I finished reading No Graves As Yet by Anne Perry. I enjoy her books; the characters and the relationships are always interesting. The mysteries she’s written previously are set in Victorian England. No Graves As Yet takes place just as World War 1 is beginning. In fact, Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated in the first few pages of the book. The main characters in the novel are two brothers, one of whom works for British Intelligence and the other of whom is an Anglican priest and a don at Cambridge. Although, as I said, I have read and enjoyed many of her mystery stories, something always disturbs me just a little about Anne Perry’s plots. There’s usually something that doesn’t quite connect. I don’t know if it’s poor editing or poor logic on my part or what. For instance, in No Graves As Yet, there is a character who we find out could have been on the scene at the exact time that a suspicious accident took place. Then, it seems to me that we’re supposed to assume that because this particular person could have been there, he was, and he either saw everything, or he’s a murderer. I notice these “assumption problems” in all of Perry’s mysteries. Some possibility is mentioned, and the reader is supposed to make a mental jump to assume that the probability is a fact. Even so, the settings and the characters are worth the read. I believe No Graves As Yet is planned to be the first in a series of four or five novels with the same main characters set in the same time period. I’ll be interested to see how the author develops the characters in the other books in the series.
Today is the birthday of Eleanor Farjeon, author of the poem Morning Has Broken which was later recorded by Cat Stevens.
Morning has broken,
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird;
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing
Fresh from the Word.
Sweet the rain’s new fall,
Sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall
On the first grass;
Praise for the sweetness,
Of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness
Where His feet pass.
Mine is the sunlight,
Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light
Eden saw play;
Praise with elation,
Praise every morning,
Of the new day.
I like it. I was reading about Farjeon. She was homeschooled, began writing when she was five years old, and was a friend of one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost. I also saw references to a children’s book she wrote, apparently out of print now, called Kings and Queens. It had a short poem and an illustration for each of the 41 English kings and queens who have reigned over that blessed isle. It sounds delightful. Here’s a sample:
Bluff King Hal was full of beans
He married half a dozen queens
For three called Kate they cried the banns
And one called Jane, and a couple of Annes.
The first he asked to share his reign
Was Kate of Aragon, straight from Spain
But when his love for her was spent
He got a divorce, and out she went.
Anne Boleyn was his second wife.
He swore to cherish her all his life,
But seeing a third, he wished instead
He chopped off poor Anne Boleyn’s head.
He married the next afternoon
Jane Seymour, which was rather soon,
But after one year as his bride
She crept into her bed and died.
Anne of Cleves was number four.
Her portrait thrilled him to the core,
But when he met her face to face
Another royal divorce took place.
Catherine Howard, number five,
Billed and cooed to keep alive.
But one day Henry felt depressed,
The executioner did the rest.
Sixth and last was Catherine Parr
Sixth and last and luckiest far
For this time it was Henry who
Hopped the twig, and a good job too.
Elsa Beskow, Swedish children’s author, was born today in 1874. The only book of hers that I am familiar with is Pelle’s New Suit, a picture book about a boy who discovers all the work that goes into producing a new suit of clothes. I like this book, and it’s in Picture Book Preschool, my book of recommended books for reading to preschoolers. According to kirjasto, Beskow was criticized for her old-fashioned portrayals of families. Good for Beskow! I must look at more of her picture books; I like strong. brave dads and obedient, loving mothers. Good-natured children are a pretty good deal, too.
“In the 1960s and 1970s Beskow’s work was considered by many critics old-fashioned. Her idyllic pictures, full of good-natured children, animals, brownies, and flowers, were seen to present false ideals. Also her gender roles were seen as too narrow: “the father is strong and brave, and the mother is obedient and loving” (from Tomtebobarnen). According to Gunvor Häkansson, Beskow satisfies authoritative ideals in the upbringing of children, but Astrid Lindgren represents more democratic principles.”
I found this song: “Ask a Librarian”–pretty good., and you can listen to it and download it for free. I am SUPER-LIBRARIAN; ask me anything.
I’m still a day behind, but that’s OK because as far as I can tell no one of any interest was born today. For February 8th, first of all we have Henry Walter Bates, and English naturalist who lived about the same time as Darwin and spent eleven years studying butterflies and other insects. Unfortunately, he came up with the idea of natural selction at about the same time Darwin did, but Darwin got all the credit–or blame as the case may be. Bates sounds like a nice guy, spent most of his life studying beetles and butterflies and liverworts. One article said he was delighted to support Darwin’s theories and not at all concerned with getting any credit for Darwinism for himself. I wouldn’t want any credit for it either.
Jules Verne was born on February 8, 1828. I think he wrote better science fiction than Darwin did. He once said: “I have always made a point in my romances of basing my so-called inventions upon a groundwork of actual fact, and of using in their construction methods and materials which are not entirely without the pale of contemporary engineering skill and knowledge.”
At least, he told a better story. If you really like science fiction, you should try the sci-fi website. I used to read some science fiction, but I’m really more of a fantasy gal.
