Before Christmas, I got a box in the mail. In the far-north outpost he now calls home, friend and blog commenter Loosehead Prop found a stash of old novels in a used book emporium. One was the 1948 bestseller, Dinner at Antoine’s, by Frances Parkinson Keyes. I fell asleep reading it last night. It’s a murder mystery from another time and contemporary readers might find it quaint.
Though her novels have fallen out of favor over the years, Keyes was a prolific writer. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, she wrote almost a novel a year. Her novels were carefully researched and often included an explanatory foreword, outlining people she interviewed and places she visited while crafting her stories. She wanted her work to be authentic; in writing Joy Street, a novel about Boston society, she lived temporarily in the city.
Old novels tell us things about the past, both in their words and in their tones.
New novels can tell us things about the past, too. I just finished the 2014 bestseller and 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
The fictional novel, set in Germany and France prior and during World War II, was made up of short chapters about a cast of characters. One of my work counterparts told me she didn’t care for it. She said we all knew how horrible things were in Europe during the second World War.
I gave the book a 7 on a scale of 1 – 10. I enjoyed the chapter construction and the way the author wove the story through time, going back and forth through years before and during the war. And speaking of time, it took Mr. Doerr 10 years to write this novel.
Given the book’s stature, many have written about it. I will leave further critique to the experts. Read it. It’s not War and Peace, but it’s worthy of your time.
I had planned to write a short “minimalist” post about virtue signaling today and I got distracted by books.
I saw this taped on a car’s rear passenger windows in a Freeport parking lot on Christmas Eve Day. Who doesn’t value those noted virtues?
I was tempted to wait in my junky old Jeep to see who drove the vehicle but I had miles to go. Would a man or woman who valued “courtesy” look different from one who did not? Would it be the person holding the door for another following them out of the store? Oh, wait…that would be “practicing” courtesy. That’s different than “valuing” it.
And that, dear blog readers, is my last snark of 2016. Let’s do more than value and signal beautiful virtues in 2017. Let’s practice them and keep our good deeds to ourselves.
Happy New Year to you, too!