So, reading Crazy Aunt Purl’s post about books, and children’s books, and thinking about how many of us who commented had strong emotional bonds to our books (whether in our childhood or now), sorta/kinda led me to this very long and strange digression.
My childhood book was Johnny Go Round. Gramma Fran would read it to my twin brother and me several times a day. I think we liked it because (1) it had a cat in it, and (2) there was a brother/sister pair that looked like they were twins, too. I never know what happened to our original copy. Mom mentioned several years ago that she couldn’t locate it, even though she thought she had saved it somewhere. So, Johnny Go Round vanished.
A few years back, I was talking to one of my co-workers about childhood books, and mentioned Johnny. She had asked if I had ever searched for it online. I had, but my searches weren’t fruitful. A few minutes after I returned to my desk, she had sent me an email with a link to a used book seller in Pennsylvania, saying “Is this it?” It was. I called the bookseller immediately and had it sent to me at the office. When I opened up the package and saw that oh-so-familiar cover, I just wept.
And now on to the digressions. Going back to read further comments on her blog post, I discovered a few Lovecraft related ones, and sent an email to one of the commenters about the H.P. Lovecraft Fan Club and the walking tour of Providence they do on his birthday, which ends in a reading at his grave site (click here, too). I have wanted to do this for years (and I didn’t even know there was such a club or an event). I must go. I see myself in the Providence graveyard, reading The Cats of Ulthar and getting choked up.(1)
Thinking of Lovecraft led to thinking of Lord Dunsany, and thinking that I needed to find that quote about throwing things of value out of a burning house. Reading the last paragraph of the quote led to thinking I should type up the entire thing; so here it is:
Preface to the Last Book of WonderEbrington Barracks
August 16, 1916
I do not know where I may be when this preface is read. As I write it in August 1916, I am at Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry, recovering from a slight wound. But it does not greatly matter where I am; my dreams are here amongst the following pages; and writing in a day when life is cheap, dreams seem to me all the dearer, the only things that survive.
Just now the civilization of Europe seems almost to have ceased, and nothing seems to grow in her torn fields but death, yet this is only for a while and dreams will come back again and bloom as of old, all the more radiantly for this terrible ploughing, as the flowers will bloom again where the trenches are and the primroses shelter in shell-holes for many seasons, when weeping Liberty has come home to Flanders.(3)
To some of you in America this may seem an unnecessary and wasteful quarrel, as other people’s quarrels often are; but it comes to this that though we are all killed there will be songs again, but if we were to submit and so survive there could be neither songs nor dreams, nor any joyous free things any more.
And do not regret the lives that are wasted among us, or the work that the dead would have done, for war is no accident that man’s care could have averted, but it is as natural, though not as regular, as the tides; as well regret the things that the tide has washed away, which destroys and cleanses and crumbles, and sparest the minutest shells.
And now I will write nothing further about our war, but offer you these books of dreams from Europe as one throws things of value, if only to oneself, at the last moment out of a burning house.
Which leads to a digression on the “necessity” of war which Dunsany seems to imply.
This current war in the Middle East is far from necessary. American soldiers are dying for no good reason whatsoever. George Bush is a lying sack of excrement and a murderer. But I can’t follow this digression, since it makes me far too angry. Far too angry.
* * * * *
(1) Why this emotional outpouring? It happens to me all too often; I cry at the drop of a hat it seems. A recent case in point – watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I cry when the beacons of Gondor are lit. I cry when the Rohirrim arrive at Minas Tirith (2)(4). There is something that resonates with me – a courage I can not even hope to achieve myself, though I wish it.
(2) Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now, ride to Gondor!
Yeah, I’ve got The Return of the King at my desk as I type this. Forth Eorlingas!
(3) When I looked up the entire text of the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I was sorely disappointed by the last stanza. When I first heard the first stanza recited, in some movie, as an anti-war sentiment, it was moving; but if you read the entire poem, it’s a rationalization for further bloodshed.
(4) Even my footnotes have footnotes. Woot!