Today is my first day of retirement. I am not bored. It is as if a plug has been pulled and ideas, long suppressed, teem and vie with one another for my attention.
This blog is called Second Chances. I regret bypassing the road not taken, but I’m pretty certain that I don’t want to return to the fork. I want to bushwhack, meander offroad and explore what has been overlooked or forgotten, even if only by me. There is pleasure in the uncelebrated. There is joy in rediscovering the forgotten, no matter how quotidian.
The focus of this blog will be books that have fallen out of favor. Books that once topped the New York Times Best Seller List only to drop out of sight. Books that won Pulitzers and are no longer in print. I’m searching for the hidden gem. The popular novel that time forgot. Or the red-headed offspring of a fabled author, residing in relative obscurity alongside its more valued siblings. Seen anyone reading Peyton Place or Forever Amber on the subway? Anyone ever heard of Shirley by Charlotte Bronte? I confess that I hadn’t before a search, perhaps because Shirley has been so heavily overshadowed by her sister Jane Eyre. I’m sure to be spending time with a number of literary clunkers, but even then the experience will be worth it. Old books are not just literature, they are historical artifacts. They unwittingly reflect attitudes about gender, sexuality, and race. (I just learned that Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was originally titled Ten Little Nig—rs. The original hardcover version is on sale at amazon.com for almost $1,000. Then I saw the movie Carol and was shocked to find that lawyers once inserted morality clauses in divorce agreements to deny visitation to homosexual parents. I’ve learned firsthand that the law can itself be immoral). Old books describe the toys, food, and clothing of the day. If nothing else, they are a museum in writing.
Not much of a bushwhack? I envision occasional detours to visit other items forgotten or overlooked or taken for granted. An ignored ingredient. An unheralded destination. A disregarded custom or practice. Anyone for a game of whist or euchre or cribbage? When did we stop eating with our hands? Is apple pie really American? Or perhaps examining a practice that time has spared like overbroad morality clauses but that should be reconsidered or a glimpse at practices that have deservedly been consigned to history’s scrapheap. And then a few personal detours. Why did I forego one road, and what were the pitfalls and rewards of the road taken instead?
This blog is interactive. I expect to post on the second day of each month, as befits a blog called Second Chances. I invite everyone to share jewels that they’ve discovered or to comment about any topic that deserves a second chance. It would be great if this blog became an open discourse about any item that’s been overlooked, an eclectic dialogue at the intersection of history and literature. Please recommend Second Chances to your friends. Every voice onboard is a new idea.