Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Twenty-Two

The Book Meme Challenge: Favorite Book you own

For once this month, I shall be decisive – not so much because it’s easy to pick a favorite book from my library (far from it), but because I am recasting this prompt into “Book you’d be most eager to save from a house fire.”

Hopefully circumstances will never test my resolution on this – but if they did, Guide Book to Women would come out on top, for the simple fact that it is the one book I’d have the most trouble replacing.  True, the entire text is available on Google Books, and allegedly there are paperback copies available on amazon.com.  But despite all my searches, I have not yet found another hard-bound copy of this book which caught my eye in a consignment shop – which is a shame, as I’d love to supply all my friends with a copy.

Ostensibly by a fellow called James James (which repetitious pseudonym serves instead of Arthur Henry Adams), this diverting volume discusses Woman’s beauty, dress, work, types, brain, life, religion, job, and self – though not her soul as “She is doubtful whether she has a soul.  And if she had a soul she wouldn’t exactly know what to do with it.  On the whole she is more comfortable without a soul; there are times when a woman’s soul is rather in the way.  A woman’s soul is one of the things that should never be taken on a honeymoon.”

This is the sort of book which entertained a number of my friends at Hillsdale – though it might be more amusing to read it around, say, Ann Arbor, and see how many women take it seriously.  Mr. Adams is at times quite paradoxical, and at others rather shockingly frank.  But somehow his prose removes the sting of that frankness (as a new hat takes the sting out of what your dearest friend said when she saw you in it).

Here are a few other fun bits:

            Woman’s dress perturbs us; it diverts our minds from important subjects like astronomy and ethics and proportional representation and the price of the favourite for the Cup and the poker hand we had last night; and it compels us to recognize that there are women in this old world.

             If men had to bear children the population statistics would drop to nothing in one year.  If men had to change them and care for them they would drown the whole litter.  The man has not yet been born who can hold a baby longer than ten minutes.  Holding a baby exhausts the strongest athlete.  So women have to do it.

Consider what the world could be like if women were logical.  We would always know what a woman meant and what she was going to do next.  She would wear logical hats and logical shoes and logical corsets – or if she were excessively logical, she would leave them off.  If a girl loved us she would tell us straight off and not keep us guessing for months.  And she wouldn’t talk unless she had something to say.  She might even be logical on her honeymoon.
And just think what that would mean to us.  Half the fun of proposing to a girl is that you are never absolutely sure that she will not turn you down.  And if you, metaphorically, take away all the logical clothes that woman hangs or ties about her, what attraction would be left?  What sort of a man was Euclid’s wife?  History is silent, but she was certainly the sort of female that would use his forty-seventh problem, over which he had been slaving for months and neglecting his meals, for curl papers.  Q.E.D.

 …After all, no woman yearns to be called an angel.  And where is the woman who does not shudder with delight when she is told she is a little devil?  She is not perfect – else none of us would have ever dared to marry her-  knowing too well our own imperfections.  It is in the fine flaws in her that endear her to us; it is her weakness that makes her to us indispensable.

 And so we are linked together throughout this toilsome life with a short-legged creature that cannot even keep step with our longer and more decisive stride; she tempts us from the straight road – and we find strange, wonderful blossoms in the desert; she initiates us into simplicity and joy, and we are grateful, eternally grateful.

Of course it does not do to take Mr. James seriously; a number of women might think you’ve understood them, and thus you risk their grave displeasure.  But hang on to his words anyway, and beware house fires.

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