Literature

What I’m Reading

The Lost Traveller by [White, Antonia]

The Lost Traveller by Antonia White. This is the second book of a four part series. Apparently Evelyn Waugh admired her writings which is why I started reading them.

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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin  reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ “Til We have Faces” Pagan with flashes of the beatific.

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes. An interesting read so far. It takes place in England after the second world war and explores  how the war effected the middle class. Housewives became more isolated, help was harder to find and families had to manage without ‘those anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and pulled the strings’.

 

I’m always looking for a good book. What are you reading?

 

P.S.  I’d like to write full reviews once I’ve finished reading them . . .

 

 

 

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The Myth of Progress in the Arts

Excellent article: The Myth of Progress in the Arts

“What is progress? In culture, and especially in high culture, progress is the attempt to make something better, which implies hierarchical thinking: if there is something better, this means that there is also something worse. During the Italian Renaissance, artists strove to make things better, to paint better, to build better, to compose better (read Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists). In their time, they were modern as a result of their intention to be better, and not the other way around.”

A Mirror for Artists

The furious pace of our working hours is carried into our leisure hours, which are
feverish and energetic. We live by the clock. Our days are a muddle of “activities,” strenuously pursued. We do not have the free mind and easy temper that should
characterize true leisure. Nor does the separation of our lives into two distinct parts, of which one is all labor–too often mechanical and deadening–and the other
all play, undertaken as nervous relief, seem to be conducive to a harmonious life. The arts will not easily survive a condition under which we work and play at cross-purposes. We cannot separate our being into contradictory halves without a certain amount of spiritual damage. The leisure thus offered is really no leisure at all; either it is pure sloth, under which the arts take on the character of mere entertainment, purchased in boredom and enjoyed in utter passivity, or it is another kind of labor, taken up out of a sense of duty, pursued as a kind of fashionable enterprise for which one’s courage must be continually whipped up by reminders of one’s obligation to culture. – Donald Davidson.

What We’re Reading

The Crows of Pearlblossom by Aldous Huxley

huxley

I was surprised to find a children’s book by Audlous Huxley but he did write one for his niece Olivia as a Christmas gift in 1944. My girls enjoyed the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow who protect their nest from the evil rattlesnake with the help of a wise old owl.

Brat Farrar by Josphine Tey

brat

I am enjoying this English mystery. Josphine Tey writes without pretense, so clear that it almost reads like a children’s story but with weightier subject matter. She is an excellent writer, said to be the greatest mystery writer of her time. I have not finished it so I couldn’t say just yet.

Mouse House by Rumer Godden

house

Rumer Godden is one of my favorite writers! This little story book is charming and the illustrations are adorable. My girls just loved the story of the little mouse family and their home.

Helen of Troy

helen

Women envious that they can’t disrupt the world to wars, discredit her beauty: Who is that beautiful? No one. Her appeal: Who is that desirable? No one. And shrug it off. But you can’t dismiss ancient myth- Leda and the Swan!- implanted in our psyches. Men sobered by the tale, by  war,  don’t disregard Helen.They see her as an ideal, a villain, a warning, an archetypal woman that could drive you mad!

Beauty and Housekeeping

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I have been reading Little house and the big Woods to my girls. In it there was a lovely description of an everyday item- the butter churner.  I was struck by its elegance. It was part of everyday life and it was beautiful:

In winter the cream wasn’t yellow as it was in summer . . . Ma liked everything on her table pretty so in the wintertime she colored the butter . . .

When the cream was ready, Ma Scalded the long wooden churn-dash, put it in the churn, and dropped the wooden churn cover over it. The churn-cover had a little round hole in the middle, and Ma moved the dash up and down . . . she churned for a long time . . . When Ma took off the churn cover, there was the butter in a golden lump. . . Then Ma took out the lump with the wooden paddle, into a wooden bowl and she washed it . . . After that she salted it.

Now came the best part of the churning Ma molded the butter. On the loose bottom of the wooden butter-mold was carved the picture of a strawberry with two strawberry leaves.

With the paddle Ma packed butter tightly into the mold until it was full. Then she turned it upside-down over a plate, and pushed on the handle of the loose bottom. The little, firm pat of golden butter came out, with the strawberry and its leaves molded on top.

Laura and Mary watched breathless . . .

 

The butter churner was sturdy, useful, practical, elegant, beautiful. So often we overlook our everyday items. We think “it will do” and leave it at that. But we should strive to fill our homes with beauty. Our everyday china should be sturdy and beautiful, our everyday clothes should fulfill our needs and be attractive, our kitchens functional and peaceful. Ma didn’t have to color the butter or mold it into a strawberry, but look at the joy it brought to her home.