Thursday, November 30, 2006

What is a Conscience Pudding?

When I was thinking of names for blogs, I rather liked The Peevish Gorge. It's from an Edward Gorey story, but it's sounds too irritable, and I'm afraid with a title like that I'd just complain all the time. I considered the Vivacious Imp, because those are the two words my husband says best describe me. However, I'm focusing mainly on books here, and I need something bookish.

The Conscience Pudding is a story from Edith Nesbit's collection of stories about the Bastable children. The six precocious Bastable children are an upper class English family that has fallen on hard times. Their caring father is often absent, trying to make a living, and their mother is no longer alive. So with any really fun children's story, the children are left to their own devices without adult supervision. They are clever and adventurous children who mean to be good but almost always get into trouble. The stories are hilarious but also sweet without ever being sappy, and they are as great a read for adults as children. They're my favorite stories by Nesbit, although all her books are good (especially The Enchanted Castle), and her description of an enchanted twilight garden is just as exciting as her account of all the tasty items in the children's picnic hamper.

When I suggested to my friend Heather that I'd name my blog The Conscience Pudding, she said "That sounds like something I'd like to eat." Well, if you read the story, you'll see that it's not. The children save up their change one Christmas to make themselves a pudding, but they have to do it stealthily so the adults don't discover it. This involves cooking the pudding in short intervals late at night over the course of a week, and it also results in misguidedly washing the currants and inadvertantly getting things like soap suds in the pudding. Once their pudding is "finished," they are overcome with guilt that they spent their cash on themselves and are inclined to go out and find some less-fortunate people to whom they'll feed their horrid pudding. This is the part where I really get tickled, when they are wandering around London asking strangers, "Pardon me, sir, are you poor?"

I think it's appropriate for my blog title because it's a good book by an author I love, it's quintessentially British (I'm an anglophile), it's about food, it's funny, and it's got a bit of a conscience about it. I read books and talk about books and other good things in life because I can't help myself, but I also believe that there's a moral and personal benefit we derive from reading and thinking about what we read, and from simply enjoying good things.

Some of my favorites by E. Nesbit: The Bastable Children (includes The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Woodbegoods, and a third volume of Bastable stories), The Enchanted Castle, The Book of Dragons, and The Railway Children.
If you enjoy Nesbit, you'll also enjoy Edward Eager's tribute to her in these books.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's A Bit Much

My husband announced the other night that "it's a bit much" is my catchphrase these days. Honestly, it applies to EVERYTHING, and currently to my blog, which is about books (and other things on occasion). Dozens of beloved books are jostling around in my head at the moment, all competing for attention and begging to be mentioned first, and's a bit much.

My blog will be mostly about books I love and rarely about those that I hate, for I tend to avoid reading what I hate since I'm not in school any longer. As a result of escaping the oppressive thumb of certain syllabi, I don't feel guilty about cathartically chucking old copies of Atlas Shrugged or Sinclair Lewis's dreaded Main Street into the car backseat and letting the wind rip them to shreds. It does seem wrong to do that to ANY book, insofar as I believe there's something inherently good in a book just because it's a book (although I don't apply that to so much religious non-fiction that I consider to be obvious and insulting and therefore not at all bookish).

My point is, I read what I love, and I yearn to talk with people about it, and I look forward to your feedback and (even better) recommendations!

For a little introduction of some books I think are just GLORIOUS (and to see whether you might be insterested in anything I'll talk about on my blog), I'm linking to two lists I created on Maybe you'll get some ideas for your Christmas list.

"Excessively Diverting Brit Lit"
"Worth it for the Illustrations"

Happy reading, friends!