Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Somebody asked me recently if I still had time to read while raising a toddler and running a farm. My answer was, Yes, and I also find time for breathing.

I've been reading a lot of farming/real food/back-to-the-land books lately; it's inspiring to get other perspectives on the lifestyle I've chosen, and fun to compare our progress with that of other folks. Right now I'm enjoying Rural Renaissance, which is somewhat unusual in this category because of the authors' unflagging enthusiasm. While I appreciate the reality of disillusionment and mistakes, it's much more motivational to read about success! John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist have had their share of mistakes and mishaps, but they write cheerfully and zealously of their experiences with green living.

Elizabeth Goudge is also still appearing regularly on my nightstand, although I've gone through nearly all the library's holdings. Guess it's time for a Powell's wish list! I've finished off Robertson Davies, too, except for a one or two odd titles--I still like the Cornish trilogy best, although the Salterton trilogy is a close second.

I'm also reading lots and lots of Frances, Max and Ruby, Alfie, and Madeline--Sam is as insatiable as his parents. I'm pleased, of course, but a little tired of reading aloud--never my favorite pastime. Well, at this rate it won't be long before he can read to himself, and any siblings that come along.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

So my mom comes into the house yesterday morning and hands me a padded envelope. "You got giant microbes in the mail!" she says brightly.

I look at the envelope. Sure enough, the return address says "Giant Microbes". Huh.

I tear it open and peek inside to see an unidentifiable yellowish lump. I don't really want to touch it, but I pull it out gingerly. Well, would you look at that. It's... a stuffed bookworm. Isn't that... nice.

I look back inside the envelope. No note. Just the stuffed bookworm.

My mom says, "Do you think your mother-in-law could have sent it to you?"

I say, "No, I really can't imagine anyone but Mr. and Mrs. Peculiar sending me something like this."

Then I notice the invoice taped to the front of the envelope. Yes, my dear, thoughtful friends have sent me a birthday gift. Isn't that... nice.

In a later email Peculiar blames Mrs, and says I should be thankful they chose the bookworm and not one of the other options. Again I say, Huh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on the subject of self-sacrifice--a Methodist song quoted in Robertson Davies's Murther and Walking Spirits:

There's an excellent rule
I have learned in life's school,
And I'm ready to set it before you.
When you're heavy at heart
And your world falls apart,
Do not pity yourself, I implore you.
No, up with your chin,
Meet bad luck with a grin,
And try this infallible trick:
It never will fail you,
Whatever may ail you--

Do something for somebody quick,
It will banish your cares in a tick
Don't fret about you
There's a Good Deed to do--

Not the most poetic of sentiments, perhaps, but solid advice nonetheless. My own grumbles disappear much more quickly when buried in a good housecleaning or read-aloud session or meal preparation or other such deed that benefits someone else more than it does me. (And before anyone dismisses me as too priggish to live, I'll just say that it's not often that I remember to do something for somebody quick!)

I've made another rediscovery, this time with Robertson Davies. After dashing my way through a library booksale, I found myself the possessor of three of his novels; they turned out to be the Salterton trilogy, but not knowing this at first, I read them in reverse order. Fortunately they stood the test, and I enjoyed them immensely: Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties. Then I found the one mentioned above at the library, which turned out to be one of the strangest books I've ever read. It began (I really don't think this counts as a spoiler, since it was the first sentence) with the protagonist being murdered; his ghost then went on to view a series of films starring his ancestors. I'm still not exactly sure what to make of it, but I did read the whole thing. Now I'm revisiting The Rebel Angels, which is as delightful and odd as I remember it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There's something about summer that tempts me even more than usual to lounge about all day and immerse myself in reading--something in which I cannot indulge anymore. I've been trying to avoid potato-chip books, like mysteries and fantasy, because once I start I don't want to do anything else, and get very cross when reality (the boy, the farm, etc) intrudes. During our vacation in Minnesota, I thought I'd satisfied myself with British detectives and magical adventures, but of course I was wrong.

