Non-Living Things Can Offer Literary Zings

Sometimes the main or almost-main character in a novel or short story is an inanimate object. And sometimes that object can seem almost as alive as characters who are actually alive (albeit fictionally).

My latest object of (literary) desire is the painted drum in Louise Erdrich’s absorbing novel The Painted Drum, which I’m in the middle of reading. As is often the case with fiction’s noteworthy objects, the non-living thing is named in the title. And this Native-American artifact has a personality of sorts, crafted beauty, and a major impact on the plot. (Ms. Erdrich is pictured above.)

Other prominent objects in literature of course include houses, cars, art, jewelry, statues, and more.

When a house is the title “character,” there’s frequently something about it that makes the human protagonists uneasy. For instance, Jane Austen’s part-spoof-of-Gothic-fiction Northanger Abbey features a character (Catherine Morland) whose overactive imagination gets a bit out of hand when she visits the titular dwelling. The house in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is legitimately scary, the one in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables is not exactly a happy place, and the abode in Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand is the jumping-off point for some weird time travel.

More positive is the house in L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. It’s not literally a blue castle, but it’s the dream home Valancy Stirling has always wished for but never thought she’d have — and Valancy ends up living there with a man she loves through a very improbable set of circumstances.

Speaking of time travel a la du Maurier, there’s also H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine — with that titular device a vehicle of sorts.

Cars? The automobile “character” I first thought of is the one in Stephen King’s From a Buick 8 that’s a portal to a spooky place.

Art? Donna Tartt’s set-in-recent-times novel The Goldfinch is built around Carel Fabritius’ 1654 painting “The Goldfinch,” which is taken from a museum by protagonist Theo Decker amid the chaos of a terrorist attack that kills his mother and others. The priceless painting subsequently has a giant effect on Theo’s life.

Jewelry, gems, and such? Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone — an early novel in the detective genre — “stars” a huge diamond. The also-huge, very valuable pearl in John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl is not the positive find Kino and his family hope it will be; it turns out to be a disaster — as does the article of jewelry in Guy de Maupassant’s devastating short story “The Necklace.”

Then there’s of course J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, in which the trilogy’s most-powerful ring is as consequential (to the plot and the future of Middle-earth) as it gets.

Statues? There’s the stone pillar in Erich Maria Remarque’s The Black Obelisk that can be seen as a symbol of the nascent Nazi movement in 1920s Germany. And there’s the famous statuette that’s the title of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon, starring detective Sam Spade.

Another sleuthing work focusing on an object is Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter,” featuring detective C. Auguste Dupin. Poe also put inanimate things in the titles of several other tales — including “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Oblong Box,” and “The Oval Portrait,” among others.

Oh, and there are the fateful overpasses in The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather.

Novels and stories you remember that prominently feature objects?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about a disruptive snowstorm and more — is here.

84 thoughts on “Non-Living Things Can Offer Literary Zings

  1. I can think of Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Happy Prince, a statue around whom the story revolves. I particularly love adding life to inanimate objects in my poems, somehow it adds to the depth.
    I can also think of Orhan Pamuk’s Magnum Opus ; The Red, Many inanimate characters have a voice in the poem.
    Also I can think of the oval portrait by Edgar Allen Poe…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A late entry:

    Tolstoy’s “The Forged Coupon” is a story, novella in length, of sin, sin-eating and redemption– and it all revolves around the bit of paper named in the title.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave, I’m going to go off-topic once again, but I have the book “Becoming” by Michelle Obama on its way to me right now. Though I normally don’t watch many interviews, I made an exception to see her interviewed by Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” as well as a long one with her friend Oprah. The former show also had Michelle’s friend Common doing a set dedicated to her that was wonderful, The latter was just phenomenal, so inspiring for all the advice she gave to the young girls in the audience and to those of us just watching. There were so many great moments, but those I’ll especially take with me are: (1) while going to Princeton and then Harvard law school, she ended up hating being a lawyer (which made me think about Harriet Vane’s declaration In “Gaudy Night” that one should do what one’s proper job is); (2) Barack standing by the window and looking out pensively, so when he was asked what he was thinking about, he said “income inequality”; (3) the only time her husband ever summoned her back to the WH was when the Sandy Hook massacre was reported to him; and (4) of course, you probably have read about how her reaction to Trump’s birther claims made her fearful about her kids, and she’d never forgive him for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lit! Sounds like those interviews were very interesting and informative — and Michelle Obama is indeed an admirable person with a great life story to tell in her new book.

