so i’ve been on a Thomas Hardy audiobook binge, having listened to Two on a Tower, Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Far from the Madding Crowd, lately.

i read Casterbridge in college, and went on a Hardy binge then too. every decade or so i have another. there’s something very soothing to me about Hardy’s rather dark view of humanity, especially in these rather sickeningly optimistic Happy Times (Barbara Ehrenreich, you still rock for Bright-Sided, among many others). Hardy always makes me feel as if i am actually not alone in my less-than-rosy view, as if it’s ok to recognize that sometimes shit just happens, and our destinies are only partly (possibly a very small part) in our own hands.

it’s a comfort, sort of like singing the blues.

but! i noticed something else this binge–how incredibly detailed and close his observations of country life and ways, and the natural world. wanna learn how to slaughter a pig? read Jude. wanna know how to make haystacks? read Far From the Madding Crowd. wanna know what the stars look like? Two on a Tower. wanna know what tiny wildflowers are blooming in all seasons, what the air smells like before a storm, how to see the whole wide vault of the sky? go on a binge.

hearing this minute observation, so lovingly and carefully verbalized, brought a whole new level of ache to Hardy’s work for me: for the loss of that natural world that he describes so exactingly. it’s rather like reading Muir’s works, which will practically perforate you with sadness for all that is no more. Hardy’s landscape isn’t my landscape, but how i wish he’d been here to tell me what California looked like before all the civilization got here.

anyway, do yourself a favor. go on a winter Hardy binge. winter’s a good time for Hardy, a time for hermitting up, slowing down, pondering the eternals. Hardy never disappoints.