If you are thinking what I am thinking right now (“How can it snow so much when it is so cold?”) and if temperatures are heading to -12F later this week, then you are in need of the comfort books can provide. These two titles provide rest and ease, and a drink of clear water from another time.
They also are cheap because they have been forgotten.
The author is Jean Hersey; the illustrator is Harry Marinksy. It is worth noting both their names. Hersey writes about houseplants as if they were friends, and Marinksy draws them the same way.
The tenderness of this book! You have to be in a certain mood to appreciate it, but if you are (say, on a snowed-in weekend), the book can make you happy. For example:
“Perhaps a window garden is at its best on a chilly winter day when icicles fringe the eaves, when the wind howls in the chimney, and when the sun shines on your small indoor tropic. . . . You draw up a chair beside your plants, perhaps you water, turn a plant, trim off a straggle, or maybe you just sit. Soon your awareness quickens , you begin noticing new things.”
An aside: I know grammar; it is one of the things I am paid to know, and it is a faint surprise to see Hersey’s adeptness with a sentence. I doubt she was an English major, either.
I cannot reproduce the state of mind I was in when I bought this book for a few dollars at Abebooks last year; maybe I just knew a bargain when I saw it. This 1947 volume by William T. Innes is richly illustrated with both drawings and photographs.
I don’t know anything about goldfish or water gardens, which is why reading around in this book is such a pleasant, naive experience. Innes communicates his experience, which is considerable, and his enjoyment, also considerable. I looked him up once; he lived well into his nineties, healthy and productive to the end.
Like Hersey, Innes is a freaking fantastic grammarian. He knows his way around a sentence. This is how the book begins:
“A lady wrote the author, I have just bought eight pretty goldfish in a cute little globe. I feed them three good meals a day and change the water often, but they are always at the top of the water with their mouths partly in the air. This makes a little sound. Do you think they are trying to speak to me?
This letter sounds funny, of course, but it really was not intended as a humorous effect. That makes it sad. Those four short sentences are unique in that they have compressed or crystallized into a few simple words the substance of a vast popular ignorance on the subjects treated in this chapter. The lady should be awarded a medal for crowding the greatest amount of aquarium ignorance into the fewest possible words.”
This book can get pricy because some sellers have noticed how beautiful it is. But it still can be had at Abebooks for $9-$15.