I just got back from a wonderful, relaxing weekend away in the Hamptons. It was just what I needed; over the past two months, since moving to New York, I have barely stopped. I was getting to the stage where every morning on waking up I felt like I hadn’t slept at all, and having a weekend of lazy mornings, early nights, bracing air and beachside walks was my kind of heaven. Thanks to working for a company involved in recruitment for the hospitality industry, my boss pulled a few strings for me and my friend at the Montauk Yacht Club, and we got an excellent rate that allowed us to afford a luxurious couple of nights in this beautiful little town right on the tip of Long Island. It was bliss! The ‘season’ is now over, so the town was pretty much deserted. Just a few diners, a pizza parlor, and the best kind of tacky tourist shops were open, and the windswept, glorious beach was populated solely by seagulls and crabs.
As the day wore on, the clouds scuttled in over the pale November sun, staining the sky pink and gold. Here, on the edge of this fork sticking out of New York, the splendour, and the power, of the natural world was visible in all its glory. Breathing in lungfuls of fresh sea air and staring out at the limitless horizon, I felt completely rejuvenated. It’s amazing what a change of air can do.
Back in the city, I am enjoying the feeling of peace and calm that I have carried back with me from the seaside. I have been reading Doctor Zhivago over the past week, and the feeling of constant stress, tension and activity of the novel echoes perfectly how I was feeling before my brief respite in Montauk. What has struck me the most about reading this turbulent, powerful novel, is just how different it is to how I remembered it being the first time. My abiding memory is of an impossibly romantic, heartrending story, but so far, I have seen little evidence of this. It is actually a rather impersonal tale, less about characters and more about circumstances, and I am starting to wonder whether my memory of the novel became intertwined with that of the much more sweepingly romantic film. Either that, or come part two, the tone will change. I am hoping very much for the latter. Though, it has made me think; how many of the books we read fade over time into a false memory of feelings and associations that the stories never contained? On rereading I find many ‘favourite’ books to be rather lacking, and I wonder if this has to do with my state of mind at the time of reading, or how I have been influenced afterwards.
More on Doctor Zhivago later in the week. I also hope to read Stephen Benatar’s Wish Her Safe At Home for the NYRB Reading Week being organised by The Literary Stew, but we’ll see. This week is already filled up with a variety of evening and weekend activities and time to read will not be as abundant as I would like. I’ll do my best, but one thing Montauk has taught me is to allow life to go at a slower pace, and if I don’t get everything done, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes you need to take the time to just stare into the horizon, and do nothing. It’s actually rather a lot of fun!