“I wish to write a very American tale, a tale very characteristics of our social conditions, and I asked myself what was the most salient and peculiar point in our social life, The answer was: the situation of women, the decline of the sentiment of sex, the agitation on their behalf.” – from the Notebooks of Henry James
“Do you really take the ground that your sex has been without influence? Influence? Why you have led us all by the nose to where we are now! Wherever we are, it’s all you. You are at the bottom of everything . . . She is the universal cause”
“ [Olive] would reform the solar system if she could get a hold of it”
“Oh, the position of women!” Basil Ransom exclaimed [to Olive]. “The position of women, is to make fools of men. I would change my position for yours any day,”
I finished reading The Bostonians, the first book on my back to the Classics list, and love Henry James all the more for it. This book has been described as a satire and I agree it is funny filled with a good-natured irony, but it is more than a satire. It has a tragic touch and yet at its core it is a love story, the stuff of fairy tales.
It also deals with many themes I have struggled with and have been preoccupied with for years: the postbellum era, feminism, traditionalism, women in the domestic and political spheres, revolutions, reforms, reforms of the reforms, sympathy, true charity, and Mr. James addresses them all with a fierce and comic pen.
I read a few scathing reviews and a few thoughtful ones that had me wondering if we even read the same book! It appears that feminism is controversial and this I think is what made me reread it (I had abandoned this book once before) – I wanted His take on the movement.
Perhaps we have forgotten, so used to the movement, the advancement, the emancipation of women, that women were powerful and have always been powerful in a feminine way (have we forgotten Helen of Troy?) Mr. James reminds us of this, that the domestic sphere has a power of its own, (have we forgotten Penelope?) There is something “divinely different” from the public life and that is the private life, hidden away for love of the other. The cloistered nun has great power, so does the housewife, both are a Joan of Arc in spirit setting the world on fire in little ways. A flame is just as bright in the home as it is outdoors, perhaps even brighter to those closest to it. What do we have if we sacrifice the private life? If we proclaim equality the absolute?
I found the book strikingly prophetic but not despairing. The characters themselves were believable and I loved reading about them even if I despised their views. I found them all to be well developed and the dialogue brilliant. Mr. James has a genius for it. Its juxtaposition to the characters actions, their surroundings, at moments reminded me of Flaubert. The last three chapters were my favorite as Mr. James tied up the loose ends and set his fairy tale alive with a quietly dramatic and satisfying ending.
A brilliant novel but not an easy read, and of course, Mr. James leaves room for dispute as I have yet to find a review I completely agree with, which I suppose is part of the intrigue. As, Horace Elisha Scudder points out in his own review, “It is when we stop and take the book as a whole that we forget how fine the web is spun, and remember only the strong conception which underlies the book; the freshness of the material used; the amazing cleverness of separate passages;” We want to pin Mr. James down, and his book but it is too fine drawn for that, you dear reader, must read it for yourself.
-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.
It had been around ten years since I last read this. I remembered it was good but remembered hardly anything about it. I’d been craving a re-read for awhile.
“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one mind to another.”
James Russell Lowell
I am not a speed reader, and I’m busy if I can read over 50 books in a year, so can you!
- I Use A Reading Log.
I keep track of the books I read on a Pinterest Board, this motivates me to fill up the pinterest board. At the end of the year I like seeing all the different books I’ve read in one place.
- I Have a Reading List.
I have a pinterest board where I pin interesting books I might want to read.
- I Always Bring a Book. I always have a book (or two or three) in my purse, don’t you?
- I Set attainable goals: I set specific goals. Instead of saying “I’ll read more this year” Say “I’ll read a chapter a day” or “I’ll read ten minutes daily.”
- I Work it into my schedule: If you have time to browse facebook, pinterest, netflixs, Then you have time to read! Simply commit to reading 10 minutes before screentime. You’ll find that reading is more relaxing.
- I Keep a Commonplace Book: A commonplace book is a journal where you write down poems, passages, quotes you like. Keeping a book where you write down these passages can be motivating. You begin to want to find more things for your commonplace book, you also remember more of what you read.
- I Read With my Family: Reading with my family builds up our home culture, strengthens our bonds and let’s us discuss all sorts of topics (more) organically. When I see these good fruits I want to read more.
- I Read More than one Book at a time : I read a book of poetry, fiction, children’s fiction and a spiritual book. This keeps me interested as I begin to connect all sorts of ideas from the different genres.
