dual personalities

Don’t be afraid to write in a book — own it!

Last week I wrote about the prologues of books. This week’s post will continue the theme, this time concentrating on dedications and doodles, and what we learn from them.

A few days ago, I received a box from my cousin Steve containing four books that had belonged to our grandfather and great-grandmother, and to a distant uncle by marriage.

This  1880 edition of Ben Hur belonged to George S. Smith, who married Sarah Pamela Rand in 1882, when they were both in their fifties. She was the daughter of Robert Rand and Laura Wheeler Rand. I believe that I read this copy of Ben Hur the summer I visited my aunt Susanne when I was about 13. I am delighted to see it again!

More unusual is the book, Up from Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington that Susie Louise Cameron gave to James Erskine, the uncle who raised her and her sister after their mother’s death. It is inscribed thus:

What an interesting gift choice. I was so intrigued that I started reading it, and I must say that I am incredibly impressed. Booker T. Washington was a profoundly thoughtful Christian man, who should be much more celebrated than he is. I’ll blog about him  next week. In the meantime, let’s turn to the two volumes that belonged to our grandfather, Bunker Cameron.

The first, Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton, he received from his sister when he was 13 years old.

The classic story of two farm boys, who build a teepee in the woods and decide to live off the land for a month, the book primarily teaches practical woodcraft. The well worn pages and slightly broken binding suggest that Bunker got a lot of use from the gift. Certainly, he was the type to enjoy “going native” in the Vermont woods. Two Little Savages is still in print and would make a perfect gift for anyone who wants to learn how to survive in the wild — or at least the backyard. Today’s youth could use more of this type of thing, don’t you agree?

Finally, we have a school text, Selections from Irving’s Sketch Book, in which we find these lovely doodles and comments:

Some things never change, especially the impulse to write our names and draw in our books . Notably,  none of the books I’ve inherited contain book plates. I suppose that before the advent of the stick-in, write-on kind we use now such extravagances were the province of the rich.

As for the rest of us, it’s fine to write in books as long as we don’t deface them (YES to light annotations, but NO to underlining and highlighting). When you give a book as a gift, you should always include a dedication. Such inscriptions give a book a provenance and add to its history. Your message will resonate long after the hand who wrote it is gone, and someday someone may wonder enough about the book’s previous owner to go find out who he/she was.

Books are wonderful artifacts. Treat them with respect and care, but don’t leave them on the shelf. Read them!





“For I acknowledge my faults; and my sin is ever before me.”*

So how is your Lent going so far?

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 4.53.26 PM.pngHere’s a little book –“A Few Words About Lent”–that may interest you. It was written in 1861 by Charles Todd Quintard, whose feast day is today on the Episcopal Church calendar. Charles was an American physician and clergyman who became the second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South.


Mighty God, we bless thy Name for the example of thy bishop Charles Todd Quintard, who persevered to reconcile the divisions among the people of his time: Grant, we pray, that thy Church may ever be one, that it may be a refuge for all, for the honor of thy Name; through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Anyway, it is finally Friday. The OM and I are planning to road-trip to Columbia this weekend. On Saturday we will tour our state capitol with daughter #1. We are living in the fast lane, right?

Jefferson_City.jpgI am pretty excited to see the old river town. I have not been there since I accompanied daughter #2 and her fourth grade class on a field trip to Jefferson City back in the day.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 1.33.26 PM.pngJefferson City is on the northern edge of the Ozark Plateau on the southern side of the Missouri River in a region known as Mid-Missouri. The Jeff City website proudly announces that Jefferson City was chosen by Rand McNally as “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town!” However, it does not say when that was. [I searched around the internet and it was 2013!]

When we get back on Sunday, we’ll hopefully get to see the wee babes. Last weekend little Lottie was sick with an ear infection, so only the wee lad and his dad came over.


Here they are reading quietly together. Such book worms!

Here they are in their Olympics-watching outfits–remember the 1980 Miracle on Ice? Eruzione’s goal against the Soviet Union to clinch the “Miracle on Ice” victory is one of the most iconic sports moments of all time.





But did you know that ESPN officially recognized it as the No. 1 greatest sports highlight of all time and Sports Illustrated has named it the No. 1 sports moment of the 20th century? I did not know that. I remember watching the game in the living room of the St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA, when I was on hall monitor duty that night. It was, indeed, rather exciting. I seem to remember a lot of screaming, my own included.

If you need a break from the 2018 Olympics, you might want to watch Miracle (2004), starring Kurt Russell as the U.S. ice hockey coach, Herb Brooks. It is pretty good and worth it to see Kurt Russell rock the (terrible) 1980 fashion and hair.

