The other day I started reading The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg. I had seen it on a library display shelf and while not recognizing the author’s name I did remember reading Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which is also mentioned on the front cover- a subtle prompt to the memory to make us choose this book to read.
What a strange book this is turning out to be. I’m having trouble grasping the story-line but Peter Hoeg’s fantasy-cum-thriller really does make you think of the place of sound and music in our more ordinary lives. So when it rained I closed my eyes and listened. Usually it’s just heavy rain or light rain, but this time I found I could focus on the different components of the rain sound. There was the tiled roof overhead which was a different sound to the noisier rain on the flat roof behind me and a quieter bounce on the flat roof in front of me . The back door was open and there were different sounds from the rain hitting a variety of textures, each to its own musical note, all blending into something that experience told me was heavy rain sound
Then the next day I sat in a café with a book and a coffee but this time I didn’t open the book straight away. I just listened, and I was listening to sounds that wouldn’t normally register with me. I would be so absorbed in my book that I would be oblivious to any noise around me.
So what did I hear ? Nearby four ladies talked in voices which had a strong contralto emphasis while from further away came a man’s voice, one with less variation and in a tenor tone. It was providing a fairly steady line, an X-axis with the female voices forming curves dashing up and down through it. You could have written music to it. Question. Answer. Laugh. Anecdote. Cup hitting saucer. Chair moving on floor. Little cough. Waitress voice. The beat came from the softened, amplified, background music ; the tympani from the soft kitchen clatter and underneath it all the muffled rise and fall of traffic noises from behind the glass windows. These sounds weren’t intrusive, But they WERE there. Perhaps we need some café music to fit them, a Cafe Coffee Suite, with different movements as the customers change, Disney handled rain music beautifully with Drip, Drip, Drop Little April Shower in his film Bambi.
So apart from the music how much can I learn about Peter Hoeg the person from this book? What sort of person is Peter Hoeg? I would say completely different to my last read, David Mitchell, who tells his tales with an imaginative use of language and sense of fun. But I read David Mitchell in his native English whereas I rely on a translator to read a Peter Hoeg story. I wonder if this makes a difference.
Nevertheless I thank you Peter Hoeg. I’ll do my best to understand your story.
Usually I don’t hesitate to discard a book if I’m not enjoying it so why haven’t I discarded Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling. Perhaps it’s because I don’t trust my own judgement. After all, think of the number of books she has sold and think of my lack of training in writing and the appreciation of literature .
So why has it got to the point where I still HAVE to read fifty pages a day if I’m to get it back to the library in time, apart from the fact that I find her writing very dull. What instinct prevented me from buying it for myself in the first place? There’s nothing wrong with the storyline. There is a vacancy. That’s a common happening in the real world and leaves plenty of room for the imagination to work. But it’s an adult vacancy. So why all this pre-occupation with the children of the village? To me they are mostly irrelevant to the filling of the vacancy which I thought was the purpose of the story.
I’m half way through the book and I am still having trouble distinguishing the characters. They are still shapeless, faceless people. Probably the children are the easiest. Krystal, Fats and Andrew, well I think I’d know them if I met them in the street ! But so far the adults blend together. I would probably have to start again to try and sort them out but I shouldn’t have to do that to enjoy the book. Perhaps I’ll read this book again some time in the future and thoroughly enjoy it, but I have doubts about that.
At least I can pick nice places to sit and read it, this time in the tree-tops with their roots down on the river bank.
A latte is a combination of the warmth of the glass in your hands, the taste and the aroma. There is a relaxation, a transporting to a more relaxed dreamy feeling, when suddenly WHOOSH , there she/he is with that dreaded bottle of cleaning fluid waving it around over a table and filling the air with that antiseptic enemy of coffee. I have tried explaining how it spoils the enjoyment of my drink; I have explained how easy it would be to wring out their little cleaning cloth in a small basin of something out the back and how that would be sufficient for wiping down tables. I’ve agreed that I know all about health and safety regulations. I’ve even walked out and left a barely touched coffee behind. Perhaps it’s just me. But I cannot enjoy a delicate latte if it has to compete with the smell of cleaning fluids or petrol fumes. Ah, it’s spring, let’s throw open the windows to that T-intersection with its constant flow of cars and trucks. And let’s smellywash the floor an hour before closing time. The trouble is that it happens in the places which have skilled baristas and because of their convenient locations I keep going back and resign myself to the occasional bad day.
Fortunately there are plenty of cafes with impeccable records in my book. One such is situated on the Barwon River and as you reach the door there is a series of three stepped fish ponds. So soothing.
I enjoy my Coffee, particularly a skinny latte mid-afternoon. I like to have my latte warmer than is considered politically correct as I want it to last for as long as possible. That warm glass in my hand is always a link to some other pleasant activity be it reading, chatting, observing others or just simply gazing out the cafe window and day-dreaming.
But it didn’t quite work out that way today as my TV recorder is practically full – no room for tonight’s downloads. It’s my own fault – there is always so much I’d like to watch but never enough time.
The earliest recording was the film South Solitary so I sat down with a home-made black coffee to watch it. Seven people on a lonely lighthouse island off the Australian coast in 1927. Circumstances reduced it to just two, each with their own personal and post WW1 problems. I found it a sheer delight, the delight of simple story telling, added to which is some beautiful photography.
I feel sorry for Margaret , one of the movie reviewers on At The Movies on ABC TV. And I quote – ” David, I actually wasn’t as impressed by this as you are and I watched it and I went, “When is the second act going to kick into this film?” And like it never happens. It’s like it goes forever, this monotony of life on the island.”
Hey, Margaret, those people were healing, they were finding a better life than they were expecting, and healing like theirs doesn’t happen rapidly; we needed to see the various strands which led up to that healing. It’s a story of hope for all of us. I just have one problem – I want to watch the film again so I can’t delete it from the Recorder
A parting gift but no sorrow as the future is bright with anticipation.