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...