Wednesday, February 6, 2019

{From My Commonplace} :: Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Stories

"What moved and astonished me was that he knew no nursery rhymes and fairy stories. He had read Dostoevsky, Proust, he read Aristotle and Sophocles in Greek. He had read Chaucer and Spenser. He was musical. He could analyse Shostakovich and Bartok. He quoted Schopenhauer. But he didn't know Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss Muffet, The Three Bears, Red Riding-Hood. He knew the story of Cinderella only through Rossini's opera. And all that sweet lyricism of our Anglo-Saxon childhood, a whole culture with rings on its fingers and bells on its toes, had been lost to him in that infancy of slums and smelly drains, rats and pawnshops, street prostitutes, curses, rags, and hacking coughs, freezing bare feet and no Prince Charmings, which had been the lot of the really poor in the years between the first and second world wars."

--from A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

I have heard Muriel Spark recommended several times over the past decade, but only now decided to pick up one of her books. What a treat. She is such an engaging writer: funny, insightful, poignant, natural prose. Quite a few passages made their way into my commonplace, but this one in particular seemed such a sobering companion to our educational project as mother-teachers.

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