Matched Sets

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You remember that Louisa May Alcott quote, She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain? Here is a corollary: She is too too fond of matching sets.

I have a birthday coming up. One that ends in zero and exceeds half a century. Since three of my family or origin (mother, father, sister) did not live to see the birthday that is 7/10 of a century, I gave myself permission to go for the gusto in making my wishes known.

It’s extravagant. Indubitably redundant. But, oh, so resplendent. And significantly pleasant!  Irrational and beautiful.

Reading all of Shakespeare this year has been such a positive experience that I plan an ‘all of {   } project’ the rest of my life. And surely one of those authors is C.S. Lewis. When I saw this set  I was conquered, subjugated, overwhelmed. In a season of releasing books, I gladly acquired these gems and will joyfully distribute the duplicates.

Something else made me deliriously giddy.

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This is my set of commonplace journals, beginning with 2007. (I have earlier commonplace books, but, alas, they don’t match.) I had a fright when the box store which shall not be named stopped selling these. Amazon sells them, but at more than twice what I had been paying. I discovered Staples now sells them! I’m ready for four more years of quotes, wedding invitations, doodles, news clippings, and recommendations. It’s a bullet journal (sort of) that focuses more on thinking than doing. And —joy!— they match!

More glorious matchingness

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The two on the left are the only remaining of the original set given me by my dad and mom, which I lent out with abandon and lost. My sister gave me the new hardbound set. It’s picky, I know, but don’t you think they could’ve made Laura Ingalls Wilder printed at the same place on the spine?

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Ah, Wendell. His Port Williams stories are top shelf. The publisher didn’t get the spine design uniform, but we’ll let it go.

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Barbara Tuchman makes history read like a novel. If you feel unsure about why World War 1 was fought, The Guns of August is the book to read.

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Reading a set of Churchill is like going on a diet. You need time to prepare yourself mentally for the challenge. But, oh!, the words!

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My sons and I gobbled up this Ralph Moody set. My oldest and I used to hide it from each other so we wouldn’t have to share it.

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No one in my circle of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances uses the word jonesing. Although I know jonesing is usually used in the context of recreational drugs (at least I think it is, but my middle name is Naïve), I can confidently say that I am jonesing for the complete hardbound set by Overlook. (You won’t believe how many greenbacks are needed for these hardbacks! Click on Overlook!)

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The Penguins. Friends. Hear me! Amazon sells 80 classics for $77.98!?!?!?  Be still, my finger. But, seriously, that is an amazing price, and would grace any bookshelf. This is quite the discovery for a sleepy Saturday…  Back to my shelf: you notice my Trollopes are divided? Yes, even the penguins editions must stay together. We can’t have top red stripes comingling with the lower white stripes.
DSC_3854 I found this Blackie and Son set at an Eagle River, Wisconsin antique store in 1996. I groaned because it cost $45; I wanted it, but $45 for books, beautiful watercolors notwithstanding, was not even [voice fades] blah blah blah. One of my siblings heard my groan, flipped me a fifty, and told me to buy it. This is what comes of being the youngest child, a habit I highly recommend.

Back to the CS Lewis set. Are you wondering with me about the spine on The Weight of Glory? (see top photo) Hello, Harper One? What was that about?

[In that x3-speed radio voice at the end of commercials: …affiliate links…no extra cost…helps my habit…thanks a million…]

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Lucy and Aslan

Margo Walker

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

::     ::     ::     ::     ::     ::     ::

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.”

Read (exquisitely) by my sister Dorothy at my sister Margaret’s funeral.

Chronological 2015 Reading List

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It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. — C.S. Lewis

The rewards of deep reading (reading several books on the same subject or by the same author) are plentiful: synthesis, comprehension, analysis. Or just the possibility of remembering the main point. Reading widely pays well, too. The stab of joy, the searing beauty of synchronicity! When I read Book G and it revisits something I read in Book B with no obvious connection between the two? Oh, man. It gets my voice in the high treble range and sets my fingers aflutter.

I thought it would be fun to classify my reading list for 2015 chronologically by publication date. I like old books, yes. But I also have been guilty of reverse-snobbery, where I lift my nose a few centimeters and declare that I’m not all that interested in modern writing. Blech! (autocorrect wanted to change that to belch; that works, too!) As you can see, I’ve overcome that weakness, haha!

