Holst House

My dears, I have had a dream.

It started with Inspector Lewis.  My roommate and I were binge-watching the first series or three, and came to the episode “Dark Matter.”  Among other things, it features forensic pathologist Laura Hobson playing clarinet in a university orchestra performance of Holst’s “The Planets.”

This percolated in the back of my mind, emerging as a pun: “If I ever got into hotel management, you can bet your bottom dollar there’d be a really dramatic room option called the Planets Suite.”

When Em responded “I want the Jupiter room!” it spawned all manner of thoughts.  Mainly: what if, instead of a hotel suite, this were a house Imagine a house featuring:

Mars, Bringer of War – Entryway / bathroom / bedroom closet – It’s where you suit up for the day and prepare to go out and take on the world.  Hidden speakers blare forth the exhortation of drums and trumpets.  Featuring red colors, iron hooks or handles or accents, and a coat of arms on the foyer wall.  Be sure to get some coffee before you start a war.
Mars bathtub Mars Foyer Stairwell

Venus, Bringer of Peace – Kitchen / bedroom – Bringing peace can be done by foodstuffs…or by sleep et cetera.  Copper accents, a Botticelli print or two, windowboxes of plants, maybe green paint or flowered wallpaper.
Venus kitchen fresh pale Venus kitchen green cabinets Venus kitchen pale greenVenus kitchen wheat

Venus green country Venus Mint Bedroom

Mercury, the Winged Messenger – Living Room – Here, like quicksilver, we meet and we part.  Here, we practice the counterpoint of the mind, and words fly about like birds.  This is the place to sit and talk, read, or perhaps go online to read or write.  There should be a lot of words or stories within arm’s reach.  Mirrors, corresponding colors, and symmetry in the decoration would be appropriate; these echo the same-but-sundered nature of mercury.

Beach Style with accents birds and fluff pillows mercuryyyyy

Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity – Dining room – For those of us without a throne room, the dining room is probably the next best place to sit in tranquility and resplendence (though a den or family room may also suit).  Here may we sit and let our hearts be eased after the weary winter of our work.  Let the room be well-lit, the chairs comfortable, and fear not if anyone happens to spill a bit of wine, for it is but the wound of King Pelles.  Oak furniture, emblems of eagles or lions, ruddy walls or fabric are all appropriate here.

dining room with wine cabinet Dining room golden lit dining area green but good

Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age – Office / study / library – Traditionally, Saturn is associated with philosophy and other such weighty matters.  Here you can also keep your tax returns filed, plan for retirement, and prepare your last will and testament.  It’s the place for any globes, maps, and hourglasses.  Lead-colored walls with a stripey accent.
Saturn Home Library Saturn home office

Uranus, the Magician – Basement or garage workroom / Craft room – Astrologically, Uranus is associated with ingenuity, invention, and radical new ideas.  So this is where some kind of magic is worked, be it ever so tangible in nature.  Blue-gray walls.

Uranus Workshop Uranus Craft Room Uranus sewing room Uranus workroom

Neptune, the Mystic – Garden / in-house chapel / attic – I don’t know where you keep your mystics and mysticism, but if you don’t have a handy tower, hermitage, or folly…I…guess the attic is the place?  I don’t know, I’m picturing Trelawney and her room full of poufs and tea cups.  Or, at the least, blue walls and wind-chimes hung out the window.

Hermit caveIn home chapelIcons in home attic

Alphabooks: Z is for Zzz-snatcher

Z: Zzz-Snatcher

I hate to end this series of prompt posts on a weak note.  Perhaps I’ll come up with something splendid and impressive on the morrow, like a new letter beginning a secret word which is relevant to more interesting books that I haven’t talked about yet.

But for today, the question is “What book is so good that you didn’t go to sleep until you’d finished it?”

The thing is, I am rather good at staying awake most of the time, which is to say that lately it’s taken more effort to go to bed than to stay up past 1 or 2 AM.

So the last books I stayed up to finish, more because I was determined to finish reading them than because they were so gripping, were BJ Novak’s One More Thing and CS Lewis’s Spirits in Bondage.  Both are interesting enough; Spirits in Bondage was Jack’s first published book and represents his pre-conversion regard for Nature, red in tooth and claw.  One More Thing is also a first book, though Novak has years of writing for television under his belt.  The “stories and other stories” vary in length and in theme, though they all have something of the same tone: light-hearted, verbally playful, taking things to their logical conclusion, and touched with the same edge of despair that ended up taking Douglas Adams off my “favorite authors everrr!” list.

Taken together, these books could also have been Zzz-snatchers in another sense: they could fill one’s head with the unsettling threat of quiet doubts.  Maybe.  I didn’t quite ruminate on them long enough to let the doubts creep in, though.

What book or books have snatched your sleep?

