Why a blog for books I’ve read?

Welcome to Reading Now. It seems that as I read I keep finding recurring themes. Maybe a blog is the best place to track and share the great themes or waves of literature. I have often kept records of my reading, but limited myself mostly to tracking the quantity of pages read. Here I can categorize and summarize books by themes, make recommendation, make a few comments, and even share some memorable quotations. After all, it isn’t how much you read, but what you learn from your reading that is important.

I tend to read books that are similar in genre. I have tagged entries by genres, maybe not using standard categories, but making my own as I go along. I have extensive collections of eBooks and print books. I have created two lists of books indexed by author. First a list of conventional print books and then a list of eBooks. All entries are tagged by author’s name so you can find all entries about an author’s books by clicking the author’s name.

The Novel and the Common School — The Novel and the Common School

Warner introduces his essay on literature in the schools with an analogy to newspapers. Newspapers are edited or directed (at least they were in Warner’s time) by one person. The literary level and diversity of the paper largely depended on the choices and abilities of that one person.

But the modern newspaper is no doubt a natural evolution in our social life. As everything has a cause, it would be worth while to inquire whether the encyclopaedic newspaper is in response to a demand, to a taste created by our common schools. Or, to put the question in another form, does the system of education in our common schools give the pupils a taste for good literature or much power of discrimination? Do they come out of school with the habit of continuous reading, of reading books, or only picking up of scraps in the newspapers, as they might snatch a hasty meal at a lunch-counter? What, in short, do the schools contribute to the creation of a taste for good literature.

Warner, Charles Dudley, The Novel and the Common School, Kindle Edition (2011).

The notion that literature can be taken up as a branch of education, and learned at the proper time and when studies permit, is one of the most farcical in our scheme of education. It is only matched in absurdity by the other current idea, that literature is something separate and apart from general knowledge. Here is the whole body of accumulated thought and experience of all the ages, which indeed forms our present life and explains it, existing partly in tradition and training, but more largely in books; and most teachers think, and most pupils are led to believe, that this most important former of the mind, maker of character, and guide to action can be acquired in a certain number of lessons out of a textbook! Because this is so, young men and young women come up to college almost absolutely ignorant of the history of their race and of the ideas that have made our civilization. We have a saying concerning people whose minds appear to be made up of dry, isolated facts, that they have no atmosphere. Well, literature is the atmosphere. In it we live, and move, and have our being, intellectually. The first lesson read to, or read by, the child should begin to put him in relation with the world and the thought of the world. This cannot be done except by the living teacher. No text-book, no one reading-book or series of reading-books, will do it. If the teacher is only the text-book orally delivered, the teacher is an uninspired machine. We must revise our notions of the function of the teacher for beginners. The teacher is to present evidence of truth, beauty, art. Where will he or she find it? Why, in experimental science, if you please, in history, but, in short, in good literature, using the word in its broadest sense. The object in selecting reading for children is to make it impossible for them to see any evidence except the best. That is the teacher’s business, and how few understand their business!

Ibid.

Well that is a lot of wisdom from a short essay, but there is a lot more there for you to gather.

Soul of a Bishop — H. G. Wells

Soul of a Bishop is about the evolution of the thinking of a bishop as he moves from creeds to the Christ. His thinking causes him to make a remarkable speech and prayer at a confirmation service. His new un-orthodoxy leads him to resign his seat in the church.

The bishop’s resignation makes for some large changes in the life of his family. They must move from the bishop’s palatial lodgings into a tenement in London. The new situation is so bad that they cannot get servants to come into the new place, not that they had income to pay servants without his income from the church.

Is the bishop able to work out his personal conflicts? between following his God, and providing as he wishes for his family?

Is he able to avoid entanglements in new religions?

Is he able to share with his family the importance of his new attitude toward religion?

Little Journey in the World — Charles Dudley Warner

Little Journey in the World is the story of a girl who grows up in a very conservative New England village. She is a girl with hopes and dreams and a very active mind. She hopes to go to college and get an education.

During the visit of an Englishman to her village, the future earl quite falls in love with this girl. But when he asks permission to speak to her she quite forbids him to broach the subject of marriage.

Soon Margaret, for that is our young subject’s name, visited for a time in New York and also Washington. Very quickly she become the leader of social life wherever she went. She drew the attention of a very successful business man whom the whole country feared. He courted Margaret and they were soon married. Little Journey in the World traces the progress of the change of values in Margaret’s life. Things she would not have tolerated once become her daily standard.

What will become of Margaret? Read Little Journey in the World to find out for yourself.

Literary Copyright — Charles Dudley Warner

This is the first public meeting of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The original members were selected by an invitation from the American Social Science Association, which acted under the power of its charter from the Congress of the United States. The members thus selected, who joined the Social Science Association, were given the alternative of organizing as an independent institute or as a branch of the Social Science Association.

