While I’ll admit to OCD on occasion, I’m not one of those folks who cannot abide dust bunnies under the couch, or a lawn looking less than stellar. I will confess that I prefer freshly cut green grass in the summer and neatly edged sidewalks. There is too, this never ceasing hope from my knees that the weeds in my flower beds would stay dormant forever. But I know when the dog days of a southern summer sun make even the squirrels pant in my scrub oaks, I too will give in, slump in my favorite chair, and surrender to the air conditioner.
Now, there is this weed shooting up from a crack in my walkway. It is maturing in girth everyday it seems, and being the marginally compulsive man that I am, I struggle to walk past it on my way to the mailbox. I want to bend over and yank it up! I mean there is hardly room enough for its roots, and yet it seems to be flourishing better than my pampered pepper plants. This weed has stick-to-itivess. Day by day it obstinately embraces the lofty mission statement of every weed, namely to take over the world – or at least my lawn! This weed has spunk. If it’s scared that I might sneak up behind it and snatch it up by the short hairs, you’d never know it from the resolute calm countenance.
To be candid with you, the reason I haven’t jerked it, fumigated it, or executed it is because… I kind of envy it for its tenacity and strength. I’m now interested to see how long it will last against the sub-tropical and unforgiving Florida furnace. And I too appreciate the kind, quiet admonition it gives. . . that I need to be a little more weedy in my own daily walk with God.
The devil is orthodox in his faith; he believes the true scheme of doctrine; he is no Deist, Socinian, Arian, Pelagian, or antinomian; the articles of his faith are all sound.
–Jonathan Edwards. “True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils.” The Works Of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, Edited and Corrected by Edward Hickman. The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1974, p. 43.
Toward the end of Anne Bronte’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, (incidentally, she’s the sister to Charlotte and Emily) – Gilbert laments that one day his romantic relationship with Helen will come to an end when one of them dies and goes off to heaven. He is also disheartened that she doesn’t in the least seem bothered by this forecast. “But how can you, Helen, contemplate with delight this prospect of losing me in a sea of glory?”
“I own I cannot; but we know not that it will be so; and I do know that to regret the exchange of earthly pleasures for the joys of Heaven, is as if the groveling caterpillar should lament that it must one day quit the nibbled leaf to soar aloft and flutter through the air, roving at will from flower to flower, sipping sweet honey from their cups or basking in their sunny petals. If these little creatures knew how great a change awaited them, no doubt they would regret it; but would not all such sorrow be misplaced?”
–Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Oxford, England: OUP, 1996. p412.
I work part time in a library – often I work the circulation desk. At other times I shelve books, and sometimes… because I’m the biggest and strongest of the library staff (all but me are women, and I was raised to have old fashioned manners and civility, to show consideration and kindness toward the fairer sex) – I take on the dubious task of boxing up heavy books for us to discard. This is actually called “deaccession,” and as bad as I dislike it, removing old and unread books to make room for new ones is a necessary though unpleasant reality. We simply do not have the space to keep every book we’ve ever had in circulation. With that being said, I always look through the books we eliminate when I can. I know many of these volumes will find new homes in old bookstores, flea markets, book exchanges, churches, or other libraries. Still, I feel the need to take one last peek, just in case I’m the last human to ever peruse its pages. Sometimes I find interesting items buried within – mostly abandoned bookmarks forgotten about when the book was returned, but also inscriptions and notations. I will post some of those here when I run across them. This will be the very first item in this ongoing series.
- Photograph: No date or inscription. I’m guessing the cut out was probably removed for a locket.
- Found in book titled “American Poetry” by A.B. De Mille. Published by Allyn and Bacon. 1923
The evenings here at dusk have been pleasant and comfortable. The stifling heat of the day all but dissipates when the sea breeze comes calling. And so it is, that I’ve been sitting on the back porch listening to the crickets chirp their happy night songs. The sounds of the tiny creatures reminded me of a poem. I love the poem because it’s simple, kind, incisive, graceful, and peaceful; it’s all the things I’m not. The words are far more discerning and elegant than I could ever assemble, and feeling defeated, worn, and threadbare, I whispered it under my breath as a prayer to Jesus my Savior. There’s much to be gleaned from this humble cricket’s prayer. His heart thankful and full of praise. His chirps enveloped and encouraged me even in my human frailty and sinful state. Thank you God for crickets, and for letting me understand them last night.
