Friday, 18 May 2012

The Night Watchmen




Writers generally have a lot of books.  If I spend any time on a writers' Facebook page, sooner or later there'll be talk about this - reference to yards and yards of book shelving and tottering floor stacks accumulating in the corners of the house.  This is my bookshelf:



Perhaps you can see that some of the "books" are in fact DVDs - a little set of Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies the Badger gave  me, Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence, No Greater Love from the Carmelites in Notting Hill, Little Buddha, Indian Hill Railways, Baraka, Chronos, Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi.  I have no idea how long I will keep these, but the only ones I am likely to keep "forever" are Into Great Silence, No Greater Love and Indian Hill Railways.  The others are intriguing "for now" movies.

You might also notice that a chunk of the books are my own (written by me, I mean).  Obviously I have electronic copies, but it can be important to have paper copies for reasons I can't think of at the moment - at the very least because in the back of each of them is my list of errata should we run to a new edition at some point.

It is immediately obvious, then, that I don't have many books!  I do read, but I keep only the ones I think are really, really good - ones I would not ever want to let go.  

Missing from my bookshelves at the moment are Thich Nhat Hanh's Being Peace and Peace Is Every Step - someone else in the household is reading them.

There's David Edwards' Free To Be Human - a superb political analysis of modern life from a Buddhist perspective.  There's Poetry Please and More Poetry Please - excellent anthologies.  I also have Tony Weston's book of poetry Snatching at Bubbles

Sister Felicity's Barefoot Journey about life as a Poor Clare has been with me since I was sixteen.  I shouldn't have that book.  I borrowed it and never gave it back.  It's original owner will be long dead, I'm sure - she was old then.  It's only just come back to me that's how I acquired it.  Shameful!  I'm so sorry.  I have Starr Daily's Love Can Open Prison Doors - and also, with too slender a spine to see, his brilliant little book Wellsprings of Immortality, shown here with another brilliant little book.



I have the big Quaker Faith and Practice too.

I have a bible and the New Testament in French.  I have Martin Palmer's The Jesus Sutras, about what the seventh century Taoist Chinese made of the Gospel when they were first evangelised.  

Bill Clarke's book Enough Room For Joy is a wonderful telling of his impressions of the L'Arche communities.  There's also The Little Flowers of St Francis, which has a special place in my heart.

Too big to be stored upright are two translations of the Tao, and also David Whiteland's astonishingly good Book of Pages.  It was remaindered - there is no justice. 



For fiction, I have Tove Jansson's Moomin books - all of them!  Marjorie Phillips' Annabel and Bryony (which you can't see because the spine has long dropped off).  One of my godmothers gave it to me when I was a child.  A wonderful book.  Also Rhoda Powell's Redcap Runs Away - a stunningly good children's novel of medieval England.  There's E.G. Speare's Blackbird Pond, Alf Prøysen's Mrs Pepperpot and the Magic Wood, and Tove Jansson's  The Summer Book.

Penny Armstrong's A Midwife's Story is there, about her work as a midwife with Amish families.  Sister Mary Mercedes' wonderful A Book of Courtesy.

I also have John Holt's How Children Fail - and I've just re-read Virginia Axline's unforgettable Dibs In Search of Self, which I now intend to give away.  Also John Walmsley's evocative pictorial study Neill and Summerhill - A Man and His Work.

As well as Dibs, I am parting with my Rule of St Benedict - because I can access it online.



I have Julia Faire's book Seven Silver Rings, stories from celibates in the Jesus Army, Leonard Koren's wonderful Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.

I have Sue Bender's Plain and Simple about her time with the Amish, and Bill Coleman's collections of photos - The Gift of Friendship, Amish Odyssey and The Gift To Be Simple. 

I keep two books by Raymond Chandler for his unique and superb writing style.  I have Keith Foord's recent book about Battle Abbey, Dorothy Hartley's informative book Lost Country Life, and two books by Julia Bolton Holloway - The Pilgrim and the Book and a book about Julian of Norwich.  I have an excellent book on prayer in the Carmelite tradition, Upon This Mountain, by Mary McCormack.

