Literary Kindred Spirits

Five Photos, Five Stories #2

Challenge Rules: I am to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem, or a short paragraph.

I am relentless when I desperately want a friend to read something terrific. Such was the case with my friend, Louise, and Margery Sharp’s  “The Innocents.” It’s a quiet little book which in its slow build-up to a most shocking (and satisfying) conclusion brilliantly exposes the human condition, for better and worse.

Margery Sharp, Nancy Mitford and many of the other great British authors one never finds in the Costco bins were quite the topic of animated conversation around the dinner table that evening. Sharp and Mitford have nothing in common, really, other than they share a confidence that their reader is at least as bright as they are. This is an irresistibly rare trait and one sorely lacking in much of what I read today. I despise being bludgeoned with the symbolism cudgel while reading. I get it already!, I want to shout.

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Eventually Louise found the Margery Sharp novel in a second-hand bookstore in Texas. And when she brought it home, to her immense surprise, out fell the obituary for the other author under discussion that bookish evening, Miss Nancy Mitford. Of course Louise sent her serendipitous find to me immediately. These moments when the universe whispers must be shared at once.

It warms my heart to imagine an unknown literary kindred spirit clipping the obituary of one favorite author and tucking it safely into the pages of another.

Tell me. What treasures might you have come across in the pages of a book?

I’m supposed to invite another blogger to join in on this challenge. If you want to, please do. 

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About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. Blogging about whatever happens to catch my fancy - sometimes nonsense, occasionally not.
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78 Responses to Literary Kindred Spirits

  1. suzicate says:

    That is so cool. I love stories like that! I have not read anything by either author. I will have to check them out.

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  2. joannesisco says:

    I’m afraid that your literary tastes might be a bit sophistocated for me. I’m the kind of person who normally needs to be smacked with the symbolism otherwise I’m not likely going to get it. I’m just looking for a good story, well told, and ideally it will make me laugh a few times.

    However, I also love coincidences and your friend finding Nancy Mitford’s obituary in Margery Sharp’s novel is just too delicious!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nancy Mitford would make you howl with laughter – she is deliciously evil. Sharp, not so much, but her books are really thought-provoking without being dull and dreary.

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    • Outlier Babe says:

      No treasures, Barbara, other than literal ones: When younger, I would hide paper dollars inside the leaves of my own books, knowing how easily I would forget they were there, and how delighted I would be when I later re-discovered them. Little did I know that my sister Meg, with whom I shared a room, knew of my habit, and often took delight in discovering them long afore me.

      (This is part of a little story I wrote…somewhere…)

      I’ll add Mitford to my list–that lengthy list I have not gotten to…

      Greene isn’t over your head. I just think he sucks–he’s deadly dull, is the problem. I’ve tried to slog through him twice, and failed both times. This was back when I still had some energy, and more smarts.

      That “fugue” thing: I am torn. I hate to ruin the flow of my writing to explain what some words mean. But it is only since I began doing that that I began picking up readers. For a few days, once, I looked at what the most frequent search terms were on google, and people were searching vocabulary–easy vocabulary–used in current news items. That’s when I decided to start my little practice. I”m not consistent about it but…I LIKE being a teacher, and I HATE that people are so ignorant. It often isn’t their fault. Anything I can do to help. It’s also, partly, why I try to write as simply as I do, in shorter sentences and smaller words. (I’ll use any excuse.)

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      • Well, bless your heart, Babe. It makes me feel better that somebody with your smarts can’t get through GG either. Are there authors out there who fall into the “Emperor Has No Clothes” category? Not suggesting that those who love him, don’t….but maybe, just maybe, some insecure readers might be afraid to admit otherwise. I constantly have to remind myself that no two people ever read the same book.
        But, Babe, why would you want readers who don’t understand “fugue?” Explain, please. And I’m not being disingenuous, I am a Curious George.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Outlier Babe says:

        (1) I want readers.

        (2) When my first young teen followed, and I went to her blog (this was back when I had time to GO to the blog of each new follower–haven’t done even THAT in a few months) I found that her vocabulary was impoverished. It made me feel sad.

        (3) I got feedback from a friend I am extremely fond of that even he wouldn’t read my posts because of length/complexity unless they looked really simple and sexy, basically. And this friend is, possibly, genius level, and has one of the more robust vocabularies of anyone I’ve known.

