Monday, February 27, 2006

BOOKS: "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!"

Occasionally, due perhaps to gas, bad dreams, or a general malaise about the sorry state of the world today, young Master Sam wakes up from his nap cranky and not his usual fabulous self... a state of being we've termed "crabulous."

So we hug him and pat him and reassure him that things will get better, we
swear, but sometimes he just needs to fret for a few minutes before he collects himself.

This happened just last week. I thought that perhaps a change of scene would do him good, and as I carried him down the hall from his room to ours, I espied our copy of The Wind in the Willows and, on a whim, grabbed it and brought it with us. Sam and I have never read this book, but I figured, what the heck, it couldn't make things worse.

So I started reading. Within seconds, a huge sunny smile shone from my baby boy's face. He was entranced. As I continued reading, he grinned and beamed and generally bounced about in a state of extreme good cheer.

I can't say I blame him.
The Wind in the Willows is some seriously awesome shit. So I thought I'd pass along the good vibrations. If you've got a case of the Mondays, read the following excerpt (preferably aloud) and I guarantee -- GUARANTEE -- you will feel better.

(Warning: 50 Books does not take responsibility for the consequences of your reading this passage, as it may prompt you to suddenly quit your job if you are currently sitting at your desk at work.)
THE Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring-cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How stupid you are! Why didn't you tell him -- -- " "Well, why didn't you say -- -- " "You might have reminded him -- -- " and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting -- everything happy, and progressive, and occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering "whitewash!" he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before -- this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver -- glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

I don't care how old or young you are, that is just plain amazing writing. I heart Kenneth Grahame big-time. If you want to keep reading (and I can't say as I blame you), the full online text of the book is here.

Happy Monday!


Anita said...

Oh my goodness - - I'd just totally forgotton about the Wind and the Willows and how much I LOVED it as a child. Reading this passage just brings a big smile to my face.

Anonymous said...

Such a lovely book. I still have my copy from childhood.

Anonymous said...

Our college did a stage version of The Wind of the Willows.

You don't know the true meaning of horror until you've seen your roommate in skin tight leather pants and weasel ears.

Good show, though.

Rebecca said...

"After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working."

Oh, I can't begin to tell you how happy this line made me! I had the day off today, and it was twice as much fun to go out and do nothing while everyone else is doing something!

Tammy said...

You don't know the true meaning of horror until you've seen your roommate in skin tight leather pants and weasel ears.

But that's how I spend my weekends.

Yay, La'Jonndra! I was hoping this post might be a little shot in the arm for someone.

And Rebecca, that's my favourite line from this passage, too! Heh.

Marg said...

My son and I listened to this not too long ago and I have to say that I really loved it - revisiting all those old friends was so good.

Maya said...

Oddly enough, I said only a couple of days ago to my husband that I was going to get down my childhood copy (one of the nicer books I've ever had - full color, large plate illustrations, lovely little drawings in the margins, the works) and read it aloud to him. Considering his attention span is, oh, let's be generous and say, like that of a seven-year-old ... I think its perfect!