I am little and very black,
but thank you
for having shed
your warm sun
and the quivering of your golden corn
on my humble life.
Then take – but be forbearing, Lord –
this little impulse of my love:
this note of music
You have set thrilling in my heart.
Poem from the book: Prayers From the Ark by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, translated from the French by Rumer Godden.
Common name: Southeastern field cricket
Scientific name: Gryllus rubens Scudder (Insecta: Orthoptera: Gryllidae)
Perhaps my favorite passage from the book:
And the very first person whom Aslan called to him was Puzzle the Donkey. You never saw a donkey look feebler and sillier than Puzzle did as he walked up to Aslan, and he looked, beside Aslan, as small as a kitten looks beside a St. Bernard. The Lion bowed down his head and whispered something to Puzzle at which his long ears went down, but then he said something else at which the ears perked up again. The humans couldn’t hear what he had said either time. Then Aslan turned to them and said:
I had never read anything by Stefan Zweig before this book. He died in 1942, and is still considered one of Austria’s most important writers, penning more than twenty biographical studies including: Erasmus, Balzac, Marie Antoinette, Magellan, Freud, Casanova, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, and Mary Stuart.
Chess Story was Zweig’s last novella, and it is a dark and troubling piece of writing. It was originally published in German as Schachnovelle – The Royal Game. I read the translation by Joel Rotenberg that I picked up at my local library, and although I cannot compare it with the original German, this rendition is quite fluid. The clarity, rhythm, and suspense is more than enticing.
The narrator of Chess Story is on an ocean liner about to depart on a voyage. Inquisitive and idle, he is interested to discover from a friend seeing him off that the current world chess champion, Mirko Czentovic is also on board. The narrator with the help of his friend, reconstructs for the reader the remarkable and breakneck rise of this twenty-one-year-old chess phenom, whose cold, calculated play has defeated his more intellectual opponents, despite his “peculiar limitation”—that he cannot play ‘blind’ as the professionals say. “Czentovic completely lacked the ability to situate the field of battle in the unlimited realm of the imagination,” and always needs the board in front of him. I was wholly taken in by the engaging story of this young man and his apparent triumph over the noble, educated, and elite world of chess. The narrator, clearly an exemplar of the educated class routed in the 1930s confesses: “All my life I have been passionately interested in monomaniacs of any kind, people carried away by a single idea. . . . [T]hese people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world,” and with a touch of condescension he admits: “I made no secret of my intention to subject this odd specimen of a one-track mind to a closer examination during the twelve-day voyage to South America.”
Attempt after attempt fails, and our narrator is about to give up on making his desired acquaintance with the chess master when he gets the bright idea to lure the arrogant and apathetic Czentovic out by means of a chess match in the ship’s lounge. As fate would have it, the game also uncovers the presence of another, secret, chess genius, Dr. B. – “a gentleman of about forty-five, whose long, sharp-featured face and strange, almost chalky pallor had caught my attention on the promenade deck.” Dr. B. for horrifying reasons, turns out to have played chess almost entirely in its purest intellectual form, blind, having learned alone, from nothing more than a book of maneuvers from famous chess-masters. The story behind the cause of Dr. B’s isolation and of the eventual match between the two chess players constitutes the majority of this novella. I think it best to stop here. I would not wish to give away any more of this short, outstanding, and harrowing account.
As a chess enthusiast myself, and a WWII fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it from cover to cover in an almost breathless frenzy! It was intense and consuming, and I simply couldn’t put it down once I began. This 84 page gem was recommended to me by my friend Bellezza at https://dolcebellezza.net. It is a masterful work in which the characters tell the stories of their lives. If this book is any indication, I may have to read more from Zweig. Thank you Bellezza!