        (4) I’d seen, as I’d perused other blogs, how a dismal number of blogs used impoverished vocabulary and feeble or even error-filled grammar and spelling.

        This all kind of added up to why one would make their blog accessible to the blind, if one could–pictures and all, that is. An issue of accessibility. And my role, which feels innate, as teacher. My friend Millie says about me that I am a teacher–that this is a part of who I am, no matter what else I am doing.

        Blathering done. Except I still don’t know if I’m going to continue doing it.

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      • Impoverished vocabulary. I so love that. I assume from what I glean from the comments on your posts that you have readers – and pretty smart ones at that. This whole blogging thing is something we need to discuss at length sometime –perhaps in a different venue.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mitfords. Shockingly British. We lack such characters today.

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    • We do. You know we Americans rather love the shockingly British. Except for that Hitler-loving sister – what was her name? – I find the rest of the brood fascinating.

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      • Unity? But I guess even she was interesting. What about the Sitwells? Can you imagine being called sacheverell Sitwell? L
        Actually, for all you kicked us out, some of you do seem interested in us. I think it’s the eccentricity and the way we defy convention in a way that doesn’t sit right (or Sitwell?) for you? Don’t know, guessing here.

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      • Sitwell! Exactly. At the Westie event we attended Sunday, we met an exceedingly British lady with two little Westie girls. “Gulls, gulls!” She was calling them. And she spoke about them in a very disapproving manner saying what dreadful little beasts they were while clearly she adored them. British reserve and understatement is immensely appealing to this American. And yes, it was Unity. What a headcase that one was.

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      • I have had emails with an American where I have tried to explain all that. Dry, phlegmatic, sarcastic, and it doesn’t seem to get across. I could be talking Mandarin. Or llanito 😀

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      • You just made me google llanito. Now I am armed with another morsel of information to wow them at trivia games.
        As to the “getting it”, it could be because I have immersed myself in English books for so long that I take it much less literally. The contrast between the American Westie moms and the Brit was hilarious. “Who’s mama’s sweet little girl?” vs. “What a ridiculous little beast she is!” I know who I’d rather have a cuppa with.

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  4. markbialczak says:

    Sometimes the universe just knows, Barbara. How perfectly … perfect.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. nrhatch says:

    The Universe shares a commonality with Sharp and Mitford and other literary kindreds ~> it never resorts to a bludgeon when a wink, whisper, or nudge will suffice.

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  6. A wonderful bit of Serendipity, Barbara, but did Louise enjoy the novel as much as you hoped she might? I rarely take time for fiction, but you might convert me one of these days, Barbara. Your taste is impeccable. But $50 for a rose? really? and you’re blaming me??? I’m thrilled to have inspired you to go to that expense to have English shrub roses of your own 😉 Now I hope your small shrub takes and grows into a great and generous rosebush showering you with fragrant roses every May 😉 Remember to offer it a little Epsom salts (1/2 c.) each spring. (The bare root roses are roughly half that ordered from their website, and less if you use a coupon) And here is a link back to my first day of this fascinating challenge, Barbara. Thank you for asking me. Giant hugs, WG ❤

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    • I saw you mentioned the Mika B. book earlier which I would find interesting. I enjoy her. Yes, $49 something for the rose at Strange’s on Broad. You are a much better shopper than I am! Bareroot okay to plant in fall?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe that DA will ship again in spring. You might call them to check… I always order around February and get great deals with the coupons in gardening magazines. Mika’s book is quite good, and yes, you would enjoy it, I’m sure. It is fast reading, and her insights are pithy. She has had a rough time of it. Most successful men have wives supporting them. The dynamic is completely different for most successful women, however. We have to get away from the notion that women “have to work,” and re-frame the issue as women with a calling/mission/ passion who want to make something more of their lives than just family relationships. Men are not called on to choose between a successful career and family. Why should a woman be put into that position? Mika’s book raises some intriguing questions. Wish it had been there for me 30 years ago 😉

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    • And yes, Louise did like the book very much. I always have to remind myself that no two people ever read the same book, right? We all bring our own impressions and history to the table and so I must constantly remind myself not to bully!! “You might enjoy this book” , I need to say instead of “Read this or else!!”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    I see my comment didn’t go through. Something is messed up with my notification tab. Argh. I had mentioned that the only things I’ve found inside books are a shopping list, a dollar, and lots of food smudges. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, Carrie, thank you so much for trying again. Have you read “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks? I loved that novel – very much along the theme of “things found in books.” Hope your WP glitch is a temporary one. I found once that all my comments were ending up in spam folders which…come to think of it might just be an editorial comment by WordPress!

