book review: Stet: An Editor's Life

Stuck at home again today. I finished reading Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill almost two weeks ago but have yet to review it. The book was written in 2002 and is a memoir of Ms. Athill's life.

The book was like a rich chocolate cake: best when consumed in small pieces. Hence it took me sometime to get through the whole book, but it was delicious. The book chronicles her life as an editor in London, from WWII to the 80's. She knew so many interesting people and described so many wonderful sounding books by authors I had never heard of. I must have added 10 books to my Amazon Wishlist.

I often wonder what my mom's life was like before she had children. She did not get started until 29, and kept working until 34. She would have been my age when she "retired." I feel like Stet gave me a peek into Linda's life. People were real, they ate, they drank, they slept around, they lived. I have this vision of anyone born before me as being very prim and proper, and this is what I felt was expected of me. So I have been largely prim and proper. Boy was I fooled. Yes, naturally some people tread the thin and narrow line, but others are out there enjoying life. I think my mom, like Ms. Athill, loved and lived a pretty full life before me. (Oh how annoying to realize that the world did not begin with me.)

One particular quote from the book that I loved follows:

"The chief difference, it seems to me, between the person who is lucky enough to possess the ability to create - whether with words or sound or pigment or wood or whatever - and those who haven't got it, is that the former react to experience directly and each in his own way, while the latter are less ready to trust their own responses and often prefer to make use of those generally agreed to be acceptable by their friends and relations. And while the former certainly include by far the creative proportions of individuals who would be difficult to live with, they also include a similarly large proportion of individual who are exciting or disturbing or amusing or inspiring to know." (pg. 244)

One of my girl friends in college and I had planned to live together, and then the opportunity never really presented itself. Then one semester it did. I assumed I would move in my group of girl friends. I remember one of my (still) very close friends telling me that living with me would be too much.

Given my inability to remember what I did yesterday, or what transpired in my childhood, why do I remember this statement? I know she did not mean to hurt me. Yet, even writing this now, it stings a little.

The quote above helped me understand what my girl friend meant. Which I guess is the point of all great literature: to help us understand the human condition. Loving me was one thing and living with me was another.

After reading this and thinking about it, I thanked Brent for both living and loving me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry! I hope you know I love you, and I love you even more now than I did then. I could try to support my hurtful words saying we weren't supposed to have five people in the already full four bedroom apartment, but that really doesn't matter when it was the feelings involved more than the practicality of the situation. The words hurt, and I apologize. It's ironic because as we've become more connected over the years, I've thought of that comment a lot too. Maybe it is a good thing you've shared it here and this can be closure for both of us. By the way, I am glad you have Brent who both loves you and lives with you as well!