Thursday, May 02, 2013

Recent Reading: Mine and Ramona's


* For Ramona's book club, we finished The Five Little Peppers and How They Grewby Margaret Sidney. 

First published in 1881, the sometimes old-fashioned language was a minor hurdle, but once she cleared it, Ramona was in this race to the end (and was sad to reach the finish line.) Lucky for us, there are other Pepper books.

We're adding the Peppers to the list of families we love to spend time with: the March family, the Mitchells, the Quimbys, the Rays and the Kellys, the Penderwicks (and many more, of course, and you know who you are, Cuthberts and various and sundry other dreamboat families.) 

I linked above to an edition with a lovely cover, but the book is also available for free on Kindle.

The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes! by Lynne Truss

Truss's books are among my all-time favorites for:

1.) Laughter
2.) Teaching punctuation, grammar, and usage. (Why, yes, I am a fan of the Oxford comma.)

Ramona's also been reperusing Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why, every punctuation mark counts!


My recent reading:

I just read The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. Wow. Just wow.

That's my sputtery, completely inarticulate reaction.

Here's the longer version: The book was recommended to me by a priest friend whose taste in books is always superb, so I picked it up. I was instantly engrossed. The book was published in 1961 but its story of an alcoholic priest, Fr. Hugh Kennedy, is timeless. The writing is exquisite. A couple examples:
There are all sorts of answers suggested to this problem [of suffering], most of which are as old as the problem itself; some are foolish, others are as reasonable as the mind of man could possibly devise. But here it seems to me we deal with something reason cannot reach, and with that part of man which reason does not touch, for when someone stands fixed and helpless before another's suffering -- especially in those cases when those who suffer are plainly innocent of any guilt -- then the cool light of reason may not be of much help. A syllogism does not support a mother who has seen her baby burned. 
So that when the time comes for me to go, I know that I will go with full confidence in God -- but I also know that I will go with sadness. And I think for no reason other than that ... well, I have been alive. An old priest who was dying, one of the saintliest men I have ever known, one of those who had the greatest reason to expect God's favor, many years ago surprised me by telling me, with a little smile, that now that he was going, he wanted desperately to stay.  
"A single memory can do it," he said.  
And I suppose he was right. The memory of an instant -- of a smile, of leaf-smoke on a sharp fall day, of a golden streak across a rain-washed  morning, of a small boy seated alone on the seashore, solemnly building his medieval moated castles -- just this one, single, final flash of memory can be enough to make us want to stay forever. 

It isn't, however, all sublime reflections on faith, aging, and the human condition. There is sly humor.  Oh, how I loved Fr. Hugh's observations -- full of annoyance and amusement, and ultimately affection -- for his earnest, young assistant pastor. And there are precisely drawn characters: real, funny, maddening, and heart-wrenching.

I just now went Googling for an interesting link about the book and found that Terry Teachout wrote about it. (But avoid his piece until after you've read the book if you don't want spoilers of a sort....)

Highly recommended.


Faith said...

A friend of mine mentioned this book a couple years ago and I never got around to reading it. I've read The Last Hurrah. Oh dear, another book to put in by tbr pile.

We like the Peppers too!

Karen Edmisten said...

Faith, I know what you mean -- my tbr pile got bigger, too, when I added The Last Hurrah. :)