Bookworm

Run, run, as fast as you can . . .

. . . to the nearest library and get yourself a copy of Parnassus on Wheels.

We discussed it last night at book club, though there's really not much to discuss. We just went around the room going "I loved it!" "Me too!" "Me too!"

I'm not sure I've ever been so insanely jealous of a fictional character in my life as I am of the main character in this one. She's a frumpy middle-aged spinster living on a farm with her brother, who happens to be a very successful author as well as a farmer. The brother frequently goes on jaunts around the countryside to gather material for his next book, leaving her behind to keep up the farm. Helen chafes at the drudgery and the unfairness of it all, but it's 1917 and she doesn't have many options.

One day -- not a spoiler; this is all in the first few pages -- a strange peddlar comes calling at the farm. He's a travelling salesman and his line is books. His horse-drawn caravan, the Parnassus on Wheels, is both his living quarters and his shop. The description of this caravan brought tears of delight to my eyes. Inside there's a little folding table, a chair, cookstove, a place for everything and everything in its place. No inch of space left unused, and all of it clean and neat. Not to mention all the books, which are on the outside, held in by flaps. When he comes to a farm or village he just lifts the flaps and starts selling books. And not just any old books, by the way. His mission is to bring fine literature to rural New England, and he tailors his sales pitches to his audience. There is one farmer to whom he refuses to sell Shakespeare because he's "not ready" for it yet. He is no huckster; he cares deeply about books and people.

The long and the short of it -- again, not a spoiler; this is still in the first few pages -- is that on impulse, Helen purchases the Parnassus, leaves a note for her brother, and goes off clip-clopping around the countryside selling books. Can you think of a more right livelihood than that?

Just in case I haven't convinced you yet, I'll give you a little taste. Here's the opening paragraph:
I wonder if there isn't a lot of bunkum in higher education? I never found that people who were learned in logarithms and other kinds of poetry were any quicker in washing dishes or darning socks. I've done a good deal of reading when I could, and I don't want to "admit impediments" to the love of books, but I've also seen lots of good, practical folk spoiled by too much fine print. Reading sonnets always gives me hiccups, too.

Hiccups!
Isn't she marvelous? Thank you Quillhill and Kate S., who brought this charming book to my attention.

11 Comments:

  • Love the new look! Time for a change again, eh?

    And I'll have to put the book on my to-read list... sounds wonderful.

    posted by Blogger Melissa on 3:33 PM  

  • I really like this new redesign. Very clean, with just the right amount of white space.

    posted by Blogger Phantom Scribbler on 5:24 PM  

  • I love, love, love this book! It posted on it a few weeks ago, and I think I used this same quote - one of the best beginnings I've ever come across. My only qualm was that it was too short. I didn't want to leave!

    posted by Anonymous Ella on 5:32 PM  

  • Love your new look! Who's your designer?

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 6:28 PM  

  • Thanks, y'all! It was time for a change...and a completely different palette.

    Ella, how did I miss your post? I'm so embarrassed.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 7:58 PM  

  • I'm glad that you and the members of your book group loved Parnassus on Wheels. It was Ella's post that first brought the book to my attention. I love the way that these recommendations proliferate around the blogosphere. More great reading for all of us! I've got the sequel, "The Haunted Bookshop," ready to go and I've been told by several Morley fans that they liked it even better than Parnassus. How's that for ratcheting up expectations?

    I like your blog's new look.

    posted by Blogger Kate S. on 8:12 PM  

  • My post is at: http://boxofbooks.typepad.com/box_of_books/2005/11/morley_introduc.html#comments

    and as a special bonus, there are some great Morley recommendations in the comments!

    posted by Anonymous Ella on 8:32 PM  

  • To hear of Morley being read and enjoyed by a whole new group of readers, especially almost one hundred years later, is wonderful! He is certainly the most underappreciated writer I know of. (Of course, that I don't know of them all just goes to prove that there are others even more underappreciated.)

    posted by Blogger Quillhill on 8:47 PM  

  • I dont believe it..but I found this http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=MorParn.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1
    is it the same one you are talking about ?

    posted by Blogger Dips on 6:24 AM  

  • Thank YOU for another goodie to add to my list. I've been posting less often than once/wk, as per yoru plea, but I see no Julie presence. I'm glad that it is due to your burgeoning business! :)

    posted by Blogger GEL on 4:49 AM  

  • Ooh, I have to pick the the next selection for our book club. This one sounds like it might fit the bill!

    posted by Blogger Anita on 4:50 PM