"Your Hands Are Bigger Than Mine," He Said Lightly: "Consider the Glove Taken"

My little cup of coffee is still making its way through my veins, and I was not fully through my breakfast (of everything barring the kitchen sink fried in bacon grease) before my eyelid started twitching, so this may not be one of the most coherent posts The Penslayer has ever produced.  I expect you have come to anticipate that from me.  I will attempt to not write in the same broken, repetitive fashion in which I am dictating these words aloud. 

Rachel - Rachel - has tagged me in a long sequence of book-related tags which I have been watching make its slow progress through the blogs of my acquaintance.  Without further ado - because I am far too tired to prevaricate - One More Book-Related Tag.

Is there a book you really want to read, but haven't, because you know it will make you cry?  You are asking the girl whose go-to author of choice in her childhood was Rosemary Sutcliff.  I cannot at present think of any book I am actively avoiding because it will make me cry.  I don't mind crying: generally that means the author has done his job well.  If the sad aspect of the book is badly done, I just get angry and I read something else.  After I have fixated moodily on the annoyance for awhile.  In a healthy fashion.  Because obviously the author did it just to irritate me.

Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.  Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners.  It wasn't the nature of essays which I was introduced to (I've been reading those sorts of things for years), but the whole culture of Southern literature.  I'm a native to the South, but my parents are from the North, and looking along the line of my bookshelves, I see British - British - British - British - British - oh my lands, British.  The most American my library gets is Lew Wallace and Ben-Hur.  Even the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (which I just finished and enjoyed) belongs to my sister.  It was Flannery O'Connor who introduced me to the fact that not all Southern literature is cast adrift in an esoteric milieu of Reconstructionist poverty, but may actually offer some precious gems through the unique lens of Southern experience. 

Find a book you want to reread.  Given the desperate, haphazard nature of my library, squeezed onto my meagre shelving like a Christmas jellyroll into a whalebone bodice, "find" is the appropriate word.  ...Just at this present moment, it would make for a toss-up between Beowulf and Watership Down.  Because those two are so markedly similar.  I don't currently have time to read either, but both are so rich and enjoyable, I could stand to read them again.
darlings, i think the coffee is finally catching up
Is there a book series you read, but wish you hadn't?  Yes, Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness.  At the time I read them, they were fun and exciting, but after awhile I realized they were totally unbiblical, took more liberties than made me comfortable, and in general the writing is shallow.  It makes me sad.  Once upon a time we produced Ben-Hur, and now we get books like This Present Darkness.

If your house was burning down, and all your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?  Well, assuming for the moment that my library had been previously divested of all titles which do not actually belong to me, I would be torn between my copies of The Divine Comedy (with its engravings by Gustave DorĂ©), Augustine's Confessions, and my copy of Simon by Rosemary Sutcliff.  All other books can be replaced (if I actually remember what all I have in my library), but those particular copies are beautiful and/or expensive, and replacing them would be costly for me.

Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?  With all respect due to the ease and portability of the e-reader, I must maintain that a physical book wraps itself in so many layers of glamour, a marker both for the story within its cover and for the time of life and spacial situation in which it was read, which e-readers do not grasp.  A few of my books elicit unpleasant memories - the bitter taste of regretful circumstances in which they were read - but many of them are the happy milestones of a casually scholarly life.  With Ben-Hur, I am slung in a chair in a local airport, waiting for my flight on a clear day.  With The Eagle of the Ninth, I remember the era of spontaneous and extreme nosebleeds which would attack my sister, leaving behind a telltale mark on the front cover which I have never bothered to wipe off for the sheer humour of it.  The Scarlet Pimpernel - curled up on the couch at my old house, reading through the dark of an evening without any intention of stopping.  I am seated tailor-fashion on the sidewalk before my old mailbox garden, reading aloud while my husband works, when I turn over the binding of The Discarded Image, and when I pick up The Grand Sophy, I am curled up at my husband's feet while he reads aloud to me.

Find a book that inspired you most.  The Worm Ouroboros - "Dost think we are here in dreamland?"

Do you have any autographed books?  Yes, my copy of Fly Away Home was autographed and addressed to me!

Find the book that you have owned the longest.  My coffee is not working that well.  I cannot tell you which book I have owned the longest, but my earliest memory of receiving a book is my gorgeous hardback copy of Black Beauty, given to me by my parents on the Christmas of '99.  I would defy Gustave DorĂ© to compose better line-art for the interior, and any of the Glasgow Boys to paint a better portrait for the cover.  A fitting casement for a story which, in my opinion, is as enduring, steady, and foundational as our own Ben-Hur.

