An author that caught Maynard’s eye…

Be warned that there’s nothing political here. Or, to the extent that anything political happens, you’ll likely find it to be disagreeable, regardless of your orientation. Ms. Holland is clearly a crank who was too smart for her own good, and with antisocial tendencies to boot. So she retreated to the family Unabomber-class shack in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and wrote books. I was saddened to find that she died two months ago, aged 77.

How did Barbara Holland come on my radar? Ah, I remember. I was perusing the eBay listings of used books (one of my most serious vices, in that I can find no excuse to give it up), and a novel that had something to do with horses caught my eye. I clicked on it, thinking of my friend who is a horsegirl. This led me into checking out the author. An assortment of books appeared. I should try one of these.

So I reached for Holland’s memoir, When All the World was Young, and it compelled me to read it through. She describes a rather hellish childhood, seen through the ironic eye of a survivor. However, her tales are weirdly humorous, although it’s not a “ha ha” sort of funny. For example, although her father terrorized her, she steps back and speculates…

I see by the newspaper that today, as then and always, the experts agree that children raised without a resident Father do badly in school, suffer emotional and behavioral problems, and often end up in jail. Nobody spells out the essential ingredient, but it would seem to be fear, pure and simple, necessary nourishment for the growing child.

Do we need fear? That’s something to chew on. Overbearing fathers can be a problem, but so can the absence of fathers. Life is complicated, isn’t it?

Holland understood these things. She was in a good position to observe, being something of an alien to our world. Some people are like this (I’m thinking Asperger syndrome). Growing up, Holland was overwhelmed by the senselessness and hostility of human interactions; on the other hand, she was aware of the need for a structure to our existence. I see in her life a quest for that sweet spot between a shared (and coerced) cultural configuration versus tolerance of individual eccentricities.

Holland’s home page is at BarbaraHolland.net. She has an Amazon author’s page. Some of her Amazon listings include “Look Inside!” sample pages.

The New York Times printed Holland’s obituary.

Barbara Holland, Defender of Small Vices, Dies at 77

Barbara Holland, a writer whose humorous essays sang the simple pleasures of drinking martinis, cursing and eating fatty foods, and who wrote an evocative best-selling memoir of her childhood and adolescence in the Washington suburbs, died on Sept. 7 at her home in Bluemont, Va. She was 77…

Holland could not follow the herd. She tried, and it just didn’t work for her. So she sought her own path. She did not pursue wealth and fame. Rather, she was satisfied with a modest lifestyle, paid for by her own honest work. She did not have to beg for alms, and she had no master. From this vantage, she could freely observe and comment.

Perhaps this closing paragraph from the NYT obit will nail down why I saw in her a kindred spirit, and why she might possibly be of interest to TAMs:

[Holland's] fight for ground to stand on as a young woman remained central to her reading of the world. A steady paycheck and self-respect were the keys to her brand of feminism, not the allowance and room of one’s own proposed by Virginia Woolf. “No, Mrs. Woolf,” she wrote in her memoir. “A job, Mrs. Woolf.”

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tammy Bruce, Stanley Blanchard. Stanley Blanchard said: RT @HeyTammyBruce: Author Note: Barbara Holland http://bit.ly/fM6unM #tbrs [...]

  2. Kelly says:

    Someone who extols the virtues of martinis, cursing and fatty foods sounds like the kind of person I’d like. I’ll definitely check her work out. Thanks, Maynard.

  3. ancientwrrior says:

    Maynard, not a comment about this author, but another one whose books you wrote about. Nova, on the American Apocalypse (2 novels). I got them both and couldn’t put them down, read them twice in fact. Felt like I was living through them. Is this what is in store for us? It felt like this is happening today and we’re part of the story.

    • Maynard says:

      Hey, warrior, you’re in luck, AA3 has just been released! Here’s the paperback link; there’s also a Kindle edition. You’ve probably discovered the author’s web posts (which I don’t pay too much attention to; I mostly want to read the finished novels without any previews or spoilers).

      Is this what’s in store for us? I sure hope not! I’m enjoying these books as yarns told by a compelling storyteller. If we do our jobs right, I’d like to keep that stuff in the realm of fantasy. (But just in case, better keep your tetanus shot up to date, lest you inadvertently fall off a roof onto a rake. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s a good idea even without the apocalypse. We need to be especially cautious about infirmity until Obamacare is repealed.)

