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Tag Archives: Carl Sandburg

Here’s a Bucket List Anyone Can Afford

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr Stream

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours’ Flickr Stream

Is there anybody alive who hasn’t heard of Bucket Lists, as in the bucket that shall be kicked by every one of us? I thought not. Between out-of-the-way places to visit or rare experiences to arrange, it can be very expensive to get out of this world. You may have no money left for that genuine Viking funeral you wanted. Pity.

Have no fear. Here’s a list anyone can afford, and you needn’t wait until you’re middle-aged to start. I call it the Bucket Book List. All you need is a library, a library card and a list of classic books you wish to read before meeting your Maker. Heck, they don’t even really need to be classics. Just books you’ve always wanted to read. They can be fiction or non-fiction or poetry. Read a cookbook if you’d like. And if you MUST, you can buy them if you wish.

Actually, I prefer buying. Books make wonderful companions and look marvelous in bookcases or just stacked up on a desk or the floor. And they’re a whole lot less expensive than airfare to Borneo. Or Chicago for that matter. But it’s more than the money. It’s like time-travel. Exploring the greatest stories and ideas from human history. Ideas and stories that get deep inside your mind and into your very soul. Ideas that shaped civilizations. Stories that escorted you into dreams. And still can.

I’m working on my Bucket Book list now. I am 60 after all. The Bible says I have about ten more years to go. I’m hoping for more. Whatever the actual number is, it’s past time to get going. There’s so much to read. I like both fiction and non-fiction so I’ll need two lists to start. Well, three actually. I like so-called “children’s” books. So I’ll need adult fiction, children’s fiction and non-fiction. Should I sub-divide things any further? I probably will.

For now, in fiction, I’m looking at the Divine Comedy by Dante, Paradise Lost by John  Milton, The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, of course. Oh, and don’t forget Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In non-fiction I’ve got Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization (not all 10 volumes, though), Churchill’s The History of the English Speaking Peoples and Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg. I will also be putting together a list of American classics as well as children’s classics. I’ve got some work ahead of me.

So what do you think out there? Does this sound like a good idea? Let me know what you think. Tell me what books you’d put on your list. Or give me a few additions for my own. I’ll keep you posted as I develop this further.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

 

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We Need An American Canon

Philadelphians celebrating Independence Day. 1819.

Philadelphians celebrating Independence Day. 1819. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again Independence Day (or “The Fourth  of July” as many still call it) is upon us. It’s that most American of national holidays, a time for picnics, parades, fireworks and patriotic songs. We go camping, take in a movie, take advantage of the special sales at the malls, get together with friends and family, and make sure we eat such “American” food as hamburgers, hot dogs and apple pie. And maybe, just maybe, we give a thought to what it all means while we watch the fireworks dancing in the night sky. Something to do with the birth of our nation, right?

This year there is a heavier feel to this usually festive holiday. There is a division among the people of this Union. A very deep one. On a day that is supposed to remind us of our identity as a nation, the weight of political ideologies and cultural differences rend that identity like an old flag. Can anything be done?

Perhaps.

Being the Old Book Junkie, I was going through some of my books on American folklore this morning. One that I particularly like, “American Folklore and Legend,” (The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1978), has an introductory article by Horace Beck, who was Professor of American Literature at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. In his remarks, I think, we can find both a partial reason for the divide and a path to lead our nation back onto a common road again:

Americans, more than most other people, have always sought a sense of identity. Among nations whose origins go back thousands of years, the search for identity is not difficult, but to us it is, for we are a society composed of many national; backgrounds, many languages, many customs. . . Yet we all wish to be recognized as “Americans.”

In most countries tradition, based to a very large extent in folklore, history, and geography, has grown up over the centuries. Unfortunately, the U.S. is too young a country, and its inhabitants too diverse in character and too much on the move, for a folk tradition of the Old World type to have grown up.

Perhaps it’s time we started to re-tell America’s unique folktales and legends, both to ourselves and our children. Even more, maybe it’s time for our schools to require their students to read more of classic American writers such as Mark Twain, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry W. Longfellow, Carl Sandburg, and Edgar Allen Poe, to name but a few.

I think it’s time for an American Canon of national literature. We need stories that can bring us together as a people rather than ideological narratives that divide us. Putting such a canon together could be a national project that itself might get us communicating and working together. Our country has a treasury of stories, poetry and essays hidden in libraries and schools, barely noticed or mentioned for years. It’s past time for them to see the light of our classrooms once more.

Horace Beck, in concluding his introduction, writes about “uncovering the foundation of our shared sense of national unity.” It’s 35 years since he wrote those words and we’re rapidly running out of time to find it.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Education, History, Ideas, Uncategorized, Worries

 

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The Word in the Wilderness

The Garden and the WildernessI’ve had a very successful week or so as far as finding some great books at thrift stores and library sales. Fortunately I’ve had the means to purchase the ones I really wanted. Not that any of these were particularly expensive, but times are a bit tight, after all. I’ll be doing another post soon to share these finds, but I wanted to do this post on one book that really started me thinking.

Now, this book isn’t anything rare or expensive. Nothing like that at all. But it is somewhat unique in that I doubt you would find anything like it being published today. Or used, for that matter. The book is titled “The Garden and the Wilderness,” and it was published in 1973 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It was a high school textbook in a series from HBJ called “Literature: Uses of the Imagination.”

What this textbook does is take excerpts from the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (from The New English Bible, one of my favorite translations) and arranges them with writings from such authors as Carl Sandburg, Edwin Muir, Dylan Thomas, Loren Eiseley and William Blake, among others. The selections include essays, poetry, plays, short stories and folk songs. As the book’s introduction explains:

The Bible has enormous importance historically and as a sacred book. but it is also literature, with a central place in any serious study of the works of the human imagination. We hope that in years to come you will be stimulated to move from this volume and its companions to the Bible itself, and that some of you will even study the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek as paths to the rich absorbing writings found there.

Amazing.

Nearly 40 years ago, this textbook was used in some school, I can’t say for sure if it was a public or parochial school, though my hunch is that it was a public school. Here’s my question: Do you think such a book would find a place in any public school today? Would studying the rich themes of the “book of books” be considered too religious for our children? Despite the role these words played in the founding of our civilization?

In our increasingly secular American society, faith themes and ideas are increasingly marginalized, pushed aside, forgotten and ignored. The “war” isn’t on Christmas, but on religion in general.

The Word is, indeed, in the wilderness.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Education, Ideas, Old Books

 

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What Do You Read on the Fourth of July?

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of R...

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realize this may be a rhetorical question. After all, who actually reads on the Fourth? What with picnics and barbecues and trips to the beach or lake, who has time to read, right? Well, maybe the Declaration of Independence, but beyond that?

Yes, I did read the Declaration earlier today. It is still a remarkable piece of writing that retains its strength and relevance for our day. I’ve also been perusing a book called “American Fairy Tales: From Rip Van Winkle to the Rootabaga Stories,” compiled by Neil Philip (Hyperion, 1998.) This is a collection of fairy and fantasy tales by some of America’s finest writers: Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, L. Frank Baum, and Carl Sandburg are just a few of the writers included. The wonders of the American imagination are on full display in this book.

So, if you were going to read something today that represented the American spirit of freedom and independence, what would you choose? Heaven knows, our country has been blessed with some amazing authors. Who would you choose? Would you pick stories from history, or fiction?

What stories speak to you of our country?

 

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