The clock is creeping towards five o’clock as I write these words. Jola came up to check on me, wondering what’s up with my sudden stillness. He’s a smart dog, getting used to the strangeness of these pandemic days. Time and time again he wonders why people in different rooms of the house suddenly start talking to walls. And why on earth do walls actually talk back? A mystery for the entire dogdom. Don’t trust a talking wall, they figure — never trust what you can’t smell.
This fourteenth of may was the fifth anniversary of my arrival to Santiago de Compostela after a month-long trip. With each passing year, an increasingly more distant version of me managed to do it, and the heart-aching longing for those days turns into a simple remembrance. Not having been troubled by other problems in the interim is a blessing. Here’s to five more years of such. I’m looking at you, Covid-19.
Anyhow, it was a tough week, not without its tiny pleasures, of course. I’m cruising along yet another audiobook. I love physical books, but I find audiobooks a worthy addition to my days. Listening to them is not quite like reading the book. No more, no less — just different. The book is there, no doubt, but with an added layer of performance, and a loss of your control over the rhythm of intake. It’s the best use for all the dead time in your commute. It effectively nullifies the dread of being stuck in traffic, and at night, having a chapter before sleeping, you can’t help but feel like a child being read to.
I practically devoured the thirteen hours of The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood. Like the Handmaid’s Tale before it, it’s an epistolary novel told in the first person, which lends itself perfectly to the voices of whoever is doing the reading. Listening to the incredible Elizabeth Moss give life to the titular handmaid on the first book, I can’t say I didn’t feel like I was perusing Offred’s forbidden tape recordings. The beautiful prose (Scrabble for the win), brought to life with the actors’ pauses, whispers and asides, added a level of distress to an already distressing topic.
The sequel, written thirty years later, was born to a reality that seems a couple of steps closer to its fiction. It’s driven by three narrators — two girls and a powerful Aunt, and moves forward in a faster pace through a complex web of events. The most disturbing thing of all is the author’s assertion that none of it was invented for the sake of the book. Everything happened or is currently happening somewhere in the world.
The author has recently celebrated 80 years of age. In a recent interview, Margaret proudly presented her flowery-themed face mask. She is a fascinating person. Her masterclass on creative writing was full of precise information, wit, and, of course, a classy, pondered eloquence. In every interview, you can’t help but shiver with the insights she extracts from the changing times, her dark, fiendish sense of humor, and, last but not least, her mischievous smile.
I definitely have to read more of her work. Maybe Oryx and Crake? This pandemic could use a bit of escapism…