A Weekend in the Hamptons

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!

31 comments

  1. Beautiful, restful, mini-vacation. We all need those sometimes.Slow down and enjoy yourself.
    I too have found books very different after a second read. Usually books that I read as a child are very different as an adult reader. I’m sure many have had the same experience.

    1. Yes we do. Slowing down is something I need to learn to do better – I am trying, but it’s hard in a city like New York!

      Yes, childhood books especially strike me much differently as an adult. It makes me reluctant to reread books sometimes as I don’t want my initial impression to be tarnished!

  2. Wow you really are in NY when you can title a post Weekend in the Hamptons. Lovely photographs. There’s something magical about beaches in the cold.
    I have the same thoughts as you with Dr Zhivago – though I was blaming it on the translation I’m reading. I am enjoying it though.
    Have a restful week.

    1. Ha! I know – I feel like an Upper East Sider – in my dreams! Glad you liked the photos – I actually prefer beaches in the winter – the wildness and the emptiness suit my romantic soul.

      I’m glad it’s not just me. Are you reading the new translation or the old one? It’s interesting that as much as it’s not what I expected, I am still thoroughly absorbed in it. I’m not sure WHY, because on paper, it’s decidedly ropey (lots of clunky dialogue, I think), but somehow, it works as a whole. Something to explore when I post about the first half!

      Thank you, and I wish the same to you!

  3. Oh how wonderful – I know of the Hamptons from my Virago Modern Classic reading – very very New York as Joan says! Glad you had a restful time and hope you now feel revived.

    1. Oh yes, Verity! $1 million beach houses aplenty line the shores of Montauk and they are all pretty much weekend homes for Upper East Siders! I wish I could be one of them, but scraping by in Hoboken is more my style if I’m honest!

      Thank you – I’m glad too. Though my 6am starts have sort of removed that radiant glow already!

  4. There’s nothing quite like the seaside out of season, is there?

    As to the re-reading issue, life and experiences change us all and that is bound to affect our response to books. I try to accept that and read what is calling me the loudest, and it works pretty well most of the time.

    1. No, there really isn’t. I love the stormy, wintry seas under leaden skys. Much better than the crowded litter streaked beaches of the summer.

      Very beautifully put – I love the fluidity of words that allows us to react differently to them across time and age and experience.

  5. Beautiful pictures. Andy Warhol had a home at the very end of Montauk. It was quite a congregation point for the glitterati in the 1970s.

    Re DR. ZHIVAGO: It’s said that we never read the same book twice because we’re always at a different point in our lives when we re-read. One of my life-long re-reads is GONE WITH THE WIND and, based on the time of life when I’ve read it, I found it either romantic, infuriating, racist, a tome to female empowerment, a tome to female repression, unbearably sad, or a realistic view of war and its consequences. Who knows how I’ll feel about it when I pick it up for another re-read–which I undoubtedly will, having read it so many times I’ve lost count.

    1. Oh really? I didn’t know that. I’m not surprised – the light out there is amazing.

      That is so true as well – books speak to us powerfully at some points and leave us cold at others. Rereading can be a dangerous game! I love how you have so thorouhgly enjoyed your various experiences of reading Gone With the Wind though – it just goes to show how many different reactions and meanings a book can inspire and hold in us.

  6. I read this post yesterday, Rachel, and was distracted before I could comment. Such is life and here I am, viewing again your stunning pictures and feeling so glad for you and your little time away. We sometimes need to refuel, do we not? Good for you for taking the opportunity.

    I do think our state of mind affects how we respond to books; where we are in life, what is happening at the time, what experiences between the first read and second. It is really a lovely thing, though, as it means the literature is alive and can move us in different ways at different times. I’ll be interested in what you have to say about Dr. Zhivago. I know it will be another stellar review.

    Best get that winter coat soon. Winters in New York can be biting and snowy (yikes, I do sound like a mum, don’t I?).

    1. Thank you, Penny – you are such a lovely soul!

      I love that phrase you used about literature being alive – it’s so true. It is ever changing and ever full of fresh meaning. I will be posting on Doctor Zhivago towards the end of the week so stay tuned!

      Don’t worry – I am going coat shopping on Friday! Down coat here I come!

  7. I’ve never been to the Hamptons but so far, my favourite ocean place is around Ocean City, Maryland. That part of Maryland is a dream; with Assateague and Chincoteague National Seashores, complete with wild horses and horshoe crabs. There’s also Smith Island, founded in 1608, a group of small islands which until recently maintained the Cornish accent of their English ancestors…oh yes, don’t forget the crab cakes!

  8. I’m so glad you had a good weekend away, Rachel, and in the Hamptons too! It sounds lovely.

    I’ve been experiencing the same thing with some books that I’ve reread or tried to reread this year, as you know with Jane Eyre, but also with Anna Karenina, I sped through it in six days a few years ago and found it too sad to finish this year. It really makes me think I have to read a book more than once to say it’s a true favourite. (Although that will prove a challenge in the case of Middlemarch!) Of course, some books improve over time, I’ve picked up Howards End and it is delighting me much more than my previous read a few years ago.

    1. Thank you Carolyn! It really was such a treat, and I would never have been able to go unless my boss had pulled some strings so it was even more special because of that!

