Thursday 26 November 2009


I read those posts every year on the blogs of American friends about what they're thankful for, and I love them and am heartened by them. But it doesn't come easily to me to do the same. Partly, I suppose, it's because I didn't grow up with this festival and the accompanying rituals - and I rather wish I had: what you're grateful for is a lovely thing to pause and focus on. Partly, I fear, a temperamental tendency to negativity and, um, moaning stands between me and voluntary engagement in this exercise - oh dear! So, anyway, I tend not to make these annual lists, although I enjoy reading other people's.

However, it so happens that I spent a happy half hour on the morning of this Thanksgiving Day feeling full of gratitude, so it seems appropriate to record this.  I was on the bus, reading Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, recommended by my favourite book reviewer, Litlove.  I sat there smiling more and more broadly and then giggling.  I could feel my toes curling up with happy gratification and delicious hilarity. Although it made me giggle, it is not a silly book. It is full of searing wit and a quite merciless sense of the ridiculous, though never cruel or misanthropic. It is beautifully written in a peerlessly sustained tone of ironic amusement which is never so distancing that you cease to vividly picture the scene or to care for the characters and to catch your breath, so powerful is the mixture of laughter and sorrow.

I laughed and laughed and felt sorry that I hadn't laughed much recently, dauntingly busy yet again at work, and glad that my sense of humour was intact (is there anything more resilient than humour?). And I thought: where would I be without books? Where would I have been for as long as I can remember? Somewhere an awful lot bleaker. Even if these days I don't always look first for escape into my head, but for greater acceptance of being right where I am, there will always be a place for taking a break. I'm grateful now and always for the sweet change of mood and voyage into imagination, for the stimulation and renewal that is a gift from someone never met, perhaps long dead.


Zhoen said...

I grew up without a Thanksgiving tradition, but it's grown on me. It's unrelated to religion or culture, a healthy impulse to be formally grateful.

Going to look to find that book.

Anonymous said...

What a delightful description of your reaction to this book.

Dale said...


Rhubarb Pie, by the way, is one of the things that I associate with Thanksgiving. So there's a double association of Rhubarb with happiness & gratitude, for me.

(Happy Thanksgiving, from your cryptocranky Yankee admirer, Jean!)

litlove said...

I am so, so happy about this and thankful for it too! I have much to thank you for, also, Jean, in terms of book recommendations and wonderful support. So the feelings are quite mutual!

Dick said...

Is there anything more resilient than humour? Nope. Always on tap, but too frequently disregarded when we're insisting that life is real, life is earnest. I'm glad that Trollope helped you away from such a misapprehension on your London omnibus, Jean!