  4. RobertJCosta says:

    Sorry Kiddo! Your review made no sense to me at all. I kept looking for a nugget to grab on to. NOTHING! Like Kelly above, Someone who extols the virtues of martinis, cursing and fatty foods sounds like the kind of person I’d like. But what’s the catch? Regards, Robert

  5. tabbywabby says:

    For those of you that are into reading and getting books cheap, I have been using paperbackswap.com for a couple of years to get some of my books. You start by posting 9 books you are willing to ship to other PBSers. This will give you 3 credits that you can use to request books from other member. You request them, they mail them to you. And, other users will request books from you and you mail them. When you send a book and they receive it, you get a credit. If anyone signs up, please use my e-mail address as the referral so I can get an extra credit: 7kidscollegefund@cox.net. Unfortunately, When All the World was Young has not been posted by anyone, so I couldn’t get it on PBS :(

    • Maynard says:

      I never heard of that one before. PaperbackSwap.com. I’ll add it to the list. With all the on-line sources these days, my focus has changed from “Where can I get it?” to “What do I want to get?” For this I appreciate Amazon reviews and previews, plus all the other Internet commentary. So much stuff out there. My main hunting grounds have been Amazon, eBay, AbeBooks.com, and sometimes Half.com or Alibris.

  6. thierry says:

    there are a lot of books to be had for one cent on amazon. i’ve found that people seem to want to unload hardcovers for pennies as opposed to the paperback versions. even with the shipping it’s a bargain. i’ve had some luck with the local goodwill/salvation army thrift stores since i’m in an area crawling with colleges. students throw everything out when they leave- so it ends up on the side walk or at goodwill. that’s how little regard people have for books although in all honesty there’s much typing going on today but little writing.

    more and more libraries have digital collections now. if you have a card for the boston public library you can access a ton of sites that usually require a fee- such as newspaper archives and the online oxford dictionary for free. a fabulous resource people should know about. unlike ‘millionaires who heart taxes’ and sen john’ condiments’ kerry some of us aren’t made of money.

    my favorite bookstore in boston is on the side of the historic old south meeting house- where the boston tea party began. the prices are reasonable and there is always something interesting. lots of history books- and no surly twinkie shop boys or girls – these are adults who love books. they speak the english and may in fact have passports.

    http://www.commonwealthbooks.com/

    • Maynard says:

      I have spent time in Boston/Cambridge, and appreciated the quantity and quality of bookstores to be had. As an aside, I’ve always been generally puzzled and troubled that bookstore-rich districts also tend to tilt sharply to the Left. Shouldn’t “smart” people know better? Am I (I’m smart too! Really!) missing something? I’ve asked myself hard questions about this, but I cannot manage to talk myself into becoming a Left-winger. For me, it comes down to a willingness to live and let live. Just because I think someone is stupider than me doesn’t mean I’ve got to go manage his life. Maybe if I were less selfish, I’d be more willing to share of myself and command others what to do. Instead I let others go on being idiots. This is evil of me.

      Anyway, speaking of things to feel guilty about, these days I find it so much easier to shop on the Internet, so my purchases are drawn away from local bookshops. This isn’t just to save a few cents. Darnit, it’s easier to find what I’m looking for, or to read reviews or sample pages. So the sincere shops that I love simply can’t serve me as well as the Internet.

      • thierry says:

        harvard square, cambridge. sigh. having grownup here i was dragged to cambridge common as a tot to, man, hear the bands and drop out or whatever hippies did then ( child services should have been called on my parents). it was wall to wall used bookstores and small cafes. however in the 80s all the bookshops and actual ‘ culture’ ,all be it leftist groovy, dried up to make way for strip mall type stores and ironic hip living insta-culture franchises( think: urban outfitters). the one good independent bookstore left- really the best used( downstairs) one for even trade paperbacks- is still there but so grossly leftist with the attitude in full flight i can rarely drag myself into it. i’ve never seen a used conservative book there .

