I read mysteries if they have been recommended by someone who knows what I like to read (usually DMP) and I'll read a second by an author who appeals to my sense of humor or offers me a view into history or who feeds me literary tidbits. Since DMP must go to Murder by the Book, now celebrating their 30th anniversary, at least twice a month, I come across such books rather frequently. I've indulged in a fiction binge of several mysteries:
Maron, Margaret: Rituals of the Season. New York: Warner, 2005. This is one of the later books in the series which began with The Bootlegger's Daughter and DMP thought I'd enjoy the chapter heading quotations from Florence Hartley'sThe Ladies Book of Etiquette, 1873, which may be read on-line at the Open Library. Two quotes: "Many believe that politeness is but a mask worn in the world to conceal bad passions and impulses, and to make a show of possessing virtues not really existing in the heart; thus, that politeness is merely hypocrisy and dissimulation. Do not believe this; be certain that those who profess such a doctrine are themselves practising the deceit they condemn so much... True politeness is the language of a good heart." "Among well-bred persons, every conversation is considered in a measure confidential...."DMP's timing was great since I'd just read a Hartley quote in the Ph.D. thesis of Sonya Sawyer Fritz. A bit of Maron's humor from p. 36: "So what is the difference between a spinster and a old maid?" "Well, as Doris would've said if Herman hadn't stopped her, a spinster ain't never been married. But an old maid ain't never been married ner nothing." DMP was correct; I did enjoy Maron's mystery and may have the chance to read her again (I'll certainly scan her chapter headings) since he acquired most of the out-of-print earlier books by asking me to find them for him. I used abebooks.com, one of my favorite sources, and was able to order from two vendors that I have used frequently: owl books and seashellbooks.com.
I'm planning to read and re-read the non-fiction books by one of my favorite authors, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, and thought that I'd start with three of the Kate Fansler mysteries which were first published under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross:
In the Last Analysis. New York: Fawcett Books, 1964."I didn't say I objected to Freud... I said I objected to what Joyce called freudful errors--all those nonsensical conclusions leaped to by people with no reticence and less mind." p. 1 "She had learned as a college teacher that if one simplified what one wished to say, one falsified it. It was possible only to say what one meant, as clearly as possible." p. 8 "...there's only one test for discovering what you really want: it consists in what you have." p. 159 "He probably thought I was writing a novel and he answered my question in the most long-winded and technical way possible. But then doctors are always indulging either in incoherence or oversimplification--if you want my opinion, I don't think they even understand each other." p. 209
Poetic Justice. New York: Fawcett Books, 1970. Filled with delicious W.H. Auden quotations and an excellent depiction of university life during my undergraduate years and some feminist issues. "unready to die... but already at the stage when one starts to dislike the young." p. 3 "I have nothing against young people--apart from the fact that they are arrogant, spoiled, discourteous, incapable of compromise, and unaware of the cost of everything they want to destroy.... I prefer those whom life has had time to season." p. 41 Kate to Reed: "You... are my greatest accomplishment. I have achieved the apotheosis of womanhood. To have earned a Ph.D., taught reasonably well, written books, traveled, been a friend and a lover--these are mere evasions of my appointed role in life: to lead a man to the altar. You are my sacrifice to the goddess of middle-class morality..." p. 107 "It may serve, in these frantic days of relevance, to remind you of the importance of the useless." p. 110 "When formality went from life, meaning went too. People always yowl about form without meaning, but what turns out to be impossible is meaning without form. Which is why I'm a teacher of literature and keep ranting on about structure." p. 133 "...'the only earthly joys are those we are free to choose--like solitude, your college, certain marriages.' 'And what about unearthly joys?' 'Ah, those, if we are fortunate, choose us. Like grace. Like talent.'" p. 135
The Theban Mysteries. New York: Avon Books, 1971. Antigone, dodging the draft, and an up-scale New York girls' school. "No one pretends anything any more, which I suppose is a good thing, although I can't help sometimes feeling that the constant expression of emotion in itself becomes the cause of the emotion which is expressed." p. 12 "What is troubling... is that he is rude, unwashed, inconsiderate, filled to the brim with slogans, and outrageously simplistic. Alas, he also right." p. 25 "Nothing ages more quickly than the absolutely up-to-date.... the latest in everything, age[s] like a woman who has had her face lifted: there is not even character to set off the ravages of time." p. 27 "There is nothing so uncomfortable as seeing both sides of the question." p. 89 "For myself, I've discovered that when I ask myself what I should do I always tumble into confusion. The only clear question is to ask oneself what one wants to do.... It sounds like [self-indulgence] certainly, but oddly enough, it isn't. The 'should' people are really indulging themselves by never finding out what they want. It has taken me many years to learn that discovering what one wants if the true beginning of a spiritual journey." p. 125
The Auden quotes in Poetic Justice are probably what inspired me to grab my well-worn Pocket Book of Modern Verse, edited by Oscar Williams, for bedside reading, all 628 pages. I have a few favorites but, by and large, I am out of sympathy with Moderns: "Terrence, this is stupid stuff..." A.E. Houseman. Found a smile and an apt description of the Parliament (Rice's NCAA Bulletin Board): "...owls raving--Solemnities not easy to withstand... The owls trilled with tongues of nightingale. These were all lies, though they matched the time..." Robert Graves. My final reading for this paperback with it's yellowed, brittle pages--some falling out--and it's broken spine. I kept it far longer than necessary for sentimental reasons: Larry McMurtry taught my section of English 100 at Rice and this little book is where I met and got to know: Auden, Thomas Hardy as a poet rather than a novelist, Houseman, Dylan Thomas, William Butler Yeats, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. I'm considering a replacement.
I'm finally returning Peterson, Eugene H.: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Discipleship in an Instant Society. 2nd edition. Downers Grover IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000, to my Psalms study shelf. This a very rich book offering commentary on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134. Many quotes from this book will one day be added to my Psalms notes but this one is worthy of mention here: "Those who parade the rhetoric of liberation but scorn the wisdom of service do not lead people into the glorious liberty of the children of God but into a cramped and covetous squalor."
David Eagleman: Sum: Forty tales from the Afterlives. New York: Vintage Books, 2009. The author majored in British and American literature at Rice before earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience. A funny, thoughtful delight which is less about Afterlives than about our perceptions of life. A couple of quotations: "She was always leery of apostates, those who rejected the particulars of their religion in search of something that seemed more truthful. She disliked them because they seemed the most likely to float a correct guess." "...your memory has spent a lifetime manufacturing small myths to keep your life story consistent with who you thought you were. You have committed to a coherent narrative, misremembering little details and decisions and sequences of events.... you are battered and bruised in the collisions between reminiscence and reality."