At the annual meeting of the Social Science Association on September 4, 1899, at Saratoga Springs, the members of the Institute voted to organize independently. They formally adopted the revised constitution, which had been agreed upon at the first meeting, in New York in the preceding January, and elected officers as prescribed by the constitution.

Warner, Charles Dudley. Literary Copyright (Kindle Locations 1-7). Kindle Edition.

Warner gives his opinions at the charter meeting of the national Institute of Arts and Letters. There is a different set of laws for domestic authors and foreign authors. Also the protection of copyright is given for a term, renewable for one term. The product of an author’s mind is not his to pass on as the goods from any other endeavor. Interesting thoughts.

The Sleeper Awakes — H. G. Wells

The Sleeper Awakes is a Rip Van Winkle tale on steroids. Rip slept for a mere twenty years. The Sleeper snoozed a whopping two hundred years. Two hundred and three, to be precise.

The man who first found the sleeper and another man who was the guardian and next of kin to the sleeper kept a watchful vigil over the sleeper’s modest estate. A trust was set up to both care for the care of the man and his resources. Both the trustee and the man who found the sleeper left their estates to the trust. One invented a new material that became the material of choice for paving roads. This paving eventually replaced all the railroads. The other man was an artist and had something to do with the invention of a special camera that could record movies. The trustees guarded the patents carefully, and by judicious reinvestment after 200 years the sleeper was the owner of the world.

One day the sleeper awoke. The trustees who had charge of him were not very happy to see him awake. There was a revolution. Another faction ousted the trustees. But wait, the new boss wasn’t really going to do anything different. The labor class kept their weapons and started another rebellion. Would the Sleeper join the rebellion? or would he trust his new bosses?

Nine Short Essays — Charles Dudley Warner

Nine Short Essays includes some essays that in fact remain relevant and interesting one hundred years later.

The Essays:

A Night in the Garden of the Tuileries
Truthfulness
The Pursuit of Happiness
Literature and the Stage
The Life-Saving and Life Prolonging Art
“H.H.” In Southern California
Simplicity
The English Volunteers During The Late Invasion
Nathan Hale

Warner, Charles Dudley. Nine Short Essays . Kindle Edition.

“A Night in the Garden of the Tuileries” is a whimsical essay on how one might spend the night in that garden if he somehow missed the evacuation at the hour of lock-down. No-one is permitted in the garden after sundown.

“Truthfulness”

Truthfulness is as essential in literature as it is in conduct, in fiction as it is in the report of an actual occurrence. Falsehood vitiates a poem, a painting, exactly as it does a life. Truthfulness is a quality like simplicity. Simplicity in literature is mainly a matter of clear vision and lucid expression, however complex the subject-matter may be; exactly as in life, simplicity does not so much depend upon external conditions as upon the spirit in which one lives. It may be more difficult to maintain simplicity of living with a great fortune than in poverty, but simplicity of spirit—that is, superiority of soul to circumstance—is possible in any condition.

Warner, Charles Dudley. Nine Short Essays (p. 10). Kindle Edition.

“The Pursuit of Happiness”

At the time of the framing of the Declaration there was a phrase common among the philosophers of freedom…. “Life, liberty, and property!” However, due to the issue of slavery the framers of our declaration shied away from the use of the word property. Slaves were considered to be property, and here was a declaration of rights that should include “All men.” Dudley examines the meaning of “the Pursuit of Happiness.” It is an essay that shall always be current to each generation.

“H.H.” In Southern California is an essay about the writing of Ramona, an epic about the mission years in California. Many landmarks in California proclaim the writing place of this story. The essayist observes that the writer worked on the story in a hotel in New York. As I child I was taken to Hemet in Riverside County to see the “Ramona Pageant.” I assumed that Ramona had something to do with the Riverside area. From the essay I learned that the Ramona Hacienda was near Santa Barbara.

The essay on Simplicity, like the essay on Truthfulness, is valuable advice to the young writer.

Correspondence, between the late Commodore Stephen Decatur and Commodore James Barron which led to the unfortunate meeting of the twenty-second of March — James Barron and Stephen Decatur

This is the record of an extended correspondence in which on Commodore wishes to meet the other in a duel because he feels that the second Commodore prevented his being re-appointed to high position in the Navy.

Just a bit of evidence that we should be careful of what we say or write.

Modern Fiction — Charles Dudley Warner

One of the worst characteristics of modern fiction is its so-called truth to nature. For fiction is an art, as painting is, as sculpture is, as acting is. A photograph of a natural object is not art; nor is the plaster cast of a man’s face, nor is the bare setting on the stage of an actual occurrence. Art requires an idealization of nature.

Warner, Charles Dudley. Modern Fiction (Kindle Locations 1-4). Kindle Edition. Emphasis added.

