Sometimes, when I read a good book, I find myself seriously freaking out. It’s like, “How have I lived this long without having read this book before? How have I SURVIVED???”
The Mill on the Floss was the first book that really did it for me. I was all hyped on living in England and going to Oxford and boarding with boys and studying English literature in a genuinely medieval tower with an Italian man whose lover used to send him to work with the most delightful blueberry scones…
Daniel Deronda (also by George Eliot) failed to produce to same sob-inducing euphoria and I’ve never quite gotten over it.
But The Handmaid’s Tale did me in next. I’d never gotten Margaret Atwood up until then. I’d tried to get into her short stories—she seemed like the sort of author one ought to like—but it was that strange dystopian-before-dystopian-was-cool paperwork that really set me reeling.
Then came Middlesex, followed by a rather disappointing foray into everything else Jeffry Eugenides has ever written (I still haven’t quite forgiven him but at least, unlike George Elliot, he is not dead yet so there’s still time).
Since Middlesex though, I’ve been going through a bit of a low point.
That’s when, on our second to last day in Sint Maarten, my future mother in law casually mentions The Poisonwood Bible and informs me that she’s “traded in” for it at the poolside leave-a-book-take-a-book box.
“I think you’d like it,” she says. “It’s very anthropological. There’s a lot of, you know, tribal…”
Her voice trails off and I can tell she’s trying to figure out whether or not “tribal” is the right word to use in the presence of a woman who teaches anthropology. My mom does the same thing now, only with the word “culture,” and it begins to dawn on me that there may have been some truth to that student evaluation I received last semester—the one that called me “self righteous.”
And this—this being self righteous—is not good. In fact, as far I can tell from the one third or so of The Poisonwood Bible that I’ve read so far, self-righteousness is going to be the downfall of the poor Price family.
So I’m going to have a nice hard think on that before starting up the next semester on Thursday. Because I want my students to like me, but more importantly I want them to like anthropology, or, at the very least to like going to college.
In the meantime though, it’s time for my usual histrionics: How did I miss this book? How have I not read this until now??? It’s part of the Oprah Book Club for crying out loud!
PS: No spoilers. I still have a few hundred pages to go.