Thursday, January 31, 2019

Winter Reading Needs


Here are a few
"I've been meaning to read" titles
that came in handy during the snowy weekends
alphabetical by author, with favorite passages:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
moderate horror, moody mystical magical realism
her specialty of course, though I prefer her family memoirs
still, you can't beat a good haunted house:
“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village” (3).

"The Rochester house was the loveliest in town and had once had a walnut-panelled library and a second-floor ballroom and a profusion of roses along the veranda; our mother had been born there and by rights it should have belonged to Constance.

". . . When I was a child I used to believe that someday I would grow up and be tall enough to touch the tops of the windows in our mother's drawing room. They were summer windows, because the house was really intended to be only a summer house and our father had only put in a heating system because there was no other house for our family to move to in the winters; by rights we should have had the Rochester house in the village, but that was long lost to us. The windows in the drawing room of our house reached from the floor to the ceiling, and I could never touch the top; our mother used to tell visitors that the light blue silk drapes on the windows had been made up fourteen feet long. There were two tall windows in the drawing room and two tall windows in the dining room across the hall, and from the outside they looked narrow and thin and gave the house a gaunt high look. Inside, however, the drawing room was lovely. Our mother had brought golden-legged chairs from the Rochester house, and her harp was here, and the room shone in reflections from mirrors and sparkling glass"
(4, 23).
Two - Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage
by Madeleine L'Engle
autobiography of a writer; tribute to an actor; city vs country life
found amongst the free books from Chapel of the Good Shepherd!

"Life on this planet in general is not very humorous" (122).

Q: "Why should the good of anyone depend on the prayer of another?"
A: "Why should my love be powerless to help another?" (186).

"Nevertheless, the future is still very uncertain.
But I am not called to project into this still-unknown future;
I am called to be fully in the moment"
(209).
"And how could I call myself a writer? I had a few poems published in a very small magazines. I sold two stories during that decade . . . and one novel . . . which was published (after a number of rejections) by Lippincott and disappeared with hardly a trace" (158).
Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses
by David Lodge
academic humor, British - American sabbatical swap
suggested by my brother Dave
I started this one back in 2001 and somehow got distracted,
but this time I picked it up again and read straight through.
"In Morris Zapp’s view, the root of all critical error was a naive confusion of literature with life. Life was transparent, literature opaque. Life was an open, literature a closed system. Life was composed of things, literature of words. Life was what it appeared to be about: if you were afraid your plane would crash it was about death, if you were trying to get a girl into bed it was about sex. Literature was never about what it appeared to be about, though in the case of the novel considerable ingenuity and perception were needed to crack the code of realistic illusion, which was why he had been professionally attracted to the genre (even the dumbest critic understood that Hamlet wasn’t about how the guy could kill his uncle, or the Ancient Mariner about cruelty to animals, but it was surprising how many people thought that Jane Austen’s novels were about finding Mr. Right). The failure to keep the categories of life and literature distinct led to all kinds of heresy and nonsense: to 'liking' and 'not liking' books for instance, preferring some authors to others and suchlike whimsicalities which, he had constantly to remind his students, were of no conceivable interest to anyone except themselves" (62-3).
Sweet Will
by Eric Malpass
historical fiction, bioigraphical novel, nearly true
life of Shakespeare based on a handful of available facts
suggested by my highschool Shakespeare teacher a mere
44 years ago; a long delay, but I finally got around to it!
"The water meadows dreamed in the moonlight. The summer night was soft, heavy with the scent of may blossom. The stars were diamonds on a velvet tray. The young poet stared at the mmon. The moon stared at the poet. It seemed that they had known each other a long time. Theirs was a love affair that went back through the slow ages of man. William inhaled deeply, as though to take into himself this rich and silver loveliness. 'On such a night,'he murmured, 'on such a night as this --' Someday, at more leisure, he would recollect this moment" (35).

[In Stratford - upon - Avon], "The dragon - flies shimmered and darted over the Avon, the willows dreamed, there was the scent of growing green things.

"While in London -- stench, filth, noise. A respected glover, a respected father, a loved husband; friends . . . good, solid tradesmen, with their carerful wives . . . All this could still be his his. O God, methinks it were a hppy life -- A big fish lording it in a little pond. Whereas in London -- a minnow among carp: carp with savage teeth.

"But of course there could be no question. And that night he spoke the words Anne had been dreading. 'I must go back to London, Anne. There is much to do'"
(209).

"What had Dick Field said, all those years ago?
If you were true to yourself, you could not betray anyone else.
Something like that"
(231)

"They were like three famished men,
desperately scraping a bowl, the bowl of hope.
And the bowl was almost empty"
(284).

Touchdown Jesus:The Mixing of Sacred
and Secular in American History

by R. Laurence Moore
a sociocultural study of the separation of church and state
suggested by my brother Bruce
Sinde the 1960's some politicians have warned Americans that they are enaged in a great culture war, one that pits religion and goodness aganst atheism and immorality. The truth is that the quarrels of recent years are not between religion and no religion, but aongh religious Amerians who disagree about the proper way to display religion in public. . . . the people who oppose the public display of religion are not necessarily secular humanists. They are religious men and women who wonder whether their God [or their country] is well served by presidents who take their oath of office with their hand on a Bible and refer to God in their inaugural adresses [NOT APPROPRIATE!]" (29).

"If Americans have not learned to treat religious beliefs as equal, then they are not likely to perfect equality in any other area of civic society. Because religion in America is a form of social capital, because it is suffused in so many areas of public life, public officials should never use religious belief in a nations until Americans at long last catch up with Article Six of the Constitution: 'No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States'" (189).
Touchdown Kitti