Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Readers of this blog may remember that I occaisionally write a book column for the local paper. Here is the one printed in this morning's edition.

What is that magic that happens to us as readers? How is it that an inanimate object of paper and ink can become so important to us, can change our lives, and can move our spirits? How is it that we can form relationships with books and they become our friends?
I don’t exactly have the answers. I know that what makes us humans different from the other animals on this planet is our storytelling ability. The cavemen came home from the hunt and talked about the big game that got away. The ancient Greeks made up stories about how the forces in the world worked and how the stars moved across the sky. King Arthur and his buddies are remembered for their stories of battles fought and wrongs righted.

We are no different from our ancestors, we love a good tale. Those of us who are book readers love to talk about the stories we’ve read which have made an impact on us. And those few of us who are librarians, especially love to share favorite authors and titles with one another.

Recently my colleague at the Bethany College Phillips Library handed me a bag filled with novels by one of her favorite authors, Mary Wesley, a writer I had not read. You know the weather’s this past month—snow time is book time at my house and I jumped right into this luscious bag of books.

Author Mary Wesley’s life reads like one of her novels. Descended from the Duke of Wellington, she grew up a rebel in an effete British family believing that she was her mother’s least favorite child. Like many girls of her background, she married for escape, although her first marriage was conventional. Her second husband, a writer who never managed to make any money at all, was feckless and bohemian and left her near impoverishment at his death. In between husbands, she had a love affair with Czech war hero, Heinz Ziegler — and possibly with his brother at the same time; and in her later years enjoyed a torrid relationship.
At the outbreak of the Second World War she was, as she put it, “roped into intelligence,” where she worked on breaking codes. Her experiences in MI5, and her many wartime love affairs, formed the cores of her novels.

Mary’s biography is a beacon of hope to women of a certain age who find that an “empty nest” is opportunity to redefine themselves and channelcreative energies that had been previously spent on family and relationsthips. She became an author late in life, in her 70’s and 80’s, after the death of her second husband when she found herself without means. She wrote two books for children before moving on to writing adult fiction. Her take on life reveals a sharp and critical eye which neatly dissects the idiosyncrasies of genteel England with humour, compassion and irony, detailing in particular sexual and emotional values. Her adult fiction is the point of this column.

JUMPING THE QUEUE—This first novel is a tragi-comic tale of a woman whose plans for suicide are interrupted by a series of minor mishaps and romantic incidents.

THE CHAMOMILE LAWN—These are the expoits of an unconventional upper-class English family and their German Jewish friends during the second world war. (Made into a TV mini series.)

NOT THAT SORT OF GIRL—The most autobiographical of her work, this amusing story is of a widow remembering her boring marriage and the man she really loved.

A SENSIBLE LIFE—This novel probes the undercurrents of fear threatening the security of friendship and family ties during the restless years between the wars. More than a comedy of manners, this is a story of an entire era--its relationships and its flaws.

HARNESSING PEACOCKS-- As a teenager pregnant Hebe ran away from home to bear her child and create a new life. Now, 12 years later, she is living in a seaside town, working alternately as a gourmet cook and a prostitute, and doing both on her own terms and with flair.

Thank you, Mary Bess, for sharing these books with me. Here’s hoping, dear reader, that you too have the opportunity to share a book with a friend.

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"Color is the real substance for me, the real underlying thing which drawing and line are not."
--Sam Francis

"The great man is one who never loses his child's heart."
-- Philosopher Mencius

"We wear our attitudes in our bodies."
-- Patti Davis

Colour embodies an enormous though unexplored power which can effect the entire human body as physical organism.

Colour is a means of exercising direct influence upon the soul.
--V. Kandinsky
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way.. things I had no words for.
Georgia O'Keeffe

Nothing is really work unless you'd rather be doing something else.
J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Faith is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
E. L. Doctorow

Somebody once said that people become artists
because they have a certain kind of energy to release, and that rings true to me.
--Dale Chihuly