Jazz Age June 2022! Reading Books from 1922

It is hard to believe June is upon us Unlike last year, at least for me, this year is speedily rushing by. My reading and blogging has picked up, my health issues have stabilized and I have been out and about, taking long drives and exploring historic sites, something I love to do. Olinda Oil Museum, anyone? Yes, I literally “went there!”

For Jazz Age June I am reading three novels, a book of poetry and a collection of short stories, all published 100 years ago in 1922.

Nineteen twenty-two is an important year for literature. Ulysses, The Waste Land, Jacob’s Room, The Veleveteen Rabbit, The Enchanted April and so many other greats. I have chosen to concentrate this month on a few others, some well-known, others not.

Looking through the books I have on hand I discovered these were already on my shelf:

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
James Weldon Johnson, ed., The Book of American Negro Poetry
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
Several short stories by HP Lovecraft  

I didn’t have a great reading experience with The Great Gatsby, but I am willing to try another one of Fitzgerald’s work. Siddhartha is a reread, but high school was a very long time ago. The Book of American Negro Poetry was in my grandparent’s library that I inherited and I have only looked through it briefly. Babbitt has been on my shelf for ages, so it is time to see what that is about. And HP Lovecraft, well, he’s a particular favorite of mine.

There is something about the 1920s. Whether it’s Art Deco, silent films, fashion, popular culture-there is some kind of attraction for me. I’ve taken walking tours in various cities including downtown LA, Chicago, New York gaping at the buildings and interiors of the period imagining myself in an elaborate living room at a dinner party or lazing around my beautiful art deco bedroom. I look at photographs of people, neighborhood buildings and I am drawn into this world. Past life? Well, it’s so visceral, I wouldn’t be surprised!

Some important worldwide moments in 1922:

In October, the British Broadcasting Company is formed.
Reader’s Digest Magazine begins publication in February.
A treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Transcaucasia (modern Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) forms the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in December.


In March, the German silent film Nosferatu premieres in Berlin.
The first successful treatment of insulin for diabetes is given in January to a 14 year-old boy in Canada.
In November, the British Egyptologist Howard Carter, begins the excavation of King Tut’s tomb.

Please let me know in the comments if you plan to read something from 1922.

Los Angeles Central Library

I will be taking a blogging break in July. I will be back in August and I am especially looking forward to @austeninaugust with a reread of Mansfield Park. And it looks like Adam will again host some Jane Austen reading events!

National Poetry Month, James Weldon Johnson’s, The Creation (1927)

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I inherited my grandparent’s library. Many of the books have their signatures and a date and in a few volumes one has gifted it to the other with “Love, Eli” or “Love, Lorraine.” I cherish these.

Every once in a while when I am looking for something to read or rearranging shelves aIMG_5087 title strikes me that I missed or hadn’t felt a pull to in the past. As I looked for something to end National Poetry Month I found this book and a piece that made me pause. I read it all the way through and frankly was sobbing at the end.

In the Hebrew Bible, I love the first chapter of Genesis and the way God is described making the world. Johnson takes those first verses and amplifies the personification of God, of God’s love for his Creation and the care and consideration of what he made and how he exclaimed, “That’s good!”

Johnson’s words affect me specifically because I have always seen Nature as God Incarnate. And in modern America we are killing off Nature, God’s Creation,…well, that’s a post for another time…I am sure these feelings of mine contributed to my reaction.

When you find someone else’s words that speak so deeply and directly to you it is a joy. This is long. Skim if you want, but it’s worth reading all the way through.

 
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The Creation

And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen.      Amen.

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To learn more about James Weldon Johnson, you can read his biography at the Poetry Foundation website.

 

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The Book of American Negro Poetry. Edited by James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922, 117.

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