Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Autoroute du Soleil

"We are barreling toward Paris now, which sits on the map like a great glamorous spider in its web. The road has become crowded. There are old, slouching cars with winking indicators and big glittering ogre-like cars with black windows, tiny battered cars with frantic plumes of smoke fluttering from their exhausts and cars towing enormous caravans. There are trucks and lorries and untidy vans of every description, all blaring their horns. The children play Sweet and Sour out of the window. They wave and smile at everyone who passes. The Sweets wave and smile back. The Sours don't. The children keep a tally on a piece of paper. As we near the Paris peripherique the road becomes a torrent, an onward rush of roaring, barging traffic all hurtling with carefree ferocity toward the center. In a way I would like to join it: I don't know, perhaps it would be easier. Always the effort of resistance, of countermotion, of breaking off into what is untried and unknown: yet the unknown seems in its distance and blank mystery to contain for me a form of hope, a strange force that is pure possibility. Overhead the sky has come apart in great fraying scarves of pale gray and blue. Bursts of soft sunlight fall and fade and bloom again on the windscreen of the car. The temperature rises another notch. On the back seat, the census of the human disposition finds that people are in general more sweet than sour. Weaving and hesitating and being abused on all sides, we swing gloriously south, onto the Autoroute du Soleil."

There are few satisfactions equal to settling in with a new book by a trusted writer. In this case it is The Last Supper : a Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk (author of seven trustworthy novels and a manual on motherhood).