Transit of Venus, Shirley Hazzard & Baldovar 923 Canada Paris
by Kim Kent
12 months ago
Among all the books I’ve read and now keep stacked inside my apartment, there are several that possess such a kinetic, expansive, and rigorous energy they can be said to be the rotational center of my bookshelf. Meaning, if (or when) I slide one of these books from its delicately nestled alphabetical place, I will find myself quickly absorbed in its depths. Or, in the case of Shirley Hazzard, whirling through her cosmic feat of a novel: The Transit of Venus. As a novel it is sweeping— trailing several characters over the trajectory of many decades, rising and sinking—, acrobatic—pulled along by the tinge and texture of image, beauty, and history, turning inward and outward often in the same sentence,— precisely glimpsed, as if “every particle of light is usual, daily, and at the same time a miracle,” and, if you posses the nerve to float along her “complex stillness,” it is a novel that will most certainly leave you, the reader, gasping by nightfall. (And likely several times throughout).
I am nervous that I may be overselling this novel, though much of what I love most about The Transit of Venus is not its twists, turns, and tragic Saga-esque shifts, but its slower, quieter, and exacting sentences, which in turn render her characters in mind and flesh. Nothing and no one escapes the notice of Shirley Hazzard, not even her readers in the end. Her language, which possesses a “mingling of great and trivial,” creates sentences that feel like moments— precise and glittering. And it is this poetic accumulation of moments that leaves us with an atmosphere of foreboding: Hazard’s world is both ferocious and sharply metered; it’s one to circle, again and again.
This month we are drinking a wine that evolves from honeysuckle golden, to “winter flowering earth,” to sharp and minerally in a blink, or the breath of a perfectly placed comma. Merseguera is a grape I had never heard of before, but this particular bottle sits for six months on the lees, which gives it the weight of a celestial body in your mouth and the wet rock flavor of the limestone soil these Merseguera grapes were plucked from— sun-struck and bright in the season. I first sipped it at room temperature, or just below, and then again, a second glass, right from the fridge. Like Hazzard’s prose, it’s a wine that moves from lush to quick without much effort, or none that they’ll let you see. It’s more angular on day two, or three, or Act IV, if you will. We recommend it over a few nights, but certainly you’ll want some for the end.
Shirley Hazzard was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1931. She moved to the United States at twenty to work for the United Nations. The author of five novels, and the winner of the National Book Award (2003) and the National Book Critics Circle Award (1980), she died in 2016. A defender of high literature, Art, and Beauty– her novels often mirrored her own life.
Baldovar 923 is located in the mountains of Valencia, Spain, as a collaborative winery focusing on high quality wines that represent the older indigenous varietals of the region, high altitude, and specific climate of the region. The Canada Pais sees six months on the lees and is bottled in neutral French oak.