Monday, July 19, 2010
Underlined: BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara
I read this book during my first trip to Europe. I was alone, but never lonely, and completely nourished by the art, architecture, food, and literature that was smashing into my brain every waking hour of that first trip. I had just met a boy. (Little did I know I'd later marry him.) One of his favorite books was BUtterfield 8, and I took this to feel closer to him, and to get to know him better. It's pretty special getting to know someone through the things that move them.
That winter I took my favorite line from this favorite book of his and made a wood cut. It was pretty ugly I must admit, but I meant well, and he seemed to like it, and I'll always remember this line:
"Often she would sit at home with a book of poems in her hand and she would be looking in the direction of the window, a dreamy look in her eyes. He would look again and again at her, wondering what pretty thoughts had been started by what line in what poem. Then she would say suddenly something like: "Do you think I ought to ask the Hobsons for Thursday night? You like her, don't you?" Liggett supposed a lot of husbands were like him; two or three, at least, of his own generation had confided to him that they didn't know their own wives. They had been married, some of them, as much as twenty years; reasonably if not strictly faithful, good providers, good fathers, hard workers, and temperate. Then after a year or so of the depression, when they saw it was not a little thing that was going to pass, these men began taking stock of what life had given them or they had taken. Usually men of this kind began counting with, "I have a wife and two children..." and go on from there to their "investments," cash, job, houses, cars, boats, horses, clothes, furniture, trust fund, pair of binoculars, club bonds and so on. They were--these men--able to see right away that the tangible assets in the Spring of 1931 were worth on the whole about a quarter of what they had cost originally, and in some cases less than that. And in some cases, nothing."