- I Don’t always finish books: It’s okay to stop reading a book. If I dislike a book I give it a few chapters then move on to another one. Maybe it will speak to me in a year, maybe in ten years, maybe never.
- I Joined a Book Club: It’s good to have accountability and discussions. It doesn’t have to be a formal book club maybe just a few friends. The book club I’m in is just me and my sister-in-laws but it keeps me reading.
- I listen to Books on Audio: We always have a audiobook in the car, my kids love it and I get to revisit so many classics!
- I have a library card: This gives me freedom to read books I’m not sure I want to invest in. I also get all the audiobooks from the library.
- I Buy books cheap: I buy books used from all over locally and online.
- I read Book reviews: Reading reviews from goodreads or other book blogs can be helpful when I don’t know what to read next.
nottry not to be a Book Snob: It doesn’t always have to be a Classic. I read fun pseudoscience books, personality books, interior design coffee table books, children books . . .
- I “Unplug” for 2 hours: For two hours straight everyday I turn off my laptop and put away my phone. Scheduling in no screentime is just easier to manage than scheduling in limited screentime. I usually end up staying offline for more than 2 hours and I usually end up reading a book to avoid the housework.
- I READ. I Commit to reading at least 10 mins a day just like I commit to praying or exercising.
-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.
“The Mass is The most beautiful thing in the Church” St. Alphonsus Liguori
Here is my Collection of Traditional Latin Missals. They are all wonderful resources and I can readily recommend them all but for different reasons. Some may be a better fit for you and your family depending on how familiar you are with the Traditional Latin Mass, how often you go or would like to go and if you have any children, how old they are.
I will begin this book review series with the “Latin-English Booklet Missal” the best “beginner” Missal for adults, older children and mothers of wiggly babies :
This Latin-English Booklet Missal for Praying the Traditional Latin Mass (of 1962) is the best one to start with, It has the English on one side and the Latin on the other making it easy to follow along with the priest and servers. In the margins it explains the actions of the priest and even tells you when to sit and stand. There is no need to flip around to find one’s place. However, it does not have The Propers, the prayers that change with each Mass. This can be confusing at first when you are trying to find a gospel reading or Introit that just isn’t there. It does have a wonderful collection of Prayers in the back, helps for confession, thanksgiving after Mass, prayers to prepare for Mass.
I also think this Missal is a good guide for older children with strong reading skills (it’s still a bit advanced for my 8 year old but I think a 10 year old would do just fine.) The font is a good size and easy to see. Children want to know what’s going on. I often here from the younger ones, Where are we? are we here? and they get frustrated if their missal is not word for word. It is best to give them the “real” thing as soon as possible.
I would also like to note that this Missal is great for parents of young children. I actually prefer it to my Daily Missal (these days) because its easier to put down and pick up quickly, an advantageous feature when
wrestling caring for a one year old.
A great Booklet to invest in if you’re new to the Traditional Latin Mass, have eager children or just find it tedious to handle large (albeit beautiful) daily Missals. It is an inexpensive, clear guide to help you become more familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass and ultimately deepen your prayer life.
-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.
Here’s my stack of Old Books for The Back to the Classics challenge. (Mrs. Aldertree’s selection can be found here). As an added challenge I only picked books from our personal collection (no library loans or book shopping!)
1. 19th century Classic:
Years ago I started reading this book and really enjoyed it, but left it unfinished. I’ve read a portrait of a Lady by Henry James and loved it, I look forward to picking this one up again.
2. 20th Century Classic:
This book came recommended by my brother-in-law. I liked the Quiet American and Travels with My Aunt but I’m not sure what to expect since those two novels were so different from one another.
3. A Classic by a Woman Author
The Battle of The Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden
Rumer Godden is fast becoming my favorite Authoress. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years now, I suppose I’ve been saving it for just the right occasion.
4. A Classic in Translation
Fragments of poetry seemed a fitting addition to the list. Before picking this one I thought of reading a Russian novel or Flaubert but I like reading a book of poetry along side novels and books of non-fiction.
5. A Children’s Classic:
Growing up I avoided Kipling because I thought the movie Rikki Tikki Tavi was awful. (I wonder if this is a common thing for children to do? Mrs. Aldertree avoided The Wind in The Willows for the same reason). But last year I read His Just So stories and some of his poems and thought they were wonderful. Also I recently found out that Henry James held Kipling in High esteem and thought him to be “the most complete man of genius.” I am intrigued.