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      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Ha, I doubt that. WP would never treat such a nice blogger that way. 🙂

        I’ll see if this comment goes through my notification area (that’s where I usually respond to comments from). If not, I’ve copied it so I can paste it onto your site directly. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

        And yes, I have read ‘People of the Book.’ Loved it!

        (And for the record, this comment did not got through. But I had it copied, so I came over here to paste it. Take that WP!)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have reached a stage where my reading habits are ad- hoc. I’ll open the book at random and read a few pages. The words appeal or if they don’t I might just close the book and re-open willy nilly anywhere. ( more willy than nilly) Of course, if there is a plot it makes it even more intriguing.
    A well written book ought to be readable at any page.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just yesterday I was leafing through Wodehouse -randomly stopping here and there to cull some quotes for an upcoming post – and you’re absolutely right, Gerard. It’s readable no matter where you pick it up. How often do you now find yourself thinking hmmmm, this seems rather familiar. Have I read this before? Which of course you have.

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  9. Very cool, indeed! I may have to give Mitford a go myself…sounds like a winner!

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  10. Oh Gosh, I so relate.
    Part of what’s hard about writing is that you’re always drawing a line somewhere between being presumptuous about your reader’s intelligence (or cultural knowledge) and trying not to insult them by implying that they don’t know what you think they should know. Seriously. I often shudder at the thought that intelligent fiction is thrown out in favor of what pleases the moronic masses.
    In contradiction to that, I’m reading Jennifer Weiner’s Certain Girls. I always enjoy her. She’s light and easy, and exactly what I want right now.
    I haven’t found anything fabulous in my used books. They must do a better job than the library, because I often find a receipt or a grocery list in those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This whole subject is such a hot-button one for me. Did you see Carrie Rubin’s post where a beta-reader asked her to remove the word “fugue” because it was too inaccessible for most? Really. I understand the word and rather like it. If you don’t, how about you look it up? I’m writing a post/rant on the subject which is nowhere near being ready to publish as I haven’t sufficiently self-flogged my way through it. Regarding Jennifer Weiner. I don’t know her and pass no judgment because I simply adore P.G. Wodehouse. Funniest, snarkiest writer to ever pick up a pen. Good writing doesn’t have to be serious is my point. Wodehouse is light and easy too although his writing is so skillful that anybody who loves English would just rejoice in his dexterous use of it. And believe me, I’m no brainiac. I can’t read Iris Murdoch or Graham Greene both so far over my head, it’s ridiculous. Anyway, I think you should write to yourself. Not to the person you can’t even stand to have lunch with because they are so dull.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Barbara, this harkens back to one of the first, if not THE first blogersation we had. I believe you were writing about something you had found in the drawer of an old dresser and I told you that my sister once found $60 in a library book. That remains the best find on my side to date. Feel free to update me on any interesting reads. I will have to look for The Innocents in my local library,

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    • What a great memory you have Marissa. Yes, I remember that too. I think $60 in a library book is great – but what about finding things like an old love letter or a pressed flower? Not that I ever have, mind you, but would so love it if I did. Carrie says she found a shopping list. Where is the romance in this world, I ask you? Sheesh!

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      • Oh yes, I completely agree. Money doesn’t have any sentimental value. Now that I think about it, I may have found a wallet sized photo of a child. I find a lot of these lying around in houses I’ve moved into but think one may have actually been in a book. Also, alot of markings, notes, underlining, actually on the pages.

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  12. I knew Sharp had written the ‘Rescuer’ stuff, but had not read any of her work. I’ll look in my favourite book shipper’s list to see if they have anything. Mitford always makes me laugh…her sharp observation of the assumptions of her social class.

    And it has to be said that after yet another encounter with what the French laughingly call customer service while living in France it was comforting to mutter to oneself ‘Wogs begin at Calais…’.

