As I mentioned yesterday, today is my Beloved's 50th birthday.
We had plans to go out for brunch, but we woke late and decided to stay in and domesticate. The rules began breaking last night, shortly after midnight anyway, when I presented her with some gifts, which she distinctly told me not to get for her -- I always get her books, and she doesn't have the time these days to read. So I got her a few books she can look at before bedtime, and also the new three-disc set of THE WIZARD OF OZ, whose new high-definition 5.1 transfer we enjoyed last night. Today, she's been chuckling over congratulatory e-mails from friends and I've been serenading her with mp3s, everything from Carpenters' "Close to You" to Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot's "Bonnie and Clyde" -- and, of course, the theme from "Hawaii 5-0." I sneaked Leon Russell's "A Song for You" into the mix, which was well-intended but more melancholy than was appropriate for such a happy day, so I raised the mood and the tempo by playing James Brown's "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine)," which is just as admired around here but in a different way.
She's starting to get ready for our evening -- we've been invited by our friends Wayne and Jan Perry to join them for dinner at a new Argentinian restaurant in town -- so I decided the time was right to start listening to Kate Bush's new album Aerial. It's very lovely; it's her first album in many years, and it's wonderful to hear something fresh from her, on today of all days. "Mrs. Bartolozzi" is one of those songs that makes you lower your head and smiley-pout, humbled by the expression of a superior artist.
As I started listening to the album, I continued to browse the Internet and learned on the Shockwaves boards that novelist John Fowles died over the weekend. I haven't read Fowles in awhile, which is okay because he hasn't published in awhile; after the death of his first wife, who had been the inspiration for the heroine of his The Magus, he decided there was no point in writing anymore... or at least not in publishing. He wrote many splendid novels and I have particularly warm memories of a season I spent reading his Daniel Martin and the revised edition of The Magus back-to-back. A few weeks ago, his name popped into my head as I was browsing Amazon.com and I read a few pages available there from a new biography and a new volume of his collected correspondence. It awakened some old feelings in me, feelings I hadn't realized I'd missed so much or still cherished. When I think of Fowles I think of books that read and feel like the books I want to write will read and feel. How I would love to have the time to re-read Daniel Martin someday...
Fowles was one of those quintessientially British novelists, a true heir to the walking stick of Thomas Hardy. Is the time for such men now behind us? I wonder. As I absorbed the mild shock of his passing, I realized that I was listening to a similarly, quintessentially British artist, a much younger one, whose long-awaited new album is similarly alive with landscape and eros, its songs apparently unified by the theme of domesticity.
Which brings me back to home and hearth and my Beloved's 50th birthday. Tonight, we celebrate. I will raise a glass to her, to our friends, and to these two others not present at our table who have come to nest in my thoughts today.