Is there a book by an author you never thought you would read or enjoy?  "I was surprised by our conversation.  She has some first-rate qualities."  Honestly, I was not at all sure I would enjoy Nine Coaches Waiting.  I have a memory of toying feebly with the opening pages of Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart - an ill-fated kind of name), and I remember my sister being handed a floral copy of some romance-type novel by Stewart, which, let's face it, put me off merely by the cover.  I admit that the copy of Nine Coaches Waiting which I read was not the most promising either, and I can't really tell you how I managed to get sucked into those first few pages - perched in a chair with my heels kicked up on the hood of the Audi, I think, while my husband worked in the garage...  At any rate, there I went, and I didn't look back.  Nine Coaches Waiting remains a favourite of the year.
undoubtedly, books are odd creatures

12 ripostes:

  1. I actually fought shy of Nine Coaches Waiting for a while myself. Those gushing book-catalogue blurbs make it hard to tell if a book is really elegant, classy romantic suspense or just a cheap romance masquerading under that guise. But I finally took the plunge and it turned out to be the most rewarding literary plunge of last year.

    Ben-Hur...that's another one I'd like to catch up with. That's the nice thing about books: there's always another interesting one still to catch up with...

  2. I may have let on how highly I think of Ben-Hur. XD

    Funny! You too? I'm glad I wasn't the only one hesitant over Nine Coaches Waiting, and wound up enjoying it. I know Suzannah Rowntree was thrilled by it, and glad I had enjoyed it, even though our paths had not yet crossed at the point I was reading it. Occasionally, it is a small, cosy world. ^_^

  3. Why can I not even pretend surprise that your post was better than mine? XD I need to read Ben Hur...I have some horrible picture of it in my head as one of those old rickety films like The Bible which I never watched. Also, when I picture Ben Hur (having never seen the film) I get an image of Ben Gunn from Treasure Island: a man whom I termed "boo-boo eyes" and hated passionately as a child.
    I am really very sorry to have tagged you, only the people I DID tag were the ones whose lists I actually wanted to hear. Savvy?

  4. I know, I grumbled abominably when you tagged me, like the charity-font that I am. XD But it turned out enjoyable in the end, no worries.

    The film "Ben-Hur" is unparalleled; the book is without measure. It is rich and beautiful and real in a way that truly no other author I have read can make a place and a time real. That Anne Shirley could put the book down for a week, not even to see how the chariot race turned out, must require a feat of human will I have not known a human being to possess.

    ...he shouted, whirling his lash with practiced hand... and caught the well-doing Arabs of Ben-Hur a cut the like of which they had never known.
    The blow was seen in every quarter, and the amazement was universal. The silence deepened; up on the benches behind the consul the boldest held his breath, waiting for the outcome. Only a moment thus: then, involuntarily, down from the balcony, as thunder falls, burst the indignant cry of the people.

  5. Oh! You've all only read NINE COACHES WAITING? Well, are you in for a treat! While I enjoy both of them, I reckon Mary Stewart's books beat out Georgette Heyer any day. Not all of her books are up to the NCW standard, but ALL of the romantic suspense novels really are elegant and classy and beautifully-written--I have been looking for a Stewart replacement for when I run out of her, but no one remotely measures up. You can read some more of my thoughts on Mary Stewart here, but if I know you, Jenny, you'll particularly love AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND.


    Well, you have amply supplied my wish-list for November 30th, that's for certain. I'm happy to read The Tulip and The Charm of the English Village, but a good piece of fiction is invaluable for my trade. Too true, Mary Stewart's writing (what I have seen of it) surpasses Georgette Heyer's by a long shot: I find it hard to see big pictures in Heyer's writing, or get a sense of the scenery behind the scene, but Stewart was able to give me both the foreground and the background impressions at will, linked with their appropriate senses of atmosphere. It is the better writing.

    I'm a writer. I do the writing thing even when I'm reading. O_o

  7. I have read more Stewart! The Moonspinners and Airs Above the Ground are my next favorites, though I think Nine Coaches Waiting is still a notch above all the rest. And yes, if you love horses, there are some moments in Airs Above the Ground which are downright magical. Horses and Austria: that's a dream combination for me.

  8. I feel strangely impulsed to go ahead and type away my tag-answers right now - you always get me excited about things like taht, Jenny. . . But why, I must beg to ask, do you make it so hard for us to come up with anything quite as smashing as yours?! You blow us out of the water, old girl ^_^

    If you read "The Shining Company" as a child, I can only imagine that you would NOT mind the weeps as a grown up in any book; I love it if a book can make me genuinely tear-up and stir me so. Ben Hur yes, yes! Both the film and the book are unparalleled in "biblical historical fiction" genre. And while I read "The Robe" by Lloyd C. Douglas first at the age of twelve, fell in love with it and found it the instrument in capturing my love for literature set in Ancient History/Rome, I find that Ben Hur has had a far more lasting impact on me; for one thing, now I reread "The Robe", I see many things I am not so fond of as I used to be; replacing "wide-eyed awe" at the writing and story to mere nostalgia for the memory it inspires in me, and the streak of weak theology and inaccuracies regarding biblical/historical narratives bugs me now ten times more than it used to. But as for Ben Hur, when I first read it years ago at 13 or so, I found it rather grim and emotionally-upsetting - I then watched the film several times, fell in love with it totally (it is no joke that it won just as many Oscars as "The Lord of the Rings" by Peter Jackson), and now when I go back to read the book, I am surprised at what I missed out when I first read it - it is a beautiful book! So rich and deep, as you said.

