Time for spring-cleaning.
The basement apartment in which I live could use a deep cleaning: dusting, washing, vacuuming. It’s tidy enough — chaos and I were never friends — but stacks of papers need sorting, bookcases beg to see their occupants removed and the shelves rubbed down with a mixture of Pine-Sol and water, and the dusty, spider-webbed eaves cry out for an invasion from the shop-vac and dust mop.
It was April 5, 1936, Palm Sunday, about nine o’clock in the evening. People were tidying up their kitchens, strolling home from church services, sitting in the local movie theaters, listening to their radios, talking to their neighbors. Just another ordinary spring evening.
What’s in a name?
In You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life (Running Press, 2013, 254 pages), Jen Sincero urges readers to leave behind mediocrity, change their desires into decisions, and earn more money in the bargain. According to the advertisement on the book’s cover, You Are A Badass was a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller with over 1 million copies sold.
The first weeks of 2018 have seen some offbeat books shamble across my desk and into my fingers.
First up is John Buchan’s Mr. Standfast, also known as Mr. Steadfast. Buchan, a Scottish novelist and politician who served as Governor General of Canada from 1935 to 1940, is best remembered for his suspense novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, a grandfather in the genre of intrigue. Alfred Hitchcock later made Buchan’s tale of a manhunt, a precursor to “The Bourne Identity,” into a film.
While it is difficult to write objectively yet critically about someone whom you know personally or about a book whose subject matter and/or authors are familiar, sometimes necessity is more than the mother of invention and you have to do things you normally or ethically wouldn’t do. Such is the case for me in writing a review about the recent publication Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards about the life and legacy of the poet-publisher Jonathan William, whom I knew and was a relative neighbor of mine who lived just up the mountain from my home in Tuckasegee, on Scaly Mountain near the town of Highlands.
I fled him down the nights and down the days;
I fled him down the arches of the years;
I fled him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
— “Hounds of Heaven” by Francis Thompson
Dreamers and schemers. Andre Michaux and Daniel Boone. Yankees and Confederates. Hugh Morton. The mile-high swinging bridge. Tweetsie Railroad. Singing on the Mountain. Highland bagpipes and Low-Country vacationers. Hikers and hang gliders. Mildred the Bear. Fraser firs and rhododendron. Peregrine falcons and big-eared bats.
For the past two centuries, local historians and writers in England have produced a large number of municipal and county histories, a project formalized in 1899 with the Victoria County History project, a massive undertaking that, more than 100 years later, is still unfinished. These detailed records have proven invaluable for historians and biographers writing on a grander scale, allowing them to compile data and statistics on topics ranging from deaths attributed to the plague to the impact of railroad revenues and services on country life.
In early January, I sat with two friends in a café discussing the New Year. We were all coming off a rough time and were certain 2018 would usher in happier days. Our optimism was running high until we made our way to the deserted lot where my friends had parked their cars. Both of their vehicles were missing, towed away by a zealous, or more likely unscrupulous, wrecking service.
Since Luke Bauserman is a folklorist, it is safe to say that many of his characters already exist; some have existed since the beginning. Certainly, someone has told us tales of how death and the devil have communicated with mortals before.