|Snow and cold are not news.|
A while ago I wrote a paper in which I tried to show that no historical novel can recapture the true spirit of the past, since its writer must always present it in terms of the present. I was amazed at how mistaken I was in this idea when I read Esther Forbes’s last novel. I have never seen the illusion of a period so beautifully presented. Somehow she has caught the whole spirit of New England, which I used to recognize when I talked to very old people during my childhood. In my humble opinion, it is outstanding in every way. It is literature and by far the best thing she has ever written.
|Book Club edition, 1954|
I guess I’ve made it clear by now that these days were before the time an artist (and seems like everybody is an artist now) could buy paint in a compressible tube with the oil and the pigment already mixed together. The powdered colors, each ground to the proper coarseness or fineness best for it, came to Dr. Bloomer in containers about like what rare tea come in. On selling them they were transferred to bladders of small animals. When Jude wished to use a certain color he’d prick the bladder with a bone tack, sprinkle out the amount he’d need, and mix in the linseed oil. But I associate the smell of oil of lavender with his work, and turpentine as well. From then on, the bladder having been breached, the tack served as a stopper....
The biggest bladder used was that of a rabbit. If you wanted more, instead of going into sheep or swine bladders, you bought two rabbitsful. As I remember, this was about an ounce. A rat’s bladder was smaller. These were commonest but other animals served. A mouse’s bladder was the smallest unit.
“My trade’s done. Pianofortes and music stores. Sheet music. Music books. I’m the tail-end of the last. People, learned people, have told me there have always been singing men upon the road since the beginning of time. But I know they will not last on into time to come. If I had a son, or a grandson rather, I’d never learn him my trade.”
We had come to the edge of the high ridge on which Bennington sits. Below us was the great valley into York State. The road he would follow on dipping and appearing and disappearing across it.
“Ballad singers and broadside men are done for,” he said.
...[Jude] was just about the tail-end of his trade too. Not the last of people like H. H. Hooper, who called themselves artists and had studios. But he was among the last of the traveling limners, for already (unbeknownst to any of us) that Frenchman, name of Daguerre, had done his work. Before you could guess it the itinerant limner was clean off the road and the daguerreotypist and the tintype men were on it.
In the end, there should be no competition between bookshops and libraries. Authors, publishers, booksellers, and libraries would do well to view each other as allies in the struggle to preserve literacy and instill a passion for reading and learning in all of mankind. When everybody reads, everybody wins.