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Have a good weekend!

*Psalm 51: 3

BTW: the painting at the top is Saint Catherine of Siena besieged by demons (Anonymous). St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA, on the other hand, is named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of young women.

“And for the record, there were a few Jewish cowboys. Big guys, who were great shots, and spent money freely.”*

Happy birthday to Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons (1989–present) which, you well know, is the longest-running U.S. primetime-television series in history, as well as the longest-running animated series and sitcom.

Our family watched The Simpsons together during its “Golden Age,” i.e. seasons one through nine. We thought the sitcom family bore an amazing ressemblance to our family–two girls, one boy; a neglected third child; a clueless, oafish father who nevertheless always seemed to come though in the end; and a long-suffering, mostly-together mother. They even go to church, although they are not Episcopalians. Sometimes we wondered if the writers weren’t looking over our shoulders at our lives. Remember the “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood” episode?


Daughter #1 really identified with Lisa: “I don’t get it: straight A’s, perfect attendance, bathroom timer – I should be the most popular girl in school.” Daughter #2 was, of course, the baby Maggie.

Marge: Bart’s grades are up a little this term. But Lisa’s are way down.

Homer: Oh, why do we always have to have one good kid and one lousy kid? Why can’t both our kids be good?

Marge: We have three kids, Homer.

Homer: Marge, the dog doesn’t count as a kid.

Marge: No, I mean Maggie.

Homer: Oh, yeah.

And the boy, although never as “bad” as Bart, frequently felt a kinship with him. Remember the episode where Bart thinks he may have to repeat 4th grade (“Bart Gets an ‘F'”).


Bart, pushed to his limit, prays for help and then there is a massive snowstorm in Springfield, causing there to be a snow day. Bart could study, but does he?

Tonight we should all watch our favorite episodes and toast Matt Groening. Mine are:

  1. “Lisa’s Substitute” with Mr. Bergstrom (Dustin Hoffman) as the substitute teacher who actually understands and appreciates Lisa.


Marge: Lisa, tell your father.

Lisa: Mr. Bergstrom left today.

Homer: [uncaring] Oh?

Lisa: He’s gone. Forever.

Homer: [still uncaring] And?

Lisa: I didn’t think you’d understand.

Homer: [even more uncaring than before] Hey! Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.

Lisa: [snaps at Homer] I’m glad I’m not crying, because I would hate for you to think that what I’m about to say is based on emotion, but you, sir, are a baboon!

Homer: (gasp) Me?

Lisa: Yes, you! Baboon! Baboon! Baboon! Baboon!

Homer: I don’t think you realize what you’re saying…

Lisa: BABOON!! [She breaks down crying and runs upstairs to her room]

Bart: Whoa. Somebody was bound to say it one day, I just can’t believe it was her.

Homer: Did you hear that, Marge?! She called me a baboon, the stupidest, ugliest, smelliest ape of them all!

2. “A Streetcar Named Marge” when Marge is cast as Blanche DuBois in a musical version of the play, and Maggie has to go to the Ayn Rand School for Tots. She leads the tots in an elaborate “Great Escape.”


A_Streetcar_Named_Marge.jpg3. “Marge vs. the Monorail” with Phil Hartman providing the voice of Lyle Lanley, and Leonard Nimoy making a guest appearance.

832a180937f284c4f453714355aeb1c8-827x551.jpgThe cultural and film references in these three episodes are many and perfect.

“I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook, and by God, it put them on the map!”main-qimg-3bc8e348e4d0a197676410b0d1aa5c09-c.jpeg

What is your favorite Simpsons episode? Here’s a list of the top 10 episodes–I guess everyone’s entitled to an opinion.

What is your most repeated Simpsons line? Doh!

“My husband and I have never considered divorce… murder sometimes, but never divorce.”*

As you know, today is Valentine’s Day. We thought it would be fun to look at some of our favorite couples in history since we’ve already looked at favorite movie couples/kisses in years past.

  1. William and Mary, King and Queen of England, who rocked the Glorious Revolution together.

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2.  Simon and Ann Bradstreet, “questing puritans”…She wrote, “If ever two were one, then surely we/If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.”


3. Calvin and Grace Coolidge, President and First Lady. He said, “I do not know what I would do without her.”


Calvin was devoted to his wife; he never cheated on her like some presidents we will not mention! Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Edith would be another example of devoted presidential couples, as would Ulysses and Julia Grant.

3. Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, poets. She wrote, “I love thee with the breath,/Smiles, tears, of all my life; and if God choose,/I shall but love thee better after death.”


