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À mon chevet: No et moi

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
Lucas writes me little notes in class. He folds them over and slides them in front of me. 'Awful!' when the English teacher wears a strange skirt with fringes and pearls around the hem. 'He can sod off' when Mr Marin has given him his umpteenth zero. 'Where's the gnome?' because Gauthier de Richemont is absent (he's not particularly good-looking and Lucas has hated him since he grassed Lucas up to the principal one day when he was smoking in the toilets). In French class he stays quiet, even when we're doing grammar. It's the class where I'm most attentive. I hate being disturbed, I concentrate so as not to miss the tiniest thing. Mrs Rivery gives me special homework. French class is like a logic puzzle or a deduction, an exercise in dissection without a scalpel or a body.

People who think that grammar is just a collection of rules and restrictions are wrong. If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organising the world how you'd like it to be.

-- Delphine de Vigan, No and Me (trans. by George Miller), Ch. 30
Like so many excellent books, this novel by Delphine de Vigan was a recommendation from James Wood. Based on the experience I think I will be reading all of her books. She wrote this one and three books before it while holding down a day job in a business. The narrator, Lou Bertignac, has the same nickname as de Vigan, under which pseudonym (Lou Delvig) she published her first novel. What gripped me instantly was the individuality of that narrative voice: troubled, quirky, boundlessly intelligent, yet touchingly naive. There is nothing flowery about de Vigan's style, which is terse and rapid-fire, but there are marvelously diverting tangents, observations that are slowly unraveled in small lengths. The book's British translation is presented as a book for teenage girls, but don't let that put you off.

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