Saturday, March 19, 2016

On Borrowed...Books

I have a lot of books. In my house. Some mine, some borrowed--some borrowed from friends, some from the library.* They are stacked here and there in every room, because I might need a book at any time, right? So in addition to reading This Old Man, by Roger Angell, borrowed from my mom, I am reading The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr, borrowed from a friend. It is eerily beautiful. As I looked at the cover, I realized, I have all these shells. Where?

I pictured them in a Betsy McCall's Travel Pac with a broken handle, where they used to be, but when I opened it up, I found little wooden trains and disassembled tracks from my son's toddlerhood. Then I pictured the shells in cookie tins, Mermaid and Riberhus Butter Cookie tins!** Yes!

**also from my son's toddlerhood, gifts from his babysitter!

This blog entry was going to be about something else altogether. I planned to quote Roger Angell, waxing patriotic about Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. "At ninety," he writes, "I belong to the generation that was called into service almost en masse, sixteen million of us, in 1942 and 1943, and went off to war." Because his was an "easy war" by comparison with fellow soldiers who died or were wounded or damaged, he says, "I've always felt a bit awkward with that Greatest Generation wreath that Tom Brokaw generously draped on us." Then he shares this insight: "yes, mine is the Greatest Generation, but despite the compliment, the people who are really feeling good about that aren't us old guys, I notice, but everybody else, anybody who's younger. If we're great, then they're a little great, and America itself is great all over again." Perhaps you see where I am headed.

Donald Trump recently came to town, and so did the Dump Trump and other peaceful protest groups, to voice their dismay with this candidate, mostly outside his rally. The few inside the rally were escorted peacefully out. I was struck by the fact that two of my acquaintances in town shared the same Dump Trump event post at Facebook, one in support of the protest, one criticizing the protest as being against free speech. Then a local newspaper columnist posted a funny picture about cheese, the Wallingford sign, that, to me, seemed to be anti-Trump in a good-natured way. So I "Liked" it, with the suddenly old-fashioned plain old thumbs-up Like button, not a fancy new emoticon, but so did the sincerely pro-Trump thumpers. The truth is I don't know how to read the world anymore! 

I guess this makes me This Old Woman. The kind of person who loves this sentence by Angell: "Art waits for us to catch up, and never goes out of date." He's discussing New Yorker cartoons, growing up with them, loving them even before he "got" them. "A contributor friend of mine once announced that there should be no more cartoons in the magazine. 'That time is over,' she said firmly." That time is indeed over, for many publications, a fact bemoaned by cartoonist and comics columnist Phil Maish over at  Escape Into Life, but Angell is glad still to have them, as am I. Even when I don't "get" them.

But now I "get" this, the Mermaid Butter Cookie brand from Denmark. Because my son has been to Denmark and seen the Mermaid. She's "The Little Mermaid" of Hans Christian Andersen, and my childhood is washing over me again, and I've found my shell collection. Oh, this! Go see this beautiful shell art by Shell Rummel, also at EIL!

Oh, it's a Random Coinciday in the blog, and, if I don't get this posted before midnight, also/almost a Slattern Day!

**Today (or yesterday) I almost resisted temptation at the library book sale. But I didn't. I bought a rocking chair! To read in.


seana graham said...

I have some problem with the greatest generation idea, not because they weren't great, but because I think other generations could claim the mantle, although maybe for different reasons.

"Art waits for us to catch up" I can agree with. After reading Finnegans Wake with friends for so many years, I'm thinking a hundred years after publication may even turn out to be too soon. Maybe two hundred years out it will start to seem obvious.

Collagemama said...

I loved New Yorker cartoons. My parents had a big volume of 50 years worth. I learned a lot of history by asking questions when I didn't understand the cartoons. ... Oh, and I found my collection of miniature railroad signs after a long search. When did it get put in Tupperware!?

Kathleen said...

Thanks, you two. I love the way our brains, lives, experiences...overlap.

Maureen said...

After reading Doerr's 'All the Light', which I love, I picked up his other books, including 'The Shell Collector'. I also very much enjoyed 'About Grace'.

Thank you for mentioning Shell here. (I visited her at her studio one day last month. She's really terrific.)

Kathleen said...

Shell's shells are gorgeous!