My Peace Palace

Some books are to be tasted, others are to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but curiously, but some few to be read wholly, and with dilligence and attention.  Francis Bacon

This is a quote I could have used in my previous post, The bookshelf, where I described the different categories of books I have. This post is more about my comfort zone, that place I go to when I want to unwind. I believe the word peace palace would cover what this place means to me. It’s a library I have collected since childhood.

I am continuing the book challenge I started last year. I explained last year’s challenge in The book challenge.  I haven’t read that many books so far this year, partly because I am a very slow reader, and partly because I have read mostly non-fiction books. Those are always more challenging to me. Non-fiction books are fascinating, but also necessary. They are a part of a healthy diet, but I do love candy. When I eat for comfort I return to the books from my childhood. These are some of the books I have read this year:

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
The Island of Doctor Moreau
Tarzan of the Apes
The Swiss Family Robinson
Several Agatha Christie novels
Several books from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a series of five books)

The first two books on the list are very amusing, and having a daughter myself I know the feeling Marilla Cuthbert probably had when she felt she should be stern with Anne, but wanted to laugh herself silly at all the crazy things her daughter said and did. Lucy Maud Montgomery must have had a lot of fun writing those books.

I loved the books about Tarzan as a child and I think they are still worth reading. I sometimes hear people saying that children today shouldn’t read books like Tarzan and Huck Finn because they are racist. They haven’t understood Mark Twain at all if they think he supported slavery, but Tarzan is racist and sexist. The world was racist and sexist when Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the books about Greystoke. I’m not sure how much of the racism was the author himself and how much was the culture he grew up in, but maybe that isn’t important. I think we should be allowed to enjoy the story today, but by all means explain and criticise the aspects that are not acceptable. These books are in fact a good way to teach about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.

I have more problems with authors like the Norwegian Knut Hamsun, who wrote some wonderful books in the 1890’s, but as an old man in the 1940’s he repeatedly expressed an admiration for Adolf Hitler. This continued to the very end with his laudatory obituary to Hitler in a Norwegian newspaper, which was published the day before Norway was officially liberated. I know some have problems with Edgar Allan Poe for a similar reason. He married his first cousin when he was 26 and she was exactly half his age. As if this wasn’t creepy enough they had known each other since she was 7 years old, and I wonder if he saw her as a possible wife that early.

When you go back in time there may be questionable things about many authors because there were questionable things about they society they lived in, but the two mentioned authors are too creepy for me to enjoy their books. I believe they went farther than influence from the world they lived in could explain, and we should be careful about making excuses and allowing people to use their talent to cover an immoral character. Fortunately there are more than enough authors for the bookshelves in my peace palace.

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