Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Friends of Antiquity

The sweet novels of Louisa May Alcott, the whirling gaiety of characters peopling the pages of Dickens' books, the perfect wording and heart-touching allegories of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, the gentle humor of James Herriot's veterinary adventures, the beautiful poetry and careful mythology of Tolkein's middle earth, and the charm of Prince Edward Island and a certain red-haired lass who live there concocted by Lucy Maud Montgomery...the unbroken secrecy of that Secret Garden and the troubles of the Little Princess so unforgettably told, the wit and social juxtapositions of Jane Austen's novels, the passionate romance of Jane Eyre....these are the books I have loved and always will love.
My earliest brushes with book-love were when I was a little bit of a girl and Mama would read aloud to us. She always chose the best books, and I grew to feel as if Hans Brinker and his silver skates, or Heidi and her mountain chalet were as real to me as anybody and anyplace I knew. Mama took the greatest of care not to let us read or read to us "twoddly" books. Books that were, perhaps, popular but had no more "meat" to them than a canary. All bright feathers and no use except to provide a little amusement.
My young mind, raised on the classic tales of childhood that never grow old, soon acquired its own voracious appetite for reading. Naturally I looked to the sort of books that had started my love of literature, and before I knew it I had read Little Women a dozen times, worn down the edges of Anne of Green Gables, and could quote pieces of them by heart.
A few years later, spurred onward by mention of these works in the very books I love, I peeped my nose into The Pickwick Papers, never to lose my delight in Dickens. :) My literary tastes have been carefully cultured toward the classics: the best of the best. And I find now that I can't stomach anything less than wonderful books. It is a taste I do not wish to change, and one that I'm blessed I possess. Why would one spend time reading something second-rate when there are thick volumes of tried-and-true novels pining away in dark corners of the library for lack of sufficient modern popularity? It is my mission to hunt up these books and divulge myself of their secrets, then spread round the word and try to renew their popularity amongst my fellow literary friends. :)
There is only one problem though with my loving classic literature so much. Actually, two reasons.
1.) I know good writing when I see it, and I sometimes can't write the way I wish to.
2.) My writing has a decidedly old-fashioned flair which is not so much in vogue at present.

To address issue number one, I can but continue to practice my writing and hope that someday I might write something that may endure through the most critical eye that falls upon it.
Now issue number two. It is something I cannot change, and do not really wish to change. The things and people one loves always color one's own writing. And so among my characters and descriptions you will find distinct impressions of the people and books that have inspired me. I do not mean unoriginality. No indeed. I abhor copying, and even squirm at fan-fiction, feeling that C.S. Lewis and C.S. Lewis alone should write about Narnia. It was *his* world, and ought not to be tampered with.
But I do admit that I gain inspiration and ideas from my reading. My writing is old-fashioned, and there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it made me feel warm and happy when a certain sweet young lady sent me my first real "fan-mail" and said my writing reminded her of Louisa May Alcott.
These authors are the ones I grew up on, the ones I love best, the ones I would give my right hand to be like. So I do not apologize over my style. I merely wonder if it will ever find a publisher, or if it is destined to follow after Anne Shirley's Camelot dreams:
"Romance may have been appreciated in Camelot, but it certainly is not in Avonlea." ;)
And so I wondered, dear readers, if you could recommend any truly great modern books. I love Jan Karon's Mitford series. She has a certain warmth that I can identify readily with. I don't particularly want to read any of those Christian romance novels, as that is not what I write and so I have no need to read them. I am looking for books that possess the beautiful qualities of my hundred-year-old favorites. Noble ideals, clear ideas of good and evil, wit, humor, tenderness, and fantastic story-telling and description.
If you have any recommendations I would love to hear of them! You can leave them in a comment or email me, whichever you would rather.
Perhaps I have hit upon the point though. Perhaps my favorite books will always be resigned to the ranks of respectable antiquity, and my writing will follow after them without gaining much of a following. Who really cares? I will be satisfied and I trust that a kindred spirit or two will read my scribbling, detect the shadow of a mutual friend or two inside the pages, and will think of them fondly as they read.


Anonymous said...


"My writing has a decidedly old-fashioned flair which is not so much in vogue at present."

Well, as you already know how I feel about your writing, I can only nod and say again: Keep plugging away, because your prose is stunning. Your style is beautiful, effortlessly fluid, vivid -- and that Old Fashioned Flair which runs so thickly through your words is its greatest charm. I adore it.

And with your first point I find myself nodding violently and agreeing most strongly. I am never satisfied with my writing; there is always something wrong with it in my mind. I've always got to change just one more thing... Heh. I look forward to the day I can write something and be perfectly content with it. If that day ever comes. :P

Carilyn said...

Hi Rachel!!

You do have a distinctly old-fashioned style. Don't ever try to get rid of it! It is a gift - to be so eloquent, using words that I recognize, but don't remember often until you use them. ;) You always seem to possess a new word to describe exactly how you feel or think. In our culture, that is rare among 'teenagers'. I wish I could write intriguingly, like some of the talented young ladies whose blogs I read. Perhaps it is my lack of reading... I do not actually read much. It is a shame, since I have a ton of books I want to read.

Have you read Swiss Family Robinson? It might not be what you would consider 'modern', but it really is good! A favorite of mine is "A Father's Promise" by Donnalynn Hess. You may have also seen me mention here online "The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare. Oh, also, Elisabeth Elliot writes beautiful books... not novels, but they are excellent!

Your friend,