        always being a history geek and never much interested in politics, i was sort of shocked when i stupidly thought i could just walk into a bookstore and buy the ‘ swift boating’ book pre 2000 election. no one had it in cambridge.( i bet they didn’t have sarah palin’s book . tammy’s books weren’t to be had either.)that’s when i started focusing on buying online. my feeling is: don’t ‘smart people’ investigate issues, try to sift some reason, logic and maybe a few facts lose and then form an opinion? does anyone teach debating anymore- as when you are taught to argue the position opposed to your own? clearly, i’m delusional because that’s fantastical thinking around here.

        many places are gone now- like Avenue Victor Hugo( they always had a sour attitude about everything and everyone- it was never a joy to go there) -and most of those when i think back on it where just plain a bad shopping experience because of the overweening attitude of the employees( and record stores were and are worse). i always hated shopping in stores so online has been great for me- the reason being i just do not like people.

        commonwealth books really seem to be be just book geeks- i have never once gotten an attitude there over anything i have bought. i think part of it is location too- like the brattle book store they are out of the way from the hipness and academentia in rather gross downtown boston. unlike in cambridge, they sell books/ideas not attitudes. and they seem to have survived.

        i only miss the ubiquitous bookshop cat online.

        • mariamcbean says:

          Is the New England Mobile Book Store still in Newton? I loved that place!

        • Maynard says:

          I guess all of humanity (including “smart” people) is afflicted by that tribal phenomenon, the need to join a herd, a clique, a class, whatever. That’s what interested me about Barbara Holland here; her story of growing up on the outside, as some of us do. Sometimes I think that the “natural” herd animals regard the herd state as being so fundamentally normal that they truly and unshakably believe that anyone not in the center of the herd is insane and/or inhuman.

          I’m feeling somewhat odd here, posting on a site with a lot of political focus, and yet I really would prefer to write and think of things other than politics or current events. I’m unsure whether I’m helping restore a much-needed balance to the movement, or whether I’m merely striking a note that’s either irrelevant or distracting. Ah, it’s difficult being an individual! I, too, probably would have joined a herd had I been capable of doing so in my dysfunctional youth.

          • morecowbell says:

            Hmmm. It is uniquely the human condition, congnizant of an autonomous “self” coupled with our adapative subconcious instinct to categorize and classify that creates the illusion that we are “not part of” or “part of” a group. The reality is that humans are no different than a herd of zebras or a school of fish. Individuality and free will, like wet is to water, are merely byproduct illusions generated from the chemical stew that is our brains mother nature cooked up for us to survive.

            Just saying…. chosing to be “outside the herd” selects one into the herd of those “outside the herd”: there is no choice, you are still part of a herd.

          • thierry says:

            but what is this entity called ‘ politics’? it’s supposedly ‘ civil’ nonviolent tribal warfare for control of resources- really now just a platform to control and allegedly protect people. us vs. them. and at heart it is always personal. i wouldn’t be posting here if everything i held as important in my life i did not perceive of as being in dire jeopardy. like my right to buy, read or even write a book.

            aspects of both the left and the right, while bellowing about their own all american constitution and freedom love, seem awfully keen to control what other people eat, whether and how they get medical services ,who they screw, what they read on the internet, and what deity they believe in. awfully keen to be part of these affronts while making gobs of money at it but that, one supposes, is just the gravy of fascism both interpersonal and political.

            if i had to talk or think about politics all day every day it would kill me spiritually and emotionally. i find bits of meaning in many things that at first seem to have little to do with the voluptuous horror of the barry obama liberal bulldozer because politics arise from and show off all the flaws , failings, vices and virtues of human nature. i appreciate your posts that seemingly have nothing to do with politics but am unwilling to concede that that’s necessarily so. if people and the parties responded to urkel less like a sad , angry, scared, and quite irrational herd and more like individuals maybe we wouldn’t be here now. we all benefit when people are encouraged to think for themselves and not be frightened of going out on that odd ball, misfit limb. the alternative in politics on both sides has sadly lately swung more toward herding off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings.

  7. mariamcbean says:

    When I lived in Northampton the ubiquitous puss was always in the window of the bookstore…didn’t see many when I lived in Brookline or Boston…I probably did not go to the small shops, just drove out to NEMBF and buried myself in the cookbook section for hours.

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