Hello again from Sarah Graves and from Eastport, where everyone is busy. Those of us who’ve had houseguests are washing, it seems like, every sheet and towel in the world, while those whose houseguests have not yet arrived are doing likewise, in preparation. Eastport itself has had guests, too: the cruise ship Grand Caribe visited for a day last week, unloading fifty passengers who shopped, ate, and had a sight-seeing tour on an old-time trolley. This was our first cruise ship in several years, but four more are scheduled over the next few weeks and the plan is to show our guests a rousing good time; I will be out in front of Wadsworth’s with my Home Repair is Homicide cap on to greet them and perhaps sell some books. If I were on a cruise ship I’d want something to read, wouldn’t you?
Speaking of something to read, I have just finished Dickens’ Bleak House. Why did no one ever tell me before how terrific it is? A huge cast of wonderful characters, wonderfully drawn; intrigue, mystery, and suspense; love won and lost; and one of the first detectives ever to have a substantial part in a novel, the fabulous Mr. Bucket. All this and lots more in a long, long novel that never feels slow…really, I don’t remember when I’ve been as sorry to see a book end. But this is one of the pleasures of having had a spotty education, you see, that now later in life I’m discovering some of these things. If you, like me until now, haven’t read Bleak House, all I can say is I envy you.
On the writing desk now is the copy-edited manuscript of A Bat in the Belfry, due out next year. I used to dread getting these, they were always so full of my mistakes and infelicities, marked up in red like a test that I’d gotten a D on. But nowadays I see those marks and think “They’ve saved me again!” I take the manuscript to the porch with my green pencils, my coffee, and the dog, and go patiently though the pages, feeling grateful for all the help both editorial and copy-editorial.
Another thing we’re all grateful for is that the heat wave hasn’t been as impressive here as elsewhere. It’s still hotter than normal but the eighties are pretty tolerable even for us. What we don’t like is that our gardens are way ahead of their time, with even the late dahlias in bloom and the clematis gone mostly to seed pods already, for instance. We wonder what this portends as we glance uneasily at one another, even as we’re preparing for Eastport’s end of summer parties, the Salmon Festival and the Pirate Festival. Will things reset themselves this winter, or are we bound for a tulips-in-February situation in 2013? The kind of suspense I’m in about that would carry a long novel, for sure, and not just for the tulips’ sake.