Books, fairy tales, memories

Childhood favorites – Updated!!!

Recently I picked up a few books from the library that I first read when I was around ten years old, give or take a year. They are by Edward Eager. Have you ever heard of him? If not, you should have. I was infatuated with his books as a child. They are very like E. Nesbit’s books, whom he takes as a model.

My conscience fully approves and sanctions this endeavor to reread books I have read in my childhood, for C. S. Lewis has sanctioned it, and on the matter of Good Books he is practically always right. “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly.” Except I am only sixteen, not fifty. All the same, it holds, and he also says somewhere that a child’s book that you can’t enjoy as an adult is not a good child’s book. Not that I am an adult, either, but my literary tastes have certainly matured, to some extent. I would not have enjoyed George Eliot as a ten-year-old, and I would not now enjoy the Phantom Stallion books – at least, I hope not.

At any rate, the books I have been reading recently are:
Magic or Not? – Edward Eager
The Well-Wishers – Edward Eager (the sequel to the above)
The Time Garden (sequel to ‘Knight’s Castle’) – Edward Eager
Seven-Day Magic – Edward Eager
The Magic City – E. Nesbit
The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
And begun, but not yet finished – The Midnight Folk – John Masefield, and reading to my sister – The Story of the Treasure-Seekers – E. Nesbit
And checked out from the library (I overstuffed yesterday and checked out over twenty things, I think):
Half-Magic – Edward Eager
Magic by the Lake – Edward Eager
Knight’s Castle – Edward Eager (alas, he wrote only seven magical books for children)
The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbit
Wet Magic – E. Nesbit
The Phoenix and the Carpet (sequel to ‘Five Children and It’, which I believe we own but haven’t found yet, and which is a very delightful book) – E. Nesbit
The Story of the Amulet – E. Nesbit. Note: this sequel to ‘The Phoenix and the Carpet’ involves the children calling on dark powers using an Egyptian amulet, so probably Michael O’Brien and like-minded would not like it; however, C. S. Lewis particularly loved this story, recommended it to a young reader on Page 174 of the third volume of his Letters, and praised it somewhere for giving him his first realization of the quality of ancientness – I do not remember where. I consider Lewis a knowledgeable authority on matters of literature, who has probably read more ancient and medieval literature treating with witches than O’Brien, and who undoubtedly would not knowingly indoctrinate a child into witchcraft; so I went ahead and read it, but if such things make you uncomfortable, go ahead and avoid it.
The House of Arden – E. Nesbit (which I have now begun to read and which has a rather unpleasant passage about a witch in it that would make it appropriate to probably only those who already know that witches are bad)
The other books I got from the library include poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, since I read part of her poem ‘Renascence’ for my Great Books class last Tuesday and wanted to finish reading it – a very lovely poem (update: some of her poetry isn’t quite clean, though, exercise discretion); some books on vegetable and herb gardening, to indulge my latest hobby, planning my future garden; a cook-book; a couple of P. G. Wodehouses; ‘The Lady of the Lake’ by Sir Walter Scott; a collection of short stories about the sea; and a couple DVDs.
One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s books is how much shorter they are to read than ‘grown-up’ books. I can easily finish one in a day. It is pleasant to be able to read something quick, delightful, and easy, but it is rather sad to bite it off so quickly. I can see why reading books aloud to children is a superior way; reading aloud takes me much longer than silently, and my mouth gets dry and I want to stop before one chapter is over.
memories, Poetry, seasons

"And never was piping so sad…" *

I just returned from a walk, during which I spent a fair length of time daydreaming about the walks I will take when it becomes cold and the leaves begin to change. There is no greater earthly pleasure than walking in crisp weather, when a chilly wind is blowing and the trees are red and gold, unless it be to lie on a slope with the breeze rustling your hair and leaves flying. It is a little sad to think that it will be weeks, perhaps many, until I may have that delight, but the wait will make it even sweeter when it arrives. I just re-read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which dwells largely on this theme of mortality; the idea that the very fleetingness of the joys of life lends them their beauty and mirth.

It is not quite the Christian perspective, which sees all these things as small, dim reflections of the bliss of heaven, but it has truth in it, though it can be easily corrupted into the carpe diem, the practice of seizing every pleasure now lest it be gone forever. Somehow, I don’t feel that the book intends to teach that; perhaps it is because of the melancholy with which it is so imbued, and which makes it so lovely. One can feel this bittersweetness in Tolkien’s work, in parts of Narnia, in Till We Have Faces, in Homer and Virgil; Yeats is drenched in it; Chesterton hints at it occasionally, though he is a poet of day, rather than of the evening that it lingers in.
It has an affinity for starlight and moonlight and echoes, for dark forests and white flowers; a feeling of autumn, of things pale and ancient and far away. Though not all autumnal poetry is of this sort; there are chiefly two kinds, it seems to me. There is the autumn that is filled with gold and red and hearth fires, the poetry of the harvest; and the autumn that is the fading away of the year, the cold winds, the dying leaves, the bare branches; the poetry of November.
 * Note: the title of the post is taken from Yeats’ wonderful poem, “The Host of the Air”.
Humour, memories, thirty days

Day 26: A Childhood Memory

I think one of the memories that cracks me up the most was the following:
A number of families were at the park when I was about nine, and my friend M’s older sister and her third cousin pushed me off of the jungle gym or whatever it’s called… and I think I cracked a rib. It certainly knocked the breath out of me, which was rather frightening. I believe that the remainder of that outing was spent sitting in a field making flower chains (after my friend’s mom showed me how). Interesting image, no? I seem to remember that up to a year later that rib still gave me a twinge once in a while.