Sunday, June 19, 2011

If It's Father's Day, It Must be New Haven

Stephanie Barron's Most Recent Release
Special Guest Post by Stephanie Barron
I write about Jane Austen in a series of detective novels rooted in the English author’s life and work; the most recent was Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, and next up, this August, is the eleventh tome in the series—Jane and the Canterbury Tale. Joanna Slan is about to publish her OWN Jane novel—this one about Jane Eyre—so she asked me to slip out of my blog and into this one, in a gesture of mutual Janeness, rather like Sir Cadogan galloping from portrait to portrait in Hogwarts Castle.

I was happy to oblige.

I’m on a hiatus from writing, at the moment, because it’s summer and the weeds in the garden are screaming for a laying on of hands. I’m also on hiatus because it’s the summer before my elder son’s junior year of high school, and that means the first in a long series of College Trips we’ll be taking over the next eighteen months. This circles back to hobbies (really!) because we wouldn’t have thought of looking at schools this week, if my younger son hadn’t been pursuing his passion—fencing—at a camp Back East. At thirteen, Steve’s still a bit young to trundle his fencing bag alone through Newark Airport, so we’re all flying along to get him there safely. While he cuts with his saber we’ll be trolling up and down the mid-Atlantic with his big brother. College-hunting is a hobby of sorts for Sam at the moment; a dress-up party for who he might be, staged on the grounds of every kind of academe. Stroll among the buildings, eye the kids who live there, and imagine himself in their shoes.

If it’s Father’s Day, it must be New Haven.

My husband last saw Yale when he graduated thirty years ago. The city has changed. So has the campus. We hear they aren’t letting people in as easily now. Sam is prepared to look elsewhere, prepared for rejection at some point in the future. But it’s not a bad way to spend Father’s Day, after all—Mark showing his first-born where he took his philosophy classes, where he studied and lived, where he fell in love and where he broke his heart. Sam carries his dad’s copies of Kant and Schopenhauer around as casual reading, because he likes the notes Mark put in the margins of the yellowing paperbacks. He’s always surprised at what his father chose to underline. The things he emphasized. The workings of his twenty year-old brain.

Books, in this case, aren’t just a portal to the minds of Kant and Schopenhauer, but a window on his father’s younger self, somebody Sam would have liked to have known. Somebody he wishes he could be. That’s one of the gifts good books bring--a sort of cultural baggage in each dog-eared page or scrawl of the pen. It’s a kind of sharing we’ll find less and less, as publishing moves inexorably to the electronic.

I own a Kindle. I’m not a cave-dweller clutching the crumbling pages of my dwindling library while Armageddon rages unchecked above. But I know this will be one of my hobbies as the years advance: the care and cultivation of books. Real books.

And those who love them.

Stephanie Barron


Stephanie has graciously offered to give away one copy of  Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron to one lucky commenter. Tell us--How are you celebrating Father's Day? We'll choose a commenter at random to receive this book.


Liz said...

Unfortunately, my parents are gone, but I've called my brother-in-law to wish him well on his day.

Liz V. said...

Tried to leave message earlier.

Unfortunately, my parents are gone. Observed father's day by calling my brother-in-law to wish him well on his day.

Terri Thayer said...

Welcome, Stephanie. Love to hear stories about today's teens walking around with any book under their arm. Kant is an added bonus. And how lovely he wants to hear what his father was thinking.

Enjoy your college trips and thanks for joining us at KH.

Amandakn said...

After living two states away from my family for the past 11 years, we have my Father here with us now(he suffered a stroke and my Mother recently passed away). So it was nice having him with us today! Also, today is our Granddaughter's 9th birthday so as a tradition we eat at a Mexican restaurant on her birthday. It was a wonderful day!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome, Stephanie. I hope your trip is both enjoyable and successful.

Stephanie said...

Thanks to all the wellwishers--Just got back from the trip and am tired but happy!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Liz V. you win a copy of Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron. Please email me your postal details at