My downfall? Rediscovering Elizabeth Goudge. I've loved The Little White Horse ever since reading it as a child, but though I read several of her other books, I was too young for them at the time. Now, I find, I adore them. She writes simple stories, but her prose is beautifully poetic, and she has realized that all conflict in life stems from the search for God. She's the only novelist I've read who writes about Christians without writing about Christianity, if you know what I mean. Rather, she writes about the everyday life of human beings who, as human beings, cannot escape their innate spirituality. It's lovely and inspiring and impossible to put down.

A common theme that I've noticed in her novels is the necessity of sacrifice. She describes it eloquently in The Bird in the Tree, as young David considers his grandmother's principles:

...her generation and his felt so differently about the truth. Her generation had built from without inwards, had put the reality of law and tradition above the reality of personal feeling, but his built from within outwards, the truth of personal feeling must come first; when there was no longer reality in a union, smash the union; never mind what laws were broken or what lives were crippled; live the truth.

But what is the truth? Later on his grandmother explains,

...if truth is the creation of perfection then it is action and has nothing to do with feeling. And the nearest we can get to creating perfection in this world is to create good for the greatest number, for the community or the family, not just for ourselves; to create for ourselves only means misery and confusion for everybody... It is far more truthful to act what we should feel if the community is to be well served rather than behave as we actually do feel in our selfish private feelings.

Modern psychology tells us to "take care of yourself first"; make sure your own needs are met before expending precious energy on others. But we are incapable of making ourselves happy--we give ourselves what we want, not what we need, and grow ever more dissatisfied and narcissistic. It's only when we forget ourselves in wholehearted service to our families and communities that we can feel content.

All sorts of sacrifices await us throughout our lives. They may be huge or seemingly insignificant, but each one brings us closer to Christ. My challenge now is sacrificing my desire to read for hours; to enjoy Elizabeth Goudge in small amounts instead of gorging myself all at once.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What is it about memes that's so irresistible? And I'm always a sucker for book lists--so fun to check off all the ones I've read... This one's from Voracious Reader.

Consider yourself tagged if you are reading this. When you post your list on your blog, please track back to mine (or leave a comment) so that I can read your lists too.

The rules:
Bold what you have read, italicize books you’ve started but couldn’t finish, and strike through books you hated. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your tbr list [I could not get Blogger to underline, so I've put quotation marks instead].

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina*
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights*
The Silmarillion*
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose*
Don Quixote *
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary*
The Odyssey*
Pride and Prejudice*
Jane Eyre*
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair*
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad*
"The Blind Assassin"
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway*
Great Expectations*
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales [Although I may not have read them all yet...I'm not sure]
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man*
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World*
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible*
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility*
The Picture of Dorian Gray*
Mansfield Park*
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse*
Tess of the D’Urbervilles*
Oliver Twist*
Gulliver’s Travels*
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
The Prince*
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter*
"Eats, Shoots & Leaves"
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey*
The Catcher in the Rye*
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid*
Watership Down*
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit*
"In Cold Blood"
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield*
The Three Musketeers

What a weird list! Most of the ones I haven't read I've never even heard of--Cloud Atlas?!?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Realizing the other day that it's none too soon to start thinking about and planning for homeschooling, I decided to read a book that's been on my list for a while now--The Well-Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. It's a guide to classical education at home, and is laid out chronologically, with detailed chapters for each subject. One could follow their program to the letter, as pretty much everything is covered; or use it as a guide in developing one's own curriculum.

Already it's clear that the method Odious and I will use will tend more towards the unschooling movement--we both greatly enjoy watching Sam learn on his own and discover things for himself without unnecessary teaching on our part. But still I'm finding the Wises' book useful, both for things we probably will do and things we probably won't. They follow the classical method, using the trivium and quadrivium, so that reading, writing, and math are of highest importance. However, in my opinion, their curriculum separates subjects too sharply, and requires more scheduling and formality than I could handle. I've always felt that education tends to be formalized far more than necessary, giving it a tinge of both elitism and tedium. As infants we learn from life, from the ordinary hustle bustle and domesticity around us, and there's no reason why this should change so drastically as we grow older.

