The Starched Blue Sky of Spain

I’m overdosing on memoirs by women who lived during the turn of the 20th century and details about their respective lives are starting to commingle in my head. Josephine Herbst was born in Iowa in 1892, made her way to college at UC Berkeley then to New York then Berlin and Paris in the 1920s. Back to New York with husband John Herrmann with whom she breaks in 1935 after a jaunt to Russia in 1930. Spain’s civil war draws her in 1937. Pals with Katherine Anne Porter, Hemingway. Childhood journey from Iowa to Oregon via train with no dining car but with a train car with upright stove with two burners and a woman making fried eggs. She has luxurious descriptions of hunkering down in the winter in a farmhouse in Connecticut, both stoves going full blast and snow blocking the window inch by inch, they would write during the day and read aloud to each other at night:

The setting of that room is so vivid, I can see it all, and myself lying on the bed with red slippers dangling from my feet and my head propped upon one hand. I can hear the soft plop of snow on the window and see how the pear-colored light fell on the reader’s hands. There were times, when we came to a work I already knew, when I let the words flow over me like water, hearing and not hearing, while some other self burrowed in the dark, sorting out those thoughts that were so manifold and evanescent, or reviewed the past, yesterday or the year before, or speculated on the present. Everything fused, fleetingly, in a flux and a ferment, fired by a spark from the words being spoken while you waited, expectant, for the passage that jubilantly intoxicates the heart.