Tag Archives: United States

“…not like a railway booking office…”

There is a truly worthwhile article in The Canberra Times that you should read in its entirety for, if nothing else, its sincerity. I cannot resist quoting here, however, part of a radio address given by the economist John Maynard Keynes. It’s just one of those collections of words that you (I) wish you (I) could have articulated your(my)self.

The reader, he said, “with all his senses… should know their touch and their smell. He should learn how to take them in his hands, rustle their pages and reach in a few seconds a first intuitive impression of what they contain. He should, in the course of time, have touched many thousands, at least 10 times as many as he really reads. He should cast an eye over books as a shepherd over sheep … He should live with more books than he reads, with a penumbra of unread pages, of which he knows the general character and content, fluttering round him. This is the purpose of libraries …

“It is also the purpose of good bookshops, both new and secondhand, of which there are still some, and would that there were more. A bookshop is not like a railway booking-office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye.

“To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon’s entertainment. Feel no shyness or compunction in taking it. Bookshops exist to provide it; and the booksellers welcome it, knowing how it will end.”

I’ll drink to that.


Filed under The Stuff of Stuff

How “The Help” Can Help

Sometimes I am left just breathless from a conversation with a customer.  The thing is, you never know just where it will go and what you will learn.  I especially enjoy it (as we all do, whether we’ll admit it or not,) when the conversation supports my own ideas, theories, hunches and philosophies and can add dimension to these.  For example, I have been worried for a long time that our young people are not getting the reality of how things were before the Civil Rights movement and de-segregation.  Yes, they probably all know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and could recite facts about him and Rosa Parks, but are they integrating that factual information into a true picture of how things were and how they should never be again, regarding any ethnic or racial group.

So, I was greeting a lovely customer the other day who happened to be African American and happened to pick up a copy of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, off the shelf.
“This is not just a good book. It’s a must read book,” I said.  “It should be required reading for every woman of every age to read.”
“Why so?” she politely asked.
“Well, although it’s written well enough, it’s an important book because it can raise the consciousness of women who didn’t live in that era (1960’s) or who lived in the north where the situations were sometimes different. This is a fictionalized version of what went on everyday in every city in the south and parts of the southwest.  It shows exactly how white women of means lived and how their black housekeepers lived–and most of their counterparts were just that.  It’s filled with tension, laughter and truth.  Young women need to know this part of history,” I concluded.

Then the customer, I’ll call her Ann, told me about a woman friend of hers who had an advanced degree, yet thought the Civil Rights movement happened sometime in the early 1900’s. Ann said they got into a rather lengthy discussion and her friend, who is white, had no idea that she and Ann, who was raised in the south, could never have been friends in the days before 1960, that their lives would never cross, they would never have met in school, never lived near one another, never listened to the same music, never had sleepovers, never had much in common at all.  Her friend said she had no idea about that,  since she hadn’t been raised in the south or southwest. I was astonished that in all of the education her friend had received she had no sense of the history of our country in this regard, but I’m afraid she’s not alone.  That’s why I’m so glad when books come along like The Help or, earlier, To Kill a Mockingbird, to help us understand better the ugly issues of our past so that we might guard against them in our present and our future. More than that, we need to understand the cultural stories, which form the psyche of a people, which has helped shape who they are, in order to be able to truly connect with the stories and, therefore, the people.


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Filed under Book Recommendations

Special Books Banned for Special Reasons, 5

Banned Book of the Day: Friday, October 1st

The Fragile Flag, by Jane Langton, is a little book about little Georgie, who decides to march to the White House from her home in Massachusetts, with only her brother and sister in tow. She does this because she believes she can sway the mind of the President of the United States of America. The President, you see, is in possession of a big bad bomb and knows how to use it. And will. Unless Georgie stops him. Along the way, against all odds, presumably, she is joined by many thousands of other children. And they march to Washington, DC– they do so peacefully, with one end in mind: to ensure peace.

Banned. Yes, this book was challenged and banned. Why? Because this book “portrays the U.S. government as lacking in intelligence and responsibility.” Ha!

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Filed under Curious Lists