Monday, 3 March 2014

Apart and Together

This is Monday, the beginning of my new writing-and-homemaking work week. There will be some changes to my blogging schedule although naturally I do not want to neglect my loyal readers or the whole knotty subject of Single Life. I am more than ever convinced that Singles need a lot more pastoral attention, by priests and older married laypeople, than they currently get. Yes, of course, children and married people need care, too. But Singles seem to me at such a disadvantage when it comes to modern life.

I recently read a novel, a very well-written novel by a woman I know, called "Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar" It is not a Catholic novel or a good novel for the unmarried to read, and it unwittingly illustrates how Single men and women, especially ones who have strong religious beliefs, are marks for shallow, sex-obsessed thrill-seekers, particularly those titillated by conquering the scruples of Christians. I would have given it four stars for writing on Goodreads, but then removed a star for its creepiness about Christians and younger men, but I know the author, so decided to say nothing on Goodreads at all. Great writing--except for the pornographic bits, which I skipped so can't judge. Scary protagonist, who wails at men's perversions but utterly fails to see her own.

Worries about the luggage scale at the airport meant I had to leave C of a RC at home and explain to my mother why I had it in the first place. Thus the slim volume will not trouble the chaste precincts of the Historical House's ex-linen closet, which is now B.A.'s and my library. I cannot imagine what B.A. would think of C of a RC; perhaps he would condemn it as unfair to men over 40 while being comforted that I had bought it on sale.

To be frank, I was not thinking of B.A. when I bought it, but of the author, whom I remember fondly wrapped in leopard print and leather at various Toronto poetry events. Thus I was delighted to find her novel on sale, although (as mentioned above) later troubled by the creepy hot-young-Christian-men stuff. As I traveled about Toronto visiting friends and having a lot of fun, I did not think about B.A. all that much, except at Mass, or in conversations with married friends about marriage, or when tempted to spend money, or when looking at art. I cancelled my plan to visit the Hamilton Art Gallery because I felt very guilty that I had already seen so much glorious Canadian art that B.A. hadn't. It just seemed unfair.

This is not to say that I felt at all "Single." I certainly did not. When I was Single, I felt a great sense of restlessness and uncertainty about the future and what it held. As a married lady spending four weeks away from my husband, I knew that a plane trip back to Glasgow was in my future, soon to be followed by Laundry Day--unless the plane crashed, which it didn't. And, lo, a load of washing is swishing around in the cellar as I write. Also, of course, I could feel that irreplaceable benevolent masculine presence across the ocean.

Still, coming together after being apart for four weeks is eye-opening because there are marked contrasts between living with a husband and not living with a husband. The first is that in Toronto I almost always travel on public transit alone, especially to Mass, counting out the change for my fare as the bus looms into sight. Although I am usually travelling to meet someone, I live the half-hour to hour (or more) in self-contained silence, making snap judgments about where to sit, etc. But in Edinburgh, I often travel with B.A., who pays for the tickets and tells me where to sit, like so: "You sit there." I find this startling.

The second is that in Toronto my father begins Grace before supper, and we all chime in at "...the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." In Edinburgh my husband is used to saying Grace aloud all by himself, and I wonder how that came about. True, at Catholic dinner parties, Grace is often read from the Collect of the day, but I don't remember when why I decided just to let B.A. say ordinary Grace Before Meals without my contribution. Maybe he was still saying the Scottish Piskie one, which I still don't know, when we met. All the same, curious.

The third is that in Toronto I generally do not bring my family with me to events with friends and so say whatever I want to say without worrying whether my nearest and dearest will cringe. The two big exceptions to this were my book launches, and I gave my sister a present after the first one, although my mum and brother had to lump the second one unrewarded. (The amusing thing about the second one was that I declared that writers must not be afraid but say controversial things no matter what the personal cost, but when Reader Margaret noticed that I had managed to avoid "Seraphic Singles moments" [i.e. blunt remarks about sexuality] I said "I'm not reading that stuff in front of my mum! )

However, in Edinburgh I generally accompany B.A. to events with friends, and when I say whatever I want to say, in a blunt womanly Canadian fashion, he sometimes winces. He winces, and I see the wince, and I get mad, because in Canada husbands don't wince. In Canada when your spouse says something you don't like, you don't cringe: you go glassy-eyed or you gently change the subject. Spouses are never wrong until you both get home, and I don't know what happens then because I have heard my parents quarrel only twice my whole life long, and not since 1992, and not about words. Still, it could be that because of British sensibilities, I would hurt a lot of British feelings and lose some British friends if B.A. didn't try to keep a lid on my Canadian forthrightness. That said, in common with the Poles, I really hate the British tendency towards [censored].

The fourth is that B.A. is very tidy at home--much tidier than I am by nature--and so I strive to become as tidy as he is and try to stop myself in the act of littering the flat with coffee cups.

And there are a few other revelations, too, about bad habits I fall into in Scotland, and bad habits I fall out of in Scotland. The bad habits I fall into are eating too much, drinking too much, complaining too much, staying indoors too much watching too much TV and growing terribly isolated. The bad habits I fall out of in Scotland are, primarily, sins of untidiness and uncharity. I have many many uncharitable thoughts when I am in Toronto, usually because public transit has grown too squashy. I feel like a rat living with too many other rats and am tempted to bite them to death. I don't think B.A. is ever tempted to bite anyone to death; he is too kindhearted.

Ceremony of Innocence update: I got a royalties cheque and sales are mounting up. I am absolutely delighted! Most books do not break a thousand sales, and Ceremony broke the thousand mark in fewer than twelve weeks. Bless all readers who bought copies, whether online or in book form.

Also, I enjoyed this review very much. I noted in the combox the joy of a lady who found Ceremony in her public library. If you want to read Ceremony, but can't find it at your library, I believe libraries take requests. So go ahead and ask a librarian how to ask the library to buy it. I do not at all mind the idea of cash-strapped readers just borrowing Ceremony from the library. If every library in the USA alone carried Ceremony, Ignatius Press and I would be very happy little pumpkins. This reminds me, once again, I really enjoyed Fiorella de Maria's Do No Harm, and although it really is a must-read for British fiction lovers, readers from other countries will love it, too.


Jam said...

Hooray for royalties!! I am still mystified that there are people who would be put off by the protagonist living with her boyfriend. Are these people who don't know people living with their boyfriends? I mean, if someone told me the book made a case in favor of cohabitation I'd be wary, but I can't imagine drawing conclusions from the simple fact of such arrangements being depicted in the book. If anything I thought you were a bit too generous in making Caitriona so understanding and respectful of Catholic teaching; the more realistic thing in my experience would have been if she'd been wholly convinced that she was in the right and was entitled to go up for communion. But then my book would not be published apparently, because how awful to encounter such a person, I guess.

Making libraries buy things for you is very satisfying. I recommend it.

Woodbine said...

Awww, a mention! Well, politics and parents are very different beasts. I wonder about artists/writers/actors etc who reveal graphic personal details in their work - I guess they have no choice but to share with their parents.

Magdalena said...

Congratulations for your sales! :-)

Julia said...

Today I spotted 'Ceremony of Innocence' at my local Catholic bookshop here in Melbourne, so Ignatius has sent it across the world!

Seraphic said...

Yay, Melbourne shop! I suspect that's because one of you girls wrote a review in the Melbourne Catholic magazine!

Honestly, I think a significant percentage of sales are linked to you all.

Anna said...

This post inspired me to request that the Chicago public library order Ceremony of Innocence and I just found out today that they did!