4.  Katie von Bora and Martin Luther, reformers, who famously said, ” There is no more lovely, charming and friendly relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.”


5. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, actors, who proved that a long marriage in Hollywood is not impossible…unlikely, but not impossible.


Well, our advice yesterday was to do your best in Lent, and that is good advice for love and marriage as well.

As for what to watch on Valentine’s Day, nothing tops The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland for romance. This movie turns 80 years old this year! All the stars were aligned when this movie was made. It is perfect.errol-flynn-435.jpg


Happy Valentine’s Day!

*Joyce Brothers

Let us eat pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday. Can you believe it? Lent starts tomorrow.

Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._066.jpgYou will recall that pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because in the olden days they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. So Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”, refers to the practice of going all out on the last night of eating richer, fatty foods and over-drinking before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. (Liturgical fasting emphasizes eating plainer food and refraining from food that would “give pleasure.”) It is not my vibe, of course, and I have to say, it even embarrassed me to look at the pictures in The Riverfront Times of our hometown revelry.

grace-episcopal-churc01.jpgWell, we’ll go over to church after work for some pancakes and camaraderie–sans revelry. Then we’ll head home to watch more Olympics. I DVR them and then fast forward through the commercials.

32237543784_c068650e14_o.jpgWe watched quite a bit of cross country skiing over the weekend. You have to love a sport that is still so dominated by Norwegians. The same goes for those orange-wearing Netherlanders and speed skating.


I love our American athletes, but we don’t have to win everything.

Enjoy your Tuesday. As George Herbert wrote:

… It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;

Yet to go part of that religious way,

Is better than to rest:

We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;

Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.

In both let’s do our best.

–from “Lent”

Do your best!

Get off your horse


What a busy weekend! In fact, it was so busy that I did not have time to write a blogpost. All I have for today is this photo of the wee laddie wearing the new onesie I gave him for Valentine’s Day.

And it is Monday once again. The week begins anew. Have a good one, pilgrim!

Begin at the beginning

In his “10 tips to writing”, Elmore Leonard advised, “Avoid prologues. They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.” Inasmuch as he was advising against pretentious self-indulgence, I agree. But there is an argument to be made in favor of ancillary material. If you explore a book before starting to read, you can find all sorts of wonderful gifts: an introduction; foreword; prologue; epilogue; afterward; appendices; maps and illustrations; lists of dramatis personae, and indices. They may not all be necessary, but they can be helpful, edifying, or just plain funny.

Take, for example, this ‘letter’ at the beginning of John Buchan’s The Three Hostages (1924):

To a young gentleman of Eton College:

Honoured Sir,

On your last birthday a well-meaning godfather presented you with a volume of mine, since you had been heard on occasion to express approval of my works. The book dealt with a somewhat arid branch of historical research, and it did not please you. You wrote to me, I remember, complaining that I had “let you down,” and summoning me, as I valued your respect, to “pull myself together.” In particular you demanded to hear more of the doings of Richard Hannay, a gentleman for whom you professed a liking.  I too have a liking for Sir Richard, and when I met him the other day (he is now a country neighbour) I observed that his left hand had been considerably mauled, an injury which I knew had not been due to the War. He was so good as to tell me the tale of an unpleasant business in which he had recently been engaged, and to give me permission to re-tell it for your benefit. Sir Richard took a modest pride in the affair, because from first to last it had been a pure contest of wits, without recourse to those more obvious methods of strife with which he is familiar. So I herewith present it to you, in the hope that in the eyes of you and your friends it may atone for certain other writings of mine which which you have been afflicted by those in authority.

The Three Hostages is a wonderful addition to the Richard Hannay series, and if you are in the mood for intrigue, little violence, and upstanding heroes behaving bravely, I highly recommend it. Be warned, however, that Buchan’s attitude toward race belongs firmly in his era. Modern sensibilities may be affronted on occasion. He was a firm believer in British imperialism and exceptionalism.

Just after reading Buchan, I cam across this gem that I’ve excerpted (with edits) from the introduction of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary (1932). In the author’s own words,

This book was written three years ago. To me it is a cheap idea, because it was deliberately conceived to make money. I had been writing books for about five years, which got published and not bought. But that was all right. I was young then and hard-bellied. I had never lived among nor known people who wrote novels and stories and I suppose I did not know that people got money for them. I was not very much annoyed when publishers refused the mss. now and then. Because I was hard-gutted then. I could do a lot of things that could earn what little money I needed, thanks to my father’s unfailing kindness which supplied me with bread at need despite the outrage to his principles at having been of a bum progenitive.

