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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Varied Menu

Today’s topics—so far: (1) my morning; (2) Dunes Review; (3) books that welcome you back. There is a progression here, moving from present irritations to new pleasures to old friends.

Trouble with the van, so David wanted to take it up to the garage, which meant Sarah and I would go in the “little” car. Got it loaded, but Sarah had taken off to find her friends (our neighbors’ dogs) and wasn’t interested in car or leash. In the midst of dog pandemonium, the loose right lens fell out of my glasses. Yes, of course, into the snow. I didn’t dare move from the spot. Soon there were three adults scraping around in a small area, like archaeologists at a dig, while Becky held Sarah’s leash and kept the other dogs at bay. Miracle! The lens was found! Okay, David would take Sarah in the van and wait for me at the top of the hill to make sure I got out all right.

Back to the little car, loaded and warming up. Put it in reverse and stalled out. Started again and stalled out again. Not wanting to flood the engine, I got out and started out up the hill for the second time that day. At the top, no van! David and Sarah were out at the very end of the driveway, by the highway! I jumped up and down, waving my arms like a crazed scarecrow in the wind. No response. Well, sorry, I was not in the mood to walk all the way out to the road. Turned around, went back to the little car, got it started—and at the top of the hill came bumper to bumper with David, coming back to see what was going on with me. He backed out, let me lead the way, and off to Northport we went. I had to keep my right eye closed (lens was safe in my pocket) in order to navigate.

Dogs, glasses, cars—what next?

But the morning turned around in Northport, where the post office had six copies of the new Dunes Review for me. Northporter friends Al Bona and Marie Bahlke are both among poets published in this issue. I love the cover, too. My first thought on seeing it was, “It’s somewhere in the old state hospital.” All that old, thick, crackled paint separating into raised pieces like colored tiles. There are some new names inside, too. It’s a handsome issue.

My third topic for the day is one I’m stealing from the “Shelf Awareness” newsletter. What books “welcome you back” every time you pick them up and begin to re-read? Many of the ones that leap to my mind initially are young people’s books, ones I read as a young person: Wind in the Willows (which led off the SA piece); The Little Prince; The Black Stallion and all the other Walter Farley books; The Borrowers and The Borrowers Afield; Anne of Green Gables; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet; Little Women (despite the formulaic writing, the characters come alive); Mistress Masham’s Repose (which I did not discover until adulthood); The Silver Nutmeg—the children’s story, not the novel—and if only it were available in reprint! And how many more came to mind this morning that have escaped me at this moment!

Adult novels A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith, welcome me back time and again, as do all of Jane Austen’s books and anything by Marcel Pagnol. Even murder mysteries can have this quality: I think of those by Agatha Christie, Harry Kemelman and Georges Simenon.

As I carried this question further, it seemed to me that even “difficult” books can be welcome-back books. Why else would I have re-read Joyce’s Ulysses so many times? And while I never expect to drag myself through all of Proust, I’ll certainly revisit the first and last volumes. Aristotle and Marx, Shakespeare and Homer—don’t they belong here? Bergson, for me, and de Toqueville. Too many poets to name….

It’s no wonder there’s not enough time to keep up with new books. Old friends keep calling me back.


Deborah said...

Would Brother Bertram fit into the welcoming back category for you? For me, of course, from childhood are the Betsy, Tacy, Tib books. Do you suppose for Bettie it might be the Happy Hollister's?

P. J. Grath said...

Brother Bertram, yes! And the Betsy-Tace series and the Moffat and Pye books by Eleanor Estes.

Anonymous said...

Almost all the books you mentioned are my welcome-back books as well! Especially the Betsy-Tacy and Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women and everything by Betty Smith. There’s also the All of Kind Family books. And of course Laura Ingalls Wilder. For more serious fare, To Kill a Mockingbird fills a spot in me that nothing else ever has. And Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. Oh, and as for mysteries, somewhere in there falls the magical historical thriller of Jack Finney’s From Time to Time, and Time and Again.

dmarks said...

That was my first thought on the Dunes Review cover, also. The only difference is the color. The State Hospital walls are "institutional green".

I plan on doing a Borrowers post soon. I so loved the Borrowers books and the Mushroom Planet books and read them many times. Other books I loved like that include the two "Gone Away Lake" books.

If you have Borrowers books available at your store, I will "plug" them in my blog post.

P. J. Grath said...

Another older adult series: Anthony Trollope's Barchester novels, especially THE WARDEN. That imaginary cello!

dmarks, I'm so pleased to learn that you're a MUSHROOM PLANET fan. And isn't the author of GONE AWAY LAKE (I could check but haven't) also the author of the books about the Melendy family? Those would go on my list, for sure. I do have THE BORROWERS AFIELD in stock at the moment, but December will soon be over, and Dog Ears will close for winter vacation!

Do you think all the paint in the old state hospital was green? There were those murals in the children's area. I have some good photographs, pre-renovation, but unfortunately I only have prints, no digital stored images. Emily and Tim (both involved in production of the current DUNES) have their office in on the grounds, though not in Building 50.

Another book for my list: IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE, by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Anonymous said...

Pam -- I'm heartened to see that you too list among your welcoming-back books "Ulysses," that universe between covers -- but your post makes me remember acutely my late friend, the photographer Heidi Johnson, whose book "Angels in the Architecture" captures so vividly the essence and history of Traverse City State Hospital. Heidi was at work on an astonishing work, a collection of found letters and photographs from patients at the hospital, dating back to the 19th century, when she took her own life last fall. I'm still stunned by the loss... to the art world and to her family and friends...

dmarks said...

P.J. The author of the Gone Away Lake books was Elizabeth Enright. She did also write the Melendy books. I remember at this time is The Four Story Mistake. I read Thimble Summer several years ago. According to a web page, Elisabeth Enright "conceived the book while spending the summer on the farm of her famous uncle, architect Frank Lloyd Wright."

I blogged about them a long time ago: click here.

I think some of the State Hospital paint was other colors, such as the blue in the photo, come to think of it.

Jerry: Thanks for mentioning Heidi and her projects.

P. J. Grath said...

I keep thinking of more of my own welcome-back books. Harlan Hubbard's SHANTYBOAT comes right after WIND IN THE WILLOWS, and Bruce Catton's WAITING FOR THE MORNING TRAIN isn't far behind.

Jerry and dmarks, I know the ANGELS book but hadn't realized the sad sequel and am sorry to hear it. Will anyone else be able to take up the letters project? dmarks?

Yes, Elizabeth Enright, of course. My favorite of her Melendy books was the one in which the four children started their Saturday Club.

Well, inspired by this topic, yesterday I ordered myself a copy of Palmer Brown's THE SILVER NUTMEG (not to be confused with the Nora Lofts adult novel with the same title). Prices are so high on that book that I could only afford an ex-lib. copy, but it will be worth it to be able to share with David the magic story of Anna Lavinia and Toby.