Take a look at the reading selection for December 2:
No gardener need go far to find
The Christmas rose,
The fairest of the flowers that mark
The sweet Year's close:
Nor be in quest of places where
The hollies grow,
Nor seek for sacred trees that hold
All kindly tended gardens love
And spread their latest riches out
In winter's praise.
But every gardener's work this month
Must surely be
To choose a very beautiful
Big Christmas tree,
And see it through the open door
In triumph ride,
To reign a glorious reign within
What are you reading?
It's the first day of December. It's National Pie Day, Feast day of St Eligius, and the day that Barbes Diena is observed. December 1 is also Rosa Parks Day: the day that she ignited controversy by refusing to move to the back of the bus.
- December 1st was also that date in 1830 when Victor Hugo was supposed to finish his famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Of course, he missed the deadline, and the novel wouldn't be published until 1831, but it's still a literary curiosity for the day. In the novel, Hugo writes: "When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door."
In other reading, for December 1st, Vachel Lindsay writes:
"This section is a Christmas tree:
Loaded with pretty toys for you.
Behold the blocks, the Noah's arks,
The popguns painted red and blue.
No solemn pine-cone forest-fruit,
But silver horns and candy sacks
And many little tinsel hearts
And cherubs pink, and jumping-jacks.
For every child a gift, I hope.
The doll upon the topmost bough
Read the reading selection for this December 1st.
Mark Twain requires very little introduction...
Mark Twain is infamous for his American wit and controversial topics (with his banned book, Huckleberry Finn and his many witty turn-of-phrase lines). So many of this books have been devoured by readers of all ages over the years. He wrote about racial and class relations, time travel, dialectic local color, coming-of-age, tricksteristic antics, and identity convolutions. Through his colorful fictions, we venture down the river and around the world (following his Pied-Piper call).
November is the perfect time of the year to recollect and re-examine the contributions of our favorite American writer. After all, Turkey Day is here! And, like most topics, Mark Twain had classic bits of wit and wisdom to offer about Thanksgiving!
Mark Twain's Thanksgiving observations: "The observance of Thanksgiving Day--as a function--has become general of late years. The Thankfulness is not so general. This is natural. Two-thirds of the nation have always had hard luck and a hard time during the year, and this has a calming effect upon their enthusiasm."
Mark Twain is one of those writers with whom I'd have loved to sit down and chat with (if I could go back in time). Imagine talking about books, writing, or really any topic at all.
What questions would you ask (of your favorite author)? What do you think Mark Twain would say about the current state of affairs--with books, technology and all the rest of it this November?
Whether you're enjoying the food, family, or just taking a day off, have a very happy Thanksgiving. Here are a few bits to read on this day:
- Jane Murray's Thanksgiving
- A Thanksgiving To God, For His House
- The Morning of the Day Appointed for a General Thanksgiving
- An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving
- A Thanksgiving Poem
Take a look at more Thanksgiving Reading resources. Enjoy your day!
It's hard to believe that it's nearly the end of November (and tomorrow is Thanksgiving!). As the year flies by, it's easy to forget all of the things for which we have to be thankful. And, for those of us who love books, we have more than our fair share of thankful moments to remember from the year that's past (and look forward to many more in the year to come).
Books are the packages of dreams and hopes and universal promises we can take with us wherever we go. Even in the darkest moments, they offer solace and a myriad of directions--with clear paths on which to wander.
It seems that we have been saying this a lot in recent years, but this year has been hard for many. Perhaps you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel (or any hope at all); but if you're here (and you're reading), there's resuscitation and wonder to be found in the pages of a poem or story. Sometimes just one line can catch in your throat and stay with you for the rest of your life... That alone something for which to be thankful.
Paul Laurence Dunbar writes: "The sun hath shed its kindly light, / Our harvesting is gladly o'er, / Our fields have felt no killing blight, / Our bins are filled with goodly store."
Rebecca Harding Davis writes: "On Thanksgiving morning a light flutter of snow fell on the woods and carpet of red leaves below. Jane stood at her window, looking into the bright, silent Heaven beyond."
