Friday, November 16, 2012

Old Book

On a blustery Saturday afternoon, in an unheated flea market, I found an old book that looked promising. It was on a shelf titled "Maine Authors." The title: The Old Ashburn Place. The author: Margaret Flint. The setting: a homestead in Maine. The novel: A $10,000 prize winner.Would you buy it? Would you buy it if it were about your own locality?

I am always looking for strong and charming descriptions of home.

It really doesn't matter that this storyline is odd and awkwardly told. It is one week from Christmas on one page and on the next, it is spring. On one page a character is wailing and pacing and on the next she's been killed in a wreck. And so the reader lurches through a lifetime in a mere 299 pages.  

Sometimes this sort of writing can mean that the author is unwilling to "go there" or doesn't know how to tell the truly difficult bits — death, sorrow, even joy. So logical progression is definitely not the book's strong point. Not to mention that this novel is about a betrayal because of a love affair, yet it is not compellingly told. I do not make a habit of reading about love affairs, but really it is tame... very... and in the old manner... or perhaps the current manner... the woman is all to blame and the man is nearly blameless. (The use of ellipses often means that this writer herself doesn't know how to "go there.") 

I'm going to share a few paragraphs that I enjoyed since there were moments when I knew that Margaret was "writing Maine." That and it doesn't take too much to make me happy.

The house, as it had been developed by alterations and additions throughout the years, was typical of the Maine countryside—low-posted, with two dormer windows on the front, facing east, a broad doorway with fanlights at the sides and above, and a central chimney to serve the main part of the dwelling. On either side of the front door were two small, twelve-paned windows, and there were two more below and one above on each gabled end. You could see at a glance that the Ashburn place had good rooms upstairs, under that broad and gently sloping roof. There was a L running back at right angles to the house, and as high as the house part way, then dropping off to a low, narrow, covered passage which connected the milk room and woodshed with the barn. You could walk from the parlor clear to the cattle tie-up without going outdoors, which was a comfort in bad weather. 
And...

It was fall again—time for getting in the corn and apples and garden truck, time for cutting the hemlock banking for the house, for putting in the storm windows, for unpacking the woolens, time for tightening up generally, anticipating the cold to come, time for fires at night.
We still see some of the old farmhouses wearing hemlock bankings or fir boughs around the foundation to keep in the heat. I usually bank my home with snow once it falls deep enough.

Dinner tasted good. It was a sort of pick-up meal, since Elsie had been baking all the morning, and scrubbing, and cleaning up generally. They had some baked potatoes, and fried salt pork, and slabs of cheese, a dish of mustard pickle, fresh apple sauce, sliced bread, and a big plate of warm, sugared doughnuts, and of course the pot of strong, bitter tea.
*** 
That storeroom was always a beautiful sight in the winter, packed full with the fruits of fields and orchard—cabbages, root-crops, apples; barrels of salt pork and of cider; crocks of pickles and mincemeat; two swing-shelves suspended from the overhead rafters and laden with glass jars and jelly tumblers, all neatly labeled and dated. 
Can't go wrong with descriptions of food! ☺

The blaze of autumn glory that had been running like fire over the hills for weeks past was now rather dimmed; its smoky richness lay smouldering, drowned in the melting frost as the sun penetrated the woods and underbrush... The horse was climbing steadily, and from the hilltop Charlie looked off toward the northwest where Mount Washington was a pale blue shape clean cut against a paler sky.
*** 
You could see clear to Mount Washington, and follow the course of the river for miles. As you got closer to Stafford's place, and turned to look back, that view would hit you right in the eye. It was almost too much to believe... "Nice view ye got here."
"Think so?" Stafford had said. "Well, folks say 'tis. Can't say I ever noticed it."
Charlie had got the onions and gone home. But he got more than onions. He had seen so plainly just how much a man depended on his own state of mind for enjoyment in life. Stafford could have had that good feeling of exaltation any day in the week by just opening his eyes to the view, but he'd never done it. And his doing it wouldn't have hurt the onion crop a bit either!
Good use of local landmarks — from my home and on a hilltop, Mount Washington lies due west. Like Stafford, can't say that I always pay notice.
One rainy day he took his tools and went down the road to mend a break in the fence. There were usually about a dozen such fiddlin' jobs waiting for a rainy day, when it was too wet to work in the fields. The softly drizzling rain was nice to be out in, and there was something different, intimate, about the chirp of the birds and the rustle of water-laden leaves. Why couldn't a man just grow roots, and so be at peace? Or like the animals, run nature's course and not keep tearing his shirt over it? Look at all the little lives and homes, all around him, beautiful, entire, and clean. It seemed to take a man, with his notions about advancement and civilization, to step in and cover things with smut. Man's dirty cities—man's dirty machinery—man's dirty morals.
At least our hero has the good sense to be ashamed.



