Friday, July 22, 2011

"I wish that I could push a button/And talk in the past and not the present tense."

The Song: "Brilliant Mistake," The Costello Show (Elvis Costello). Words & music by Declan MacManus (Elvis Costello). Track 20 of The Very Best of Elvis Costello & the Attractions, 1994.
When/how acquired: Purchased CD, c. 1994.
Listen/watch here.

This track appeared first on the 1986 album King of America, which my then-boyfriend owned on vinyl, but I never did. For some reason the songs on this album are credited to Elvis Costello's birth name, Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, which reminds me that I've always wondered what his friends call him. Surely his wife doesn't call him Elvis? "Aloysius" was my own grandfather's middle name, and I always liked it, although you probably couldn't call a kid that today.

Anyway, I digress. We're having a heat wave in central Maine, along with the rest of the country, and my brain is melting and slowly leaking out of my ears. It seems impossible that a month ago I had the heat on, and I know that a month from now we'll already be looking at autumn. That does not make today's 90-degree temperatures any easier to take. Dizzy lies in front of my floor fan and whimpers; I'm sitting here with a cold pack draped around my neck, although it's turned lukewarm and clammy. Disgusting. I could go work at the state library and probably will, since the heat's making my computer erratic (at least, I hope it's the heat). But I feel both worried and guilty about Dizzy, who will probably need a trip to the river or the reservoir in another half hour or so.

I realize it's been a very long time since I posted a reading list, and since it has, I'll make all of next week's posts about books. The problem is that I've been reading too much for work, and some of that is confidential, so I need to figure out what I can and can't admit to having read.

Still, I have no reservation about recommending my current reading material, which is Hodder's UK trade paperback reissue of NINE COACHES WAITING by Mary Stewart. I read this book first when I was nine, I think. It was one of the very first grown-up books I ever read, and I reread my mother's paperback copy until it fell to pieces. It is a modern (well, 1958) updating of a classic Gothic tale: Linda Martin, English governess, comes to the remote Chateau de Valmy to care for the nine-year-old Comte, an orphan whose uncle Leon serves as guardian. Leon's son is a handsome rogue named Raoul, who sweeps Linda off her feet -- but soon enough, Linda realizes that all is not as it seems, and that both she and her young charge are in deadly peril.

At nine years old, I wanted to live in this book. I wanted to ride in the passenger seat of Raoul de Valmy's Cadillac, taking the Alpine turns at reckless speed. I wanted to be able to make my own ball gown from Italian gossamer found in a small mountain town. I wanted to drink cafe fine, not that I knew what cafe fine was, and quote William Blake to handsome strangers.

I do occasionally quote William Blake to strangers. And I drink my share of coffee, though I'm still not completely sure about the definition of cafe fine.

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