      Excellent advice from Harriet Vane! I know a number of people (women and men) who trained as lawyers and then decided to do something else (often becoming writers). A bit of a decades-long trend? 🙂

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      • ” Barack standing by the window and looking out pensively, so when he was asked what he was thinking about, he said “income inequality””– reminds me of an old joke:

        An old Jewish widower was feeling low, and had taken to spending hours staring out the window in apparent sorrow. His grandkids, hoping to cheer him up, treated him to a beautiful suit, straight from Savile Row, and cut in the English fashion.

        For a while it looked like the suit had done the trick. Grandpa was back to his old cheery self. Then it happened. His grandkids came over to visit, and there he was, staring out the window, deep in thought.

        “What’s the matter, Grandpa?” they cried out. ” With his hands clasped behind him, Grandpa turned and said, in a flawless posh accent, “I understand we’ve lost India.”

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    • Good one, Bill! And one of course thinks of the famous Harry Chapin song, too.

      Re Vonnegut’s work: If I’m remembering correctly, the title of his “Slaughterhouse-Five” was also the name of the building decimated during World War II.

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  4. “The Bottle Neck” by Hans Christian Andersen concerns the experiences of a bottle, from glassworks to its end as a bird feeder, over many occasions, years and miles. Here it is in its entirety. Short!
    http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheBottleNeck_e.html

    “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years”, by Rachel Field, recounts the adventures of a carved wooden doll, from its origin as a piece of prized ash to its home in a museum. From wikipedia:
    “The book details Hitty’s adventures as she becomes separated from Phoebe and travels from owner to owner over the course of a century. She ends up living in locations as far-flung as Boston, New Orleans, India, and the South Pacific. At various times, she is lost at sea and also under sofa cushions, abandoned in a hayloft, serves as part of a snake-charmer’s act, and meets the famous writer Charles Dickens, before arriving at her new owner’s summer home in Maine, which turns out to be the original Preble residence where she first lived. From there she is purchased at auction for a New York antique shop, where she sits among larger and grander dolls of porcelain and wax, and writes her memoirs.

    The story was inspired by a doll purchased by Field. The doll currently resides at the Stockbridge Library Association in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. ”

    This was among my favorite books my mother read to us, published in 1929.

    “The Red Violin” is likewise a book (haven’t read it) that traces the passage through many hands of an exceptional instrument over many years. The movie, which I have seen, was released in 1998. Unlike Hitty or the bottle neck, the story is not told from the point of view of the object.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! I just read the Hans Christian Andersen story you linked to. Powerful and poignant. What an interesting perspective (the bottle’s) from which to write the tale.

      “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years” and “The Red Violin” also sound excellent! The second work reminds me a bit of the wonderful/intense novel “Corelli’s Mandolin” I read several months ago on the recommendation of commenter Sue here.

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      • Probably because I’ve owned several old guitars, I have always had a fondness for stories of instruments like “The Red Violin”. I once had a 1953 Fender Telecaster which was very well-worn, but I never knew where it had been or how it got its bedraggled appearance. All I know is the guy from whom I bought it had himself a few years prior bought the guitar off a fellow he met at a Texas guitar show. When I acquired it, in 1989, there was a place on the bottom bout worn smooth to the wood where somebody’s arm had brushed over and over and over in the act of strumming. There were marks around the perimeter where once there had been rivets– a western-style leather cover had been affixed at the back and sides, but had been removed years before, the rivet holes covered over in a tannish nail polish. The guitar, though right-handed, had been converted for a time to left-handed use, with hand-drilled position markers colored in with ink, still visible on the bottom of the neck. Who strummed it so long the finish wore through? Who put that tooled leather cover on it? Who took it off? Who played it left-handed? One owner? Two? Three? More?

        I’ll never know.

        One thing I do know: I played it every day for seventeen years.

