This Is the Forest Primeval

June 25th, 2011

Practically the last book I read before leaving for California earlier this month wasn’t a book at all. It was a slim volume containing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s immortal poem, Evangeline.

Evangeline Illustration

Evangeline tells the sad tale of the Acadian expulsion of 1755, when the prosperous French settlers were turned out of Canada by their new British rulers and forced to sail down the Mississippi river to their eventual home in Louisiana. I’ve long reserved a soft spot for the Acadians, ever since I sewed and wore an Acadian folk costume for my fifth grade social studies project (yes, I’ve always been like this). But this was the first time I thought to read Evangeline. It was on sale for 50 cents at Housing Works; how could I resist?

Considered by some to be Longfellow’s most famous poem (sorry Elaine), Evangeline was written in 1847. That’s less than 100 years after the historical event that inspired it! Oh, for the civilized era when tragic events were commemorated by epic poetry rather than made-for-TV documentaries. Sure, I don’t know much more about the actual facts of the expulsion, or the political machinations that were its cause. But my sympathy has been stirred to a depth that film footage with a suave voice-over could never touch. And in the end, that’s really what matters.

And yes, I cried. If you wish to know what tickled my ducts, well, you’ll just have to read the poem and find out for yourself.

3 Dollars Worth of Literature

May 22nd, 2011

Have I mentioned that I love Housing Works? They run a fantastic Bookstore Cafe on Crosby Street in SoHo that both collects and sells an amazing panoply of used books and records. I finally gave up trying to give away my recent reading material and decided to donate it to Housing Works. In fact, I think I bought most of it there in the first place.

Of course the best part about donating your books when you’re through with them is that it gives you a perfect excuse to scoop up a few new titles while you’re in the shop. Here’s my haul from today’s jaunt:


I always head straight for the 50 cent rack — they may have a little more wear on the spine, but they’re perfect for dragging around the City (I do much of my reading while I walk — yes, I’m that nut you banged into earlier with her nose buried in a copy of Dubliners — at least it’s better than running into people because you’re texting on your mobile phone). So this impressive array cost a mere $3 plus tax. My companion, he of the exquisitely eclectic taste, snagged a Frank Sinatra LP and a first edition of Oboler’s Omnibus. If you don’t know who Arch Oboler was, ask someone who was born before you were.

I actually hated Sister Carrie, and vowed never to read another book by Dreiser. But I know enough about the plot of American Tragedy to have had my curiosity piqued. I’ve never read anything by Zane Grey, but early 20th century westerns are a guilty pleasure in which I indulge too rarely. The Trollopes are because someone (I only wish I could remember who) told me I’d enjoy him more than Hardy. Evangeline needs no explanation; though perhaps I should tell you it holds particular meaning thanks to my fifth grade history project where I recreated an Acadian folk-costume. Last but not least, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a silly present for a friend.

Have you read any of these? Tell me what you thought — but please don’t spoil the endings!