I do agree that a formal math program is essential--even Odious, I don't think, could manage to teach math entirely without books and worksheets--but it needn't be tiresome if approached properly. Likewise grammar textbooks that teach the rules of the English language so that children are prepared to write well. But writing programs? I don't think so. They may teach one HOW to write, but they don't make it much fun. If I'd had to write an outline and composition for every reading assignment during my schooling years, I'd've gone crazy--what a waste of time. My sisters and I have been commended for our writing throughout our entire lives; I attribute our skills to all the reading we did as children and our familiarity with books, and, perhaps most importantly, the years and years of bedtime stories. Until I went to college (and I believe it continued for some time after that as well), our family would gather nearly every evening before bed and listen while my mother read aloud from Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery, Dickens, Richard Adams, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Jane Austen, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alexandre Dumas, A.A. Milne, Mary Norton, and dozens of others. Not only was it a wonderful family time that we all looked forward to, but it meant that the English language in all its elegance was constantly sounding in our ears. My sisters and I know what good prose looks like and sounds like from all those excellent books, and because of that we have no problem putting together a well-written, well-structured essay with a sound argument. In fact, it's so easy that there have been some feelings of guilt about turning in papers that have taken so little effort.

The Wises divide childhood learning into three stages: Grammar (ages 6-9), Logic (10-13), and Rhetoric (14-17). The Grammar stage is also called the poll-parrot stage, where children are gathering information from everything around them and repeating it back without completely understanding it. This, they claim, is the time for memorizing all sorts of facts without worrying about comprehension. Questions and connections come later, during the Logic stage, as children's brains mature and broaden. In the Rhetoric stage, they are able to present and defend (through composition, elocution, art, etc.) original thoughts and opinions. This division also allows for a chronological study of history, from ancient to modern in each stage, at appropriate levels of complexity.

I like this system because the expectations for ability are age-appropriate, something that public schools completely ignore. However, the Wises do follow an unfortunate public school method in which they schedule separate subjects for set time periods (i.e., Math for 1 hour, Grammar for 1/2 hour, etc.). For one thing, many "subjects" can be integrated (History/Reading, for example), and time periods are not necessary. When an assigned task is completed satisfactorily, the child should move on to the next, regardless of time spent.

Again, this is an excellent though pedantic guide to homeschooling in the classical method. Be inspired, think hard, and rearrange to suit your fancy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If Sam turns out like this boy, I will be so happy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Irresistible indeed, Steve. And so satisfying when the nearest book is an impressive one (AND one that I was reading, not Odious, as is more usually the case by the computer)!

Lord. The King and Queen and all are coming down.
Hamlet. In happy time.
Lord. The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.

--The Kittredge Shakespeares Hamlet, edited and with notes by G.L. Kittredge

Saturday, February 16, 2008

We just spent a lovely sunny week in California visiting relatives, and my dear sister took us to a charming little oldtown shopping area where we went crazy in a couple of antique stores. I found all these delicious old books--so much fun! I was hoping the titles would show up better in the picture, but I guess I'll have to list them. There are only a couple of replacements (Rose In Bloom and White Fang); the rest are just wonderful little finds.