      Yes. It does make me wonder whether half the books I claim to be favourites of mine would stand the test of a second reading. Part of me doesn’t want to find out! Jane Eyre never ceases to delight me, but the big, epic classics I raced through in my teens tend to leave me cold now I am in my twenties. Perhaps it says something about my turbulent and emotional state of mind in those days! Howards End is another one I need to reread…I’m encouraged by you enjoying it so much this time!

  9. What a wonderful getaway! Hope it did you well. Am having the same type of reading experience with Doctor Zhivago as you. Did not remember the… maybe harshness is the word?

    1. It did, Frances, thank you! I am a new woman!

      I’m glad I’m not alone in this. It’s definitely a much more brittle book than I remember, much angrier, much more impersonal. I do seem to remember the tone changing between the first and second parts though, so I am interested to see where it’s going to go from here.

    1. Yes, it’s very interesting how our minds work in relation to reading, isn’t it? I do think there’s something in reading a book at the right time to get the most from it.

      Thank you!

  10. What a wonderful weekend, i’m glad you had the chance to escape and top up your energy levels a little bit. And sleep! The Hamptons always look lovely (admittedly I’ve only seen them on Gossip Girl -ahem). I love going to tourist towns out of season, it’s always rather a strange, deserted feeling, and all of the things aimed at visitors seem so redundant and a little over the top – odd that a place would feel empty without the people to whom it isn’t even home.
    Interesting what you say about Dr Z – I just started it late last night and it is not what I had expected really either, but I’m enjoying it very very much. Developed a taste for long novels when I was away, where I gobbled up Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, a Tale of Two Cities, and The Fountainhead (urrggh, i hated that one) amongst other shorter works. I’m very happy to have a great doorstop of a novel on my hands again, and the new edition is an absolutely beautiful thing.
    Do hope you read Wish Her Safe At Home – have just finished it yesterday afternoon, so brilliant, and quite unique I thought, am going to post my thoughts when i get them and myself all in one place – would love to hear yours too!

    1. Hi Jane! Thank you – I’m so glad I did too. I was tired of being so tired! I love tourist places out of season too – the feeling of emptiness suits me somehow. I can’t bear crowds anyway, and there is nothing that puts me at peace more like the sands of an empty beach.

      I’m glad you’re reading along with Dr Z too. It’s interesting in that even though it’s not what I remember at all, I’m still enjoying it and racing along with the story despite it completely not hitting the mark of what i want it to be. I’m not quite sure how it’s working, but it is working.

      Long novels are a treat, and I am enjoying being immersed in such an epic tale. And yes – it’s a stunning edition!! The US version is quite lovely, and I got it free too, which is also a bonus!

      I just started Wish Her Safe At Home today – am taking a short breather from Dr Z as I half reached the half way point and want some time to mull on it before I continue. I am finding it very intriguing so far – I think it’s going to be a fantastic and very different read! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

  11. Hahaha, that last photo made me laugh, Rachel! Your surf pictures are gorgeous, I’d love to run on that clean sandy beach with Deacon.

    Wish Her Safe at Home is a great read! Hopefully you can manage to fit it in to your schedule but if you can’t then remember it for another time. I’m so impressed by how much you manage to squeeze into a day!

    1. Hahaha! Such random big totem pole heads, they had to be photographed! I was saying to my friend what a perfect dog walking beach Montauk is – so flat and so much surf for a dog to splash around in!

      Yes so many people have said this! I started it today and am already hooked – I will do my best to finish it before the end of the week but I don’t honestly think that will happen. Thank you – I don’t know how I do it sometimes, I am just dropping with tiredness by the end of the day! But there are so many things I want to do – it’s the price I must pay!

  12. Nothing like a break at the beach to revive the spirit! I’ve been going out to the Oregon coast for a number of years – there is a B&B there (www.sylviabeachhotel.com)in which each room is named for and decorated to suit a particular author, Austen, Melville, Hemingway, etc. Definitely worth a trip if you ever make it to this side of the country.
    I had rather the same experience on reading Doctor Zhivago, I expected something quite different from what I found. Granted it was my first time reading it so all of my impressions were of the movie which probably explains it. I am interested to see if the new translation is more to my liking. Which are you reading?
    And I meant to say how glad I am that you are enjoying Edith Wharton! Her home in Lenox, MA is being beautifully restored and it’s not that far from NYC. Just sayin’.

    1. There really isn’t! I am actually desperate to go to the Oregon coast so your suggestion is very exciting and also very useful, thank you so much! That B&B looks DIVINE!

      Yes I think the movie has been the culprit with me as well. I am reading the new translation and it is really very good though I can’t remember the first one all too well so it’s a bit difficult to compare. If I get a chance I shall get the old translation from the library and do a bit of comparing and contrasting.

      Oh yes, yes I really am! I have a ton of her books to read now – just need to find the time! I am going to her house in the spring, don’t worry – I can’t wait!

  13. Lovely photos! Glad you had a chance to get away and relax a bit. Whenever you travel somewhere new you want to fit in as much as you can, but little breaks are nice as well! I always have the idea of the Hamptons being for the rich and famous!🙂

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