The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel by [Barrows, Annie, Shaffer, Mary Ann]I read this in two days- it is so good! There is a profusion of interesting and lovable characters, and I found it fascinating to hear the story only through letters and telegrams. My only complaint was that the author waited until the absolute end to resolve the building conflict. It made the conclusion seem too quick; I wanted to relish in it longer and to see how it played itself out. This is how one usually feels when a book ends that was a pure joy to read. C.S. Lewis says, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I would have been happy for this book to go on forever.

I love the WWII era- they were such a chivalrous and scrappy people. To think of so many nations fighting the same fight. Yes, they all had their own reasons. Some entered the fray before others. Some did so reluctantly. But they sacrificed. They lived in wartime and felt the effects of it. Unlike now, when I had to explain to my little girl that actually our country is at war and has been for many years. No, we don’t see the fighting. No, we don’t feel the danger. No, we don’t have to give up anything for it. It felt absurd to say. It feels a bit absurd to live. Hear me, I love that my children don’t live in a war zone, but there is something beautiful and strong that emerges within a people who have suffered. Those who have been brought low have a greater capacity for seeing every little thing as a gift. And those who have been brought low together experience a deep connection with one another. Then think of the scale of the connectedness! These were the thoughts traveling through my mind as I read this book, where destruction from the war was everywhere. It was on the front porch, in the empty seat at the table, piled up against ruins of buildings, and in bones showing through the skin of meager bodies. But what beauty and valor came of it!

So that’s one love this book hit on for me. The other was letter writing. The book is told entirely from letters, with an occasional telegram thrown in. It occurred to me how much fluff was removed from the book because of this. Imagine if your only way to communicate was through writing! That back and forth conversation with your best friend written in the form of letters. That is the way to cut the fat of what we say! You don’t go to the trouble to beat around the bush. It’s trickier to hide behind small talk. Letter writing is intentional; nothing slips out. You speak as much by what you don’t say as by what you do. It revolutionized the conversation!

I found myself laughing out loud until my sides ached, holding back tears with a quivering lip and tight throat, and thinking upon the connections these characters made with the authors and books they read long, long after setting the book down. The poetry and stories lived on inside of them as this story will live on inside of me.

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Booked: literature in the soul of me

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by [Prior, Karen Swallow]Dear Karen Swallow Prior,

I think, had we grown up together, we would have been friends. And I wish we had been, because then you could have let me ride your horse and introduced me to some of the great books you read, thereby pulling me away from John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks sooner. As a teen, the best literature I read was for English class, but as everyone else complained, I relished in my homework for once.

No, I didn’t enjoy them all. Grapes of Wrath, for instance, kept me napping like a champion. But when it was finally finished, I could appreciate it. You introduced me to another of this sort, because this is how I felt about Madame Bovary, though I don’t even have words for its impact on me, nor the timing of its message. I have never appreciated a story more, nor enjoyed reading it less. I bonded with you over a love for Charlotte and Jane- good, sweet, gentle Jane- a favorite heroine of mine. I was challenged by the characters of Tess and Pip, ruminating over the perplexities of their situations. You introduced me to Milton’s Aeropagitica and John Donne’s metaphysical poetry and I took a bath in them- my two greatest treasures from you.

But you shared more than books as you weaved them through the memoir of your life. You shared your own story, and I was equally pleased with that. It made me feel ordinary, in a good way- in the way of camaraderie.

Gratefully,

Kate

P.S. I’ll be reading your other book, Fierce Convictions, in October, and it can’t come fast enough.

 

Aeropagitica

I have been reading. Oh, I have been drinking deep in good literature. I have recently finished three books, all of them first-rate. This one is a historically important, thought provoking, and beautifully worded philosophical argument against the censorship of literature, written by John Milton in 1644.

The thought was that bad books would be saboteurs to the mind, the heart, even the very soul of a person. And for the protection of all people, it was proposed that any writings must be approved before being published. John Milton writes this speech in defense of the liberty of unlicensed printing against his own comrades- fellow believers.

As always, when you click on any images of books I discuss, you will be taken to amazon.com where you can purchase them. This one, for instance, is under a dollar on Kindle. I could post twenty of the best quotes on here- they are phenomenal- but I will stick to just three:

He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian…I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness.

And again, if it be true that a wise man, like a good refiner, can gather gold out of the drossiest volume, and that a fool will be a fool with the best book, yea or without book; there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being restrained will be no hindrance to his folly. For if there should be so much exactness always used to keep that from him which is unfit for his reading, we should in the judgment of Aristotle not only, but of Solomon and of our Saviour, not vouchsafe him good precepts, and by consequence not willingly admit him to good books; as being certain that a wise man will make better use of an idle pamphlet, than a fool will do of sacred Scripture.

And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.

You see? Read it….it’ll be the best spent dollar of your day.

There’s No Hiding in a Closet

Image result for antique door

There is a place for everyone
where you can breathe your fill,
sit in peaceful silence until
the demands of the world call you back again.
A place where you are utterly alone
but not lonely- an escape of only
minutes and seconds counting down.
Mine is found in the smallest of rooms:
the unaffected space of my closet.

For when I was young, my closet
had a treasure chest inside it,
holding my most valued things.
Then older, my closet
gave space to my solace.
I closed all the doors
on my way to just being.

But now, my closet
is where I undress.
Peel away the
hiding rags like
invisibility cloaks
til I’m bare.
Just me, as I am.
No more, and no less.

There’s no hiding in a closet.
Eight feet by eight
the borders and corners
already claimed.
Silent and still
this truth-full reflection
only feels safe
as my sole companion.