Sunday, July 21, 2019

Books, Always

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? 


  1. Yes, I also have become very selective about what I read now. I've been going back to some older books and enjoy re-reading Gladys Taber. I want something light and encouraging these days.

    1. Oh yes, Jan, Gladys Taber always!

    2. Just as selective as you are about what you choose to read, nowadays, I am, about what I decide to watch, Dewena. After years of refraining from turning on the TV, or going to the movies, I have found a television series that is amazingly written, superbly acted and skillfully directed, namely 'This Is Us'. Have you heard of it? I think you'd appreciate its parallel stories, all interconnected, all exploring current issues we face today, as a society. From the very first episode, this series became my all time favourite - not an easy title, since I am quite finicky about what I watch!

      Your novels all look and sound very interesting and entertaining. I love the response about the poets! Edward Haslatt has captured my curiosity - can he really be such a gem of a gentleman? I know I can count on your sensible opinion to answer my question, so I will patiently wait until you are ready to share it!

      Enjoy your downtime doing what you love so much!

      Happy Monday,

    3. I have heard good things about this program, some of our kids love it and recommended it to me but when I watched the trailer for This Is Us it just didn't seem like my kind of show, at this stage in my life. And like Tammy below, I need to be that ostrich with its head in the sand and opt out of shows that deal with issues of the day. But I've been told that it is quality television.

      What do I watch on television? Mary Poppins Returns is planned for tonight, just my speed! I also watch any Monty Don gardening show, over and over, and almost any show about the British Royals--yes, I'm one of those. I've watched The Crown series three times!

      And I just finished watching The Roosevelts series for the second time, fascinating! And I do handle fiction murder mysteries well, just not real crime. I could watch Foyle's War over and over and Endeavor. I even loved the new British series Bodyguard, hope for new seasons of that. And I've just begun watching TURN--Washington's Spies. With that one I have to close my eyes during the war and mayhem parts.

      And I binge watched Designated Survivor recently, the first season enthralling but the later seasons enjoyable but ones where I watched while paying bills, writing emails, etc.

      Other than that, I always check Turner Classic Movies first before looking elsewhere for a show. I love the old movies of the 1940s and 50s. Not so much the ones from the 1930s.

      I think part of my television choices today depend on whether they have commercials or not. With a daughter in television advertising I really shouldn't say this but I'm just becoming too impatient to have shows interrupted by commercials anymore. It has to be really good for me to put up with them anymore.

      Anyone else feeling that way now? Or is it just an age thing, of which I'm a card-carrying member?

      Poppy, I'll let you know about Edward Haslatt, so far he's a gem and has just won her hand in marriage--after the third time to ask! Hmm, that might not bode well, right?
      Happy Monday to you, Poppy!

  2. oh my!
    I'm sitting here by an open window. there is an eventual little breeze finding its way in. we've had so many days with heat in the 100's and heat indexes even higher that I had begun to feel like a wilted plant! this post so richly full of wonderful book ideas has been like manna from heaven to me! I had no idea Pearl Buck had a pseudonym she'd written under! with eye issues now I'm having to have books in Kindle so I can enlarge the print. but the covers you've shown make me hungry to FEEL the lovely beauty of an old book.
    like you… "but do you too find that you have to watch what you choose to read?"
    YES! I do. and I even have to be careful what I watch on TV. I no longer want to waste the time in trying to understand or even like something that is repugnant to me in any way. if that makes me shallow or an ostrich with my head in the sand then so be it! a younger voice will have to take up the cause of justice. I seem to be spent.
    I will just have to be a singular ostrich. I meant to respond to your last wonderful post on Across the Way and never made it back after being interrupted.
    the little princesses melted my heart and renewed my efforts in recycling and making the planet we have as clean and loving as possible. here's to a fabulous week DSM! XO

    1. Tammy, I hadn't thought about enlarging the print being a nice part of kindle reading. That's getting harder for me too now and large print books are just to heavy to hold so maybe I'll turn to Kindle someday. But my eyes seem to strain more reading online than from a book in the hand.

      As I told Poppy, above, I'm an ostrich with its head in the sand now, just like you. Leaving social justice to the younger generations now and turning my efforts to my own small sphere of influence.

