Saturday, February 22, 2020

Early 20th Century School Volumes

Whenever I find these slim early 20th century classics, I imagine a group of Edwardian era students lounging under a shade tree in a park, chatting philosophically. Just like our generations like their technology to be small and portable, these 19-teens did as well!

I'm currently on a "collecting similar colors" kick and these three will look great in the greens section of my shelves. Someday I'll have the whole rainbow---I'm currently working mainly on pink. Ha! (An eclectic book collector will find any excuse to continue growing her collection...)

I love finding books that carry their history with them. This book of poems is heavily marked on every page. The girl was literally taking notes on the lecture right here in her book. My imagination runs wild with this kind of thing.

The back of Selections from The Sketchbook features a list of other offerings from this publisher. Almost every one of these have been or will be read by my children in the course of their homeschooling. How fun that we are still enjoying these works over one hundred years later!

Books Pictured:
     *Selections from The Sketchbook by Washington Irving, 1901
     *The Mansion by Henry van Dyke, 1911
     *Nine Poems from Goldsmith, Browning, Tennyson, Arnold, 1928

Friday, January 10, 2020

1939: The Lost World of the Fair by David Gelernter

From the back cover: "Yesterday’s World of Tomorrow. In a narrow corridor of time between the Great Depression and the most destructive war in history, a World’s Fair was held in the city of New York. It was an event that transformed an entire generation with its vision of things to come. Millions of people came from every corner of the globe to gaze in awe at the Trylon and Perisphere, and to experience for an afternoon a thrilling yet humane utopia in which every citizen lived “the good life” that art, science, technology, and moral fervor had created. In 1939, David Gelernter gives us an intensely evocative picture of the World's Fair — and of a fleeting era of innocent expectation when the world looked forward in wonder rather than backward with regret."

I'm left with mixed feelings about this one, but I think I liked it more than not. I love reading books that make me stop and Google every few pages and this was definitely one of those. I also love reading about past World's Fairs---all the details, all the emotions, all the innovations---that's where I got a little annoyed with this one. Gelernter used a fictional love story to help describe the events and I found it took a more prominent place than I would have liked it to, with even whole chapters being devoted to the story and not to the Fair.

One of my first "Google surprises" was that World's Fairs are still going on all over the world! (Don't laugh...I'm a hermit.) I had no idea but assumed that technology moved too fast for a Fair to be relevant. But I was wrong! I'd sure love to go to one. I think they're fascinating!

The author spent a lot of time trying to convince the reader that the 1930s were just as sophisticated as today. Is there any doubt? I'd say more so---and classier, too. Take his points about the code of dress and the "why bother" mentality. People who dress nicely do it to be respectful of others around them, just as much for themselves. This mentality has not left our society---it's just not promoted as important or moral anymore.

An interesting dichotomy was the things they were naive to compared to the things we assume they were naive to. For instance, these times weren't necessarily as innocent or "moral" as we might assume. There were lots of instances of nude art and even some soft porn featured at the fair. Yikes! On the other hand, the fair's SCIENCE DIRECTOR boasts, "the actual control of the weather for an entire town will by no means be impossible for air-conditioning engineers of the future." How someone not only believed that was possible or feasible but also didn't see the potential catastrophe that could create is shocking to me. However, these are also the parents of our current Baby Boomer "conspiracy theorists". Ha!

This was definitely a different time militarily. They had no such phrase to describe a nation as a, "super power", and if there would have been one, America wouldn't have been it. At that time, the French army was said to be the best in the world. Do we even hear about a French army now? Britain was possibly more powerful than us...but they sure seem awfully pacifist these days.

I really didn't too much enjoy the fictional love story and thought the story of the Fair could have been told just fine without it. I believe the author did it this way to help give a perspective of the feelings and reactions of the fairgoers, but at many points the dialogue became weirdly philosophical and didn't seem applicable.

Overall, it was a "fair"ly good read...but I think I'll be looking for something else on this particular Fair, as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Grandfather's Chair: True Stories from History and Biography by Nathaniel Hawthorne

For the four little cousins, Grandfather's chair is just a regular fixture of the home---that is, until he begins to tell about its history. Grandfather's chair had traveled through New England's history for 300 years and had many stories to pass along. The children learn about the history of the colonies through biographies of famous colonists---all of whom had connections to this one unique chair.

My husband bought this antique 1916ish copy for me for Christmas, along with a few other good ones. I really loved this book! Everything I know about the Puritans I learned from Nathaniel Hawthorne! Haha! This one is a history of New England with each chapter being about a different historical colonist. The fictional part is that each figure owned this chair at some point and at the end we find out how it ended up in Grandfather’s possession. I can’t get enough of Hawthorne...hands down my favorite male author. For more Hawthorne fangirling read here and here and here.

There was so much great information here that has either been lost to history or just considered "outdated". I really enjoyed reading about John Eliot who translated the Bible into an Indian language. Upon further research, I learned that his and others like it are now being used to help modern native Americans rediscover the languages of their ancestors.

I also didn't know that Cotton Mather headed up the first smallpox inoculations in America. Research didn't reflect very much about that. Wikipedia says the first inoculations were discovered almost 100 years later than that. Seems the Puritans thought it was a judgement from God that shouldn't be messed with.

I found it funny that he inserted little book critiques or plugs for fellow authors such as those for the biographers of Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, and others; as well as his good friend Mr. Longfellow.

I can't wait to read more by this fantastic Victorian era author!