Alphabooks: M is for Major

M: Major Book Hangover Because Of…

Although I originally conceived of this prompt as “a story so intense or engrossing that you can’t quite get over it or emerge from that world for awhile,” I’m not certain if that’s what Ms. Jamie was going for.  So, going with my inclination to pursue all possible roads:

Book that made you stumble about, head swollenTechnopoly and 1984 are probably the most recent suspects for this one.  Both of them filled my mind with ideas and indicated that there was so much out in the world to perceive – though not all of it welcome.

Father Brown omnibusBook that gave you a headache:  The Father Brown Omnibus – but it’s not the book’s fault any more than it would be Tanqueray’s fault if I drank the whole bottle.  And the Omnibus has 53 stories, not a dozen or so: a Methuselah rather than a standard bottle, and all so delicious that I didn’t put the book down until my eyes blurred.

Book that made you throw up:  …okay, I included this because it seemed thematic, but this hasn’t yet happened to me.  Either it’s worked out quite neatly to avoid horror books, or I’ve repressed the memory of whatever dreadful thing provoked emesis.

Book that filled you with regret the next dayPostern of Fate.  I’d been warned that the Tommy and Tuppence books were not Agatha Christie’s best, but this one, written as she grew older and lost some of her edge, is probably the worst of the lot.

Book(s) whose world is hard to leave:  The possibilities are many!  After I read The Magician’s Nephew, I longed for some way to reach the Wood Between the Worlds.  After I read Harry Potter a couple dozen times, I brought up Hogwarts and all the implications of magic whenever it could possibly be applicable.  After I read The Silmarillion, I longed to hear the Valar singing together.  After I read The Hunger Games, I went shopping for groceries and was stunned by the amount of food I could just buy if I wished to.  After I read Gaudy Night, I wanted to retreat to an ivied tower to dig into some academic pursuits.  And so on.

What books have been intoxicating to you?

Alphabooks: C is for Current

C: Currently Reading…

Currently reading

The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
Postman regards childhood as a social construct, one which arose due to changes in how Western society passes along information: the printing press drastically expanded how many books were published; more information was shared in print rather than orally; thus an emphasis on literacy and the creation of schools to make children literate. Postman maintains that schools segregated children from adult life in an unprecedented way, and further, that printing enabled adult knowledge to be a secret thing. The secrets and shames which had defined adulthood, however, are now increasingly open to younger and younger people, as electronic media make them available to anyone. This expansion of what children can know, in turn, changes both how children act and how they are treated.

Agatha Heterodyne & the Hammerless Bell by Kaja Foglio
Agatha and company (including Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and Tarvek Sturmvoraus) attempt to repair the fractured Castle Heterodyne, while others in Mechanicsburg and Sturmhaltan attempt to figure out what’s going on, and whether Agatha is possessed by the (eeeeeeevil) Other.  Featuring my very favorite mysterious BAMF, Airman Higgs (are you human?  A construct?  Half-Jäger?  WHAT ARE YOU, SIR).

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Re-rereading. I think I started this a couple weeks back when I was in need of catharsis. It’s very, very good for that.

Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics by C.S. Lewis
Taking my unread Lewis off the shelf the other day reminded me of this book’s existence. It was Jack’s first published work, which means that the poems were composed when he had abandoned his childhood faith. Walter Hooper’s introduction includes snippets of several letters to provide a comprehensible background to the poems’ composition and publishing. “A cycle of lyrics” indicates that the poems are not meant to be read in isolation, but are to be taken together and understood as one work:

In my coracle of verses I will sing of lands unknown,
Flying from the scarlet city where a Lord that knows no pity
Mocks the broken people praying round his iron throne,
– Sing about the Hidden country fresh and full of quiet green,
Sailing over seas uncharted to a port that none has seen.

Mr. McFadden’s Hallowe’en by Rumer Godden
A friend recommended Godden’s China Court to me, but though I’ve gotten a copy, I started this book first. So far, an untrained horse named Haggis is running around and getting into trouble.

Not pictured, because I’m reading it online: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
So far I have learned that one must take care in how one instructs or commands a robot. Also: “Mathematical squiggles on paper were not always the most comforting protection against robotic fact.” I expect to be both amused and troubled by QT-1, the skeptical robot.

Not pictured, because I’m listening to an audiobook: Changes by Jim Butcher
I really don’t want to be spoiler-y about this, so I’ll just say that Harry Dresden is on a unique new quest with a tremendously exciting magical GPS. Also, the Red Court vampires are up to something.

What are you reading?

Alphabooks: A is for Author

A: Author You’ve Read the Most Books From

I’d had the thought that, in order to keep myself from being too perfunctory about it, I’d avoid talking about books or authors I’d discussed in previous years.

So I sat awhile in uffish thought, before consulting GoodReads, my library checkout history, and my bookshelves.

All this to find that some things don’t change, and no one’s managed to shift my all-time favorites from being all-time favorites.  Especially not the champion of them all: C.S. Lewis.

Not pictured: Screwtape Letters and Surprised by Joy, which (shockingly) I do not own.

Not pictured: Screwtape Letters and Surprised by Joy, which (shockingly) I do not own.