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  5. Dave, I think we’ve gotten to “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” which is one of my favorite holiday movies, starring Steve Martin and John Candy (who I still miss today). Mike mentioned Sky King, and I posted about Agatha Christie’s train novels, and I’d add to that the 1927 Daimler that Lord Peter Wimsey drove, and called Mrs. Merdle., not that it played a big role in the Wimsey series, but was mentioned quite often. One of the best Wimsey novels was “The Nine Tailors,” which was about bell-ringing, and obviously fits in with the non-living characters column, as well as Mrs. Merdle who breaks down (conveniently) someplace where a crime has occurred. I know that there are those who find it somewhat boring if one is not interested in bell-ringing, but I found it fascinating!

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    • I’ve never seen “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Kat Lit, but one has to be impressed with a movie that includes three “objects” in the title. 🙂

      And, yes, cars, such as Lord Peter Wimsey’s, can be excellent secondary “characters” in novels. Certainly the case with that ramshackle truck that takes the Joad family to California in “The Grapes of Wrath.” Or the early cars in “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Etc.!

      I like bells. And “The Bells” poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

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  6. Hi Dave,
    Before I get to this week’s topic , I would like to share with you this column:
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/sensing-defeat-trump-cries-witch-hunt
    I think you will like it – or maybe you are already familiar with this writer.
    I see that someone else mentioned “The Golden Bowl” by Henry James – I read it several years ago and loved it, although it was not easy reading. The novel uses the golden bowl that a princely couple (can’t recall their names) buy together and it becomes the symbol of their love: beautiful and perfect – but alas, there is an invisible flaw in the bowl that eventually causes it to crack, symbolizing the hidden flaw in the marriage. Clever device, I thought.
    In a similar vein, there is “The Silver Chalice” by Thomas B. Costain; not in he same class as the James novel, of course, but an entertaining yarn about a silver chalice that supposedly contains the Holy Grail.
    Ernest Hemingway instead uses a living symbol a big marlin in his “The Old Man and the Sea”, not my favorite of his novels, but I do appreciate Santiago’s struggle to conquer the marlin only to lose it to hungry sharks – the marlin is the prize he needs to feel he is powerful, but the sharks remind him that life is full of obstacles and failures; in the end, however, Santiago has a victory of sorts, and he clings to his belief that “a man can be destroyed by never conquered” or words to that effect. When I read it years ago, I thought it echoed my favorite quote from Albert Camus:
    “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer”, which has sustained me throughout a messy life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A fantastic Daily Beast piece, Clairdelune! Thank you for linking to it!

      The Golden Bowl of “The Golden Bowl” deserves your clever-device designation, and few authors match Henry James in symbolic subtlety. And, yes, later-career James is not easy reading — but it’s of course very worthwhile reading. GREAT description by you.

      I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard of The Silver Chalice (perhaps from mentions of the 1954 Paul Newman movie) and it sounds like quite a memorable object.

      Eloquent, convincing take on the marlin in “The Old Man and the Sea” being a symbolic “object.” Not my favorite Hemingway, either, but a novella that really stays with a reader.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Clairdelune, it was me that mentioned “The Golden Bowl” earlier in this column, but I didn’t quite know how to summarize the plot, but you did a great job in explaining the symbolism of the bowl. As often happens, I most remember the movie rather than the book, so I’m grateful to know that someone else has read the book!!

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      • Hello Kat Lit, I did not see the movie, otherwise I’m sure I also would have remembered it better than the book! 🙂
        I just wish I had time to read again some of my favorite books and some of the newer ones so well described by Dave and you and all the lucky readers in this group.
        I keep a couple of books on my work desk, so I can read a page now and then when my brain really needs a break.
        I need to win a big lottery so I can quit working and read all the good books being discussed here!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great idea, Dave! I was also immediately thinking of The Goldfinch and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Gogol wrote a similar story (1835, earlier than Wilde) called The Portrait. And speaking of Gogol and inanimate objects, he also wrote Dead Souls, in which the protagonist buys up serfs who are for tax purposes still alive, but in real life already dead.

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  8. So, Dave, I’ve run through most of my characters that I have run into over the past few days, though I’ve also run through those who I’ve considered as friends, and who are way too much important to be just called acquaintances. but I’ve reached the stage where I need to start culling my bookshelves, though I’m not quite there yet. Ha! and thanks. Kathy

    Liked by 2 people

    • Culling bookshelves is so tough, Kat Lit. 😦 I did that when moving from a house to an apartment four years ago — keeping about a third of my books. Not only tough in terms of decisions, but in dealing with the emotional attachment! I can understand anyone’s hesitation.

