The Ambassadors by Henry James

Trying to read The Ambassadors by Henry James on a full charter bus. I grabbed it because it was small enough to fit in my purse. However my decision to start a new book on a loud bus with children and parents talking all around me was probably mistake. How did I forget I need complete silence or white noise to read? I can’t even listen to music because it’s so loud. And now they’ve just turned on a movie so I guess I’ll give up (the speaker is above my head) and stare into the abyss. I feel like the story in the book is going on without me since I’m not comprehending it but rather eavesdropping on the conversations around me against my desire to do so. Oh well. Everyone has got an interesting story to tell.

What about you? Can you read in chaos? Or do you need silence like me?

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Desert Islands by Walter de la Mare

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ If any of you would like to read an interesting book (which I’m sure you do), please try Walter de la Mare’s Desert Islands. I have a rule to buy any work of Walter de la Mare’s that I don’t already have; I like him a lot.

Desert Islands is sort of a collection of essays (that’s what I would call it because no two chapters seem to flow together) that not only examine themes of isolation in stories like Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, but also Mare documents accounts of isolation in stages of Morphine-induced hallucinations from famous writers and letters written by scholars on the subject. It was a wonderful discovery. Every page was like a candle lit in some dark corner of a history forgotten. I can’t imagine there is another book quite like it out there.

This hard cover copy is a 1930 illustrated edition set against an old 1909 postcard and some shells and sand from California.

The Return by Walter de la Mare

⭐️⭐️⭐️ I love Walter de la Mare! Although I gave this a three, it is only because his other work is so fabulous that this one failed to thrill by comparison. Much of his work carries the theme of isolation. In The Return, although not his best work, the protagonist gets possessed by a dead man after falling asleep on his grave. But De la Mare doesn’t seem to know what to do next with this, so the character is caught in a tangle of estrangement with friends, family, and even himself throughout the story. But perhaps that was the point all along—a point which begs one to ask: who are we anyway? .

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This copy is from @aaknopf a 1922 edition. .

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Victory by Joseph Conrad

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Although written in 1915 this suspense novel by Joseph Conrad feels incredibly modern. I couldn’t believe the date myself as it seemed more like a mid-century novel. I liked it once it got rolling. Heyst is a loner who has spent much of his life living on an island, but when he rescues a young musician and brings her to his island he finds his isolation continues in his own mind. Yet he must save the woman again as his island gets “invaded” and in this he is proving his love for her which seems to only have face value, because they never seem to jive really. It’s sort of a disconnected love story between people who don’t really relate to one another. 🤷‍♀️ I liked it though! 😄

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Pictured is the modern library 1921 edition set against an antique acrylic(?) painting. .

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Adam Bede by George Elliot

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Today, if an agent were presented a query letter and the manuscript of Adam Bede, they would have rejected it over and over again and society would have lost a fabulous story. But I doubt that many people today would have the patience for this book. It took 100+ pages for me to get into it where I didn’t want to put it down. It was like a really innocent pastoral soup opera. Every sentence is delicious and every character is well developed to the point that you are sad when your journey with them is over. .

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Pictured is a 1909 edition set against a 1972 sketch of a cobbler. This print was originally hanging in the shoe department in the old Hudson’s in Downtown Detroit, which has since been demolished.

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Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

It’s time for me to share some spooky reads! .

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I enjoyed this a lot though it was a bit dark. It seems to lose color as one progresses into the story, which is a result of Wilde’s genius. It seemed, in my memory, to begin with pink gardens in the light of day with light and jolly conversation and ended in a dark room, leaving behind a sinister residue of death. It gradually smudged away gaiety until Dorian’s soul was completely void of life. .

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Pictured is a 2000 edition Penguin Classic hard cover against a vintage framed print and some nasturtiums I recused from the frost last night. 😄

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Samuel Pepys’ Diary by Himself

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Samuel Pepys was a scoundrel! The way he went about seducing every woman he saw makes me think he had some sort of undiagnosed sex addiction. One woman had to threaten to poke him with her pin in church if he touched her again! 😆 .

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But it is a very good thing we have this diary, because this man, as arrogant as he was, had the mind to record ten years of really important British history. It is a wonderful little window into the English Restoration period by a middle to upper class parliament member. He records detailed accounts of the Black Plague, the London Fire, the trials of Oliver Cromwell, as well as the Dutch War. He describes heads on spikes and mundane things like his diet, the weather, the untidiness of his house, mites in his wigs, etc. Truly we are lucky to have such an honest account of a real life never to be lived again. .

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Pictured is the modern library edition from 1961? Among an old account book from 1880’s, a vintage print of a man seducing two women, and a cat’s skull my kids dug up in our backyard. .

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