    I can’t remember…do you like Barbara Pym? Equally close observation of a set lower down the social scale…

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    • Pym is firmly in place on my TBR list. I will get to her someday and probably kick myself for not doing so earlier. Do you remember Mitford’s Uncle Matthew and his list of U and non-U words? I knew I loved her right there and then because in my years of selling real estate it irritated immensely when we were said to sell “homes.” No. we sell houses, people. When you move in and plop the giant turkey in the oven, then it becomes a home.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I love “moments when the Universe whispers”… 🙂

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  14. Probably the most interesting thing (to me, at least) I’ve come across in a book happened three years ago while reading Philip Sheridan’s autobiography. Tucked inside was 1905 tax bill from the borough of East Stroudsburg, Pa. I did a bit of research and the bill had been sent to a man who had almost certainly served in the Union cavalry during the Civil War under Sheridan. It’s seems likely that the book, which was quite musty, had not been perused much, or at all, in the century-plus since the former cavalryman had spent time reading about the exploits of his former commander. I thought it interesting enough to write a post about it: https://southcarolina1670.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/what-a-union-veteran-was-reading-circa-1905/

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I always love a good book tip, have to look into it. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nancy Mitford is one of my favorite! Occasionally call people “Counter Hons.” Have you read “Don’t Tell Alfred?” It’s a continuation of “Love in a Cold Climate,” focusing on Fanny. The only Margery Sharp is “Cluny Brown,” and that was years and years ago. I must remember to try others.

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  17. It’s too sad to realize you won’t have time to read or write everything you want to. I always have several books going at once, but I need to poke myself to understand it isn’t a competition. I have found a number of things tucked into used books, but one I treasure is a small poem my mother wrote, a line of which says “if they remember me sometime, I hope they say I was fun.” It says a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. bkpyett says:

    What a lovely story of happenstance!

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  19. I picked up a book about southwestern Minnesota ghost stories at a used book sale because one story in particular interested in me. It was about a young girl who was buried alive. My Aunt Marilyn grew up in the area where this legendary event occurred and loved to scare me with the tale. Upon getting the book home, I opened the cover to find the name Marilyn written inside. Yeah, gives you chills, doesn’t it?

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  20. Angie Mc says:

    I have found very old postcards in books, and old prayer cards. Nothing nearly as cool as this find!

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  21. “What treasures might you have come across in the pages of a book?”

    Well, I live with three boys so Biscuit Crumbs, Chocolate Stains and Pokemon Cards are the usual order of the day. If the Chocolate Stain is lickable, that’s a win.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Never heard of either. My shortcoming. Hopefully a lot of short words, not those 8 cylinder, er, syllable, jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Chloris says:

    I love Nancy too and have read all her books. If you like English eccentrics have you come across E. F. Benson? He wrote several books set in a small town and they are pure delight. Mapp and Lucia is a good one to start with. They are books I read and reread.
    I buy second hand books all the time but I have never found anything interesting in them. What fun it would be to find a message.

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    • One of my dearest friends is a published author. She reads avidly and Mapp and Lucia is one she has recommended to me before. I shall add to my list for next year’s reading, thank you, Chloris. And I simply adore English eccentrics! You wouldn’t happen to be one, would you?

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      • Chloris says:

        I am English, but I don’ t know about eccentric. My husband says I must guard against turning into a ditzy old lady. So to please him I intend ageing with dignity. Or ‘ aging’ as you Americans seem to spell it. Don’ t you people know it needs an e to make the g soft? Oh dear, it would appear that I am pedantic rather than eccentric. A pedantic old lady isn’ t good either. Ditzy is probably nicer.

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      • So that’s where I can lay the blame for the occasional “ageing” spelling abomination I stumble across. Squarely at the feet of you Brits! Well, what can one expect from a nation with such a firm attachment to that superfluous “U” y’all insist on adding to perfectly innocent words. But you’re not pedantic, Chloris, not at all. You merely have opinions. Opinions are highly valued around my place.

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  24. How cool! You always find the neatest treasures! 🙂

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  25. Even though most of my books are secondhand, I very rarely find anything interesting in them other than the words printed on the page. The most interesting thing I ever found was an envelope with an ultrasound scan of a baby. I wonder if that means the father never got to see the scan. As it must have been somebody local, I also wonder if I know the child concerned through my children at school. The book I found it in was something along the lines of ‘Where do babies come from?’ The majority of my books come from BookCrossing meetings or are sent to me by other BookCrossers who sometimes send little crafty things like bookmarks or origami, which are always fun to find. If they send a postcard I keep that with the book to remind me of the person who sent it to me once I start reading it and use as a bookmark.

    By the way, have you read Evelyn Waugh and Saki? They were both Brits writing in the same period as the Mitfords and Wodehouse. Recommended!

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