This past July, I was sweaty. In 2008, my air-conditioner was disconnected during a renovation and so I stayed sweaty the whole month. My kids were sweaty too.
Why no hook up you ask?
Firstly, getting the a/c going would entail moving the bikes, big wheels and scooters that are piled up on it. This is Riverdale, and other than my oven, I have limited storage options.
Secondly, ever since my task-friendly ex-husband moved out shortly after said renovation was completed, things like calling the air-conditioning guy pretty much go undone. I’m notoriously bad at domestic administration, and find the scheduling, waiting and paying for repair people unbearably tedious. Not to mention the paperwork.
The final and perhaps most telling reason is that the annoying self righteous nimby in me simply loves not having air conditioning. “My house is triple bricked”, I tell people. “Keeps the cool in”. “That 100-year old oak is a pain to rake up after in the Fall, but she’s nature’s temperature control”. I like to think of myself as morally superior to those who complain about winter and then spend their summer with their pours snapped shut inside their freezing homes.
But this July I almost buckled. The hottest day coincided with a need to be in Toronto, actually looking professional. I found myself traversing Bloor St in 40 degree heat, wearing a suit. I posted a comment on this blog that I reminded myself of L’Etranger, the hapless Meursault, wallowing simultaneously in existentialism, nihilism and absurdism.
I read L’Etranger in the 8th grade, en francais. Our teacher was the lovely Monsieur Stephen, who a tortured intellectual who wore bow ties and a fine moustache and who struggled to find peace with the limitations of teaching a bunch of Cotton Ginny-clad 13 year olds in the Beaches.
His choice of books was arguably overly ambitious, but I remember it. The sinister, unsettled feeling of the story. Monsieur trying to get us to think of the natural delirium that you feel when the sun is blaring down on you on the hottest days, which in the book, leads to a random murder. You’ll be relieved to hear that unlike Mersault, I found solace in the accessories department at Holt’s, which was nice and cool. One benefit of not being in North Africa. To other shoppers at least, if not my Visa card.
There was likely a whole lot to that book that was over my head that first reading. I’d take another stab at it now that I’m a tortured intellectual myself. In English, of course. I’m not really tortured. Or intellectual.
The first words: Mother died today.
Stunning opening. Kind of sets you up for the malaise of the rest of it nicely. Got me thinking about how important it is for a novel to start strong. Especially for a short-attention spanned quitter like me.
The American Book Review has a list of the 100 Best First Lines from Novels.
The Stranger is on there. Number 28.
Amy’s Russian comes in at Number 6.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)
I like number 5.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955).
Oh Vlad, you perv.