Agatha Goes on a Little Trip

When I was shopping for Christmas books, I picked up what looked like an interesting book on the sale table.  I just finished reading The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie.  In February 1922 Christie, her husband, Archie, and others left on what we would call a trade mission.  They went to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada with a vacation stop in Hawaii.  They got back to England on December 1st.  Christie wrote letters home as a kind of diary.  Her grandson, Mathew Prichard, put them together with photographs (largely taken by Christie) interspersed with excerpts from her autobiography.

agatha

The Grand Tour provides the reader with a glimpse of the British empire in the days when change was just starting in the colonies.  People are judged by how “British” they are; natives are treated as exotic.  There are tensions between the members of the mission.  There are injuries and illnesses.  I found her descriptions of the landscapes the most interesting.  For example her description of Wellington harbor:

Great mountains all around coming down to the water’s edge – the far off ones with snow on them.  Blue sky and deep blue water and Wellington itself nestling on the side of the mountain.

But the best part was learning about Agatha Christie as a young woman.  I don’t know about you, but I think of her as either Miss Marple or the older woman in many of her pictures, a little stout and stern.

older-agatha

But on the trip she thinks nothing of going off on an 11 mile hike, she golfs, and, most surprising, she learns to surf.  My image of her will never be the same.

If you have ever read any Christie mysteries and you like travel stories, you would enjoy reading The Grand Tour.

 

Photograph from Prezi.com

 

Reading Dickens and other stuff

I haven’t written about books for a long time but I am always reading more than one book at a time.  So here is what I’ve been reading the last week or so.

We all know that at Christmas time there are endless versions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on television, but when, if ever, was the last time you actually read the book?  I was probably in my early teens when I read it last.  This year we decided to purchase a copy which I just finished reading last week.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It is nicely illustrated by Greg Hildebrant who used as models various friends and relations.

Dickens wrote in his 1843 introduction

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.

I think we should all read it and/or watch our favorite movie version at least once a year.  (Here is one persons opinion of the 10 best television and film versions.)  It can teach us something about tolerance and old fashioned Charity.

One of my retirement projects is trying to figure out what books we actually own.  I had the idea of creating my own database and then stumbled upon LibraryThing.  It is a nifty online way to not only keep track of your books, but also to share with others.  You can post reviews, read what others think, and there are a lot of queries and statistics to play with.  Turns out to be a lot of fun in addition to being useful and easy to use.  You can also request free books in exchange for a review.  The book I reviewed for December was “Crime of Privilege” by Walter Walker.  It is a mystery which will be released soon.  Do not spend your money on this thinly disguised Kennedy family mash-up.  So far there is one other review posted and it is not good either.

Crime of Privilege: A Novel by Walter Walker

I am about half way through John Barry’s book about Roger Williams and separation of church and state.  It is fascinating history beginning in England and James’ efforts to make the Church of England more orthodox and more Catholic.

Roger Williams and the Creation of the…

Highly recommended.

And in between Barry, I am re-reading some Georgette Heyer.  Did you know there is a third book to what is called the Alastair trilogy? (“These Old Shades”, “Devil’s Cub” and “The Infamous Army”)  I’ve just ordered volume 3.  Heyer is still readable and fun.  Her stories remind me of  film comedies where people get into impossible situations but somehow all turns out right.  I have fun imagining them as movies.

It is getting cold out so pick up a book and curl up and read.

The facts against what people “know”

I’ve written several posts about this subject including the recent “Misinformation and the disappearance of the moderate Republican” and the earlier “Keeping the Faith”.   Both discussed the uphill if not futile effort to fight misinformation with facts and the impact this has on democracy.

I have been reading Angels and Ages:  A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life by Adam Gopnik.  It has been my train book for the last month or so.  Fascinating book and lots to think about.  Coming home today, I came across this quote on page 186:

Science – scientific reasoning – seems to me an instrument that will lag far, far behind.  For look here, the earth has been thought to be flat.  It was true, so it still is today, for instance, between Paris and Asnieres.  Which however does not prevent science from proving that the earth is principally round. Which no one contradicts nowadays.

But notwithstanding this they persist nowadays in believing that life is flat and runs from birth to death.  However, life too is probably round, and very superior in expanse and capacity to the hemisphere we know at present.

                                               Vincent van Gogh, June 1888

“Science – Scientific reasoning – seems to me an instrument that will lag far, far behind.”  We still have people who believe the earth is flat, just as we have those that still believe that President Obama was not born in the United States and is a Muslim.  Just a people still believe that the health care reform bill will lead to death panels for Grandma.

My point is that difficulty is using facts to persuade is not a new phenomena.  Van Gogh, an artist not a scientist or philosopher or politician recognized this.  I don’t know if this cheers me up or depresses me even more.