I have a monastic directory, Gregory's Angels - very handy, three books of Steve Erspamer's clip-art for parish use, two wonderful art books of Rien Poortfliet's paintings (The Ark and He Was One Of Us) and a book about Shaker furniture.



That's about it part from some odd little tucked away things like this:



But one of my best books of all is Helen Cresswell's The Night Watchmen (also here and here), which I've just re-read.  



It is a jewel.  So well-written, so perfectly observed.  Everyone should read it, most of all those who aspire to write.

Oh!  And finally - I have C.E. Montague's A Writer's Notes On His Trade

By the time I have finished pruning and winnowing, I expect to have about half this lot.  Whatever the end result will be, I shall keep The Night Watchmen, Being PeaceBarefoot Journey, A Book of Pages, the Jerusalem Bible and the Tao Te Ching.  

Many other books have passed through my hands, appreciated and enjoyed.  I have learned the hard way, through many house moves and tiny allotments of space in sub-divided homes, to love them and let them go.

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365 366 Day 139 – Friday May 18th
  (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)


Well, that was an easier decision than sometimes.  When we were still doing Christmas gifts, our Rosie gave us all the most heavenly cashmere socks from Brora.  So soft, they are just lovely; and beautiful, subtle colours.  This particular pair I wore and wore until I wore them right through.  A sad goodbye, but necessary.  I was tempted to keep them for dusters or polishing cloths as they are so soft and obviously useful for such a purpose: but one has to know oneself and face the truth, which is that frankly we do very little of either dusting or polishing in this house and the cloths we already have will comfortably see us out on the basis of our current track record.



9 comments:

Deborah said...

Couldn't the socks be mended?

Ember said...

Oh yes - they could have been; but only by a huge darn covering the whole of the ball of my foot and under my toes (the socks were worn threadbare right across there and going into holes over that whole area), and I think it would have felt uncomfortable.

Anna said...

Our saying is that socks become "holey unto the Lord". :-)

Bean said...

Ah Ember, thank you for the mentioning the book by Helen Cresswell, I googled her and found out that she wrote the tv show Lizzie Dripping. I loved Lizzie Dripping when I was a kid, my googling led me to youtube and a full episode of Lizzie Dripping, after almost 40 years I still enjoyed the show and off the side on youtube was another show, all 5 episodes available - Carrie's War - again enjoyed almost 40 years ago by the younger me.
So thanks to your blog, a google search, and youtube I was able to go back in time to my early 1970's mind and have a mini reunion with myself :) WOW!!

Blessings to you,

Bean

Ember said...

Absolutely, Anna - I just spent a happy while looking at your very interesting blog. I like the idea of the green martyrdom. Have you caught up with the Innermost House page on Facebook. It is proving to be a space where our aspirations can flourish and be fed. Nice to see you here :0)

Bean - hooray! That sounds like a good afternoon! "He leads me in green pastures" :0)

Rapunzel said...

Ah, Ember, reading this has caused me to take count. There are no less than 29 bookcases in this house, all crammed full but two. The two which are not crammed full are mine.
I am partly feeling pleased at only having two cases of books,about half of which are children's books that are being slowly passed on to grandchildren as they 'grow into' them.
My task-for-self while the Manimal is away on business is to sort through my books and see how much I can live without.
Alas, the other 27 shelves of books belong to the Manimal, and they are not budging. Ever. They are important to him in ways that I cannot fathom as I've moved house repeatedly (25 times? 26?) and I tend to see material things as useful but temporary.
So here I sit, partly decluttering and pleased, and partly overwhelmed by the tons of stuff around me I haven't the right to declutter. Sigh.

I've read half a dozen of the books you mention and except the bible I own none of them at the moment : )
I'm cheering you on in my heart as you continually lighten your load!

Ember said...

Hi honey! Waving from England! x

Sherry said...

Good call on the socks. :) I have to admit that I have never had cashmere socks and they sound luscious! Books are so hard to get rid of. I have scads that I will NEVER read, but they are boxed and out of mind. I really do need to get on your program and see what I can get rid of. Good work.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Sherry! Waving! x