Vinzi, Johanna Spyri: Heidi is the best, of course, but all her books are charming; couldn't pass it up.
Shelley's Poetical Works: Because it was pretty?
The Bobbsey Twins Keeping House, Laura Lee Hope: A walk down Memory Lane--I think this is one of the few I never read as a child. Incredibly dorky, but fun.
Roads of Destiny, O. Henry: There was a whole beautiful set that I WANTED, but the stack was too big already.
The Son of Porthos,The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, Alexandre Dumas: For Odious--he was very pleased.
A Good Place To Hide, Louis Slobodkin: A cute little story.
Elsie's Holidays, Martha Finley: NOT to keep--urgh. But a young friend enjoys these books, and I thought she'd like a nice old edition for her upcoming birthday.
Millbank, Mary J. Holmes: I hope someone else out there will know why I bought this one! Neither my sister nor Odious guessed it--the book Laura "reads" to Ma to avoid going to school in On The Banks of Plum Creek. Had to have it!
Scenes of Clerical Life and Silas Marner, George Eliot: I got Scenes for Christmas, but I never pass up a lovely old hardback just because I already own a shiny new paperback.
The Winning of Barbara Worth, Harold Bell Wright: No reason, really, other than it looked like a fun read and is set on a Colorado ranch.
Camilla, Elizabeth Robins: Ditto, except for the ranch.
My Book House, vols 7 (The Magic Garden) & 8 (Through Fairy Halls), Olive Beaupre Miller, ed.: Beautiful Victorian illustrations and lots of delightful stories. There were more volumes, but these were the best.

I could have bought them all...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My latest phase of potato-chip reads is over, and I'm back to Victorian novels as inspired by the wonderful book Inside the Victorian Home, by Judith Flanders.

Miss Marjoribanks, Margaret Oliphant: Lucilla Marjoribanks is my hero! She's the Dolly Levi of Victorian novels--I loved her sensible, level-headed approach to life and to arranging everyone in it. So far I haven't had any luck finding further Chronicles of Carlingford, but shall keep looking assiduously.

Period Piece, Gwen Raverat: Not a novel but a cheery memoir of a young girl's life around the turn of the century. Light and amusing and utterly without angst.

Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell: More interesting than North and South, but still my least favorite of Mrs Gaskell's books. Ruth is a good character, in that her faults are clear but she works hard to overcome them, but she's just not my kind of gal. I prefer heroines with a little more backbone. The most interesting thing about this book is how appalling the treatment of seduced women and their illegitimate offspring was. I'm no fan of having children out of wedlock, but thank goodness our society no longer views such situations so harshly.

New Grub Street, George Gissing: More than slightly autobiographical, this novel looks with a icily realistic eye at the plight of those who venture into the writing life. Those who wish only to be "men of letters" or write purely from their hearts end up dying of starvation in a freezing garret, while those who are willing to make social connections and fulfill any writing assignment that comes their way are rewarded handsomely. Strangely, I found it inspiring... And while I didn't much care for any of the characters, it was quite a compelling story.

The Filigree Ball, Anna-Katherine Green: My sister found this book in an antique shop--it's a highly sensational detective novel that amused me greatly. Complete with mistaken identities, mysterious deaths, secret panels, family curses, tragic love affairs, and a mystery complicated beyond words--delicious!

Now I'm happily absorbed in Anne Bronte's Tenant of Wildfell Hall. What a writer she was! Somewhere in Heaven there's a library filled with her unwritten works...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lots of good books the past couple of weeks--I've been reading more than getting things done...

Dragonhaven, Robin McKinley: I probably should've read some Jane Austen after this, to protect my own writing style; as with Sunshine, McKinley gives her narrator (in this case, a teenage boy) a very specific voice. It works, but is a little wearing after a while--too many likes and totallys and you knows and run-on sentences. It's the sort of style that gets into one's head, and that's not a good thing. But the story is excellent; her perspective on dragons reminds me a bit of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Jake lives in a privately-owned preserve for dragons, but few of the people there have ever actually seen a dragon until Jake apprentices with the Rangers and goes on a solo trip into the wilderness. What he finds there is only the first of many surprises.

The Woods Were Full of Men, Irma Lee Emmerson: The kind of memoir people used to write before everybody got all angsty and revealed their childhood traumas. A fun light tale of a woman's experience cooking for sixty hungry loggers in an Oregon camp.