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      • I can sympathize with that , Dave and Kat Lit – I had to cull my books when I left Italy for the US, since I already had a good collection ; after a couple of decades I moved from a home here to an apartment in Hawaii -I added several books in the ten years I spent there, then another move to Japan, more culling… after another decade, another traumatic culling for my return to the States… and every time it felt like I was leaving behind my best friends. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • Painful to have had to cull your book collection multiple times, Clairdelune. 😦

          Now that you’ve mentioned Japan again, I remember that you told me in the past that you lived there for a while. Italy, mainland U.S., Hawaii, Japan, back to the U.S. — you’ve definitely been a world citizen!

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  9. I think one that might fit this is “the Pearl” by John Steinbeck – I read it in junior high school and it’s kind of always stuck with me – Although it’s a fast read I still thought it carried a heavy message – something that you’ve always wanted, or a treasure you dig up may not always be what you think! Sort of a “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it” kind of thing. And on the lines of Stephen King – don’t forget about Christine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M.B.!

      Yes, “The Pearl” definitely fits this topic. Quite a devastating novella that sort of presages those lottery winners whose bounty leads to major disappointment — unwise spending, jealousy from so-called friends, paranoia, etc. “…be careful what you wish for because you just might get it” indeed! Of course, getting lucky can make a person happier, too…

      True about “Christine” — another of Stephen King’s titular cars!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, M.B., I know I read “The Pearl” but I can’t remember much (if anything) about it. I always say that I’ve never read Steinbeck other than “The Red Pony,” but totally forget about “The Pearl.” I agree that we probably had to read this in Jr. High School.

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  10. Saturday morning in the late 1950s and early 1960s revolved around the black and white images of twin engine airplanes and the action adventure of SKY KING. Less than military pilot grade vision led me into civilian service (the cops) and civilian flying ( sailplanes). Gliders and various power planes are featured as “characters” in my crime fiction. And now that I have passed beyond the age of reasonably safe piloting, it gives me a chance to at least let my fictional human characters share the thrill of rolling into that strong thermal and feel the aircraft enveloped into the upward push toward cloud base.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mike! Loved your vivid comment, and, from the way you wrote it, I can see that your crime fiction — and the aircraft in it — must be impressive!

      Among the novelists who wrote expertly and interestingly about planes was Robert Serling (brother of Rod).

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    • Mike, you threw me for a loop when reading your comment about Sky King. I remember that series from the early 50s, but I can see from Wikipedia that there were various dates and times and channels that this series ran on TV, and some of them were in the late 50’s. The reason I knew there were some earlier than that was because I used to play with all boys in my neighborhood before entering first grade. I always took the role of the lone female while play-acting with my friends. A few of my my favorites were Dale Evans and Lois Lane, but I also loved Penny King. I must be older than you! But, thank you so much for mentioning the series, because I was starting to think I made this up and am happy that someone else enjoyed this series as did I! 🙂

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      • “Sky’s niece Penny” as Jimmy Buffett sang. She flew a single engine plane. Sky originally flew a twin Cessna taildragger then switched to a newer tricycle gear Cessna in the later shows. It ran in re-runs into the early 60s. I think you can watch some of the episodes on You Tube.

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      • We are all telling our age!!! I adored Saturday mornings with Sky King! When I was a teenager, he toured with a small traveling circus and I got a glossy 8×10 autographed picture of him! I have it still! He autographed it with me standing right beside him.

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        • Oh you lucky girl, lulabelle! I thought he was sooo good looking and, shoot, that was when I was 9 or 10 (!) … I started crushing early: by that time I was already in love with Clu Gulager (anybody remember him?), Ricky Nelson, Pernell Roberts (actually I was in love with Adam Cartwright, not necessarily Pernell), and Troy Donahue. Speaking of those age-revealing Saturday morning shows, I also recall “Fury” with Peter Graves (before he was super famous), and “My Friend Flicka” with one of the best character actors ever, Gene Evans. And speaking of Gene Evans: I remember a Saturday afternoon Western matinee on one of the few channels we received in the 60s, and the movie was “The Bravados” (one of the best Westerns I have ever seen because, as with “High Noon”, the story is so universal ir could have fit any number of genres; it just happened to have been done as a Western). Gene Evans was in that movie and presented as a good guy and a good friend to the hero-turned-grief-stricken-murderous-avenger (Gregory Peck). At the end of the movie, Gene Evans is revealed to have been the bad guy — really bad guy — and I remember sitting on the floor in front of the tv and going, “Nooo! He’s the dad on My Friend Flicka!” Just the beginning of life’s lessons learned, lol.

