The Literature of the Year: a Tradition

I'm not saying 2014 was a bad year, but I'm not about to populate it with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard either.  It has been a hard year.  Even the good things have been grueling.  I'm not an effusive person - passionate, but not effusive - but when I see people gushing about how wonderful their 2014 has been, I can't help but wonder, are they being honest?  When they talk glowingly about God's blessings and their happy times, I think of the post I wrote two years ago, "One Thousand Disappointments;" when they talk about how much God has grown them, I think about the conversation I had with my father when he was in the hospital, and I expressed my belief that the impact and subsequent growth of many of the trials we go through cannot be measured until months if not years down the road.  I'm not bitter or jaded in the least, but for whatever reason, I'm not quick to talk about God's blessings to me.  One of those reasons may be that I know how easy it can be to become bitter when you see someone else experiencing what we call blessings when we aren't experiencing them ourselves.  I'm also quick to distrust "growth," knowing how quickly we can forget what we may have learned in the past.  Nor am I romantically optimistic about the new year, as if being new assured it of being easy.  I suppose my view (predictably) is like that of Christian's cold logic (it can hardly be termed courage) in the face of Apollyon's wrath:
"...he considered...that he had no armour for his back, and therefore thought that to turn the back to [Apollyon] might give him greater advantage with ease to pierce him with his darts; for, thought he, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life, it would be the best way to stand."
This year has had a lot more living than reading - for this poor little weakling, it feels more like surviving.  Like Elizabeth Bennet, "I am not a great reader," and for twelve months of raw, new, terrifying existence, I have very little reading accomplished to show for my time.  (Of course, I've published a book and had a baby; one supposes those things weigh in at the scales rather heavily.)

a good book is the life-blood of a master-spirit, 
imbalm'd and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life

The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper 1/4/14
Regency Buck - Georgette Heyer 1/9/14
Lectures on the Last Things - William Hendriksen 1/13/14
Essence & Alchemy - Mandy Aftel 2/13/14
These Old Shades - Georgette Heyer 2/21/14
Fly Away Home - Rachel Heffington 3/9/14
Nine Coaches Waiting - Mary Steward 3/22/14
Unnatural Death - Dorothy Sayers 4/21/14
The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers 5/7/14
The Windy Side of Care - Rachel Heffington 6/16/14
Practical Religion - J.C. Ryle 8/19/14
Boys of Blur - N.D. Wilson 9/1/14
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 9/26/14
The West End Horror - Nicholas Meyer 10/2/14
Rose Cottage - Mary Stewart 10/27/14
The Charm of the English Village - P.H. Ditchfield 10/27/14
Sin & Salvation - Lesslie Newbigin 11/25/14
Purgatorio - Dante Alighieri 11/29/14

Have you read any of these books in the past?  Do you think you will read any of them in the future?  I am on the last long chapter of The Tulip, and working my way through Jane Eyre.  I would like to wrap up my reading of the Divine Comedy with Paradiso some time this coming year; perhaps even read a little more Shakespeare (you might be appalled by how little Shakespeare I have read) and some Andrew Lang or Brothers Grimm.  For those who suppose I am clique-y and read only the sorts of literature that I write (I do not forgot these preposterous accusations shot at my own character), every book I have read in 2014, and every book I want to read in 2015, is casually and coincidentally completely other than my own style.  It suits me that way.

10 ripostes:

  1. Well, if you are coldly logical, at least you're not the only one. Blessings do get old. That's probably one of the reasons there should be a firm line between what one writes in one's journal and what one publishes on the Internet for all to see. Without the gory details of failure — which I'm not advocating should be shared before a crowd — triumph pales. We have no perspective, and it's easy for the so-called "blessings" to seem trivial and premature. It's an odd balance, though: I know I want to publicly mark the seemingly insignificant moments without appearing insincere. To stand at the divide between the old and the new and say, "I have seen only part, trusted even less, but I know You are good."

    I like this eclectic literary mix. You and Rachel are wonderful ones for reading outside of your genre(s); I can't tell you how many times I've picked up new favorites from your booklists. I'm thinking I need to try some of N.D. Wilson's books this year: I've heard good things about them from several people.