She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven Kimmel: See above; angsty memoir. This sequel to A Girl Named Zippy grows more depressing as Haven gets older and begins to realize how incredibly dysfunctional her family is. It's hard to believe that anyone could live as she did, in a condemned house full of mice and rats, with a mother who spent many years of her life sitting on the couch with a book and a bag of pork rinds; and even harder to believe that she could manage to write about it. It is funny, though, in a I-probably-shouldn't-laugh-at-this kind of way, and she has a particularly wry sense of humor (fortunately for her survival).

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls: I can't actually include this in the "good books" list for the week, but I got on a memoir roll and figured I'd mention this one as well. Angsty does not even begin to cover it. With a ne'er-do-well drunken gambler for a father and an unbalanced artist for a mother, the four Walls children were forced to take care of themselves as soon as they could walk. At last they hit what has to be rock-bottom--they're living in a coal-mining town in Appalachia, and they are the poorest family there. Poor white trash kids throw rocks at them. It's appalling, and horribly depressing, and I kind of wish I hadn't read it. At least the ending is sort of happy, or at least positive.

Renegade's Magic, Robin Hobb: The final book in the Soldier Son trilogy. This was certainly not a predictable story! Everything was a surprise, although not necessarily a good one, and I got really tired of the protagonist's incessant and repetitive whining. Interesting, fascinating, and, of course, well-written, but not as good as some of her previous trilogies.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The List of Lost Books

These are some of the books we lost in the flood. I know there are more, and we'll probably add titles as we remember them; we'll also remove titles as we reacquire them. Again, it's not a wish list--more of a eulogy, really--but anyone who wants to give us a gift in the future can refer to it. Aren't you glad we've simplified your gift giving?

