Heat Wave

Everywhere we turn we are warned about this week’s heat wave, and how to survive it. So when the sun hit the kitchen windows this morning we hung sheets, from my pile of torn sheets, over them, on the outside, naturally. Now, mid-afternoon by Anglo-Saxon standards, and early afternoon by French calculation, the sun has clouded over and the sun does not appear, but it is hot and muggy and we have drawn the shutters and closed the windows like good Mediterraneans (in my husband’s case) and are keeping the house as cool as we can for tonight. Unlike in the Bay Area, when night brings cool air, the temperature in Paris doesn’t drop much. Still, we will open the windows wide and let somewhat cooler air in. We need fans but we leave in two days, so perhaps we can get by.

I am reading Virginia Woolf’s Second Common Reader, which I stumbled on in a second-hand bookstore a few months ago. It is brilliant. I don’t need to be passionate about Gissing to love her writing. And now, soon, I must find the first Common Reader, which her friend Lytton Strachey liked better than Mrs Dalloway (they were both published at about the same time), because he found Clarissa Dalloway trivial or perhaps shallow and not very likable. I know what he meant, but I’m still very fond of the book. I reread the last scenes of the party again last week, to think again about the old woman whom Clarissa sees, as if she had caught sight of another self in a mirror, walking through the house next door, doing this and that. Does the woman see her? It seems not. It is a tiny but fascinating scene en abyme, that seems divorced from the book, but isn’t, any more than the parallel suicide plot is.

I have just looked at the thermometer outside the kitchen. It says 90 degrees Fahrenheit (it comes from my grandparents’ house is Saskatoon, and has a photograph of the house and my mother and her sister as young girls on it). Too hot for serious reading. And I want to go to the gym, but the AC there is broken.