Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A few minis - Slightly Foxed #71, Letters of Note: War by Shaun Usher, The Arrow Book of Funny Poems by Eleanor Clymer

Again, a few I don't have much to say about. 

Slightly Foxed Reader's Quarterly #71: August 2021
is my first Slightly Foxed journal. I had not heard of it till a friend mentioned it at Instagram, and I confess that I bought a one-year subscription for myself as a Christmas gift for no other reason than I knew nobody else would buy it if I asked. And, then it never did get put under the tree so it felt like a bit of a post-Christmas bonus.  

For those who are unfamiliar with Slightly Foxed, it's a quarterly journal with essays about books, usually a particular book that is either tied to the author's memories in some way or was found during research, etc. The bottom line is that the authors of essays in Slightly Foxed tend to wax poetic about a particular book or several books and it is one delightfully dangerous little collection of writings. Yes, yes, I want nearly all of them after reading about how wonderful, memorable, controversial, or charming the books are. Of course, I'm on a book-buying ban so it's not happening. But, wow, if I was just building a library I would want to start a collection of Slightly Foxed books. 

Recommended if you're not afraid that reading eloquently-written essays about books will destroy your budget. And, even then I recommend it, just hold onto your hat and maybe freeze your credit card till you get over it. 

Letters of Note: War compiled by Shaun Usher is a book of letters either written during a war or about war. I was curious about it because I have a passion for reading about war, both as it's experienced by those who are in the military and the folks left back home. 

To be honest, I didn't read the description so I was quite surprised by the sheer variety. There is, for example, a letter written by a Roman soldier at Hadrian's Wall, asking someone to "send beer". I was certainly not expecting the letters to go back that far! There are also plenty of letters written home from wars closer to our time period, including one from the mother of a soldier killed in Vietnam, a letter from Evelyn Waugh telling a story about soldiers making a hash of tree removal during WWII, and a letter from Martha Gellhorn to Eleanor Roosevelt written as Martha was heading to Spain to fight the rise of fascism. 

Of all of these letters, by far the most moving was the one from a mother whose son died in Vietnam. I absolutely sobbed when I read that one. Some were funny, like Evelyn Waugh's story about the trees, some a little difficult to read because the language of the writer's time was a bit different. Martha Gellhorn's was my favorite for sheer readability and that's a positive because I just happen to have a book of selected letters written by Gellhorn. At any rate, compact as this book is, it was a fascinating read. 

Recommended to those who are interested in primary source material from various wars. There is a series of "Letters of Note" books and the Letters of Note website is still extant. I haven't spent any time there but it looks like a good way to waste an afternoon. 

The Arrow Book of Funny Poems compiled by Eleanor Clymer is a Scholastic book from my childhood with silly rhyming poetry. I chose to read it to see if it held up to my memories (as a child, I nearly beat the book to death, I read it so many times) after an Instagram friend reread a poetry favorite from her youth. I'd just spotted the book on one of my shelves, shortly before I saw her post. 

Answer: Yes, it holds up. It's just as silly as it ever was and I like the goofiness. While it's probably still best read as a child, I enjoyed it. A couple favorites:

The Optimist (Anonymous author)

The Optimist fell ten stories,
And at each window bar,
He shouted to the folks inside, 
"Doing all right, so far!"

The Ostrich is a Silly Bird by Mary E. Wilkens Freeman

The Ostrich is a silly bird, 
With scarcely any mind,
He often runs so very fast, 
He leaves himself behind.

And when he gets there, has to stand
And hang about till night,
Without a blessed thing to do
Until he comes in sight 

I'd recommend this book for children but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a copy, anywhere. Still, if you ever happen across it, it's loads of fun and especially suited for giggly kids who like humor. 

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