Then I began to get a little soft. I could still paint houses and do carpenter work, but I got soft. I began to think about making money by writing. I began to be concerned when magazine editors turned down short stories, concerned enough to tell them that they would buy these stories later anyway, and hence why not now. Meanwhile, with one novel completed and consistently refused for two years, I had just written my guts into The Sound and the Fury though I was not aware until the book was published that I had done so, because I had not done it for pleasure. I believed then that I would never be published again. I had stopped thinking of myself in publishing terms.

[After a while]…I began to think of myself again as a printed object. I began to think of books in terms of possible money. I decided I might just as well make some of it myself. I took a little time out, and speculated what a person in Mississippi would believe to be current trends, chose what I thought was the right answer and invented the most horrific tale I could imagine and wrote it [Sanctuary] in about three weeks…[My publisher] wrote immediately, “Good God, I can’t publish this. We’d both be in jail.” So I told [myself], “You’re damned. You’ll have to work now and then for the rest of your life.” That was in the summer of 1929. I got a job in the power plant, on the night shift, from 6 P.M. to 6 A.M., as a coal passer, I shoveled coal from the bunker into a wheel-barrow and wheeled it in and dumped it where the fireman could put it into the boiler…

I think I had forgotten about Sanctuary, just as you might forget about anything made for an immediate purpose, which did not come off… I rewrote the book…and I hope you will buy it and tell your friends and I hope they will buy it too.

You should look it up and read the whole intro. It’s really something. But much as I like Faulkner, this book is so dismally depressing that I could not read more than a third of it. It’s the story of dreadful people doing dreadful things and a decent man who, try as he might, can’t do anything about it. IMHO the best thing about the book is the introduction.

This all goes to show how important it is for readers to start at the actual beginning of a book — not with the first pages of the central text — and to explore all its nooks and crannies thoroughly. You never know what wonders you will discover.

Just so I can post one picture, I leave you with this weekend’s movie recommendation: 12 Strong. It has a great cast, including handsome Chris Hemsworth, a fine script, and wonderful scenery.

It is very well directed and surprisingly restrained in terms of violence (there’s plenty, but without the usual gouts of blood) or over-the-top machismo. Really, it’s about thoughtful, brave men doing brave things under difficult circumstances. They have a job to do and they do it — no complaints and no internal conflict. That is not to say that they enjoy killing; they just learn to live with it. Even their wives accept the situation stoically. The film has something to say beyond “war is bad.” Go see it.

Have a great weekend!!

“Lift your head a little higher, Spread the love like fire”*

What a long week this has been! I am way more than ready for the weekend!

Daughter #1 is driving in from Columbia tonight and we will watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics and toast our American team.

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Team U.S. Curling is ready to go!

On Saturday there is a gallery auction at the Link Auction House and we are going–how nice to have company!

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Have you been looking for a copper deep sea diver’s helmet? There are two available!

Tomorrow night is the “Elegant Italian Dinner”–the annual fundraising event for our youth mission trip at church–such a major social event!


The OM will accompany me, but daughter #1 will be otherwise occupied.

And, of course, we hope to see the wee babes, those adorable goofballs.





That’s enough, don’t you agree?

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

–Thomas Merton

*tobyMac, “Speak Life”

With gladness and singleness of heart


Let us, then, labor for an inward stillness,–

An inward stillness and an inward healing;

That perfect silence where the lips and heart

Are still, and we no longer entertain

Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,

But God alone speaks in us and, we wait

In singleness of heart, that we may know

His will, and in the silence of our spirits,

That we may do His will and do that only!

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from Christus: A Mystery

The painting is by Stanley Royle (1888–1961). Don’t you like it? That winter light is perfect.




Boy, isn’t he great?

The Games of the III Olympiad

That’s right–the third Olympiad. Lest we forget–the 1904 Olympics were held here in my flyover town.


And that is pretty cool. We are, after all, one of only three cities in the U.S. — one of only 23 in the world — to host the Summer Games. And, of course, my flyover university–where most events of the third Olympiad took place–is going to “add another architectural jewel to its historic campus later this year when an Olympic Rings ‘Spectacular,’ a five-ring sculpture, is installed at the end of Olympian Way, on the southwest corner of the Danforth Campus.” Oh boy.

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But why did they ever get rid of the tug-of-war?

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Well, things haven’t changed that much on campus. Still a lot of pink granite and ramparts.



Here’s an article about the “St. Louis’ Olympic legacy” with a lot of pictures.

By the way, did you notice that lacrosse was one of the team events in 1904? Speaking of lacrosse, here’s the boy’s latest video featuring D2 Lindenwood University’s team.

(That was a smooth segue, right?) Still pretty chilly for lacrosse.