From the Chronicles of Narnia, to his apologetics, to the Cosmic Trilogy, to his poetry and essays – I’ve read some 27 books of Jack’s, and still have a few more volumes of letters and essays awaiting me on my shelf.

Allegory of Love is at the bottom right.

Allegory of Love is at the bottom right.

Runners-up include Neil Gaiman (15.5, if Good Omens is ½ and the 10 sections of Sandman as separate volumes); Dorothy Sayers (13); Jim Butcher (11.5 at present); Orson Scott Card (11); Shakespeare (11 plays I’ve read; more that I’ve seen); and J.K. Rowling (10).

What author have you read the most of?

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Pastiche

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 5: There Are a Lot of Reasons, Really

I Sort of Encountered It Already/No Narrative Lust – This is basically the opposite problem of yesterday’s post.  Sometimes you read the dumbed-down and sugar-coated version as a child; sometimes you see a movie or stage production or some other medium.  Because you know where the plot goes, more or less, you don’t bother with the unabridged, unadulterated prose of the original book.

This is part of the reason Lord of the Rings took me such a long time.  It’s why I haven’t been especially inclined to read certain Shakespeare plays: A Winter’s Tale, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Henry V, and Coriolanus can wait.  It’s why I haven’t gotten more than 100 pages into Les Miserables or 3 chapters into Moby Dick or any pages into A Christmas Carol.  Having read a version or two of Arthurian legends, I haven’t read Morte d’Arthur.

But who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll want to see how the author originally wrote it.

Critically Acclaimed and Hated – That is, critics loved it, but a friend/relative/other trusted source reported it as loathsome in some respect.  This is why I never bothered with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and sequels.

I Read It And Then Forgot It – “The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.”  Thanks, Jack.  By that metric, I don’t even know how many books I ought to reread.

I Dropped It in the Bath – This reason comes from Thalia.  I have never Wet Paperbackactually done this, because the idea of dropping a book in the tub has dissuaded me from the salutary practice of reading at bathtime.  The peace and rest would be shattered by frantically grabbing the volume, attempting to towel off the cover, thumbing helplessly and hopelessly at the waterlogged pages.  When it eventually dries out, the crinkled pages remind you of your folly forever.

It’s in a Language I Haven’t Learned (Yet) – This one is also from Thalia, but resonates with me.  Some things are more than adequate in translation, or so we are assured, but we won’t be able to judge that for ourselves until we’ve read the original Greek/French/Russian/Atlantean/etc.

No One Has Commanded Me To So I Figured It Wasn’t Urgent – If it’s a book that has no champions, not even the advertising e-mails from the bookstore, then I will probably pass it over in favor of something else.  But by that token, no one will care if I’ve ignored it.  Victory!

I HAVE NO EXCUSE; I AM A VICIOUS AND SLOTHFUL CREATURE.  Increasingly, this is my answer.  Opening a new book is lovely, but it is a commitment of sorts.  Sometimes I am so lazy that even that teeny little commitment is off-putting, such that I end up wasting all sorts of time online instead.

What’s your go-to reason?

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Sleep

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 3: I Keep Falling Asleep

There are a number of wonderful books which, though highly recommended, I have not finished because I fall asleep every time I try to read them.  Even when I’m not reading in bed, I fall asleep: I curl up in my chair, I melt into the couch, I lie on the floor like a cat.  This probably indicates that I don’t get enough rest at night, but perhaps it also indicates something about my reading material.

kitty sleeps on book

Some might think falling asleep indicates the book is dull.  I think it mostly reflects the reader’s (lack of) wakefulness, blood circulation, and attention span; it’s not necessarily the book’s fault.  Thalia and I discussed the fact that though Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture is beautiful, lucid, and interesting, we conk out after a few pages.  My theory is that the ideas are heavy.  It’s like trying to balance a number of well-cut rocks.  You can follow where the reasoning goes, but you also have to carry where you’ve been with you, as though you were trying to pick up a road as you walk on it.  That’s the heavy bit, keeping all those premises in mind, and it exhausts my brain.

Leisure the Basis of CultureOrthodoxyStudies in WordsFrankenstein

Presumably this is also why I fall asleep reading Orthodoxy and, to my shame, Studies in Words.  Possibly I made my attempts at both books in a severely compromised state, since by all rights I ought to have read and loved them by now.  It’s why I never finished my Intercollegiate Studies Institute Reading (work by Kirk and Burke, oh my) or Frankenstein (which still waits on my bedside table for me to return to it).

What books have you fallen asleep reading?

In Pursuit of the Obvious

In the course of writing last night’s post, I struggled to corral my thoughts so as to share them in an orderly fashion.  But these other quotations express a little bit more on the subject, so I wanted to share them too.


I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. If there is an element of farce in what follows, the farce is at my own expense; for this book explains how I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. It recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne.  – GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them – never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through? – CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

I have the most ill-regulated memory.  It does those things which it ought not to do and leaves undone the things it ought to have done.  But it has not yet gone on strike altogether.  – Lord Peter Wimsey, Gaudy Night

I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. We are alive within mystery, by miracle.  – Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition