Friday, March 03, 2006


The following are books I read from 1942 which were not on the bestseller list. I picked them for various reasons and overall liked them more than the bestsellers.

Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hustson, JB Lippincott, Inc, 1942, 297 pp
Zora Neale Hurston is the author of Seraph on the Swanee, Their Eyes Were Watching God and many other wonderful novels and stories. In this splendid autobiography, Zora tells of a life of great adventure. There is poverty, triumph, heartbreak and she is a woman who will not be put down. She was black, born to a preacher in Florida. She approaches life with energy and humor. Advantages come her way and she takes them, including education, grants and the support of white people. She uses all that to raise understanding between the black and white races and achieves quite a lot of recognition in the process.

But times change, political moods change, and after the 1940s, she was no longer considered cool. She ended her life in poverty and alone. She did not compromise her reality though. I had several realizations. One is that giving education to someone who has lived a full life already and who really wants to learn is a good thing.

The other is that a creative person creates whether appreciated or not, so I should just go on creating. I loved this book!

The Candle in the Wind, TH White, GP Putnam's Sons, 1942, 122 pp
So we come to the fourth and final book of The Once and Future King. Mordred, Arthur's bastard son, has grown into an evil, bitter man and uses the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot to break up the Round Table and Arthur's peace.

It is very sad, but with White's usual wry humor thrown in. The book becomes the author's attempt to understand mankind and war. Through Arthur, he ponders why an ideal of peace and reason, instead of the use of might, cannot be achieved by mankind. He essentially nails it: old grudges, greed, evil and have against not have. His solution is to have Arthur pass the dream along to a young boy in an effort to keep it alive. It was beautifully done at the end and made me weep and exult at the same time.

The Violent Land, Jorge Amado, Alfred A Knopf, 1942, 333 pp
This author's most well-known books are Dona Flor and the Two Husbands and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. He is Brazilian and this book was first translated into English in 1945, but first published in Spanish in 1942, so I read it now.

The Violent Land
is the story of the opening of the cacao growing lands in southern Brazil. The times were similar to our frontier days: lots of money being made by a few violent, fearless characters; men flocking in with dreams of riches to be made; whores, negroes, crooked lawyers and crooked politicians. So it is a dramatic, brutal scene and the family drama reminded me of a William Faulkner book.

I was struck by how the story of opening a frontier is the same the world over but with local twists.

The Blue Hills, Elizabeth Goudge, Coward-McCann, 1942, 288 pp
Well she did it again. This author has the ability to totally charm me, give me hope and bring me to a higher view of life. She believes in good, that people are good and that love conquers all. If I am ever down, I should read Goudge.

In the Blue Hills, the story begun in The City of Bells, which she published sometime in the 1930s, is continued. The setting is an English town with a cathedral and close. Henrietta and Hugh are two children being raised by their grandparents. All of Goudge's children have spectacular imaginations, so this story is written as a fairy tale as seen through the eyes of the children. You can see that it is a response to World War II and all the horror, but she doesn't spend any time moaning about all that. She writes from her faith. What more can an artist do?

The Robber Bridegroom, Eudora Welty, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc, 1942, 185 pp
I read this in a couple hours. It is another fairy tale but set in southern colonial times. The story is a usual love story, but what makes it great is that it is imaginative, amusing and well-written. It is her first novel, though more of a novella. I can see why she attracted so much attention.

Norma Ashe, Susan Glaspell, JB Lippincott Company, 1942, 349 pp
I so liked the book by this author which I read in 1940s list, The Morning Is Near Us, that when I found she had more books, I wanted to read them. I read this in one day, because it was totally gripping. Norma Ashe goes to a small college in North Dakota, which her grandfather helped to found. It is very late 1800s, a time of great optimism in this country. Norma and five others are taken under the wing of a brilliant philosophy professor, who inspires them to pursue knowledge and spread the idea that man can be better and make a better world. Norma is the star pupil among the five.

But within months of graduating and leaving school, she falls in love with a go-getter business- man. He is slightly shady and dies after several years of marriage with Norma, leaving her with two children and a heavy load of debt. So she never fulfills that youthful dream, nor do any of the others from her class at school. Love, economics and hurts from the past influence them all and drag them down.

It gripped me because I have experienced a similar thing. Sometimes I have gone on spiritual retreats and glimpsed eternity and ideals, but after being back in the so-called real world for a while, have found it hard to maintain that vision. I found many books from 1942 to love, but this was one of my favorites.

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