I no longer read books with depressing realism anymore; did when I was younger but now have to be selective.
In the novel No Trumpet Before Him, by a favorite author of mine Nelia Gardner White, the main character questions the effect some literature may have on college students.
"Baudelaire may have genius. But this is a sad world--do we need Baudelaire to make us more sad?"
After more conversation about the problem of finding good literature that also gives hope to the human spirit, a depressed young man who has returned from serving in World War II says, "Name ten poets who are geniuses and who have hope."
The man answers, "Well we have Frost and Dickinson and Whitman--among our own--and Eliot--there's Auden too. I could name ten, if you liked."
How do you feel about this? We can't have censorship over what others read but do you too find that you have to watch what you choose to read?
I read so many classic books as a teenager and young adult--as a senior in high school I discovered Russian classics and devoured them--and I don't regret it as it stretched my mind. Back then I could read about the social problems of the ages and I don't recall it leaving me in despair. Now they do so I just can't read books that make me despairingly sad.
Of course there are sad parts in books I read. I even bawled when Father Tim's dog Barnabas was missing in one of Jan Karon's later Mitford novels and I realized he had gone over the Rainbow Bridge between two books, but that's different.
What I cannot read anymore are books themed on abuse of any kind. And now I turn, more often than not, to older books on my shelves. In thrift and antique stores I look for gentle mid-century books.
When thrifting, a dust jacket can sell a book to me. Sometimes I'm glad I bought it, sometimes not.
Would you have picked up this book? I couldn't resist it. Charlotte and Dr. James by Guy McCrone made me want to read all of his books set in the UK. The dust jacket flap proclaimed the book to be "a cheerful, busy book of many happenings" and it was. And just right for me at this stage of my life.
So Well Remembered by James Hilton was one I only got a few chapters into and put it aside for later. How could I not love any book by the author of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Random Harvest? So I'll try it again someday.
Birthright by Lettie Hamlett Rogers is one I'll pass on for now too. Reading a few chapters made me realize just how uncomfortable I am now with the South of the 1950s I grew up in. A South I naively didn't see at the time, was indeed insulated from, but that I recognize now as unbelievably wrong is pictured in this book as a young schoolteacher tries to tackle the animosity that desegregation arouses in the community.
The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull is one I reread every few years as I do many of hers. There is a dreamy dining room in the book that I adored.
The mantel in the dining room was inscribed: Benedictus benedicat--May the Blessed One bless.
The curtains were changed for each season, the oak paneling was from England and scattered on it were carvings of squirrels, brownies, leprechauns, a pony. There was a special one of a monkey with his cap in his paws. And from the "chandelier above the gleaming table...crystals fell like a shower of iridescent raindrops."
This just goes to show that novels I'm likely to enjoy reading now must have a house that is almost a character itself. And of course, a good love story in the plot is nice too.
The last two novels are the ones I chose this week at a local antique store when a coughing spell to top all coughing spells overtook me. I haven't read any of these two yet but the dust jacket flap of The Long Love by John Sedges begins:
When Edward Haslatt asked Margaret Seaton to be his wife, he promised her that he would make their marriage the chief concern as well as the abiding joy of his life. He kept his pledge.
Now that sounds like a man worth reading about. I'll have to see if his wife proves worthy of that pledge.
Oh, my goodness--stop the presses! I just googled John Sedges and he was the pseudonym for Pearl Buck! And this was book one of her American Triptych including The Long Love, The Townsman, and Voices in the House.
I can't wait to start this as I love Pearl Buck and I'll be spending the last of my daughter's Amazon birthday gift card on the last two books in this series.
Here's a portrait of Pearl Buck that I love and used on a post here once for her birthday...
The last new (old) book, Kathleen Norris's 1931 book Second Hand Wife, I'll save for a proper mood to hit me, one where I want almost nursery fare. I think I have a few of her books left on my shelves but even in my teens her books were a little too formula for me. I loved her autobiographical Noon so we'll see if I like this book.
The last book, shown above, was my choice with my daughter's larger Amazon gift card. I swooned over Jeffrey Bilhuber's The Way Home, but it deserves a post of its own sometime. Otherwise this post will be as long as Pearl Buck's triptych.
Have you ever read any of these authors, by chance? I know there must be some Pearl Buck fans out there.
Have you yet found yourself having to coddle your sensibilities and censor your own reading material?
And as always, what are you reading now?