Moscow firemen in 1913 (according to teh interwebz)
Ah, it's 1913. There'll never be another war. Although if you live in Mexico, Pancho Villa is leading a revolution. If you are Emily Davison, British suffragette, you make a slight miscalculation and are trampled to death by a race horse as you attempts to drop a banner on it. If you're a Norwegian woman, though, you may now vote. If you are the House of Lords, you reject an Irish Home Rule bill, and then on "Bloody Sunday" police injure 400 people in Dublin. If you live in New York, you get a new, uglier Grand Central Terminal and also the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world! If you live in Dayton, Ohio, a flood destroys your home. You lucky American, you may also smoke your first packaged cigarette (a Camel.) If you are a balletomane in Paris, you riot when you see Diaghilev's Rite of Spring, set to Stravinsky. If you are tired of the Ottoman empire, you attend an Arab conference with other Arab nationalists. If you are Black in South Africa, you are officially outlawed from owning land. If you live in Copenhagen, you enjoy a beautiful new statue of The Little Mermaid. If you are a miner in Wales, you may be killed in an explosion; if you are an Indian miner in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi leads you on a march. If you are Greece, you annex Crete, which had just barely shaken off Turkey. If you are Woodrow Wilson, you sign the Federal Reserve into existence. If you are Yuan Shikai, you are the first elected president of the Republic of China.
But what will you read to while away the hours?
Virginia by Ellen Glasgow
A forgotten masterpiece about a woman named Virginia from Virginia who has an "ordinary" life with marriage and children. The downfall of this marvelous book: racism. My long review here.
It's on the table, next to my cat.
Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (also called The Wanderer)
I read this book in 1998 and I remember how beautiful and haunting it was and what a special experience it was to read it, but I remember almost nothing about the plot. There was a little boy. . . another boy. . . a school. . . a house. . . a party. . . . a girl. . . a journey. That might not even be right. It wasn't about the plot. I think it was about innocence.
I just inherited my mother's two copies, one in English and one in French. I remember we talked about it when I read it and she told me how much she loved this novel. You can tell she loved it, because she didn't read French but she had a French copy.
From L to R: my original copy, my mom's copy, my mom's copy in French.
Sons & Lovers by DH Lawrence
I read this in the mid-1990's, so once again I don't remember it well. It's about a sensitive, artistic boy who doesn't fit into his working class family (his father is a miner?) but he's very close to his mother. As I recall, there is some sex and it seemed very emotionally authentic.
The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter
I did read this as a child, but what I chiefly remember is that we had a record of Claire Bloom reading it out loud. She really gave a killer performance, bringing all the depth and meaning to the surface. The parts I remember best: "Beware of bacon, cream, and eggs. Always walk on your hind legs!" and the ending (sorry for spoiler) "Over the hills and far away, she danced with Pigling Bland." I think it's about a pig who goes on an errand, gets into trouble, meets another pig, and they escape.
The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum
One of three books the prolific Baum published in 1913. I remember this as one of the best of the Oz books. The Patchwork Girl is a stuffed doll brought to life for the convenience of humans, similar to the Scarecrow. My brother pointed out what a terrible conundrum it is that Ojo the Unlucky must break the most important rule of Oz (do not harm any living creatures) in order to save his uncle's life.
The Little Nugget by PG Wodehouse
Every book I have read by PG Wodehouse has been charming and diverting, and this was no exception. Until now I have mostly read Jeeves books so I was surprised at the differences in this one—specifically, that there was gunplay, a proper romance, and the main character was of near-average intelligence. There were two butlers though—but there’s something suspicious about one of them! My favorite character was Smooth Sam Fisher. The book design was lovely--the publisher was Overlook. Unfortunately there is one use of the “n word” which I think a good editor should take out in the next edition. Oh, I should say, the novel is about a kidnapping, or a series of attempted kidnappings. Agatha Christie said this was her favorite Wodehouse novel. But Wodehouse was very offended by this because he had written dozens more since then, so he thought that meant she hadn't read any of his later work. I bet she did, but she just liked this the best.
Up Next: More of the Best of 1913!