Friday, February 11, 2011

Zero Book Spending for 10 Months and E. F. Benson's Paying Guests

The Beginning of the Affair
Jeff Bezos and I have broken up. 

Jeff doesn't know it yet.  "Jeff" (Amazon) sent me a free Amazon.com travel mug in 1999 or 2000.  It must be a collectible by now.  I use it as a toothbrush glass.


 
Zero income, zero spending.  That's my new philosophy. Zero Spending on Books.  After reviewing my purchases this month--ten books at various bookstores--I decided this profligacy must stop.

I ripped up my credit card. 
I am also breaking up with Other People. I've been quite a slut.  I'm breaking up with Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other bookstores.  I will no longer buy every book endorsed by excellent reviewers Michael Dirda, Ron Charles, Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin, and Julia Keller.  I SHOULD break up with book bloggers, book discussions, and author interviews.  Instead I plan to read ALL the reviews and record the books that interest me in a small notebook.  I will not instantly buy them. 
 


Ten months, I can do it.

On to E. F. Benson.

E. F. Benson.  Fans of E. F. Benson's Lucia books know these books are classics.  We buy up used copies and send them to friends who have read them who pass them on to other friends who have read them who pass them on to friends who HAVEN'T read them. I discovered the Lucia books in Maryland when I was a teacher at a heavenly snob school. I read Lucia in my garret while my charming students took flying lessons, traveled to Europe, and had their makeup done at Elizabeth Arden.

"Oh, you've got to read them."  My fiance would not read them. He lay in bed sick on Thanksgiving and, between feeding him chicken soup, I read Queen Lucia, Lucia in London, Miss Mapp, Mapp and Lucia, The Worshipful Lucia, and Trouble for Lucia.  Lucia is a snobbish hostess who leads the citizens of Tilling in the arts, bridge, and the annual fete.  She faces serious competition from Mapp and other social climbers.  Who will be the leader?  Even though Lucia is a terrible hypocrite, I love her and always root for her. These books are hilarious.

I've read Lucia so many times that I've moved on to  Benson's other books.  I didn't like the Dodo books, didn't much like Mrs. Ames, and very much disliked An Autumn Sowing

But I am very enthusiastic about his 1929 novel, Paying Guests, which can be downloaded from Internet Archive or Google.

The action revolves around Wentworth, a little hotel at Bolton Spa.  Mrs. Oxney and her sister Amy Bertram run it but the action revolves around the paying guests.  Meet Colonel Chase, an opinionated permanent guest who prides himself on the miles he logs on his pedometer; Miss Howard, an untalented amateur pianist who practices her "improvisation" for a concert; Mrs. Bliss, a Christian Scientist; Mr. Kemp, an invalid, and his daughter Florence, a meek, frustrated, annoying lesbian who wants a life.

Miss Howard is especially funny.  Before she opens an exhibit of her paintings, feigning nervousness, she tells everyone, "So frightened about it.  I shall certainly leave Bolton the day before it opens so as not to hear the unkind things you say about."  

Like Lucia, she is supremely confident.  No one buys her paintings until... 

And when the Colonel, a passionate bicyclist and walker, loses his pedometer, you will be amazed at the machinations  of fellow guests.

Hilairous.  Read it after Lucia, because those are the masterpieces. 

6 comments:

Interpolations said...

I'm terribly embarrassed to say that I've never even hearrd of Benson. But I've shortlisted him now, if only because I find these words of yours splendidly expressed:

"I discovered the Lucia books in Maryland when I was a teacher at a heavenly snob school. I read Lucia in my garret while my charming students took flying lessons, traveled to Europe, and had their makeup done at Elizabeth Arden."

Education as class-system (or caste?) can go in the opposite direction, i.e., teacher as underpaid minion at snop school, etc.

Do you still teach?

Best,
Kevin

Mad Housewife said...

The Lucia books are great!

Yes, the school as caste system is what I experienced. I was a nice girl with a nice degree who didn't have my students' financial opportunities, though I had a good education and people were very nice to me. Many of the teachers were like me in that we were very poor. The school was a great place but I'm one of the many who taught for a few years and then went on to another profession.

Buried In Print said...

::wipes brow::
Awfully glad you're not breaking up with me.
::grins::

I have E.F. Benson on my list, and suspect that it will require some binge reading when I actually take the proverbial plunge into his work.

Frisbee said...

BIP, you're my Canadian expert so I have to stay in good with you. I've got Robert Kroetsch on my list now. :)

Benson's books are such fun that I am thinking aimlessly of reading Lucia again. They're SO short that bingeing is easy!

Susan said...

I've yet to read Benson though I have had a couple loaded on the ereader for awhile.

One of the Benson fans at the Book Balloon forums (I think they are legion there) mentioned Nicholas Coleridge's Pride & Avarice earlier this week. He claims it's like a contemporary male version of Mapp & Lucia.

Frisbee said...

I'll have to look for that. I haven't heard of Nicholas Coleridge.