Abelard & Heloise: Letters
Adams, Richard: Watership Down, Tales of Watership Down
Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins, Rose In Bloom, Jack and Jill, Under the Lilacs, An Old Fashioned Girl, A Long Fatal Love Chase, Behind A Mask
Ashley, Mike: British Kings and Queens
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Lady Susan/Sanditon/Watsons, Juvenilia, Selected Letters
Babbitt, Natalie: Tuck Everlasting
Bagnold, Enid: National Velvet
Bodio, Stephen: Eagle Dreams
Borland, Hal: When the Legends Die
Boylan, Clare: Collected Stories
Bristow, Gwen: Jubilee Trail
Bronte, Anne: Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Agnes Grey
Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
Bronte, Charlotte: Villette, Shirley, The Professor
Bryson, Bill: Neither Here Nor There, Notes From A Small Island, I’m A Stranger Here Myself, A Walk in the Woods, The Mother Tongue
Buck, Pearl S.: House of Earth
Bujold, Lois: The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, The Vor Game
Bunyan, John: Pilgrim's Progress
Burney, Fanny: Evelina
Butler, Samuel: The Way of All Flesh
Byatt, A.S.: Possession, The Shadow of the Sun, Sugar and Other Stories, The Virgin in the Garden, Babel Tower
Carroll, Jonathan: Sleeping in Flame, The Bones of the Moon
Cather, Willa: My Antonia, O Pioneers, The Professor’s House, Death Comes To The Archbishop
Chadwick, Janet: How To Live On Almost Nothing and Have Plenty
Chevalier, Tracy: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Chopin, Kate: The Awakening, Short Stories
Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White, No-Name
Copland, Aaron: What To Listen For In Music
Cunningham, Michael: The Hours
Dalkey, Kara: Crystal Sage, Steel Rose
Darwin, Charles: The Origin of Species; The Voyage of the Beagle
Datlow, Ellen, & Terri Windling, eds: The Green Man, The Faery Reel
Dean, Pamela: Tam Lin; The Secret Country; The Hidden Land; The Whim of the Dragon; The Dubious Hills; Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary
de Lint, Charles: Moonlight and Vines, The Ivory and the Horn, Tapping the Dream Tree, Spirits in the Wires, Wolf Moon, Yarrow, Dreams Underfoot, The Little Country, Jack of Kinrowan, The Wild Wood, Moonheart, Spiritwalk, Someplace To Be Flying, The Onion Girl, Forests of the Heart, Waifs and Strays
Dillard, Annie: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Holy the Firm, The Writing Life
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee: The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
Duane, Diane: The Book of Night With Moon, Young Wizards series
Eliot, George: Middlemarch, Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss
Euclid: Elements
Faulkner, William: Go Down, Moses; The Reivers; Absalom, Absalom!; The Sound and The Fury; Light In August; As I Lay Dying; Requiem For A Nun
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, Tender Is The Night, Complete Short Stories
Flagg, Fannie: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café
Forster, E.M.: A Room With A View, A Passage To India, Where Angels Fear To Tread, Howards End
Frazier, Anitra: The New Natural Cat
Gaskell, Elizabeth: Mary Barton, Cranford, Wives and Daughters
Gibbons, Stella: Cold Comfort Farm
Gies, Frances & Joseph: Daily Life in Medieval Times, Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Herland
Goethe: Faust
Grimm, Brothers: The Annotated Brothers Grimm
Hamilton, Edith: Mythology
Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure
Hillenbrand, Laura: Seabiscuit
Hobb, Robin: Tawny Man Trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage
Hoffman, Nina Kiriki: A Red Heart of Memories, Past the Size of Dreaming
Hubbell, Sue: A Country Year, A Book of Bees
Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Jenkins, Joseph: The Humanure Handbook
Jewett, Sarah Orne: The Country of the Pointed Firs
Joyce, James: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners
Keats, John: Selected Poems
Kingsolver, Barbara: High Tide in Tucson
Lawrence, D.H.: Women in Love, Sons and Lovers
Lee, Harper: To Kill A Mockingbird
L’Engle, Madeleine: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, A Wind in the Door, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother
Lewis, C.S.: Till We Have Faces, The Black Tower
Lively, Penelope: Pack of Cards
Lo Kuan-chung: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
London, Jack: The Call of the Wild, White Fang
Mansfield, Katherine: Short Stories
Martin, Judith: Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millenium, Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility
Martin, Tovah: The Private Life of Tasha Tudor, Tasha Tudor’s Garden, Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts
Mayes, Frances: Under the Tuscan Sun
Mayle, Peter: A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence
McKillip, Patricia: The Tower at Stony Wood, Alphabet of Thorn, In the Forest of Serre
Millay, Edna St. Vincent: Complete Poems
Mitchell, Margaret: Gone With The Wind
Mitford, Jessica: A Fine Old Conflict, Hons and Rebels
Mitford, Nancy: Love In A Cold Climate, The Pursuit of Love
Murdoch, Iris: The Unicorn, Under the Net, An Unofficial Rose
Neill, A.S.: Summerhill
O’Brian, Patrick: Master and Commander, Post Captain, HMS Surprise, The Mauritius Command, Desolation Island, Fortunes of War, The Surgeon’s Mate
O’Connor, Flannery: Complete Works
Orczy, Baroness: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Ovid: Metamorphoses
Pascal: Pensees
Patmore, Coventry: Collected Poems
Perez-Reverte, Arturo: The Flanders Panel
Plath, Sylvia: Unabridged Journals
Plato: Dialogues
Proust, Marcel: Remembrance of Things Past
Ptolemy: Almagest
Radcliffe, Ann: The Italian
Rossetti, Christina: Collected Poems
Seymour, John and Sally: Farming for Self-Sufficiency
Sophocles: Plays
Spock, Benjamin: Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care
Taber, Gladys: The Stillmeadow Road, Especially Father, Stillmeadow Daybook
Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion
Virgil: Aeneid
West, Rebecca: The Thinking Reed, The Return of the Soldier
Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence, Twilight Sleep
White, T.H.: The Once and Future King
Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Collected Plays
Willis, Connie: Passage, Doomsday Book
Wodehouse, P.G.: Carry On, Jeeves; A Jeeves & Wooster Omnibus; Leave It To Psmith
Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own, Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, A Common Reader, The Waves, The Voyage Out, Night and Day, The Years
Xenophon: Anabasis
Yeats, W.B.: Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, Selected Poems