2011-2015 (30 books)

Reclaiming Conversation     Sherry Turkle
Come Rain or Come Shine     Jan Karon
Bread and Wine     Shauna Niequist
Earthen Vessels     Matthew Lee Anderson
Being Mortal     Atul Gawande
Fierce Convictions     Karen Swallow Prior
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust     Alan Bradley
Landfalls     Naomi Williams
The Wright Brothers     David McCullough
All the Light We Cannot See     Anthony Doerr
Gutenberg’s Apprentice   Alix Christie
Nigellissima     Nigella Lawson
Among the Janeites     Deborah Yaffe
Wheat Belly     William Davis
Every Good Endeavor     Timothy Keller
Coolidge    Amity Shlaes
The Book of Strange New Things     Michel Faber
The Green Ember     S.D. Smith
Food: A Love Story     Jim Gaffigan
Dad Is Fat     Jim Gaffigan
God Made All of Me    Justin Holcomb
No Higher Honour     Condoleezza Rice
The Forgotten Founding Father     Joshua Kendall
Delancey     Molly Wizenberg
Lit! The Christian Guide to Reading Books     Tony Reinke
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse     Alan Bradley
The Every-Other-Day-Diet     Krista Varady
Tsura     Heather Anastasiu
House of Stone     Heather Anastasiu
One Good Dish     David Tanis

Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. — C.S. Lewis

2000-2010 (24 books)

In the Midst of Life     Jennifer Worth
The Midwife     Jennifer Worth
Waiting for Snow in Havana     Carlos Eire
The River of Doubt     Candice Millard
Mudhouse Sabbath     Lauren Winner
Complications     Atul Gawande
Unless It Moves the Human Heart     Roger Rosenblatt
The Importance of Being Seven     Alexander McCall Smith
The Best Day, The Worst Day     Donald Hall
A Personal Odyssey     Thomas Sowell
The Shoebox Bible     Alan Bradley
Sonata for Miriam     Linda Olsson
Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance     Atul Gawande
Shadows of the Workhouse     Jennifer Worth
Inkheart     Cornelia Funke
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones     Alexander McCall Smith
Old Filth     Jane Gardam
The Man in the Wooden Hat     Jane Gardam
How to Read Shakespeare     Nicholas Royle
In Thy Dark Streets Shineth       David McCullough
The House at Riverton     Kate Morton
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs     Larry Smith
Widow of the South     Robert Hicks
A Separate Country     Robert Hicks

1990-1999 (7 books)

A Pianist’s Landscape     Carol Montparker
Down the Common     Ann Baer
Poems New and Collected     Wistawa Szymborska
Melodious Accord     Alice Parker
One Year Off     David Elliot Cohen
Girl in Hyacinth Blue     Susan Vreeland
Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny     Jan Karon

1980-1988 (2 books)

Godric     Frederick Buechner
To School Through the Fields     Alice Taylor

1970-1979  (1 book)

The Brendan Voyage    Tim Severin

1950-1969 (4 books)

A Grief Observed     C.S. Lewis
How Does a Poem Mean?     John Ciardi
On the Beach     Nevil Shute
The Schoolmasters     Leonard Everett Fisher

1900-1949 (7 books)

Orthodoxy     G.K. Chesterton
The Adventures of Sally     P.G. Wodehouse
Pied Piper   Nevil Shute
Anna and the King of Siam     Margaret Landon
I Capture the Castle     Dodie Smith
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres     Henry Adams
Jimmy at Gettysburg     Margaret Bigham Beitler

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. — C.S. Lewis

1800-1899 (4 books)

Doctor Wortle’s School     Anthony Trollope
Sir Henry Hotspur     Anthony Trollope
Henry Heathcote of Gangoil     Anthony Trollope
Luck of the Roaring Camp     Bret Harte

1500-1599 (2 books)

Henry IV, Part I     William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part 2     William Shakespeare

0- 500 AD (2 books)

On the Incarnation    Athanasius
Marcus Aurelius and his Times     Marcus Aurelius

Photograph is my granddaughter, reading Goodnight Moon to me.

New Wardrobe for the Walls

DSC_0954Our home is the kind where nail holes in the wall are sacred. I normally change a picture—or even a paint color—about once a score. Score, you’ll recall, is the second word in the Gettysburg address.

And now, in the space of one month, I have three new views. This shocks me…and confuses friends for whom a total room makeover occurs with every new season. The kind of interior decorators who develop a facial twitch if everything in their house is the same for six months.

The Courage, dear heart is eye level next to the mirror in the bathroom. Befitting, eh?  I love looking at this while I prepare for the day ahead. My husband uses this phrase to gently tease me. As in, (me–>) “I can’t figure out how to get the gray scuff marks out of the sink.” (him–>) “Courage, dear heart.”

