Introductory Note (by the Editor):
About seven months ago, the Esteemed Blog The Glass Hill published the seasonably-titled article Spring Book Tag!, which was itself prompted by another Esteemed Blog, The Frozen Library. As both had invited other blogs of Similarly Esteemed Nature to do the same, Carlsee Press immediately began the diligent preparation of such an article; however, due to Technical Difficulties of a Most Infuriating Sort, the article was not completed until the most incongruous time. Because of this (and the unanimous opinion of our staff), we rewrote the prompt for the opposite season. Despite releasing it a bit late even then, we hope ye enjoy it immensely!
Autumn! That most enigmatic time of the year, when air is like wine to the skin, when scents of cinnamon and nutmeg mingle, and when leaves bloom like flowers in Spring. As this is the most perfect1 season in which to read books, (besides being the most perfect season overall), I think it fitting that it be celebrated with literature. Let us begin!
Question #1: Leaves—What is your most beautiful book, inside and out?
None of my books are particularly beautiful outwardly, but the prettier of my collection is A Christmas Carol and Other Stories2. Though not flashy like many modern books, its unostentatious hardcover has the musty quaintness of drab old Victorian novels; and its velvet-red binding, as well as the green holly and gilt lettering on its cover, is as reminiscent of Christmas as a warm fireplace. It is the only book I own whose appearance perfectly complements its contents, and it is altogether a pleasure to look at.
Question #2: Pumpkins—What is a book that everyone seems to like more than you do?
Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Though many persons whom I respect and admire, including C. S. Lewis3, have praised the book, and though I enjoy Orwell’s concise and vigorous writing, I thought Animal Farm a cynical, cruel, and blatantly atheistic book. Though everything else in the book be excellent, the book itself—in my opinion—is not.
Question #3: Breeze—What’s a book that lifts your spirits when you’re down?
Tolkien’s essay On Fairy-Stories3. It’s one of those rare books that contains enough ideas to fill volumes and yet can be read in a sitting, and I read it as a person listens to music. Tolkien’s profundity of imagination, his vigorous intelligence, and above all his love for all things beautiful are as refreshing as a frosty wind, as invigorating as Autumn air. There’s so much I want to say about this book, but as that could fill pages and I have three more questions to answer, I will save it for another article.
Question #4: Psithurism—What’s a book that makes you feel alive?
Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. Dickens imbues his novels with a joy and vitality unlike any other author, and this is especially true of Our Mutual Friend. Passages in this book (like the entirety of A Dismal Swamp) overflow with exihilarating loquaciousness and the joy of words; and its characters, like Jenny Wren and Mr. Boffin, delight just by existing. As for the story itself, it is immensely satisfying, as beautifully joyful as the rustling of leaves on an autumn night.
Question #5: Hoarfrost—What’s a book that you found unpredictable?
Till5 We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. The book is a retelling of the Cupid-and-Psyche6 myth, but in a disorientingly surprising way. As I read it I found I could not predict any direction the book might take, or even if it had a direction. I’m still not sure if I liked it or not, but as a book that both subverted and exceeded my expectations, Till7 We Have Faces succeeded impeccably.
Question #6: Xanthophyll—What’s a book that you struggled with, but were glad you read it in the end?
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. Despite Austen’s fame, I found her novels hard to get into and mostly unsatisfying; possibly because of unfair expectations, personal taste, or a combination. I was wary of reading another of her novels after the first three, but thought that an author as respected as she is deserved another chance. And I loved Mansfield Park. It was mature, elegantly emotional, and as enjoyable as tea on a summer’s day. I thought her prose was keener and her story more profound than in any of her other books, more like what I want from a novel; and it had characters that I not only appreciated, but loved, characters I wanted to sit around and listen to long after the book ended. Not only is Mansfield Park now one of my favorite novels, it’s encouraged me to return to her other books with a fresher perspective and a more open mind.
Thus ends this article; and if you, reader, have a blog, or even a pencil and a piece of paper, I encourage you to answer these questions yourself, whether in Spring, Fall, Summer, or Winter.
1This phrase annoys me greatly, but everyone and Virginia Woolf uses it, so who’m I to judge?—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
2The 2013 edition published by Worth Press Ltd. Written by Charles Dickens, if you hadn’t guessed already.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
3In his essay George Orwell, published in the collection On Stories by HarperCollins.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
4As published in The Monsters and The Critics, edited by Christopher Tolkien.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
5Sic. Everyone knows that “Till” is a contraction of “Until” and properly spelled “‘Til”, otherwise it refers to either plowing land or money-boxes.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
6A greek myth, paralleled in fairy tales like “The Black Bull of Norroway” and “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.
7Sic, again.—Jayson Carlsee, Editor.