      I hope your weather there makes at least a slight turn for the better in August although I know even September can be brutal there for you. As long as the AC works I'm happy as a clam with July this year. I think it's the first summer that I'm not wanting fall to hurry up and come. But then I don't work outside in the hot sun the way RH does. And he'd honestly rather have July than the cold of winter to work in.

      Stay cool, dear Tam!

  3. That post could have been written by myself, I refuse to read all the new books that "you have to read". I spend most of my time at Project Gutenberg, which means that most of the books I read are at least a hundred years old. For the moment I'm reading Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd - I tend to choose books (novels) written by feminists, and find it interesting to see how they portrait their women.

    1. Hello Margaretha! You are the second person to have mentioned Project Gutenberg. I am not familiar with it and will google it today as maybe some of the old books I can't find will be on it. I've written down your Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd to search for. Thank you for suggesting her to me!

    2. Margaretha, I just visited your blog and it looks charming with beautiful pictures. I tried to find a translate button but couldn't so couldn't read it. It's so sad that so much of the world learns to speak English as another language while we Americans fail at learning the language of other nations, or at least I did. I wish so much I had at least studied more of the high school Spanish I had.

  4. How did I not know of your second blog, Dewena? I just read the link on Melanie's blog, and hopped on over for a visit! That's quite the pile of books, sadly I looked up every one of them on my library site and they have NONE of the above. Enjoy your reading and feel better my friend!

    1. Hi Debbie, I doubt that many libraries still carry these old books, in fact many of them are discarded library books. Three of these were from a local antique mall and all had the same name of the former owner. When I saw that, I couldn't help but wondering about her. Once I found a gardening book by Elizabeth Lawrence in a local antique shop and the owner's name was inside with a Nashville address. All through the book, which was about spring bulbs, she had made notes of bulbs she wanted to try. The next spring when bulbs were blooming here, RH and I drove to the address, hoping that the yard would be ablaze with daffodils and tulips. Alas, it was not. But then, probably 50 or 60 years had gone by and there was a different last name on the mailbox. I hope that she had the pretty garden she dreamed of while she lived there.

      I had been so touched by all her notes in the book that I wrote a story about her, picturing her as an elderly woman whose new next door neighbor moves in with her two little children and befriends the elderly woman, helping her restore her garden. I chose Minnie Driver for the young woman as my Hollywood inspiration so that should tell you it's been a long time since I wrote that story!

  5. I think my tastes in novels and TV might align very closely with yours. I've read 'The Long Love' and it was a good one although my memory isn't the best for details. If I didn't keep a list of books I've read, I would never remember them. I tend to read mostly early or mid 20th century and when it comes to fiction, I look for light hearted and entertaining stories with characters I can admire or like. I love to find nice hard copies as you have. I think you would enjoy 'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons. That has to be one of my favorite books. As far as TV series go, 'The Detectorists' is a British show that is very well done. The series 'Mapp and Lucia' is fun and light. Two other favorites are 'Slings and Arrows' and 'Northern Exposure'. My husband and I are watching episodes of 'Father Brown' right now and we enjoy that. I just discovered your blogs and can't wait to read more. I certainly will check out the books and authors you mentioned. Thanks for posting!

    1. Hello Laurie, thank you for these suggestions! I did read Cold Comfort Farm years ago and loved it. And I too love novels from early to mid-century best of all. I've written down The Detectorists, Mapp and Lucia (have read them but didn't know there was a television series), and Slings and Arrows. Hope I can find them although they might be on Britt Box, which I don't have but should get. We watched Northern Exposure weekly when it was on and even bought the series on DVD.

      And I've been through the Father Brown series, also Midsomer Murders. Love them as much for the villages and houses as for the plot.

      So nice to have met you and now I must see if you have a blog I can visit!

    2. Laurie, I was not able to find any of the television shows you recommended on Netflix. I must check out other sources!

  6. I had a translate button, but it ceased to function, and I didn't bother to get another one as the translations seldom are understandable - although sometimes very entertaining!
    But you can always glue parts of my posts into google translate, which might give you an idea what it is about.
    I think you'll like Gutenberg (, I spend far too much time there.
    There is also Internet Archive (, another good place to find books.

