We've had over a week by now of very high temps coupled with very high humidity and pollution. Our aged air conditioner isn't able to handle it effectively. Our thinking on this:
Until now we were fine since the temperatures were lower than normal until this heat wave rolled in. My sense is that once Hurricane Bill's wind cone edge reaches up here, which it will be doing fairly soon -- more thunderstorms are predicted for today and tomorrow -- the temps will fall into the 70's. The near close of a stupendous heat wave isn't the best time to buy an a/c unit, methinks .... We could comparison shop and order a new one, later, online. Installation would be easier in cooler weather too. As well, come September we're going to be gone a great deal, particularly Vaquero. So that's the decision: We'll wait.
In the meantime though, sleeping has been sporadic, coming up with meals that don't include turning on the oven has challenged the imagination, focusing on much of anything at home has been nearly impossible.
Fortunately I had the perfect novel to to take me to another time and place, in which, often, the characters were feeling the same heat and humidity.
John Crowley's new novel is The Four Freedoms
. It is an historical novel of the U.S. in the WWII era, but it isn't a battlefield novel. What we have is a detailed, generous imagining of our culture, and the social interactions among people -- women, disabled, etc. -- who had been by-and-large mostly left out of the job market until they became essential to the industry of supplying the war with everything from transport to manufacture of armaments, planes and ships.
The central point of view is that of a young man named Prosper Olander, whose smaller disability was made more severe by a well-meaning operation on his spine. However, due to the happy fortune of who brings him up, he retains a curious and optimistic nature, which many, including a variety of women and the reader, find attractive.
Via Prosper, the life stories and interactions with the women he encounters, a portrait of this nation at home is built layer by layer, from the Depression through WWII. This novel also gently provokes the reader into comparing and contrasting then with where we are in the first decade of the 21st century. Yet, even now, wheelchair and other disabled access to so much is still not available in our country. Women still struggle with many of the same expectations, dilemmas and obstacles.
The prose that tells us this story is beautifully composed, but it is not of the quality people like to call 'lyrical.' It is a prose that has lifted 'serviceable and transparent' to the enduring level of literature, that reveals the joy experienced by people from getting the job done, and done right.
I particularly appreciate how comfortably familiar everything in the novel appears. This is a novel about work as much as it is about everything else it is about. This is the history of all of us / US; we have absorbed it, more, and less, via our older relatives and their friends. Like the voice of Hank Williams, the matter of The Four Freedoms
is in our national dna.
I hope this nation can get back to work soon. Please.