Editor's note: Since it's Christmas, albeit a pretty warm one in many places, I thought I'd feature a post actually written for Diamonds and Toads, during a hot July in 2010. "The Snow Image," linked to below, is definitely worth reading. It will give readers a white Christmas. Merry Christmas! Here goes:
It's hot outside today, as is always the case in Indiana in July. July is much like January. The season is still relatively new, and yet, I find myself tired of the very qualities I yearned for six months ago -- heat and light. There is nothing that feels new about the season anymore and the delightful changeability of the previous and following months are not present.
In short, it will be July forever. I am bored.
I was noodling about on Google today -- although I should be gardening -- and thought about Nathaniel Hawthorne. You know, of House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter fame. I always connect him with Herman Melville, the man who wrote Moby Dick, largely because they were both from New England.
I like Hawthorne much better. I've never gotten through Moby Dick, though God knows I tried in undergraduate school. Hawthorne's spooky imagination appeals to me far more. I've read a good number of his works voluntarily, but have enjoyed none like "Rappaccini's Daughter," a hauntingly magical, enchanting romance in which the girl in question has been raised in a garden full of poisonous plants, and -- I won't spoil it, but you should read it. It's a longish short story and as darkly magical as anything you will find in Andersen or the Brothers Grimm.
But since "Rappaccini's Daughter" is about gardens, another story by Hawthorne, "The Snow Image," which takes place during an afternoon in winter, is my recommendation today. It's a fairy tale of sorts and while didactic and highly sentimental, its magical elements lend it a early Victorian charm that make reading it a worthwhile on a blistering summer's day. Or any day!