Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Yearling

Finished The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings. It won the Pulitzer in 1939. Set in the early 20th century, it is the story of Jody, an only child, living with his mother and father. Jody craves a companion. He finds an orphaned fawn and brings him home as a pet. The fawn, named Flag, and Jody grow up together amid the beauty and dangers of backwoods Florida. These dangers include flood, rattlesnakes, wolves, bears and alligators. One bear in particular, Old Slewfoot, is brazen enough to walk off with the family's brood sow and several calves. Jody learns the ways of the woods and how to track and hunt from his father. He and Flag continue to grow until they are both really "the yearling." This book is beautifully written and as with any animal story there is sadness and grief, but I enjoyed it immensely.

The edition I read had color illustrations by N. C. Wyeth, an American illustrator of the Brandywine School. He illustrated many classics including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe and The Last of the Mohicans.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Finished Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. It won the Newbery Medal in 1933. Young Fu is thirteen when he and his mother move from the country to Chungking where Fu will apprentice as a coppersmith. The city is crowded, damp and dirty. There are many things to peak Fu's curiosity and he gets into a number of scrapes that way. However, with guidance from his mother, Wang Scholar and his boss and mentor Tang, he grows up to be a clever, brave and talented man.

The edition I read had an introduction written by Pearl S. Buck who won the Pulitzer in 1932 for The Good Earth. Lewis' backdrop of the turmoil, poverty, war, disease, flood, etc of early 20th century China was so similar to The Good Earth that it made me feel depressed. Eventually these things fell further into the background and Fu's character development became the center of the book. Somewhere around the middle of the book I began to enjoy it very much.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Finished Kathleen by Christopher Morley, one of my favorite writers. A group of undergraduates at Oxford find a letter written by a young woman named Kathleen. They begin a writing project in which they piece together a story about her and her family. Their ardor of Kathleen grows. During a holiday break they travel to the town where Kathleen lives and each devise a way to meet her and ask her to be their guest for Eight's Week. Each man masquerades as something he is not. One an antiquites scholar, one a curate, also a policeman and a gas meter reader. The most outrageous of all is one who dresses up as a woman and poses as a substitute cook for Kathleen's family. Here is a man with experience playing female characters in a theater guild, but no experience in the kitchen. The results of this are so hilarious I found myself laughing out loud. At one point while studying a recipe for stuffed eggs, he sees in the list of ingredients "buttered crumbs" and makes a note to set aside extra time for the buttering of said crumbs since that sounds like a tricky business.

While the book is ultimately a bit silly, it was an enjoyable read. My favorite Christopher Morley book is Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman. My second favorite is Parnassus on Wheels. I recommend both very highly.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Finished The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is made up of several books that she published over her lifetime, This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958) and The Search for Understanding (1961). I am very slow when it comes to reading non-fiction, so it took me many months to read this book. That is no reflection on the book itself.

I think I expected to be captivated by Eleanor's life with FDR, however, they were apart much of the time and she was still evolving into the powerful force for good and change that she eventually became. So it was not until the two books written after FDR's death that I got hooked on her story. The first two, about growing up and life as the wife of a governor and then a president, are filled with polite remarks about meeting various important people and how charming, polite, etc., they were.

The later books document her work with the UN, her travel all over the world and her observations of what she saw. She rarely passes a negative personal remark. She makes no reference to the troubles of her marriage, other than the iron fist of her mother-in-law, she never mentions the alcoholism on both sides of the family. All of those things I learned from a PBS "American Experience" documentary about her.

For twenty-six years she wrote the newspaper column "My Day." Selected articles were published in the book My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt's Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936-1962. I look forward to reading this someday in daily installments.