Sunday, September 14, 2014

"I think of life as a good book.

The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."  ~ Harold Kushner

As one who turns 66 this week, I am not sure some days my book makes sense, Mr. K, but I am grateful to have this many pages to turn!  I am back to teaching, and it always amazes me how few of my students read on a regular basis other than their assigned readings.  There was a time as evidenced by books when reading was common.  Of course, there were no "I-things", and there is no denying that our culture has evolved.

I do have several customers who buy and read the older books.  Several volumes of a Grace Harlowe series are currently in the shop.
 Grace Harlowe is the protagonist of four series of books for girls, published by Altemus between 1910 and 1924. Some volumes were reprinted by Saalfield Publishing. The High School Girls Series, College Girls Series, Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, and Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series were written by Josephine Chase, under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower.

I found a summary online of the series.  The books follow Grace Harlowe and her friends through high school, college, abroad during World War I and on adventures around America. In The High School Girls Series, Grace attends Oakdale High School with friends Anne Pierson, Nora O'Malley, and Jessica Bright. The four promote fair play and virtue while winning over troubled girls like Miriam Nesbit and Eleanor Savell, playing basketball, and founding sorority Phi Sigma Tau. The group becomes friends with boys in their acquaintance: David Nesbit, Tom Gray, Hippy Wingate, and Reddy Brooks, forming "The Eight Originals."
The College Girls Series sees the friends part ways: Grace, Anne, and Miriam depart for Overton College, while Jessica and Nora attend a conservatory. The Eight Originals gather on holidays, but the seven College books focus on the three at Overton, along with new friends like J. Elfreda Briggs. (Don't you love the names?) They form Semper Fidelis, a society devoted to aiding less fortunate students at Overton. Following graduation, Grace rebuffs offers of marriage for "what she had firmly believed to be her destined work,"  managing Harlowe House at Overton. By the end of the series, she and most of her friends have married within their circle.

Grace Harlowe Overseas Series follows Grace and many of her friends to Europe to serve in World War I. A number of the college friends join a Red Cross unit known as the Overton Unit, but as the war progresses, they grow more scattered. At one point, the remaining principal characters consist of Grace and J. Elfreda, while the rest fall to the periphery. Grace and her husband return with a daughter, Yvonne, whom they adopted in France.
Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series follows Grace and some of her friends through adventures on horseback around North America, upon their return from Europe.

At the time of their publication, the Grace Harlowe series were advertised as "stories of real girls for real girls."  The Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, in particular, was written to translate world events to a generation of young girls. Sold as "War Books for Girls," one preview read, "Many war books fail to interest girl readers because they do not describe the Great War from a girl's point of view. But it is quite certain that every healthy girl reader will be enthused with the description of the Great War . . . These books give intimate descriptions of conditions found in France by the many young American girls and women who were there to serve their country by aiding the American fighting forces."

What is phenomenal is that the texts of all of these books are online as part of the Gutenberg Collection.   Project Gutenberg is a volunteer (catch that word) effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of March 2014, Project Gutenberg claimed over 45,000 items in its collection.  BUT...if you want a real paper copy, we have some of the collection...and check out the new bookmarks my sea glass artisan has created!
But, I leave you with a line from Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer from the late 19th century...always amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same as the old chiche goes!

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

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