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  11. One more example can be many many objects from the Harry Potter series. To name a few, the Horcruxes, the Deathly Hallows, the Sorting Hat. Well, I’m sure, every object in this series is pretty important. Amazing post by the way! Never really thought of objects as characters before but this new dimension of thought is surely going to help me write further.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, thatlilwoman!

      You’re absolutely right — the “Harry Potter” books are full of important, memorable objects! You named several of the crucial ones. Also, various wands, the philosopher’s (sorcerer’s) stone, the Goblet of Fire, the invisibility cloak, the pensieve, the knight bus, that flying car, the huge chess set, the Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts itself, etc. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks as a always for bringing up Jane Austen! In a slightly related note, I was just writing about Chekhov’s story “Gooseberries,” in which the narrator’s brother is obsessed with getting his own estate on which he can grow gooseberries. He finally does and greedily gulps down his not very good gooseberries, leading the narrator to meditate on the illusion of happiness.

    Other Chekhov stories in which objects or places take on major significance include “House with a Mezzanine,” “Ward no. Six,” “In the Ravine,” and of course, “The Cherry Orchard.”

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  13. Such an interesting topic! I just read “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd for one of my book clubs. In that novel, both an old ship masthead and a wooden picture are likenesses of the Black Madonna, which became like an actual character in the book.

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      • This is such a wonderful book, Becky, thanks for mentioning it and I hope to reread it one day. I was on a quest for a while to find a Black Madonna in any form, but never did, before moving off to other obsessions.
        Dave, I think I’m one of those who recommended this book to you as well, and I still do.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You definitely did recommend it, Kat Lit, along with one or two other fans of that novel. My local library stubbornly refuses to have it on its shelves when I visit, but I’ll get to it eventually!

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  14. Fascinating post, Dave!!!! Of course “The Shell Seekers” came to mind! I grieved at the end of that book! Then there is “The Song of The Lark” by Willa Cather. Of course the title is based on a painting at the Chicago Museum of Art. Visiting that painting is on my bucket list! The Hill House and Eleanor ARE the most compelling characters in “The Haunting of Hill House.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, lulabelle!

      “The Shell Seekers” IS a wonderful novel, with a very poignant ending. So glad you recommended it to me.

      Excellent mention of “The Song of The Lark” — a title that obviously also refers to the novel’s opera singer protagonist. As you might know, Willa Cather’s book output includes “The Professor’s House,” too. Good, not great.

      Yes, Eleanor is quite memorable in Shirley Jackson’s novel, even as the house steals the show!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Dave, you mentioned “Northanger Abbey,” but another Austen novel that was titled by another estate was “Mansfield Park.” Almost all of the action occurred there, and the main character, Fanny Price, was the moral compass and soul of the novel. She was shabbily treated by all of the Bertram family, other than her cousin Edmund, and they of course end up together at the end (which I’ve some problem with, but I’ve noted this before).

    Another novel that I enjoyed was “Howards End,” by E.M. Forster, though I’m more familiar with the movie than the book. The disposition of this house had many repercussions for the Wilcox family, as well as the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen. Margaret befriends Mrs. Wilcox, who is very ill, and writes a note to bequeath Howards End to Margaret. I keep wanting to call them Vanessa and Anthony, Emma and Helena, One thing that has always stayed with me was that one of the Wilcox family hits another main character that knocks him into a bookcase, which falls onto him and he dies, though mostly from heart trouble In conjunction with all else. Not to get morbid, but I always think that could happen to me if I keep loading up my bookshelves the way I do. 🙂

    I was interested to know that Zadie Smith wrote a book, “On Beauty” that was based on and an homage to “Howards End.” I may need to get that from the library (which I’ve not been to yet), because all of my books are out of control!

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      • Thank you, Kat Lib/Kat Lit!

