Can you imagine…?

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal, photo by

Wherever there are books, you’ll find fascinating people, visible and invisible..
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal – photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

“My house is full of people escaped from literature. If this is the case in my home, can you imagine how it is in a library?”Isabel Allende

I know exactly what Allende means, because my house– or really wherever I find myself– is also crowded with literary escapees. Look over there in the kitchen– Mma. Ramotswe is having tea with Nancy Drew, and they are no doubt swapping stories of their brilliantly solved (and frustratingly unsolved) detective cases.

Out in the living room– she referred to it as the parlor– Elizabeth Bennett is having a lively conversation with Holden Caulfield, both of them full of witty observations about how people behave in public. You might think there would be a communication barrier, given their vastly different dialects, but not so. In fact, according to Holden himself, “the way she talks knocks me out. It really does.”

Up in the library, Alyosha Karamazov is debating ethics with Sidney Carton. What opposites they are! But each is quite noble in his own way, well suited to such a chat. Meanwhile, off in a corner somewhere, Francie Nolan is curled up with a book. She still reads one every day, just as she always has.

It’s a wonder anyone can hear themselves think, with all that noise Ramona Quimby and Pippi Longstocking are making down in the basement. I might have to send Viola Swamp down there if they don’t “hold it down to a low roar,” as my Daddy used to say.

I’m guessing that your house is also full of people who have entered your life through books. If so, remember Allende’s observation that the library has exponential numbers of such fascinating company. If you’re ever feeling lonely, a trip to the library is a sure remedy. But you might not have to go that far. Who is hiding in your own home, within the pages of your books?

 

28 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Would that all who debate ethics would conduct themselves nobly!
    Well, Ramona, Pippi and Viola have graced my home, too, and Trixie Belden can’t decide whether Nancy is more fascinating or whether she’d have more fun with Ramona (if Ramona weren’t quite so awkward; but Pippi’s a hoot!)
    Fortunately, the Pevensies are present, and helping to hold it all together (years as kings and queens can help cultivate diplomacy). In fact, Peter has some good advice for Hamlet….
    Wow! I could go on, and maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t all visited me at once – I’ve enjoyed their company better when it’s just the few of us at a time. 😉
    Love to you,
    Susan

    • Good morning Susan! I don’t know Trixie but I’ve heard she’s a lot of fun. Yes, the Pevensies did learn a lot from all that noblesse oblige but I think Lucy had it in her all along — some are just “to the manner born” as Hamlet says. I too prefer small groups of visitors, whether literal or literary. Speaking of which, the things you left here on your last visit are waiting for you…I can’t bring myself to mail them because I think “she’ll be coming before too long…” 🙂

      • Susan

        I loved Trixie Belden, although I didn’t get to read all of her books because my library only had a few. Last year I reread all the Donna Parker books. Some of them I didn’t acquire until adulthood, on Ebay, so it was the first time I read them in order! Now I’m reading Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and will gradually go through Cherry’s whole saga. Here’s a connection: Julie Campbell Tatham wrote some of both the Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden books — so can we say that Cherry and Trixie were friends 🙂 ?

        And here’s something I learned several years ago: Julie Campbell Tatham had been living in Alexandria before she passed away in 1999. If only I had known that at the time, I would have LOVED to have gotten in touch with her to talk about Trixie and Cherry. Alas …

        • Susan, I never read Cherry Ames, either. Neither our public nor school libraries would carry those or the Nancy Drew books, because they deemed them not literary enough. Probably that only increased their appeal for many kids, and maybe that was part of the idea. 🙂 I only owned a few Nancy Drew books, and had to swap around with my friends for those. Still, I knew about Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames, probably from seeing them in bookstores. I’m sure I would have loved them. Yes, it sounds like Cherry and Trixie were friends if not relatives! Isn’t that amazing about Julie Campbell Tatum living so close by? Perhaps we can dream of meeting some of our favorite authors in the afterlife. Meanwhile, their work lives on for us, and that’s something for which we can ALL be grateful!

      • Julia, I have my Williamsburg badge and T card in my bag, I had so been hoping to get there this month!

        • Awww, I wish it could have happened. However you did have a very full schedule. Probably we need to plan WAY in advance, but in the meantime, you can keep them as a souvenir! Hope you’re enjoying springtime. It’s beautiful here.

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia!
    Great post. So many characters! I agree with your Daddy, let’s “hold it down to a low roar”. Well, I’m off to see the wizard. Hope you have a great week! 😀

    • Hi Chris, I hope that the wizard was able to grant your request. Remember, he’s a very good man…he’s just a very bad wizard. 🙂 Have a great week!

  3. Lovely post, and of course there are many hideaways in my home, and they move with me like treasured members of my family! Recently a friend and I swapped books, so the cast of Bel Canto seized my friends’ home for a while, but now they are back in my own care, where I will gladly defend them in order to keep them alive!

    • Z, that is my favorite of Ann Patchett’s books. She’s a good writer and I’ve enjoyed several of her books, but I think Bel Canto is her best. That’s quite a cast to keep an eye on! Isn’t it wonderful how our literary friends move with us wherever we go?