Which of the many depictions of Thanksgiving do you most enjoy? And, which book(s) are you most thankful for, from the past year?
The Great Gatsby is usually the novel for which F. Scott Fitzgerald is best remembered. With this and other works, Fitzgerald forged his place in American literature as the chronicler of the Jazz Age of the 1920's.
Written in 1925, the novel is a snapshot of the time period. We experience the glittery-splendiferous world of the wealthy--with the accompanying emptiness of morally decayed hypocrisy. Gatsby represents so much that is seductive, but his pursuit of passion--at the expense of all else--leads him to his own ultimate destruction.
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes: "I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets... I saw him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without."
Do you ever feel "within and without"? What do you think it means? Do you ever wonder?
Cover Art © Penguin.
I'm thankful for ALL. When things look the bleakest, it's sometimes easier to see what I do have to appreciate. There is so much...
What are you thankful for? How do you celebrate this time of year? Do you read? Tell stories, and imagine? What do you say about Thanksgiving?
Read more quotes of Thanksgiving:
- "Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the mornin' and the moon at night." -- Irving Berlin
- "Once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience." -- Sadi, The Gulistan
- "The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts ... nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving." -- H.W. Westermayer
- "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." -- W.T. Purkiser
- "I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness... Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy." -- Anne Frank
So, what are you reading? What are you doing? How are you celebrating, as Thanksgiving draws near?
For Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert will never be forgotten. Madame Bovary catapulted him to fame and controversy--that famously tragic heroine will forever hold a place in our imaginations.
Of course, Flaubert wrote many more novels and short stories beyond his most famous, banned book. His best-received book was Three Tales, a collection consisting of: A Simple Heart, "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller," and "Herodias." Finely compressed into the lines of these work, we discover beauty and profound pleasure in Flaubert's lines. Here's just a taste:
"There was deep silence; and the censers slipping on their chains were swung high in the air. A blue vapour rose in Felicite's room. She opened her nostrils and inhaled with a mystic sensuousness; then she closed her lids. Her lips smiled. The beats of her heart grew fainter and fainter, and vaguer, like a fountain giving out, like an echo dying away;--and when she exhaled her last breath, she thought she saw in the half-opened heavens a gigantic parrot hovering above her head."
Here, we get the sense of Flaubert's life slipping away as well. His good friend, George Sand, died while he was writing A Simple Heart. And, this book was to be his last.
The finality and beauty here further supports his well-justified place in world literature...
I think the first fiction by Doris Lessing I ever read was: "To Room 19"... She is one of the novelists I would have loved to meet one day. Instead, she's making the news in a decidedly tragic way.
News of her death first appeared on Sunday morning. And, again, awoke this morning to the news coming over the radio--NPR was discussing her life, her works and her enduring legacy. Nicholas Pearson (her editor at HarperCollins) paid tribute to Lessing with these words: "Even in very old age she was always intellectually restless, reinventing herself, curious about the changing world around us, always completely inspirational."
She will be missed, but her words carry on...
It was just this time of year when I first saw the spectacular performance of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia--I'm sure that's at least part of why I associate Stoppard's work with Autumn. Sometimes, it seems that there's a sense of stagnation, of staggering silence. Are we taking a deep breath before diving full-tilt into the chill? This year, the season brings more of a sense of recollection and hope. I'm trying to breath more this year--to devour every scrap of books, to soak up the wonder of writing, reading and being.
In some ways, it seems I've learned more in the last year than ever before. Or perhaps, I'm just appreciating the balled-up wealth of experience, book learning and other bits of knowledge. There's something of Arcadia in the sense of it. We can move back and forth in time. We can lament what was lost as we recognize the realities of the present moment (and our interpretation of it). Ultimately, there's something magical and tragic and wonderful in our experience; but the realization is often fleeting and hampered by so much else that comes into our lives.
I love this quote: "We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?"
What will we relearn, rediscover or remember--even within the scope of our own lives? I've learned so much from the lives and works of my favorite writers. I know my life (and writings) would have been dramatically different if it weren't for those many characters (and images)... How would your life have been different?
Cover Art © Farrar Straus & Giroux.