        “Mansfield Park” is another great example of a house/estate as a major Jane Austen “character.” And I didn’t realize Howards End was a house. (Obviously I haven’t read that novel yet!) Terrific summaries of both works — and here’s hoping no overfilled bookcases fall in your place.

        I’ve read Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty,” and liked it a LOT, though I liked her “White Teeth” more. The latter novel is absolutely hilarious amid its many serious aspects.

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        • Another novel worthy of mention is “The Golden Bowl” by Henry James, the plot being more complicated than I can capture here, plus I forget a lot of it. Then there is Agatha Christie, who wrote so many mystery novels it’s hard to choose one topic, but what popped into my head first were trains — “The Mystery of the Blue Train,” “4:50 From Paddington,” and of course, “Murder on the Orient Express.” Dave, I think you also used a Eurail Pass while traveling somewhere in Europe, which made me think how much better the trains were there than in the US. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, but the Blue Train and the Orient Express were luxury trains, and I was so enraptured by reading about them and watching all of them in movies, I always wanted to be on board, never mind the pesky things like murders occurring! 🙂

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          • Terrific mention, Kat Lit! “The Golden Bowl” is one of the complex/great late-career Henry James novels I haven’t gotten to yet. (I did read “The Ambassadors” — published a year earlier, in 1903.)

            Trains in Agatha Christie novel titles — nice! Reminds me of Martin Cruz Smith’s excellent “Three Stations,” one of the sequels to “Gorky Park.”

            I did also use the Eurail Pass way back when, and encountered none of the pesky murders you funnily referenced. 🙂 I’m 100% sure most European trains are still far superior to most U.S. trains — so much better funded, and considered important. My most recent experience was riding trains in France this past spring, and they were excellent.

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            • I’m not sure when or ever I’ll go on a vacation again; in some ways, I’m already staying in a vacation place in my own home with my best friend and my two critters I have still with me. However, if I were to take one sometime in the future, I’d like to take a trans-Canada train trip that goes through the Rockies. I remember when I went to Europe way back when we spent many nights sleeping on a train, and we woke up one morning to a great and quite beautiful view of the Alps. Btw, one of Bill’s grandkids just returned from taking a bicycle trip from San Diego, CA, to Savannah, GA, where his parents picked him up. Yikes! We saw him yesterday before he flies back to Colorado, and he showed me a pic of his bike, loaded with his various backpacks, tent, and I don’t know what else. It still boggles my mind, but he’s young and strong, and open to seeing and meeting new people.

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              • A trans-Canada train trip would be amazing, Kat Lit, but there’s something to be said for being home — and with one’s pets. 🙂

                Impressive trip by one of Bill’s grandkids! Why not, especially when one is young!

                I’m kind of sick of traveling this year after my four visits to Florida (to deal with my mother’s estate), one visit to a columnist conference, and the aforementioned visit to France. (The latter two trips fun!!!) Thirteen plane flights total (all starting from the abysmal/crowded Newark airport) — and another Florida trip in 17 days. 😦

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            • Dave, have you ever been to Japan? They have conquered the train thing – their fast trains, the Shinkansen, is fabulous – so fast and comfortable. I traveled from one end of Japan to the other, once in a sleeping compartment all the way to the northern tip, to see the ice sculpting festival.
              The only unnerving thing about those trains is that in some places the railway runs very high above ground, and when there is an earthquake (at least twice a week…) the train stops automatically, so you hang in the air watching the ground do unholy things… but for me the scarier moments were the times when the train was underground, waaaay underneath Tokyo Bay, and the earthquake alarm would come on…and I could not help visualizing all that sea water above my head…

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              • Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Japan, Clairdelune. Would love to go! Glad to hear that you’ve been there. 🙂 It’s to that country’s credit that its train system is as good as you describe (albeit with those very scary moments!).

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  16. Ooh! I love this post, Dave. The first novel that came to mind in this category is one you introduced me too – The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. The title of the book is the name of a painting that was the focus of attention in this fantastic story of multiple generations. What did Penelope Keeling do with her prized possession in the end? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Molly!

      How did I forget “The Shell Seekers” when writing the post? 🙂 I LOVE that novel. And, yes, one of the many compelling things about Rosamunde Pilcher’s book (in addition to the admirable/memorable Penelope Keeling character) was wondering what would ultimately happen with that painting.

      Liked by 1 person

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