9.03.2007

Books

I like CS Lewis' description of a 'literary person' that I read today: "..the first reading of some literary work is often, to the literary, an experience so momentous that only experiences of love, religion, or bereavement can furnish a standard of comparison. Their whole consciousness is changed. They have become what they were not before......scenes and characters from books provide them with an iconography by which they interpret or sum up their experience. They talk to one another about books, often and at length." ('An Experiment in Criticism').

I was terrible at sports, shy, gawky & pale in a school full of future Baywatch extras. Picked Last For Kickball could be my epitaph. Somehow I discovered that I liked to read. Finally something I was good at. Besides, it took little coordination to hold a book, and I could stay inside, away from the great eye of Phoebus that would burn my Celtic skin and make my squinty near-sightedness even more pronounced. (I was classic Indoor Girl, and Indoorness is one of the first things that endeared me to Pastor Dan, the ultimate Indoor Boy.)
So, books. This became my identity: book plates, bookends, book store gift certificates, these made up my Christmas haul each year. And I was fine with that-heck, I was grateful for the identity; glad to have some sort of label to hang my hat on....
It was mysteries at first: Bobbsey Twins, Encyclopedia Brown, Three Investigators, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew.These led into the harder stuff: Agatha Christie in fifth grade and then Stephen King at my dad's house in the summer (reading The Shining at night at your dad's house in the woods is a real mistake.) And then to my dad's trashy pulp fiction; one summer my grandpa found me reading Jackie Collins and dragged me down to a bookstore and filled my arms with P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves & Wooster novels, as well as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures. (Thanks, Grandpa!)
In high school it was the Beat poets (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, et al) with many trips to the fabled City Lights Bookstore in SF and surrealist writers like Paul Bowles, Camus and the one about the guy who turns into a bug.........oh, and Oscar Wilde b/c of Morrissey (what a poser I was!) J.D. Salinger, O. Henry, and for some reason, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel were all favourites.
I've long loved children's literature, particularly the juvenile novel, or what I used to call 'chapter books' when I was first reading them. Madeline L'engle is good for dozens of these, and I once met one of my heroes, Beverly Cleary, at a book-signing in Carmel. Oh the Judy Blume books that I've pored over! All about bras, periods & other subjects of preteen angst.........
In all this I never considered myself 'literary'.... probably because I'd never read Anna Karenina, or Wuthering Heights and didn't particularly want to. I just liked to read.
It's somehow a relief, this Lewis quote: what makes a person 'literary' depends more upon your personality than about your *sniff* literary pursuits.
So by now I've figured out that God speaks to me through story, through words and allegory, and I see now that all along He was waiting for me to read with "eyes to see'-to read through the words on the page as if they were windows looking into another place. I like Dr. Mullholland's exhortation in 'Shaped By the Word': to approach the Scripture with awe, and think of it as iconographical, as a window into heaven, so that through our reading of the Word we can get a glimpse into that Other Place. How good of God to speak to us each in turn, in the way that we can best listen.

2 comments:

Franny said...

I want to curl up in this.

I am an Indoor Girl too. Sometimes a little too much (ie, lately). And is it bad that the one of first things I look for in a friend is their ability to keep quiet whilst I read at the dinner table ?

Rosa said...

Reading at the dinner table is an unabashed luxury. Another good friend quality is that they will not laugh at your reading material, no matter how low-brow. I've had this proved to me again and again, esp. of late....terrible pulp novels, found in hotel lobbys! I'm talking LOW-brow. (true confessions)

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.