Saturday, January 12, 2008

As the rains came down and the rivers of Northwestern Oregon climbed their banks last month, our little farm became an island. All around us homes and businesses were flooded; people lost pets, possessions, vehicles; families were separated without phone communication for days; towns shut down and were stranded. Up on our hill we stayed safe and dry, and, thank God, together; we watched the floodwaters rise over the road in front of the house, ate lots of soup, and played games by candlelight. We were very fortunate, yet Odious and I did suffer our own tragedy.

When we moved up here a year ago, we put most of our possessions into a storage unit in a nearby town. When I say most of our possessions, I mean our most prized ones--our books. Fifty boxes of a library accumulated over our collective 29 years; gifts, treasured finds, precious friends, tangible memories.

As the town flooded, so did the storage facility. Four feet of sewage-contaminated water filled every unit, destroying anything that could not be wiped down with bleach or run through a washing machine. Destroying 25 boxes of our beloved books.

What makes me curse fate in the loudest voice is the utter randomness of the tragedy. The books we lost were in the boxes that happened to be stacked on the bottom, which happened to be, for the most part, the ones I would have chosen to save over the others. There were two boxes of particularly prized books that had been purposely set atop the stack, well out of the way; but as the bottom boxes got soaked and crumpled, the stack shifted and sent those two down into the muck, so that the first thing we saw when opening the unit was Odious' signed copy of Tam Lin. Not only was it signed, it was the book that introduced me to Pamela Dean and the book that cemented Odious' and my budding relationship our freshman year of college; he read it aloud to me those first few months of our strange new life away from home.

Also tumbled from those special boxes were Odious' prized James Branch Cabell novels--old, out-of-print, rare, signed, first edition. He didn't cry, as I did, to see most of those beyond redemption, but I know how he mourns them. And there are so many more to mourn! My collection of European fairy tales, read over and over as a child; the copy of Watership Down my mother read to us as a bedtime story; the Secret Country trilogy beloved to Odious for so long, and the copy of Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary he gave to me on the first birthday we celebrated together; dozens of annotated college texts (though that marginalia is perhaps best lost forever); Xenophon; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, inscribed "For a kindred spirit" from a kindred spirit; A Room with a View inscribed with a long loving note from a long loving friend; the complete works of Flannery O'Connor from a wonderful SJC preceptorial; Pearl S. Buck's House of Earth, given to me by a favorite tutor; The Search for Delicious, another fundamental book in Odious' and my relationship (the moment he discovered I'd read it, a few weeks after we met, was, I believe, the moment he decided to marry me), A Passage to India, with a note from a friend I'll never see again; Tovah Martin and Richard Brown's lovely books about Tasha Tudor's life; all our farming/country life books. These losses haunt me still; and while every now and then I am struck with the realization that I no longer own any Jane Austen or Shakespeare, it is the books that I can never replace that I will mourn forever.

Odious and I are working on compiling a list of all the lost books which we will then post here and on his blog. This will not be a wish list, but rather a list to which friends can refer should they desire to give us gifts. While the urge is great to have huge shopping sprees at Powell's and Borders, my hope is to rebuild a library similar to the one we lost, full of new memories--exciting finds from book sales and books that friends wished to share with us, complete with their loving words inscribed inside.

UPDATE: I had a slightly heartening morning looking through the boxes we did manage to save, and found several books that I'd thought were lost (my index card system was a little vague), including A Search for Delicious! The unfortunate part is that it made me realize how many books we had that I simply cannot remember. Odd booksale finds, random gifts, etc, that have simply slipped from my memory since packing up the library a year and a half ago. And oh my goodness! I want my books so dreadfully--I want to unpack them and put them on shelves and read them and just look at them...