Monday, October 02, 2006

Book Recommendations from Another Era

From Josephine Moffett Benton's The Pace of a Hen (1961):

Young mothers may find more time for reading when the children are little than ever again seems possible. In the evenings because the children cannot be left alone, and babysitters are expensive, there are hours when all of Thomas Hardy, or Katharine Mansfield, or the new Women and Sometimes Men by Florida Scott-Maxwell, can be enjoyed… the young mother will take an hour in the afternoon when the children nap, to rest herself bodily and to refresh her spirit with some inspiring bit of reading, be it poetry, the biographies of Madame Curie, Rufus Jones, Harry Emerson Fosdick, or the letters of Saint Paul.

If it is impossible to achieve a physical separation, even for a brief time, then the sensible woman will accept this encompassing, and still find a way out to free her spirit. An Australian wrote a thank you note for a playpen given after the birth of her fourth child. “You will never know how I appreciate the pen. It is a godsend. I sit in it every afternoon and read and the children can’t get near me.”

In her solid Martha days Mary can find time, maybe while she brushes her hair, for at least a page of some such book as Oldham’s Devotional Diary, Fenelon’s Letters to Women, Gerald Heard’s Prayers and Meditations, or Evelyn Underhill’s Anthology of the Love of God. Certainly we do not need great gulps of reading. LinYutang says the reason Americans cannot appreciate Confucius is because we gallop through a book at one sitting. Instead, he says we should ponder one great thought for days.

The healing power of silence is nowhere better described to my way of thinking, than in Mary Webb’s Precious Bane. (This is one of those novels, I have heard women say, that changed their lives.) [She also recommends] The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway, for “the beauty of her language and the beauty of her spirit” and Dr. Oliver’s book entitled Fear.

This is one of those reading lists that I have long been meaning to follow up on! Don't her recommendations sound interesting?

I have begun reading Fenelon devotionally, and he is fabulous. I've read one excerpt from Evelyn Underhill and it made me want to track down more. Thomas Hardy I read in college and frankly didn't enjoy much. Has anyone else read any of these authors?

And don't you love the quote about the playpen? I laugh out loud every time at the mental image I conjure up: Preschoolers clamoring around the playpen, pudgy hands reaching toward Mum, who sits with elbows drawn in, absorbed in the book balanced on her knees! And can't you just imagine the shocked face of the person receiving the thank you note??!

It's true that I don't have the time for reading that I did when my kids were younger, finances were tighter, and we didn't have built-in babysitters yet. Wish I'd taken advantage of it more then--but at that time I had not learned yet to "not neglect recreation," as Teresa of Avila said--see my sidebar. Not that I've found the perfect balance yet...!


Cool Mama said...

I laughed too, when I read the comment about the play pen! Too funny! And I actually liked the comment about us not galloping thru a book in a day, but spending days to meditate on one thought. That's really good! I've been thinking more about that very thing - how we seem to be in such a hurry to 'move on' to the next thing = when perhaps we need to spend more time really delving into the thing infront of us, until we've gotten everything there is that God is wanting to say to us. me thinking...thanks for that!

Jennifer said...

thanks for the neat list. Fenelon is mentioned in "Stepping Heavenward", I always assumed it would be hard to track down, maybe not. When my babies were little, I loved "playpen time" and then "room time" !!! secret to my sanity! I've gotten away from it...thinking of instituting a "quiet time/room time" again, it would be so nice.