Edinburgh Days: Or, Doing What I Want to Do

Edinburgh Days: Or, Doing What I Want to Do

Edinburgh Days: Or, Doing What I Want to Do

Edinburgh Days: Or, Doing What I Want to Do

Synopsis

Part travelogue, part psychological self-study, Sam Pickering's Edinburgh Days, or Doing What I Want to Do is an open invitation to be led on a walking tour of Scotland's capital as well as through the labyrinth of the guide's swerving moods and memories. Along the way readers discern as much from Pickering's sensual observations of Scottish lives and landmarks as they do about what befalls the curious mind of an intellectual removed from the relations and responsibilities that otherwise delineate his days. Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, making his return to the city after a forty-year absence. Edinburgh Days maps the transition from his life in Connecticut, defined by family, academic appointments, and the recognition of neighbors and avid acolytes, to a temporary existence on foreign soil that is at once unsettlingly isolating and curiously liberating. define himself as an urban spelunker and embarks on daily explorations of the city's museums, bookshops, pubs, antique stores, monuments, neighborhoods, and graveyards. His ambling tours include such recognizable sites as Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Castle Rock, the Museum of Childhood, the National Gallery, the Writers' Museum, the Museum of the People, the Huntly House, the John Knox House, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Edinburgh Zoo. opportunity to revisit the works of a host of writers, both renowned and obscure, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Smiles, John Buchan, Tobias Wolfe, Russell Hoban, Patrick White, Hilaire Belloc, and Van Wyck Brooks. fascination with minutiae that infuses this collection of essays with the dynamic descriptions, quirky observations, and jesting interludes that bring the historic city to life on the page and simultaneously recall the very best of Pickering's idiosyncratic style.

Excerpt

I got to the dentist’s office early and, sitting down, looked at my fellow patients. Across the room a large woman sagged into a stuffed chair, the June number of Connecticut Magazine balanced on her diaphragm like a screen, on the cover of the issue the phrase “Summer Times” brighter than noon, beneath the words fat hunks of watermelon, red as sunburn. the woman looked inert, and the arms of the chair pushed the flesh along her flanks up over her stomach, kneading it into yeasty folds. Suddenly the woman sat upright and, leaning forward, stared at the rug. Quickly she hoisted herself out the chair, took two steps, raised her right foot then lowered it, grinding the ball into the rug, her heel wagging back and forth like a tail. “I killed that spider,” she said, glancing around the room searching for approval. “Spider, hell!” I said, “You killed God!” “What?” the woman said, rocking backward. “You killed God,” I repeated. “After what you did, you better go home and pray for forgiveness. Who knows what will happen ifhe reception room from the dentists’ offices, for good mea sure adding, “Certainly God doesn’t know what will happen. He’s dead.”

At that moment Donna appeared and said, “Sam.” I stood and sauntered through the door. I met Jim in the hall. “Sam,” Jim said, “What are you up to? I heard a commotion in the waiting room and was concerned until I remembered you had an appointment to have your teeth cleaned.” “Jim,” I said, “I’ve been worried about you. You look tired, and because I am kind and sweet I’ve been chasing away patients so you can take a vacation.”

Later, as I left the office, Jim said, “It’s always a treat to see you, Sam.” “The time has come for me to leave Storrs—again,” I thought, the scrubbing having not simply polished my molars but also given me leisure . . .

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