Three weeks of that [month] were hot, fair, and dry, but the fourth and fifth were tempestuous and wet. I do not know why that change in the atmosphere made a cruel impression on me, why the raging storm and beating rain crushed me with a deadlier paralysis than I had experienced while the air remained serene: but so it was, and my nervous system could hardly support what it had for many days and nights to undergo… Charlotte Bronte, Villette (chapter 15)
How fitting to read these words as wind and rain lash my house, and the temperature drops steadily toward freezing. Here in Minneapolis we had a lovely, long “Indian” summer, and I believe it’s time to pay the price. Winter is coming. Last week and this, I found myself glancing out the window in the morning, out of habit to look for snow.
As for why Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, and perhaps Charlotte Bronte, its author, don’t know why bad weather results in bad moods? I realize they didn’t know about Seasonal Affective Disorder then, but still, isn’t it pretty clear? Lucy is either being disingenuous, or wilfully obtuse.
I picked Villette for my book group this month, and will have to apply myself diligently to finish it. About every other page (I exaggerate not) I find some reference or phrase unknown to me, and I wish heartily I’d ordered the Oxford World Classics edition, as these editions have good editors and notes.
The reason(s) I did not were sound. I owned two copies already, both old. While not valuable, they are attractive on the shelf, and pleasing to leaf through; one has photos within. These were too fragile to accompany me in my present hobo bag; nothing comes out the way it went in. I visited used bookstores to look for an inexpensive, “beater” copy of Villette.
The ridiculousness of the phrase “beater copy of Villette” is not lost on me, reader.
I found a used, unmarked, sturdy mass-market paperback for a mere $2.50. I deemed myself satisfied until I began to read, and longed for notes. Neither of my present copies possessed them, either. Determining that three copies of one book I had not yet finished was more than sufficient, I soldiered on, jotting phrases in my Field Notes journal to look up later. For the first time I found myself longing for an e-reader, on which I might toggle back and forth between text and reference.
I went away this past weekend, though. On a train from the suburbs to the city, I remembered I’d forgotten to put my book in my bag. Facing a long ride home with the aforementioned book group approaching, I resolved to visit a bookstore in my peregrinations about the city, and procure yet another copy. The Penguin and Modern Library editions were attractive, but expensive. I opted for another cheap MMPB, which I dutifully read on the return train.
On reaching my destination, however, I wondered why my bag felt so heavy. I began to remove items from its depths. Imagine my chagrin when I unearthed both the new and old MMPB copies of Villette. FOUR copies, now, none with notes. I struggled mightily this morning, tempted to do what I should have done earlier and order that Oxford edition. By the time I slogged through slow connections and a forgotten password, though, my compulsion had passed. I will continue with the newer, more compact and less typo-ridden copy, looking up phrases and terms, (e.g., sternutation: a sneeze) as I go. While this will certainly be time consuming and thus unhelpful with a looming deadline, perhaps I will learn something from the experience. What that might be, I’m still not sure.