When in Greece...

How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.
--from Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis, born on this day in 1883

Dreams of a carefree Zorba life inspire Things Can Only Get Feta, a recent memoir by Marjory McGinn of "Two Journalists and Their Crazy Dog Living Through the Greek Crisis." As the economy tanks and the dreams recede, McGinn wonders if she had perhaps read Kazantzakis too closely or not read herself closely enough:

The passage I had in mind was short and simple, near the start of the book, when the maverick Zorba is trying to persuade the priggish narrator to hire him on a business venture in Crete. "You keep a pair of scales, do you? You weigh everything to the nearest gram, don't you? Come on my friend, make a decision. To hell with your weighing scales!"

No-one could accuse me of having hugged my weighing scales too tightly. I'd already taken a few too many risks in my life, moving about the globe. Perhaps that was the problem. That afternoon, looking out at this small Greek village in which I still felt more or less a stranger, it seemed to me that I was not just one of those women who had forgotten to have babies, I had forgotten also to put down some roots, any roots.…

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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