Thoughts on Anne & Other Bookish Items

Late one night last week, I was vacuuming up a shattered water glass (thank you George), I thought to myself, “This has been a Jonah day.” Absolutely, unequivocally, a Jonah day. If you are acquainted with Jonah days, we are most definitely kindred spirits. The details of my Jonah day are beside the point and now are, with a little distance, almost (almost) funny. But ever since my late-night vacuuming, I have been thinking about the Anne books by L.M. Montgomery. It’s no secret that I love them. Cate’s middle name is Cordelia. I married a dark-haired medicine-bound student (hello, Gilbert fantasies come true).

For a certain girl, Anne sinks in deeply. Many of my ideas about the world, about the possibilities of friendship, how to pay attention to beauty and the natural world, even down to my love of walking, are directly because I read and breathed and lived Anne throughout my childhood. I was in the second grade when the movie with Megan Follows aired on PBS. I remember watching with my mom and realizing there was a book about Anne. I can remember starting Anne of Green Gables curled up under a table at the very small, very narrow Christian school that I attended in Umatilla. The magic is still there as an adult. I reread the Anne and Emily books every couple of years of out deep devotion and unabashed nostalgia. Of course I see the flaws, the purple prose, the romanticism, but I will always credit Anne with fashioning me into a reader, for teaching me about the possibilities of life.

This week, after thinking about Anne, I started looking around online for kindred spirits and I found this article published in The Los Angeles Times Book Review last summer that absolutely delighted me. A quote: “When I talk about loving Anne with dear friends who also love Anne, we are not advocating particular novels so much as we are describing loving words, loving the past, loving names…loving, most of all, the ability to find a sense of place. What we are saying is that Anne was our wardrobe, our tornado — our portal to the capacity within ourselves to make the mundane world magical.” Yes.

Other bookish news:

I just finished Longbourn by Jo Baker and I am telling you: I loved it. This could be such a terrible novel – Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants? Sounds like a Downton Abbey rip-off but Baker is a lovely writer and P&P feels enriched rather than cheapened by this story.

Currently reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. An embarrassment of riches.

Four Books

January has never been my favorite month of the year but reading these four books have made the month not only bearable but contemplative and thoughtful.

A Circle of Quiet: The Crosswicks Journals – Book 1. Madeleine L’Engle. Lovely, meandering thoughts on faith and life, feels fresh although published in 1972. Quote: “Love is not an emotion. It is a policy.”

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. Shauna Niequist. Thank you Sherry for recommendation. Personal essays with corresponding recipes. Quote: “What happens around the table doesn’t matter to a lot of people. But it matters more and more to me. Life at the table is life at its best to me, and the spiritual significance of what and how we eat, and with whom and where, is new and profound to me every day. I believe God is here among us, present and working. I believe all of life is shot throgh with God’s presence, and that part of the gift of walking with him is seeing his fingerprints in all sorts of unexpected ways.”

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life. Dani Shapiro. I find that these writing advice books are really the best life advice books. I am always so grateful for the author’s vulnerability. Thoughtful and inspiring. Quote: “We are revealed to ourselves—just as our characters are revealed to us—through our daily actions. When making my son’s breakfast, I try to focus simply on cracking the eggs, melting the butter, toasting the bread. It doesn’t get more ele­mental than that. As I drive down country roads taking Jacob to school, I remind myself to focus on the way the sunlight plays on the surface of a pond, the silhouettes of cows in a field. I’ve learned that it isn’t so easy to witness what is actually happening. The eggs, the cows. But my days are made up of these moments. If I dismiss the ordinary—waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen—I may just miss my life.”

The Signature of All Things. Elizabeth Gilbert. Who knew a 19th century botany novel could be this much fun? Loved the sentences, the big, comforting length, and the warmth the author has for her characters.

Also, Telfer sent me this David Brooks column today and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s about a family who goes through one daughter’s death at 27 and another daughter’s debilitating bicycle accident a few years later. Suffering led them to share “about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone.” A “ministry of presence.” What a beautiful phrase. Please read.