• Various/Onna Carr

Remembering the Stories

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Post by Onna Carr

Recently, I redid my bookcase yet again: sorting, organizing, letting things go, and changing the literary and decorative landscape of my room. I eliminated two volumes through sheer willpower and broke three, glass-blown decorative ornaments by sheer accident.:( Books are unique items: pages full of life. Books are like spices—waiting to be enjoyed—their scents and tastes incorporated into everyday living. Books are stepping stones to the future and memorials to the past. I have never been very good at remembering dates, and even names sometimes elude me, but I do remember stories. I can recall a plot-line from a film or book I watched or read when I was six-years-old with alacrity though the characters’ names may elude me.

Why do I remember stories? What makes tales catch in my mind with hooks of gentle sturdiness that enable me to recall their plot-lines many years later? Somehow, the process of recalling stories comforts and strengthens me. Stories are similar to a current on a flowing river. By remembering the stories, by collecting them, an individual can perhaps see the future better because they know that all stories share common traits, but the variety is what keeps the tales interesting.

Most of my books fall into categories, from the top shelf down: 1. Winston Churchill and related historical books on Winston, his wife, his mother, and his artwork. A History of the English Speaking Peoples collection, Marlborough, The Second World War Collection, Painting as a Pastime, Winston and Clementine by Hough, The Last Lion by Manchester, American Jennie by Sebba, etc. I love the way Winston wrote—his brilliant prose (of which he was more than adequately aware), and his stalwart nature, which has shown that stubbornness, when funneled correctly into a healthy channel, can save a nation and a world from absolute tyranny. 2. English history from approximately 1500 onward, works such as Schama’s A History of Britain, James Herriot’s Yorkshire, Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen, and my personal favorite as titles go, Vexed and Troubled Englishmen by Bridenbaugh. I am an anglophile, and I have been for many years. I love reading about Britain and the British. I like finding out the oddities of British history from Queen Victoria and her bizarre fascination with plaid to facts about the rolling hills of Yorkshire, which greatly resemble my own native landscape. 3. Jane Austen’s complete collection of finished novels in individual and group collections, related spin-offs such as Grange’s Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Newark’s The Darcy’s Give a Ball, and The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Schaffer and Barrows. I normally do not read fiction, but these volumes are some of the few exceptions. I relish the fact that people are still as petty, ridiculous, and wonderful as they were in Austen’s works and how other author’s have spun their own works around Jane’s. 4. Victorian Literature (primarily English but also O. Henry.) Victorian literature is like a cup of good, black, brewed tea: solid and yet slightly sentimental without being ridiculous. 5. Books on running a business/business practices, from Good to Great by Collins and Hansen to Eka’s Start Now!, to life-changing works such as When Fish Fly, this shelf reflects books that make me think about my business and my life from a different angle, which is a healthy exercise. 6. Travel and related books on Italy, Ireland, and Australia/New Zealand. Someday, I am packing up some serious and cute suitcases with my family and traveling to these places. 7. Books on relationship: Psalms and Proverbs, a collection of C.S. Lewis’ work, and some books by Henrietta Mears. I like the way Peterson translates Psalms and Proverbs in The Message, I appreciate how Lewis was the Sherlock Holmes of Christianity in the 20th century, analytically explaining the reason for his hope, and I enjoy how Mears sensibly breaks things down and that her books sat beside both of my great-grandfathers' recliners. 8. A short J.R.R. Tolkien collection: The Tolkien Reader, The Hobbit, The Unfinished Tales, etc. I love the way Tolkien writes fairy tales for adults. In addition, Tolkien's character of Tom Bombadil is absolutely wonderful. 9. General fiction (primarily L.M. Montgomery, Bess Streeter Aldrich, and D.E. Stevenson). The short stories of Montgomery and Aldrich are familiar friends since childhood and wonderful examples of short fiction that though not brilliant, are full of nice people who usually do the right thing, which is why I like them so. D.E. Stevenson is a longer example of such writing I discovered a few years ago, and I have pleasantly enjoyed her work as well for the same reasons I appreciate Montgomery and Aldrich.

The petty, the ridiculous, the wonderful, the solid, and the slightly sentimental tales: these are the stories I gather and store in my mind. These tales are the stories that I retrieve at odd times as they pop up on the recall billboard of my mind and allow me see the different angles of life. To me, the real colorful journeys in the life of all tales are in the plot-lines and how they are written. How did King David feel and what was he going through in Psalm 1? Lewis’ brilliancy and analytical mind in Mere Christianity, Tolkien’s touching verse in the Tale of Tom Bombadil, and honoring the simple truth that ordinary life is the most interesting to write about as Aldrich, Montgomery, and Stevenson did—this is what I remember and am grateful for.

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