  4. Nancy Drew was my best childhood friend – smart, witty, and full of joy. My greatest fear was that there would be an end book. My most favourite room is a room full of books!!

    • Have you seen this book? I think I gave it to my sister for Christmas a few years ago. Also, if you haven’t read this one, you might really enjoy it, as I did. I agree, a room full of books beats any room with no books, no matter how luxurious it might be.

      • I just found Girl Sleuth on Kindle!! Thank you! Thank you!!! I will continue looking for the other.

        • Good! I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ There is nothing that compares to finishing a good book and wishing there were more pages! Recently when I was reading “Under The Tuscan Sun” I felt like I was in Italy, taking in the many sights and enjoying the fabulous food and drink. I love the southern authors so my cottage is filled with the charm of Mary Alice Monroe, Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, and Harper Lee. I love the J. D. Salinger quote you chose to accompany “Knock Me Out”. Of course I loved the comment there from Mr. Carlyle and Eric. Seems like old times! Hope you’re having a good Spring week in your new home! 🏡♥️

    • Sheila, I remember really enjoying that book too, and then being disappointed in the movie. Peter Mayle’s books about France are great too. Thanks for sending us the lovely photo of the Snow Leopard! No wonder they named their Travel Blog after that beautiful creature. Re: Southern authors, I’ve often thought there must be a storytelling gene or something in the water that makes for so many great writers coming from the deep south, including many more female than male voices that come to mind. Eudora Welty, Carson McCullars and Flannery O’Connor are some of the ones that I think of when I hear the words “Southern fiction,” along with the ones you noted. I had forgotten the comments you mentioned, but after reading what you posted here, I went back and read them – thanks for that reminder. We’re having a nice warm week here. 80 yesterday and today. WHOA, I hope that temperature doesn’t climb any higher just yet!! 😀

  6. I used to say if only the antique furniture could talk, but now I’m thinking about all the book characters and what would they say to each other !!! I love this 😉

    • Thanks Denise, I’m glad you like it. Years ago we saw a wonderful Christmas play called the Nut Carol. It was about Dickens writing A Christmas Carol and Tchaikovsky writing The Nutcracker. They were seated at opposite sides of the stage and were surrounded by their characters who were loudly giving instructions to them as they wrote, and arguing with each other about plot, etc. It was really a fun play.

      • quite clever!!

        • Yes, it was. Since that time I’ve tried to find it being performed elsewhere, but I can’t find anything at all about it on the internet. I wonder if it was a student production (we saw it at a college) that was never even published.

          • hmmm, seems like it would have become popular!

  7. Alan Malizia

    Neat!
    -Alan

    • Thanks, Alan! I’m glad you like it.

  8. Harry Sims

    They may have escaped from somewhere but Thankfully they find sanctuary in my heart.
    Harry

    • Yes, they really do become part of our lives.

  9. I wonder how many books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. He was fatally shot 154 years ago, this very night.

    Within an hour after the assassination, Mary Lincoln summoned Mary Jane Welles to the Petersen House. Mary Jane, the wife of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, was one of Mary’s few friends in Washington. They had bonded over shared sadness: In 1862, Mary Jane had helped nurse 11-year-old Willie Lincoln until he died of typhoid fever; the next year, the Welleses lost their 3-year-old son to diphtheria. On the morning of April 15, Lincoln’s death room emptied of mourners (including Gideon Welles) save one: War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton, whom Lincoln called his “Mars, God of War.” Stanton was an imperious and widely feared cabinet secretary, but he had loved the president, and the assassination was for him a profound personal tragedy. Alone with his fallen chief, Stanton cut a generous lock of the president’s hair and sealed it in a plain white envelope. He knew who deserved the memento. After signing his name on the envelope, he addressed it “For Mrs. Welles.” When she received it later that day, she inscribed the envelope in pencil in her own small, neat hand: “Lock of Mr. Lincoln’s hair April 15, 1865, M.J.W.”  Mary Jane Welles mounted the lock in an oval gold frame, along with dried flowers she collected from Lincoln’s coffin at the April 19 White House funeral. The card securing the relics in place behind their glass cover was calligraphed to testify that they were “Sacred to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States.” This isn’t the only surviving lock of Lincoln’s hair. Mary Lincoln claimed one, as did several of the doctors present at the Petersen House or his autopsy. Others were purloined from Lincoln’s head, and one wonders how he made it to the grave with any hair at all. But the Stanton/Welles lock, with its unparalleled provenance and interwoven tales of love and loss, is perhaps the most evocative one of all.

    • Wow, thanks for this fascinating true story. Yes, countless books have been written about Lincoln, but I wonder how many of them are read anymore. There’s an old saying that “truth is stranger than fiction” and in the same way, people who really lived are often far more complex and interesting than fictional characters.

    • Sheila

      Thank you, Eric, for sharing this personal, touching story. It’s always nice to “see” you here!

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