So my dollar spent on a book published in 1935 and long fallen from favor, turned out to be a little blessing after all.

Have a lovely Friday...

Love Vee

51 comments:

  1. One reason I read Beverly Lewis' books are for the local landmarks! I know the places she is writing about.

    I like books that are descriptive of home life, too.

    Sounds like you got a good deal for a dollah....

    Deanna

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  2. I love books about our area or state, too! Even if they aren't the most well written {for the most part, they are}, they're still really interesting because I can relate to the scenery and events. Glad you found this little treasure! :) And "pick-ups," ...I'd never heard that phrase until about a year ago. Our preacher and his family is from the mountains of NC, and she uses that phrase for certain meals. New one on me! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  3. Oh, I would definitely have purchased it too. Hal Borland used to write with my hometown as his backdrop, and I have copies of his books for just that reason. I love anything like that.

    I grinned at your last commentary about the hero. Your voice cracks me up on a regular basis.

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  4. What a great find. I thoroughly enjoyed the passages you shared here. Hope you have a very nice weekend, Vee.

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  5. What a gem... The author has a lot-of-Gladys-Taber "in her," with her descriptions. Lovely... Just lovely...

    And Wisdom too. Why do we not open our eyes more? To enjoy the beauty which lies around us? It doesn't cost a penny. Nature's beauty is free. So unlike what we buy-in-stores. :-)

    You brought home a treasure, my Dear... I too, love old books. The look of them, the feel of them, the time-aged look of the pages.

    And I remember one (or a couple) of photos you took, in an old, unheated barn/antique/place. :-) John, silhouetted against the out-of-doors and sky. Which was brighter, than the inside of the barn.... Am I right? :-)

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  6. Hi Vee
    I would definitely pick up a book here if it included our local area as part of the story. Good find.
    Judith

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  7. That book was just waiting for you Vee and looks much more like it's old self without the plastic book cover. I enjoyed the paragraphs you chose. I love reading about my home town. It sometimes gives me a better sense of how it must have been when my great grandparents and grandparents were alive. I think everyone enjoys a trip back in time once in awhile.

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  8. I happen to enjoy obscure little gems like these too. I love the autumn passage that mentions getting in the "tuck", I have not heard that term since my grandmother passes away. It was a frequently used word in her vocabulary "gathering in the tuck" "selling tuck", both of which she did while raising her children to help supplement her income. Lovely piece of local literature. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Ahhh...perhaps it should have read "tuck" but it says "truck," which doesn't make as much sense now that you mention it.

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  9. What a wonderful find! I am glad you shared some of the author's writing with us.

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  10. Sounds like the kind of book I like having on my shelves. :)

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  11. My kind of book, I would have bought it :)

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  12. Oh I would have picked it up for sure! My kind of book....Enjoy your week-end Vee, and thank you soo much for your prayers!

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  13. Btw, this Comment Setting IS working! Thank you much!

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  14. How charming! I adore Maine architecture, and even purchased the first edition of the book, "Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn" during our first jaunt up there back in the early 1980s. It still resides on my bookshelf too!

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  15. One of my favorite authors is Gladys Taber. I just loved her description of her home and her daily life. When my daughter was little we took so much joy in reading the Little House on the Prairie books. Call me old fashioned, but I love these type of books which seem pretty rare. Your book is a treasure.

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  16. Yes, I would buy such a book in my area, one with local flavor. Unlike yours, however, I fear that it would sit on my shelf unread while I read books that captured my attention more or (confession) while I read my favorite blogs. Yikes!

    I'm glad that you opened yours and deemed it worthy of your time and your dollar, and shared it with us. (I love your line about "lurching through a life time in a mere 299 pages!) :)

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  17. I bought an old book for a dollar last weekend myself...

    How evocative, "the blaze of autumn glory that had been running like fire over the hills for weeks...".
    I'd much rather read a book like this. Thanks for sharing...

    ...I'm ellipsising in solidarity (:

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  18. Vee
    I wish I could find this book. It's a real treasure.
    I've already learned something new-hemlock banking
    around your foundations. In Missouri it was hay bales.
    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your great find.

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  19. Old books are wonderful treasures! I would get lost reading one like this and wouldn't surface till I was finished reading it. That is why I have so many books and why I am having a hard time parting with any of them for my move :( I have so many heavy boxes filled with books that I know the moving men are going to be very annoyed with me.
    Did I ever tell you about our Mt. Washington experience? We drove up the top of the mountain on a vacation trip we made when my duaghter was still in high school. I never saw my husband as scared as he was on that drive up, and down..lol

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  20. What a wonderful find! We have two such stores in our town, but I'm far too impatient to spend the time perusing the aisles to find such a perfect treasure.

