The last word: I’m a believer
I am a child of American advertising. That means I believe everything. And anything.
I believe the purpose of life is romance, style and a great smile.
I believe I can have these things if I buy the right shampoo, toothpaste, car and phone system. If all of that fails, finding a good Christian online dating system will save me. A click of the mouse is all it takes.
I am not alone in believing big.
In high school, my friend Betty remarked one day that the sun had not come up. The rest of us thought it was a cloudy day. Not Betty.
She believed that some days the sun came up in the east and some days that lucky old sun simply chose not to roll around heaven all day.
This prepared me for years ahead of living in Oklahoma where many of us believe the unbelievable, especially about politics and religion.
No use trying to debate or reason with us, just say “Hmm” and look for the nearest door.
And so it is that I believe in prescriptive reading. Reading the right book can cure what ails you, or at least it can ameliorate the symptoms.
Take the summer-long, Hasty Bake heat wave. That ailed me. So I prescribed myself a series of cooling novels. I made a stack of Barbara Pym novels, moved a chair directly under an air conditioning vent, and reread my way through them.
This is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pym, the English author considered the contemporary Jane Austen. Her slim, witty novels are set in 1950s English villages and suburban Anglican parishes. They feature women who wear hats and gloves, drink a great deal of tea, entertain the curate for supper, remember old beaus and are bemused by daily life in their cool and damp climate.
“Ah,” an English woman told me, “the England that never was.” Light years away from a hot summer, which is what I wanted.
I had just seen the Tulsa SummerStage play “84 Charing Cross Road” and now realized the austerity and food shortages of post-World War II England. This gave me new insight to the frugality of Pym’s characters. I saw why they fussed over what to serve the vicar at tea or how to let out the seams of an old dress and noted the progress of the new buildings going up in the bombed ruins of the Blitz.
Yet, they pressed on, enjoying life and relishing the fussiness of the Anglo-Catholic Church of England.
Pym’s novels are social comedies, but not as flashy as Noel Coward. Although they are quiet, they are not trifles. She was shortlisted for the acclaimed Booker Prize. She writes gently, with a clean style and clear observation of human behavior.
Time roars past so quickly, history seems left in the dust. One hundred years ago Woodrow Wilson was president, Suffragettes were marching in the streets, stainless steel was invented, Camels became the first packaged cigarettes, Hedy Lamarr was born and the Philadelphia A’s won the World Series.
Boy, does that sound like a long time ago. No wonder Oklahoma’s glamorous chanteuse Lee Wiley sang naughtily in 1933, “Don’t save your kisses, pass them around … Who will know you passed them around a hundred years from today.”
Since I believe everything, I believe history can be both informative and enjoyable.
As autumn approaches, here’s one way to enjoy history. Make yourself a plate of finger sandwiches, pour a glass of sherry and read Barbara Pym. I especially recommend “A Few Green Leaves,” “A Glass of Blessings” and “Excellent Women.”
You, too, may believe there’s no substitute for a cool book.