    1. Margaretha, when one of my sons comes over I will see if they can show me how to try to do what you suggested. Meanwhile I will just enjoy your beautiful pictures!

  7. Uh oh, you've done it again, Dewena...listed more books I now have to look up! ;-) My reading pile just keeps growing and growing and honestly, I haven't read much this summer. I find the only reading time I do is late at night before I go to bed. I'm usually too busy during the day to actually sit my tush in a chair and read. When I do sit down, I'm reading emails, looking at FB, reading blogs, or researching something.

    My reading tastes have definitely changed over the years and while I can handle a teeny bit of violence or something upsetting, I cannot read about any kind of abuse or crime.

    Can you believe I've never read Pearl Buck? Though I do have one of her books on my bookshelves...just can't recall which one. I had no idea she wrote other books under a different name!

    I hope you are feeling better by now. {{hugs}}

    1. Oh, our growing book lists, Melanie! And I don't read a lot during the day anymore either. I used to spend hours in the day, a true bookaholic. I always have a book with me for breakfast and then read in the evenings. Maybe those long daytime hours reading did end when I first discovered blogs? And your current post also gave me new books to add to my own list.

      I am beginning to feel better, Melanie, thank you!

  8. As a girl, I read The Good Earth, Imperial Woman and Pavilion of Women by Pearl Buck. My first degree is in French Literature so I read a lot of heavy and sad fiction. Les Miserables, Germinal, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, L'Etranger, Huis Clos et L'Immoraliste with Baudelaire. My parents had a lot of Book of the Month selections that were lighter fare. I've been reading inherited books recently . Thomas Raddall and Francis Parkinson Keyes. I just started a new book called Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini but I'm finding war books disturbing. Television is usually something British or Scandinavian these days.

    1. I love to hear about your reading, Madame, and how the French culture is so much a part of your life. I have a whole shelf of Francis Parkinson Keyes books that I've had since a young adult, 23 of them. I have all of her fiction and many of her nonfiction too. She was quite a world traveler too, even though suffering physically much of the time.

  9. I haven't read any of those books. I use to be an avid reader - reading everything and with the coming of the internet I spend too much time researching stuff. I'm a curious type and always wanting to look something up - usually to do with another country or culture, or nature... But I still do read at times - I love everything Amy Tan has written and I 'm slowly getting through Bonesetter's Daughter. There are so many authors in the past I loved - another one Barbara Kingsolver - "Poisonwood Bible" comes to mind. I noticed you binged on Designated Survivor - i am like you - i liked the first season and then it got boring. I binge on many types of shows and genres - from Downtown Abbey to Dexter (a serial killer but only kills bad people, lol)... Have a great weekend and I always enjoy your photos and commentaries. Just seeing photos of books mades me happy.

    1. I remember reading some Amy Tan and Poisonwood Bible was gripping, I like all Kingsolver's books. Loved Downtown Abbey, want to start all over again with it.

  10. I am quite sure I've shared this quote with you (it was on the blog once) but it is so pertinent to what you wrote. Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in a letter to his son. "There is quite enough sorrow and shame and suffering and baseness in real life and there is no need for meeting it unnecessarily in fiction." And I say, amen to that!

    I just bought Charlotte and Dr James on Ebay for $3.99! Thank you.

    Ebay also offers a lot of AST! I've bookmarked the whole results of searching for her in my "book ideas" folder.

    Your words were so moving about the book about the South years ago.

    I am reading a book I am quite sure you will like. Henry, Himself by Stewart O'Nan. I read his book Emily, Alone about Henry's wife. I loved it.

    A wonderful post, as always. I haven't been around the blogging world much this summer. Very busy with the little ones.

    1. Busy with the little ones sounds like the perfect summer, Nan.

      I just checked out Henry, Himself on Amazon. The only negative comments seemed to be because nothing much happens in the book--and that means I would probably love it!

      I hadn't thought about ebay for AST, thanks for the suggestion!

    2. Have you read "Poganuc People", by Harriet Beecher Stowe? I came to think of that book when I read your answer to a comment: "nothing much happens in the book--and that means I would probably love it!" Well, thinks happen, but there is no action and no suspense - one of my favorite books.

    3. Oh, I forgot to give you the link to the book: