Importance of the written word. “A Book Lover’s Companion” by The Folio Society (May 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note May 8, 2008
A Book Lover’s Companion published by The Folio Society in London
Importance on the written word.

Good morning!  The last week has been spent going through different book lists from authors I admire and lists I respect so we can expand our book section at the store.  I have been reading a book called A Book Lover’s Companion that was published in London by The Folio Society.  Stu & I received this as a gift for an order of some beautifully bound classics that we ordered last year.  There is a section on the importance of the written word.  I would like to begin something new in our store that will involve you, the lovers & readers of books.  And for you that desire to become readers, but don’t know where to begin.  I am going to put a card in each book at the store.  You will now be able to put your personal “critic” note in the books that you loved or would like to recommend.  Those that shop here can then open a book, see notes by any of you on the card to get an idea of what others that have read the book think of the writings.  Would you even take the time to send me by e-mail any little comment you would like to make on a book that you loved, or a book that affected you greatly during a specific time of your life?  I will print your comments & place them in the books around the store.  If you would like to send you favorite quotes, I will put those (with your name) in our quote area.  If you would like to send a Bible verse that you specifically love, then I will place those in our Bible section.  Let us all review for each other.  Let us all inspire each other.  Let us all comfort each other.  The bookstore would be a perfect place to begin that.  So, from now on, please when you’re in the store – write on the cards that we’ll place in the books.  And if you don’t have time to do that, please send them to me – I’ll put them in for you!  Don’t you love this idea?  That way not only I can recommend books to those not knowing where to begin…you are all recommending them to each other, through our little shop!!!

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.  (Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.)

Feelings back after numbness from an event in life:
I was reading, accidentally, Marmontel’s Memoirs, and came to the passage which relates his father’s death, the distressed position of the family, and the sudden inspiration which he, then a mere boy, felt and made them feel that he would be everything to them – would supply the place of all that they had lost.  A vivid conception of this scene and its feelings came over me, and I was moved to tears.  From this moment my burden grew lighter.  The oppression of the thought that all feeling was dead within me, was gone…I was not a stock or a stone…Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs.  (John Stuart Mill.  Autobiography.  1873.)

The importance of learning through the ability to read:
The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud, for she often read aloud when her husband was absent, awakened my curiosity in respect to this mystery of reading, and roused in me the desire to learn.  Up to this time I had known nothing of this wonderful art, and my ignorance and inexperience of what it could do for me, as well as my confidence in my mistress, emboldened me to ask her to teach me to read.  With an unconsciousness and inexperience equal to my own, she readily consented, and in an incredibly short time, by her kind assistance, I had mastered the alphabet and could spell words of three or four letters…Master Hugh was astounded beyond measure and, probably for the first time, proceeded to unfold to his wife the true philosophy of the slave system, and the peculiar rules necessary in the nature of the case to be observed in the management of human chattels.  Of course he forbade her to give me any further instruction, telling her in the first place that to do so was unlawful, as it was also unsafe; ‘for’, said he, ‘if you give a n…  an inch he will take an ell.  Learning will spoil the best n…  in the world…’ (Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, in the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.  1881.)

Power of memorization in dealing with minute details playing in your head to strategies for handling oppression and overcoming evil.
Books cannot be killed by fire.  People die, but books never die.  No man and no force can abolish memory…In this war, we know, books are weapons.  (F.D.  Roosevelt, message to the American Booksellers’ Association, April 23, 1942.)

Books have changed my life.  Books inspire me.  Books comfort me.  Books make me laugh.  Books make me cry.  Authors are my best friends – always in my home for me to listen to or just know are there if I need to hear them speak.  What are your favorite books?  Why?  Please send me an e-mail that I can print and place in the books here.  I will begin to order and keep on hand your favorites – for others to then choose from.  This store is OURS.  I love your ideas – I need your ideas.  Stu and I can’t wait to just continue adding.  We are going to add classics for children, our cookbooks are arriving already.  We have gotten in novels for children this week. 

Reading – no one can take away those memories in our head.  Camden this morning was mesmerized when I told him about Frederick Douglass.  He had never heard of slavery or the Civil War – and because of that one quote from above, a whole new chapter of thought has now been added to his mind….Look at the importance of the written word in Douglass’ life, and how his master knew that he must put an immediate end to his learning.  Do we take for granted that we have the ability to read, the ability to learn.  Not for recreation – but to not be conquered.  To think on our own.  To not constantly (notice I didn’t say not in entirety!) make mistakes.  It’s our choice.  Are we going to seek strength in written word, or just turn on the TV and type notes to friends?  Grow.  It’s up to us to make the step and pick up the book.  Send me your reviews from now on about anything you read.  I’ll put them in the books around the store.  Let me know what books you think I should carry.  You are a “book list reviewer” that I trust!  Have a great day – so glad we’re here & that you’re part of my story. 

Are you listening to the birds singing for you?  Are you looking up for your strength?  Look to the hills.   You will find God and strength there.  Go have a great day.  Make yourself proud in your decisions.  Don’t let life make less of you than you were created to be.  Susan

Latin for this week:
Ne cede malis, seal contra audentior ito – Do not yield to misfortunes, on the contrary, go more boldly to meet them.

Works Cited:
Book Notes Journal.  New York: Ryland Peters & Small, Inc.  2004.