DSC_0164I saw these colorful creatures at The Potter’s House, a local store that sells hand-thrown bowls and plates and mugs. A store perched on the other end of the spectrum from WalMart. My go-to store for gifts. I couldn’t resist the whimsy. Curt calls it, “Till We Have Faces.” I wake up with the birds every morning; they make me sing.

DSC_0206My friend Faith gave me Bind my wandering heart to thee knowing the phrase came from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I propped this on top of my piano, testing the location before I pounded a (sacred) nail in the wall. This week I was in the midst of a talkfest in the aisle of a store when Tune my heart leaned into my peripheral vision. And now they both sing to me in my kitchen while I make dinners or type on the computer. I love the pairing.

Beauty and serendipity washed and rinsed me again. ♫♪♫ Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow ♫♪♫.

Letters to an American Lady

I’m sorry to say that my initial response to Letters to an American Lady was one of annoyance.  The book contains thirteen years of letters from C.S. Lewis (Jack) to a woman who kept writing him back.  Only Jack’s letters to Mrs. ——– (Mary) are published, but from his we get an idea of hers. She had many distressing circumstances, medical and financial.  

Lewis was from the old school of manners: for every letter he received, he wrote a reply. Jack doesn’t disguise his opinion: responding to mail was tedious and difficult and, at times, dreadful.  The daily letter-writing I have to do is very laborious for me. (May 6, 1959)  He asks Mary –nearly every year–not to write at holiday times. Will you, please, always avoid “holiday” periods in writing to me? (April 17, 1954)  And always remember that there is no time in the whole year when I am less willing to write than near Christmas, for it is then that my burden is heaviest. (January 29, 1955)

A majority of the letters have some explanation/apology from Lewis about the length it took him to respond.  (You have, you know, recently stepped up the pace of the correspondence! I can’t play at that tempo, you know.) (October 5, 1955)  I get on my righteous indignation and want to reproach Dear Mary to please quit bugging one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. 

Don’t get me wrong: there are some gems in these letters between the in great hastes and all good wishes.  All the best quotes from this book will be found in The Quotable Lewis if you’d like to skim the cream off the top.
 

As for wrinkles–pshaw! Why shouldn’t we have wrinkles?
Honorable insignia of long service in this warfare.
(October 30, 1958) 

The great thing with unhappy times is to take them bit by bit,
hour by hour, like an illness. It is seldom the present,
the exact present, that is unbearable.
(June 14, 1956) 

A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. (March 31, 1958)

: :         : :        : :

The second time through this short book (124 small pages) I had a better sense of its value. In short, it is a primer on helping people who are in pain. 

He prays for her.  From the first letter, I will have you in my prayers (October 26, 1950) to a letter written on behalf of Lewis by Walter Hooper, He is much concerned for you and prays that you may have courage for whatever may be yours both in the present and future. (August 10, 1963) there are assurances of prayer.

His words of sympathy are simple: May God comfort you. (October 20, 1956)  May the peace of God continue to infold you. (June 7, 1959)  I am most sorry to hear about…

Lewis writes about the daily stuff of life:  I love the empty, silent, dewy, cobwebby hours (September 30, 1958)  A big tree and a still bigger branch off another came crashing down in the wood yesterday, in windless calm–purely for lack of internal moisture. (August 21, 1959)  In these short snippets he offers a piece of his personal life, which, I’m certain, was received as a valued gift and a pleasant distraction.

If you love Lewis and want to read everything he wrote, this is a book for you.  For the rest of you, get The Quotable Lewis.

What is your favorite C.S. Lewis title? 
Which book would you recommend to a reader unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis?

Pull Ourselves Together


 

 

The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. 
If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb,
let that bomb, when it comes,
find us doing sensible and human things–
praying,
working,
teaching,
reading,
listening to music,
bathing the children,
playing tennis,
chatting to our friends over a pint
and a game of darts–
not huddled together
like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.

~ C.S. Lewis, written during World War II

Insert swine flu [or any crisis of the week] for atomic bomb. 
Lewis’ words are especially potent.
How will huddling and worrying add a day to your life?

I don’t want to discount the potential harm from swine flu.
Neither do I want to inflate the threat.

If the swine flu attacks me today–and I doubt it will–,
it will find me making a birthday dinner,
taking a walk, reconciling a bank
statement (one of my favorite tasks),
cleaning floors, answering the phone,
and reading a book.

What sensible and human things are you doing?