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  21. I love old books, like old movies, they're classic. Even if this is awkward, I know it must have great sentiment of your lovely area--what a treasure, XOXO

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  22. What a wonderful tree to find! I love to buy old books, especially if I am familiar with the area written about. Its fun to imagine the place in a time past.

    I hope your Sam is improving and you are well. I've missed you around the blog.

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  23. Funny...but I just came up from the basement where I was going through a box of my dad's old books (looking for a book he wants). Old books are treasures!

    '...and of course, the pot of strong bitter tea'. That is what one could have expected in Maine, right? I'm thinking here it would have spoken of the pot of strong, bitter coffee!

    Never mind the story-line or the writing style...she gave a good glimpse into life in your area a long time ago. I'd say it was worth your buck!

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  24. I think I would spend a dollar on a book about my locality. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  25. Morning.......love old books and that one is a winner.....happy reading.....Blessings Francine.

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  26. I love reading books with a strong sense of place. Rosamunde Pilcher does that so well with her novels.
    I would have purchased that book for $1. Too bad I didn't see anything like it on yesterday's foray into the used bookstore.

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  27. Yes I think it is fun to find a book about your own locality. Always something to learn.

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  28. So interesting...enjoy your reading.

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  29. I would buy such a book!

    History is so interesting but especially when you read about your own part of the country.

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  30. Such pleasant reading. I enjoyed reading the bits you posted; took me up to Maine for a few moments. Thanks.

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  31. I love books such as there. The glimpses made me want more...

    I'd love a book that was written about our area. A lot of local businesses have old photos from the early 1990's hanging and I love those too.

    Enjoy your weekend!
    Leann

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  32. I love old books! You got a treasure there.

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  33. Looks like you picked up a little treasure there!
    I like reading books set in areas I know about too.

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  34. I have never read a book about my area, maybe I will write one .
    Merle.......

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  35. What a great find! Did you find it at DeWolf & Wood?

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  36. I love rummaging through old books. Never know what you will find.
    Local lore is of particular interest to me as well. I love to read the histories of these small towns in this county.

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  37. I DO love books like this. When we first moved to Florida we read everything we could find by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Do you recognize her name? She wrote Cross Creek and The Yearling...and other books about our area. We drove over and took a tour of her house, too. I love the excerpts you included! I need to dive into a good book soon!

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    1. PS I love your new profile pic! You are so pretty and have a beautiful smile!

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  38. Vee,

    One of my favorite things to do is find obscure old books. I love the way they were written back then. Sounds like you found a treasure.

    Karen

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  39. From the cover description:
    "Theirs was a lively household and generally a gay one."
    And aren't we pleased that that sentence simply meant they were a happy family instead of a group of individuals involved in lively...oh never mind.


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  40. I would love to read book about my little corner from years past! Never found one though, but maybe I need to look harder. xo

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  41. Hello Vee,
    It sounds like a wonderful book.And a bargain.I love old books also.
    Vee, Here's wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving,
    Blessings to you and yours,
    XXOO Marie Antionette

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  42. I was pulled right into the different scenes, descriptions and all. Yes it was a book about home. I like those kind of books. A dollar well spent Vee. Those were slower times, I guess never to be seen again.
    Thanks for your sweet comments. I am on the mend though it has turned into acute bronchitis and now I have to take antibiotics. But I shall bounce back for sure. Nothing keeps me down. Hugs and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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  43. I simply LOVE books like this!!!! I have even been to Mt. Washington - seems like another lifetime ago! Amber was 4 months old and we had flown into Boston to see the fall color......seems so long ago....it WAS!

    What a sweet return for your dollar!!

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  44. Old books - even poorly written ones - need to be saved from destruction, don't they? And for less than a cup of tea you have done so!

    They make wonderful decor items too, do they not?

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  45. I would love to read that charming book so beautifully written with eyes and mind open.
    I’ve got a vivid picture in my head of the house from that descriptive narrative.
    Living in a very temperate climate where in out neck of the woods, snow is a once in a life time happening, the mention of collecting hemlock bankings and putting in the storm windows is most interesting.
    I’m also fascinated by your comment Vee of banking up snow to keep the cold drafts out.
    …”two swing-shelves suspended from the overhead rafters and laden with glass jars and jelly tumbler”. What are jelly tumblers?
    This is such a lovely post Vee – thank you!
    Shane ♥

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  46. I like old books... they say things in ways that add such interest and beauty. Thanks for sharing those quotes... as you say, you can never go wrong talking about food.

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  47. I would have purchased that one myself - it's just the type of book I like to read!

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  48. I do love descriptions like that, Vee. I am currently reading Gladys Taber who wrote about her home in New England. So just today for the first time, in reading her book, I heard of old farmhouses banked with fir or hemlock.
    And then I read your post!

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