    I fear I am sadly lacking in my readings of American literature. The sum of it would be Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth George Speare; and I do have James Fanimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans" and "To Kill A Mocking Bird" by Lee Harper which I still have to read. I wouldn't do a very good American. But I want to read Flannery O'Conner by and by. She is rather tough-going, isn't she, though? I was warned not to bury my head into her works, cold turkey!

    And with all this talk of Mary Stewart, I must look her up promptly.
    P.S. Jenny, do you know of any possible way I can get my hand on a copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's Simon? More and more these days, it gets harder to find Sutcliff novels. . . :(

  9. I heard Piercing the Darkness read at a young age. It had disturbed me since. I hope this doesn't make me silly or weak.

  10. Lilly - I wouldn't say that makes you silly or weak, but I would also submit that you ought not stay that way. Having read quite a number of Peretti's books, I can say they have almost no grounding in Scripture, and therefore no grounding in reality. They are barely even worth the time it takes to refute them. Granted, hearing the book read aloud would make for a dramatic presentation, and I can see how that would be frightening. But the fact that it may be intended to frighten is an affront to your intelligence, and ought to be brushed aside. Without diminishing the importance of the spiritual battle in which we indisputably take part (sadly, without knowing much of its nature), I would suggest that works like Peretti's hold no influence over one's approach to life. Fictions of this sort ought always to be taken carefully - Harry Blamires, and C.S. Lewis, in their works The Devil's Hunting Grounds, Cold War In Hell, Highway to Heaven, and of course The Screwtape Letters, were very careful to point out that their works were merely fiction, composed off a bed of common sense and observation of human life and God's word. These are more things than can be said for Peretti's "angelic" novels. So take that to heart. The reality indubitably looks nothing like the overly-dramatized, shallowly-written works of the more modern ilk.

    The reality probably appears far more terrifying, and proportionally hopeful in Christ.

    Joy - As I said, I make for a patchwork American. I am not so enamoured with the British Isles as to take kindly to being labelled an Anglophile (I am not patriotic in any sense), however, a major shift in philosophy had the misfortune to occur right around the time American literature was beginning to gather its legs beneath it, and therefore my library tends much more heavily toward older English literature than modern American. It is merely by dint of philosophical preference. And, you know, language barriers. Machiavelli, Dante, Cicero, Plato, etc., are only here because they have been translated into English for me.

    With language comes philosophy, but that is too large of a discussion for right now.

  11. I tend to read more (all?) British literature in the grown-up realm, but I love children's fiction and America has some gems in that genre. My impression of American grown-up fiction is that it can often be QUITE sententious which I LOATHE (I even recently reread Little Women and found it a little more so than I remembered). I have not read much American fiction, so I could totally be making this up. I also prefer British history because American is too personal and personally political. I abhor the term Anglophile though, it rather dampens interest if only momentarily.

    Another Rosemary Sutcliff book to read. I was burned on some ADULT novels, so I am tentatively making my way back. When the literature is clean (juvenile lit I think), her books are PERFECT. I have had to borrow from acquaintances and use interlibrary loan to find titles lately. And the new ones they publish do not have the gorgeous front cover illustration that I consider as part and parcel of the Rosemary Sutcliff reading experience

  12. (Taking a writing break to read a blog post - "Ooh look! One from Jenny!" ;)
    I find myself with exactly the same struggle when it comes to the origins of my books. My American Literature teacher this year asks me what books I most enjoy, and chastizes me for having only read one or two from our own country (I will say I enjoyed The Scarlet Letter more than I had planned to. And of course you know my affection for To Kill A Mockingbird). There is just something about British literature that makes a girl want to bury down under blankets and read for hours. And when you cry due to a British author, you know it's good; the blokes don't show much emotion if they can avoid it. ;)

    SO MANY BOOKS. I was just chatting with a friend last night, who had, among other things, given me a long list of the books that I was going to read next (because apparently I have no choice in the matter anymore...). Nevertheless, I will fit in Ben-Hur one of these days. Promise. I also read the first few pages of The Silver Branch last night, and though I will miss Marcus and Esca, I think I will like it very much.

    I want to see your library. Your covers sound gorgeous.