  2. I've heard good stuff of N.D. Wilson too. It's great fun to read people's lists.

  3. Dear Jenny,
    Thank-you so much for this post. While I kept a 1,000 gifts list this year, this has also been an incredibly hard year that I wouldn't want to live again. I am stronger. I am glad I have lived it, and the Lord has taught me many things--but it has been a year of loneliness and 'no' time and time again. Like I told my mom, it's not like we've had any medical emergencies, and everyone near and dear to us is still with us. We have work. We are well provided for. But the constant 'no' in several areas has been exhausting. And it's hard to put that into words with people.

    It has been a hard year. Even the good things have been grueling. I'm not an effusive person - passionate, but not effusive - but when I see people gushing about how wonderful their 2014 has been, I can't help but wonder, are they being honest?

    Yes and amen. God has given good things from his hand, but for me they have not been fantastic trips or hitting any of my writing goals or even getting better income. It's his goodness in one steady minute of life and hope at a time. I am learning to thank him for the 'no' as well as the 'yes'.

    Your article ministered grace to me today in its honesty, and I do appreciate it. :)


  4. I feel like one of the few people who've had actually a pretty calm year :). I will try not to be insufferable. I know what it feels like to be punch-drunk with bad news. But the hard things in my recent history happened a few years ago, long enough ago that I now see the fruit. It does get easier. One of my favourite things is the not - being - afraid - of - anything that comes after you've been very much afraid of something. Little things lose their power to disturb you. It's pretty neat.

    As a friend says, may each year be worse than the next!

  5. A think publishing a book and having a baby can excuse pretty much anything you intended to do and didn't. :)

    Have I read any of the books on your list... yes- both of the Georgette Heyer's, The Last of the Mohicans, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Windy Side of Care. I've also read Jane Eyre (and liked it).

    Happy New Year, Jenny!

  6. I love N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboard Trilogy which I think is faaaaar better than the Ashtown Burials, but I have as yet not read Boys of Blur, and I need to check our library again. I also have started reading Sayers and Heyer this year and I started the Leatherstocking Tales with the first in chronology but last published The Deerslayer and have The Last of the Mohicans waiting to be read. I tend to read rather narrowly in non-modern literature category, 18th and 19th and some early 20th century British authors, and have rather ignored my own continent, so I need to work on that. I love reading books lists, especially since I almost never (if not absolutely never) try books without some sort of recommendation like this.

  7. I dislike saying a hard year excuses things - it feels like pity - but I know I struggled (and continue to struggle) with small, accumulative issues that stood in the way of what I wanted to accomplish in 2014. And looking into this new year, I can only perceive more change and more decisions and more adjustments that I'm beginning to feel like Jo March. (Life is pain. Anyone who says different is selling something.)

    Still, your list is full of good, worthwhile reads, and that is always more desirable than a long list of easy reads. (I could say other things about my own lineup.) In the end, it's Lewis' quote that makes me optimistic going into this clean start: "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

    All the best. <3

  8. I want to read more Georgette Heyer and The Nine Tailors...

    New years are definitely not easy, it's true, but personally I find the beginning of a new year offers a fresh slate and some hope of starting over. :)

    Also! I got Plenilune for Christmas! It's so big and beautiful and I love holding it. I am plowing through it like through a very heavy, very rich chocolate cake. ^_^

  9. For me, things can be hard without being emotionally agonizing.
    Plus, if I look over the year and list all the things that went wrong, I would be horrribly depressed. Why would I focus on that?
    In any situation, there are things to be grateful for. Call me Pollyanna if you must, but try it and you will see how small your problems seem. A stubbed toe hurts horribly until you remember the 9 perfectly painless toes.

  10. Jenny,

    This post was actually really refreshing to see on my blog feed. I've had such a busy year that I've done very little reading of others' blogs, and even my own has been pushed down to the point of just posting finished projects online. This was the first chance I had to read through my old favorite blogs, and everyone has had lists of great things that have happened-- and no hint of the daily struggle that balances and perfects our blessings. Just living and surviving, these are beautiful even when we don't have the time we want to pause, breathe, reflect, read, or do anything else that starts to feel like a luxury. It just makes the quiet, calm moments that do come that much more precious! I hope that 2015 treats you well!

    Your booklist is impressive, there's some good stuff there! And Dante, whew! That's not an easy one to get through and understand. "Last of the Mohicans" is on my to-read list.