6. A Classic Crime Story
Sherlock Holmes A Study In Scarlet
I thought of adding Josphine Tye but I’ve already read one of her books and I’ve never read Doyle. My husband is a fan and is always telling me how wonderful they are. He insists that I start with A study in Scarlet.
7. A Classic Travel or Journey Narrative fiction or non-fiction
I know nothing about this book besides what the cover conveys of course. Apparently Journey narratives are not my usual fair, I had to look in my husband’s collection of books to find this one. He is happy I am branching out.
8. A Classic with a Single Word Title
It was really hard to find a Classic with a single word Title. I was surprised, besides Jane Austen’s Emma I think this was the only single Word Title (that met the other requirements) we owned. I’ve read The Scapegoat by her and loved it. My husband recently read this so I can’t wait to be able to discuss it with him.
9. A Classic With A Color in its title
I found this the other week at a thrift store and had no idea A.A. Milne wrote a murder mystery. I just had to add it to the challenge. He wrote it for his father.
10. A Classic by an Author that’s new to you:
My husband likes the author but I’ve never read any of his books. He’s completely new to me.
11. A Classic that Scares you:
Les miserables by Victor Hugo
The sheer length scares me, but who doesn’t want to brag about finishing Les Miserables? (Bleak House also scares me, as well as Doyle’s supernatural Tales and Turn of the Srew – gulp.)
12. Reread a favorite Classic:
Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh
Maybe it’s the title but it seemed like the perfect book to reread (again). I just love this book! If you haven’t read it yet- go read it!
Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.
Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray was the book I chose for the first category, the 19th century classic. I read Vanity Fair more than a decade ago, for comps. I didn’t love it but I found much to appreciate. Re-reading Jane Eyre with my daughter last month, I was intrigued that Bronte dedicated the book to Thackeray. I was further intrigued to discover that Thackeray’s personal favorite among his books was Henry Esmond.
What a different world Henry Esmond opens before us. I’d just finished a much more recent historical novel, The Wild Swans by Bridget Boland, set in the same period, when I finally sat down with Thackeray’s book. I was soon turning pages quickly. The book is set during the English Restoration, a historical period, that, except for the novel I’d just finished, was a complete blank for me. Thackeray largely filled in that blank, with the complexities of politics, the atrocities, euphorias, treacheries, and absurdities of war, and the mirroring world of the day’s letters and literary men. Into this world, Henry Esmond is born, with a stigma on his birth. In this world, he grows up, learns Latin from a Jesuit, is accepted into a family related to him, is educated at Oxford, goes into the military. But the main interest of the story is the human relationships. The main drama is the drama of love. Though famously softer than Vanity Fair, Henry Esmond is not really more romantic. Rather we see the long term bearing that character has on destiny. Framed as the narrative of an old man writing for his descendants an account of his younger days, a man who even as a boy was something of an “old soul,” its digressions have the quality of wisdom literature (a genre I love), and the whole can be described as “an intellectual reflection upon passion” — with a sudden reversal of the weaving at the end that shows all the knotted threads, the repeated stumbles, humblings, failures, all the colors that have been present all long in a completely different light — something satisfying and resplendent.
Wonderful bringing of history to life. Timeless but jarring look at human relationships in all their often lacerated complexity. I’m glad that this one didn’t pass me by.
The other day I visited Karen’s Books and Chocolate for the details of the Back to the Classics challenge she is hosting this year. Unfortunately, I had just missed the deadline to officially join the challenge. But I couldn’t resist choosing books for each of her categories. It gave me a fresh perspective on my bookshelves (I already own eight of the 12 titles I selected) and lent a sense of adventure and direction to the reading months ahead.
Spot A Dog by Lucy Micklethwait is one of my favorite early readers. It’s an amazing book because it combines: early reading skills, famous art, the classic game of I spy, and dogs! The text itself is simple but it is elevated by diverse pieces of art by various famous painters, the juxtaposition is perfect. Another interest is added by the hunt for man’s best friend. My children love looking for the dogs hidden in plain view, the search gives them a chance to rest from the labors of reading and it deepens their appreciation for art. Little details and depth are slowly realized as they search the paintings: a bee on a flower, a fly, a sleeping cat, a dappled dog! The domestic touch can be surprising.
-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.