Yesterday was a red letter day for authors’ birthdays, and I must go back and pay homage to at least some of them. We begin with Henry Clifford Darby (1909-1992), a Welsh geographer of whom I had never heard. However, it turns out that he was the general editor of The Domesday Geography of England–in SEVEN volumes. I can’t imagine how anyone could write or edit seven volumes about the geography of such a puny little island, but since our subject was knighted in 1988, I suppose he did a good job of noting every rock and rill on the whole island. Happy Birthday to Sir Darby!
Much more significantly, Charles Dickens was also born on February 7, 1812. I found this Charles Dickens page–lots of information and lots of links. My favorite Dickens novel is probably David Copperfield( “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”) , but I’m also rather fond of A Tale of Two Cities (” It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”). Oliver Twist ( “Oliver Twist has asked for more!”) is a great story, and I will always remember reading Great Expectations (” I never had one hour’s happiness in her society, and yet my mind all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping on the happiness of having her with me unto death.”) aloud as a family when my oldest were only ten or twelve years old. Poor deluded Pip! I must admit I haven’t read any other Dickens novels, only A Christmas Carol, but I think I’l add one to my reading list. A yearly dose of Dickens couldn’t hurt anyone and might very well do me a lot of good.
Sir Thomas More was also born on February 7, 1478. I must admit to having mixed feelings about . If I listen to Josephine Tey, I will conclude that More was an abominable liar of a historian, but the movie A Man for all Seasons presents him in a much more positive light, and he was canonized. Maybe I should read Utopia and form my own opinion.
More was beheaded by Henry VIII because he refused to sign the oath that approved of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his break with Rome. His last words on the scaffold were: “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
February 7 also gave us Sinclair Lewis in 1885. I remember reading Babbitt in high school. According to the Sinclair Lewis Society website, Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. According to some other material I read, he was also a first-class pain in the neck who managed to alienate all his friends, divorced two wives in order to be with younger women, eventually had to pay secretaries to play chess with him in his last days and died of the effects of advanced alcoholism. His books attacked and made fun of small town residents, Midwestern businessmen, and crooked hypocritical preachers, amnong others. I did find this quote from Babbitt, and I’m afraid that it does describe the reason some people go to church: “The content of his theology was that there was a supreme being who had tried to make us perfect, but presumably had failed; that if one was a Good Man he would go to a place called Heaven … Upon this theology he rarely pondered. The kernal of his practical religion was that it was respectable, and beneficial to one’s business, to be seen going to services; that the church kept the Worst Elements from being still worse; and that the pastor’s sermons, however dull they might seem at the time of taking, yet had a voodooistic power which ‘did a fellow good — kept him in touch with higher things.'” Ch. 16-III, p. 170.
Last but not least, February 7 is also the birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). I love the Little House books, especially to read aloud to little girls. I think we might try reading all of them next year. Isn’t this a great old book jacket?
Peggy Noonan wrote a good piece about the “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime. I’m proud of my 12 year old who watched about 30 seconds of the halftime show–before Timberlake and Jackson even came on–and decided without any prompting from anyone that this “show” was not something we wanted to watch. She quietly turned it off, and we watched the two year old dance instead. The best summation of the incident and my reaction to it come from Peggy Noonan:
“You have all followed the great controversy, although I’m not sure controversy is the right word for an incident the facts of which no normal human would debate. Was it deliberate? No, the Goth pastie, the lyrics “I’ll have you naked before the end of this song,” and Janet Jackson’s slowness to cover her breast and quickness to enact what she thinks is a look of shame, make it clear it was all an accident. Did MTV know it would happen? No, when they put out the announcement promising “shocking moments” from Ms. Jackson, they didn’t mean anything by it. Did the–let’s be generous–perhaps retarded Justin Timberlake realize he’d gone too far? Of course–that’s why he issued the winking statement about “wardrobe malfunction.” Was the NFL taken aback? Gosh, they must have been–who would think MTV would do something vulgar and highly sexualized? Will an FCC fine of $27,500 stop the networks? Oh sure, in their tracks.
Now they’re saying the answer is a tape delay. Believe me, half the country would like to put the entire culture on a tape delay.”
Now she’s asking for suggestion from us about how to slow or reverse the slide into decadence. I’m not sure anything short of a mass conversion will help.
A state legislator in Washington has introduced a bill to have the state health department produce materials to encourage people in Washington state to have no more than two children. She doesn’t really expect the bill to go anywhere; she just wants to get people discussing. The thing that worried me the most about the article in the newspaper about this bill was that the reporter seemed to think that the ultimate goal of encouraging people to have small families was a good one. What is so terrible about large families? Are we using somebody else’s share of the resources? Are we intruding on someone’s space?
What exactly is the difference between the music of Josh Groban or the “popular tunes” of Placido Domingo and real classical music? Age? Classical music has passed the test of time? I found a link to this article at World magazine’s blog. It’s discussing crossover artists who are signing with classical record labels. Most of the singers mentioned in the article seem to be classically trained, but interested in singing more popular material? I’m not sure I understand the distinction. Can you help R-bitkin?