Monday, July 11, 2005

Recent reads

By accident I pressed the wrong button on the audio thingie last night and lost my place in Jackson's Dilemma; I read the last 80 or so pages this morning instead of attempting to locate my place again since I was ready to be done with this one anyway. I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of half-listening/half-reading of books in the future. Next up: Patrick O'Brian's Treason's Harbour--it should make for most enjoyable listening.

After finishing two enormous novels back to back--Pinkerton's Sister and The Historian--I've opted for shorter fare these last few days. I'd not heard of Susan Glaspell before I spotted a review of her latest biography in the New York Times a few weeks back and, curious, I promptly placed a hold at the public library on her Pulitzer-winning play Alison's House and checked out collections of her shorter plays and stories from the university. I'm glad I did. I've read two plays and a handful of short stories at this point, and hope to read at least one more play and a few more stories. I particularly liked "'Finality' in Freeport," the story of a censorship fight with a library board that refused to purchase a particular title:

However, two nights before the next regular meeting of the board the
Clarion electrified the town with the tremendous heading, "JOHNSON FLOPS." Mr.
Johnson, it appeared, had undergone nothing short of a conversion. He had seen
the light. The people must have the books the people wanted. Perhaps it is
small-spirited to mention here that Mr. Johnson ran a dry-goods store, and that
many of the people were finding what they wanted at a rival emporium. Mr.
Johnson announced his conversion and a great bargain sale in one and the same
issue. With that it was assumed that victory was at hand, but when the board
gathered and the vote was taken whether two thousand people of Freeport should
have a book which they wanted, it transpired that the head of Johnson Brothers
was not alone in his flopping.

Mrs. Martin McFarland had also flopped--and flopped the other way! In the
beginning Mrs. McFarland had stood for enlightenment. But the degree of
enlightenment had been too much for her. Appalled, she ran for cover, and the
library board stood precisely where it had stood before an exercised town had
pressed upon it.

Last year I bailed on Mary Lee Settle's I, Roger Williams exactly one hundred pages from the end out of frustration since I was learning about Williams' formative years in England and precious little about his life in the colonies. Now I'm reading Edwin Gaustad's bio Roger Williams: Prophet of Liberty and it's filling in all the gaps left by the textbooks. Truly a fascinating, inspiring man.

I'm revisiting some children's novels and trying to decide what I want to commit to next.

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