Updated: Oct 24, 2022
I'm moving house one bookshelf at a time more or less: the luxury of — for once — a slow move. This morning, as I brought an armful of books to the car, I reflexively threw an edition of Jonathan Franzen's novel Purity into a paper recycling dumpster. Then I thought about why I had done that (I very rarely throw out books, and this may be the first novel I've ever trashed). I shot a picture to jog my thoughts. Franzen is no trash novelist.
Defense: the title irritates at this sad juncture, with the Taliban aiming to reinstate anyone's guess of what version of the notion. I also know it to be Franzen's weakest effort, and confess to never having finished it. The edition too, a cheap travel-format paperback with words crammed onto pages with inadequate margins, grated my sensibilities, and didn't feel worthy of a spot in our new place. Then I went down a mental rabbit hole: was any attempt to edit, to select and refine, an effort with some manner of "purity" as an end? Was my rejection of Franzen's volume an affirmation of its title?
Poggiosole plays with purity, as many luxurious lodgings in rural settings do. The rough mediterranean scrub contrasts with smooth finishes and refined materials of the interiors. Coarseness versus polish, the oyster and its pearl. These contrasts are inviting. Purity is not just defined in relation to its opposite, in nature the latter often begets the former. Could it be that these adjacencies seduce us? Relax us? We step into the wild, the untamed, even if only with our gaze, knowing we can retreat to safety.
Franzen fans pile in :)