Finding Friends in Unlikely Places

One of the best stories I heard this year was from my girlfriend reunion in September.  It’s not my story to tell in specifics. The gist of it is that my girlfriend’s mom was talking to a tour guide in England, challenging the English interpretation of events between England and Scotland.  Pleased to engage with someone knowledgeable and articulate in British history, the guide allowed their conversation to develop, extending the time one would usually take with a tourist. At some point my friend’s mom realized she was speaking with a member of the royal family.

A similar frisson of recognition delights me when I come across a literary reference that connects.  I am oblivious to so many references, hopscotching right over them.  But when I am familiar with a work, or writer or quote the author mentions, the thrill of discovery goes right through me. 

Here are two recent catches:

As one who must always be acting a part, he had dressed up very carefully as a river-man; ‘the Jerome K. Jerome touch’, he had explained, ‘is what impresses the lock-keepers.’   ~ the quote is from The Footsteps at the Lock by Ronald Knox. The reference is to Jerome K. Jerome’s book Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog…) which is a very funny (in the dry British sense) book

Here was one of Miss Barbara Pym’s excellent women, a dying breed no doubt, even in country parishes, but once as much a part of the Church of England as sung evensong…; Sunday School superintendent, arranger of flowers, polisher of brass, scourge of choirboys and comforter of favorite curates.  ~ the quote is from P.D. James’ A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery Series). The reference is to Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, a comic novel about unmarried women that is at times too close to the truth to be funny (says a single friend of mine).  I didn’t know until this minute that it has been issued in a Penguin classics.  I collect Penguins

This happens in minor ways all the time. One learns a new word, a new work, a new author…and suddenly that new thing jumps out from the shadows. In January I wrote about the same thrill

~ happy sigh ~  People imagine that we readers are dull and boring, but really, the reading life is a thrilling life!

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One thought on “Finding Friends in Unlikely Places

  1. Oh, I know exactly what you mean.  It is a delight to find a “new” author who is familiar with an old favorite author.  It immediately gives you a feeling of kinship.  Of course, it’s a pleasure, too, just REMEMBERING the old connection.  (Your reference to Pym’s excellent women gave me warm fuzzies.)  

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