Openers: The woman driving turned the phaeton from the hghway into a narrow road. Almost immediately the forest through which they had been passing for a mile or more deepened. It was now a rich woodland, little cut, seldom touched by fire. Apparently the road knew little use. Narrow and in part grass-grown, soft from yesterday's rain, dimmed by ,any trees, now it bent and now it ran straight, a dun streak, cut always in front by that ancient, exquisite screen of bough and leaf. The highway dropped out of sight and mind. The woman to whom this countryside was new, sitting beside the woman driving, drew a breath of pleasure. "Oh, smell it! It goes over you like balm!"
"It washes the travel stains away. Take off your hat."
The other obeyed, turning and placing it upon the back seat beside a large and small traveling bag. She drew her gloves off, too, then, straightening herself, sighed with happiness. "How deep it goes...and quiet! It's thousands of miles away!"
"Hundreds of thousands, and right at hand!"
--Mary Johnston, Sweet Rocket (1920)
Thus we are introduced to a magical place: the rich property of Sweet Rocket farm, located in a high valley in the Appalachians of Virginia. It is October 1920, and the visitos is Anna Darcy, 60, a spinster schoolteacher, here to spend a few weeks with her former student Marget Lord, 44. Marget was born at Sweet Rocket; her father was overseer of the estate, then owned by Major Linden. When he had died, Sweet Rocket was sold for debt and Marget's father bought it. Marget grew up at Sweet Rocket and loved every aspect of it. When her parents died, Marget's two older brothers sold the property and Marget went to live with an aunt in Richmond. Years later, Sweet Rocket was bought by Richard Linden, the Major's nephew. Richard, it turns out was blind from an earlier accident and lived on the farm, alone, with only colored servants and workers. Five years ago, he advertised in the Richmond papers for a secretary who could read aloud well. Marget answered the advertisement and was hired. She became more than a secretary; Marget loved Richard and Richard loved her, although there was no indication of a sexual relationship, just one of caring and trust.
For a blind person, Richard was extremely able, He worked every morning on the farm, instinctually know what to do through touch. Calm, self-confident, and generous, he struck a chord of harmony with Sweet Water. There was no barrier between Richard and his employees; they liked and respected him as a friend. Sweet Rocket was a place that erased all boundaries of class. At Sweet Rocket, everyone felt more than themselves; they were acutely aware of their surroundings. The colors were sharper, the smells sweeter, the sounds clearer. Here nature was increased through some mystical and spiritual power, and everyone who came to Sweet Rocket felt it and was changed by it.
While Anna Darcy was at Sweet Rocket, an old school friend of Richard's, Martin Curtin, who had not seen him for fifteen years, came to visit him...and stayed, a most welcome guest. Later, a young logger, Drew (his last name; I don't think his first ws ever given), stranded by a fiece storm spent the night at Sweet Rocket. He came back the same week asked to be hired to work on the farm -- Sweet Rocket had entered his soul. Richard's cousins, Rober and Frances Dane, came for their annual visit. Everyone who came and stayed at the farm -- including Richard and Marget -- were hurt souls in one way or another. Sweet Rocket nutured and healed them in some mystical way.
There is no real plot in the book, but there an inceasing pace as those staying at Sweet Water realize thay they are growing to become one with each other and the world. Sweet Rocket has turned them into the precursors of the next step in human development -- a world entity, a gestalt, if you will, where the individuals are merged as one and with nature. Call it God, but names don't really matter. There is a Christian undertone to all this -- the servants are always singing spirituals -- but the mystical and spiritual underpinnings of Sweet Rocket incorporate more than the Christian God. Past and present have no real meaning, neither does death and life -- what matters is the ultimate Unity.
At times, early in the book, there is an overwhelming awe of Nature (capital N) that reminds me of some of the writings of Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood. I also felt a resonance with August Derleth's The Wind in the Cedars. It's the mystical power of Nature to transform us.
It's all very confusing. Most of the wordage in the novel is the author trying to explain the changes that Sweet Rocket is imposing on the characters. It didn't really work for me; I can only view Sweet Rocket as an interesting but flawed novel that overreached it's thesis. My opion is countered by that of Edward Wagenknect, the literary critic, who, in his introduction to the 1944 omnibus Six Novels of the Supernatural, wrote, "in her [Johnston's] work one sees something of the beauty by which life can be irradiated whennit is lived, as it were, sub specie aeternitatis," Wagenknecht also quotes the author: "Mine is no isolated experience, many persons have been and are aware of a widening and deepening of consciousness. My experience is of value to me, but it has no special prominence in that enlargement of life into which we are all sweeping -- you no less than myself."
Mary Johnston (1870-1936) was best known for her sweeping historical novel To Have and To Hold (1900), which was a major influence on Rafael Sabatini.Johnton was close friends with Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, who praised her depictions of Southern life. throughout her life, Johnston was a strong advocate of women's suffrage, becoming later in life an advocate of Socialism and pacifism. Her spiritual growth began to be reflected strongly in her work beginning in 1918 and may be best represented in Sweet Rocket. Mary Johnston wrote 23 novels -- many of which were best-sellers -- along with a number of short stories, two long poems, and a play.
- "Lee Child" (James Grant), editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2010 The fourteenth volume in the long-running series in which Otto Penzler served as series editor. (Penzler would pick a long list of some 50 stories and the annual guest editor would make the final selection of some twenty stories.) Some familiar names among the authors: Gary Alexander, Doug Allyn, Jay Brandon, Gar Anthony Haywood, Jon Land, Dennis Lehane, and Philip Margolin. There's also a posthumously published story by Kurt Vonnegut. The stories came from a variety of sources: the genre magazines (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Thuglit), mystery anthologies (Murder Past, Murder Present, The Prosecution Rests, Boston Noir, Sherlock Holmes in America, Black Noir, and Thriller 2), and from various "little" magazines (The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly, Harper's Ferry Review, Gettysburg Review, and Oregon Literary Review). Some pretty good reading here.
- John Hanson
- Elias Budinot
- Thomas Mifflin
- Richard Henry Lee
- John Hancock
- Nathan Gorman
- Arthur St, Clair, and
- Cyrus Griffin
- Romance was in the air when Florida Man Joseph Davis of Volusia County proposed to his girlfriend. It's just that he used an engagement ring that he stole from a former girlfriend to propose. This thrifty little money saver had tried to convince his latest fiance that his former fiance's house was his own; then he stole some jewelry and a laptop from her. As of Friday, Davis was still on the run and noth fiances vow to have nothing more to do with him. Davis already had an active arrest warrant on him for hit and run in Oregon. He had previously been arrested for having a fictitious ID, filing a false police report, domestic vilence, and possession of cocaine with intent to sell. He has a tattoo on his arm that says, "On;y god can judge me." We'll see.
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