Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Radicals' Charity Book Sale

The Left got me again. Yup, twice a year it happens. I spent one hundred dollars at the Charity Book Sale and came home with two boxes of books and the smug feeling of having supported a good cause. Obama speaks on the new health care plan today; I'm celebrating and supporting his politics by buying used books from his supporters.

The book sale is held in a building the size of an airport: 400,000 books.

It's the event of the spring and though I didn't wear an evening gown (never having had one, having skipped proms and weddings), I felt like a queen as I plucked a number of rare books from the 1920s through '60s section.

First up: Della T. Lutes' The Country Kitchen and Home Grown.

My aunt raised me on Della T. Lutes' Millbrook. Well, not literally, but she saw to it that every woman in our family read this charming 1938 memoir/history of a small town in Michigan in the 19th century. The Country Kitchen, which I've been looking for for years, is part narrative, part recipes. The previous owner of the book--"To Betty from Floyd, February 14, 1939"--neatly penciled opposite the Contents page a list of the recipes: apple dowdy, chicken fricassee, marble cake, rhubarb pie, sour milk & soda biscuits, and more. For an example of Lutes' plain but fascinating prose, here is the beginning of Chapter 2, "Winter Wears On":

"'As the days begin to lengthen, then the cold begins to strengthen.' That was in the almanac. We stay closely housed. There is little to be done outside except chores. Cows are milked, horses bedded and fed, all animals kept warm and comfortable. The barn smells agreeably of hay and grain and of animal flesh. The sound of munching hay and moving feet is pleasant and assuring. The fowls venture but seldom outside their coop. Warmed water, warm meal mash with a little red pepper in it, and shelled corn are given them night and morning. The water in their drinking pans freezes in between."

Home Grown looks equally riveting. It seems to be more narrative than food writing, however, more like Millbrook, a book I swear by and even once tried to pitch to Virago (or Persephone or Bloomsbury Group: honestly I can't remember!).

Then there is my beloved Ruth Suckow:

Ruth Suckow is an Iowa writer who wrote in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. I blogged about her here (and elsewhere). Not as good as Willa Cather or Susan Glaspell, she is still a very likable and effective chronicler of small-town life at the turn of the 20th century in plain minimalist prose. I am a card-carrying member of The Ruth Suckow Society.

I also found a copy of Gone with the Wind, a book my mother and grandmother loved. I didn't really like it much when I read it at 15 but this pop novel certainly influenced them. I was given a Scarlett O'Hara doll and still have it somewhere.

And Howard Spring is the author of My Son, My Son. I don't know this book at all.

A productive day, though I'm now all covered with bookish dust.


Buried In Print said...

Oh, this looks just wonder+ful!

Frisbee said...

It certainly was!

Ellen said...

The copy of Gone with the Wind is the one I read at age 12-13.

Good memories,

Anonymous said...

I say this gently, and with ALL DUE RESPECT, a 15 year old is not old enough to truly appreciate "Gone With the Wind". You have to be old enough to have had life beaten you down a peg or two; more experiences behind you, many of them harsh and hard. Then, and only then, can you truly appreciate how absolutely fearless, focused and razor-sharp Scarlett O'Hara was in an age when women like her simply did not exist. I don't know how old you are now, but if you are beyond say, 40; I urge you to go back and read it again. **I PROMISE YOU**, you will read a completely different book than you did at age 15. Same with "The Wizard of Oz"--totally different movie beyond age 40. You are so *very lucky* to have that copy of "Gone With the Wind".--Respectfully, Belle