smith's beautiful writing, all over again. There was some talk of inviting Smith to our book club -- the manager of our wonderful local bookstore is in our book club and can swing such things -- but that talk died down, which is just as well, because if I were hanging out in someone's living room, maybe even my own, with Lee Smith I'd probably either forget how to talk or forget how to shut up.
These quotations won't be as good out of context, but I'm recording them here, because I love lines that really resonate and give you something to think about.
"But I feel that things are happening two times allways, there is the thing that is happening, which you can say, and see, and there is another thing happening too inside it, and this is the most important thing but its so hard to say."
"You know I used to have so much spunk. Well, I have lost my spunk some way. It is like I was a girl for such a long time, years and years, and then all of a sudden I have got to be an old woman, with no inbetween. Maybe that has always been the problem with me, a lack of inbetween. For all of a sudden when I saw those lights, I said to myself, Ivy, this is your life, this is your real life, and you are living it. Your life is not going to start later. This is it, it is now. It's funny how a person can be so busy that they forget this is it. This is my life."
"Sometimes I despair of ever understanding anything right when it happens to me, it seems like I have to tell it in a letter to see what it was, even though I was right there all along!"
"There has got to be one person who is the lover, and this time it was me, and one who is the beloved which was Honey. And I will tell you the truth -- may be it's best to be the lover, some ways. Because even if it don't work out, you are glad. You are glad you done it. You are glad you got to be there, anyway, however long it lasted, whatever it cost you -- which is always plenty, I reckon."
"The statue of Oakley is always working. Its back is always bent, its face is always turned away. For it aint no way to make a living from a farm. And you know, I must of knowed that somehow, it must of been down in my mind the same as those stories are, in the still place where you just know things. I must of knowed it from childhood, from watching it kill Daddy first, then Momma. But that is the thing about being young -- you never think that what happened to anybody else might happen to you, too. Your life is your own life, that's how you think, and you are always so different. You never listen to anybody else, nor learn from what befalls them. And the years go so fast."
"Life seems contrary to me, as contrary as I am. I feel like you never say what you ought to, nor do as you should, and then it is too late. It is all over. I have spent half of my life wanting and the other half grieving, and most often I have been wanting and grieving the same thing. There has been precious little inbetween."
"Even if it is just me sitting on this porch, I will not be lonely. Although I know that not one hour for the rest of my life will go by without me missing Oakley and that's a fact. But I will tell you another fact which is just as true, it hit me yesterday. I can read every book that John O'Hara ever wrote. I can make up my own life now whichever way I want to, it is like I am a girl again, for I am not beholden to a soul. I can act like a crazy old woman if I want to which I do. I can get up in the morning and eat a hot dog, which I did yesterday. I don't know what I might do tomorrow!"
"So says Molly, who has gotten right set in her ways with old age. I think a person will go one way or the other, don't you? Either they will get more set in their ways, or they will get all shook up. I am shook up, myself."