Warner continues in his essay to compare works of a few artists who have focused on a few exceptional characters to illustrate a civilization, compared to some of the modern writers who merely write down what they see and hear. The painter brings his subject out of the background. The sculptor releases the character who is somewhere inside a block of stone. The writer must somehow bring his subjects up out of the scene to make them the focus of the story.

…there are no happy marriages —indeed, marriage itself is almost too inartistic to be permitted by our novelists, unless it can be supplemented by a divorce, and art is supposed to deny any happy consummation of true love. In short, modern society is going to the dogs, notwithstanding money is only three and a half per cent. It is a gloomy business life, at the best. Two learned but despondent university professors met, not long ago, at an afternoon “coffee,” and drew sympathetically together in a corner. “What a world this would be,” said one, “without coffee!” “Yes,” replied the other, stirring the fragrant cup in a dejected aspect “yes; but what a hell of a world it is with coffee!”

Warner, Charles Dudley. Modern Fiction (Kindle Locations 82-87). Kindle Edition.

Indeterminate Sentence — Charles Dudley Warner

Indeterminate Sentence is an interesting essay that provides an introduction to the world of criminal justice. The reader may well find areas of interest for further investigation, the least of which may be to seek modern statistics to compare with Warner’s estimates of one hundred years ago.

The idea of the Indeterminate Sentence is based on the theory that criminals can be trained to change their behavior. The criminally insane are kept in hospitals until medical specialists determine that the patient is safe to be release into the general population. The determinate sentence with its time off for good behavior works to the benefit of the career criminal. There is motivation to “behave” while in prison to shorten the time of returning to normal life of crime.

Read the essay for yourself to understand all the arguments.

The Gilded Age — Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner

This complete version of The Gilded Age contains Part 1 as previously reviewed, and adds many chapters out to the end. As it turns out the chapters of Part 1 and the next two chapters of the book were written by Mark Twain. Thence begins the work of Charles Dudley Warner.

Chapter X
Laura Hawkins Discovers a Mystery in Her Parentage and Grows Morbid Under the Village Gossip

Chapter XI
A Dinner with Col. Sellers–Wonderful Effects of Raw Turnips

Chapter XII
Philip Sterling and Henry Brierly–Arrangements to Go West as Engineers

Chapter XIII
Rail–Road Contractors and Party Traveling–Phillip and Harry form the Acquaintance of Col. Sellers

Chapter XIV
Ruth Bolton and Her Parents

Chapter XV
Visitors of the Boltons–Mr Bigler “Sees the Legislature”–Ruth Bolton Commences Medical Studies

Chapter XVI
The Engineers Detained at St Louis–Off for Camp–Reception by Jeff

Chapter XVII
The Engineer Corps Arrive at Stone’s Landing

Chapter XVIII
Laura and Her Marriage to Colonel Selby–Deserted and Returns to Hawkeye

Chapter XIX
Harry Brierly Infatuated with Laura and Proposes She Visit Washington

Chapter XX
Senator Abner Dilworthy Visits Hawkeye–Addresses the People and Makes the Acquaintance of Laura

Chapter XXI
Ruth Bolton at Fallkill Seminary–The Montagues–Ruth Becomes Quite Gay–Alice Montague

Chapter XXII
Phillip and Harry Visit Fallkill–Harry Does the Agreeable to Ruth

Chapter XXIII
Harry at Washington Lobbying For An Appropriation For Stone’s Landing–Phillip in New York Studying Engineering

Chapter XXIV
Washington and Its Sights–The Appropriation Bill Reported From the Committee and Passed

Chapter XXV
Energetic Movements at Stone’s Landing–Everything Booming–A Grand Smash Up

Chapter XXVI
The Boltons–Ruth at Home–Visitors and Speculations

Chapter XXVII
Col Sellers Comforts His Wife With His Views on the Prospects

Chapter XXVIII
Visit to Headquarters in Wall Street–How Appropriations Are Obtained and Their Cost

Chapter XXIX
Phillip’s Experience With the Rail-Road Conductor–Surveys His Mining Property

Chapter XXX
Laura and Col Sellers Go To Washington On Invitation of Senator Dilworthy

Chapter XXXI
Phillip and Harry at the Boltons’–Phillip Seriously Injured–Ruth’s First Case of Surgery

Chapter XXXII
Laura Becomes a Famous Belle at Washington

The list of chapters goes on for another 32 chapters. I won’t include the rest of the list here. But as you can see from the chapter titles there are many new actors introduced to the story. The general theme continues to be the grand hopes that come from huge speculations in life. The land that was to have been the salvation and retirement of the current generation continues to be a curse. Who will survive? Who will humble himself and seek to work at an honest career? Can the authors’ perspective on government and corporations be anywhere near truth?