Seize the moments of ‘bookish’ happiness

I recently received a package of books (through the post), and I was instantly in awe at what delicately tumbled out – an old green cover with a picture of the boat with a red roof: A House-Boat on the Styx, written by John Kendrick Bangs. It was published in 1895 by Harper & Brothers. There’s also a stamp with the name there, perhaps from the library: Jean Ross Bennett, Pittsburgh, PA.

About the book:
The premise of the book is that everyone who’s ever died (up to the time of its publication) has gone to Styx, the river that circles the underworld. The book begins with the ferryman Charon being startled & annoyed by the arrival of a houseboat on the Styx. At first afraid that the boat will put him out of business, he later finds out that he is actually to be appointed its janitor. What follows are 11 more stories which are set on the houseboat. There’s no central theme. The purpose appears to be as a literary thought experiment to see what would happen if various famous dead people were put in the same room with each other. Each chapter is a short story featuring various souls from history & mythology.

Although I was impatient to read it, I already knew I would adore this book as it invisibly held a very personal story… at least from all previous owners. 🤓📚 For example, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazete newspaper /November 1959/ I found this obit-mention:

Just imagine, how many people owned (and read) this little book, from 1895 —- & until 2021. Hundreds?! Thousands? Or more? 😀 But let’s get back to the author:

Thought is everything. Pain is something. Hence where there is no thought, there can be no pain. Wherefore if you have pain, it is evident that you have a thought. To be rid of the pain, stop thinking. John Kendricks Bang

And because we can’t stop thinking, I picked some quotes for you:

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Enough about evil hearts, let’s jump straight to John Waters quote: 

A psychiatrist once told me early in treatment, “Stop trying to make me like you,” and what a sobering and welcome smack in the face that statement was. Yet somehow, every day of my life is still a campaign for popularity, or better yet, a crowded funeral.

No, NO, no! I’m here to find and spread real happiness! Maybe Brecht will help? 

Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is at their heels.

Aha! Already warmer… the last try:

Those who wish to sing always find a song. Swedish proverb

When we are finally happy (kind of), tell me about the old books in your collections: why do you keep them – is it value, wisdom, or happy memories?

In this treacherous world
Nothing is the truth or a lie.
Everything depends on the color
Of the crystal through which one sees it.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Next post (and the last) this week – about Harmless Bullet, and the title of day 8… mmmm, guess! Right! The more, the merrier.” 🕺


Harmless Bullet



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24 Responses

  1. Simon says:

    What a great book to own, it would be amazing to know who and how many have owned it.

  2. B says:

    Which is why I looove second-hand books. I just got one from NY city. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

    What an amazing cover that is.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Wow 🤩 from NY! Is it a secret? Tell us at least the author!! I often buying on Swedish secondhand websites but mostly English books. Btw I’m buying russian books via German websites :)) 😀

      & I ᒪOᐯE it too. If I can buy paperback then I prefer of coz: secondhand or old books 🙂 sometimes we can get “free” books from the local library too. I don’t have much space for them… but I’m trying always to resell the books I didn’t like or from diff book clubs-books (as a member, getting 1 each month in post box). Btw this particular “house-boat” book I bought in Sweden (I think for 10-15 bucks) with à bunch of other second hand books. Wonder, how it got here… 😀😅🤔

  3. I loved your post today, VR. The idea of you looking up Mrs. Jean Ross Bennett speaks to your research oriented mind. The fact that you could find her speaks to the technology available for research. You asked that we describe our books. I have so many I don’t know where to begin. I also lost 90 % of my treasures to a flood some years back. There are some by John Cheever, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Neville Shute, Leon Uris, Joesph Heller, Sam Staggs, Joesph Finder, Henry James, and more. My oldest is The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (Still water stained but could not throw it away.)

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      🙌 yes, the technology nowadays is amazingly-crazy. It’s a great fun to hold secondhand or an old book in your hands – so different feel 💛💛😀 & behind each – a story 🙂

      Omg, I envy the collection you mentioned! And no way we can throw away the book we love, even if water stained ;))) 👋😛👍

  4. Neat to think of past owners for books, especially one as old as your copy of the House-Boat (a great use of red on the cover!). Many years ago, I left books in public places and wrote on the inside cover for a stranger to take the book, read it, write their name, and pass it on. I did that for about 10 books. Now my family has a Little Free Library. I have more modern books than old books, as I tend to read more modern authors. Your post inspired me to look at a book my grandfather gave me: “Kyoto Rediscovered.” It was published in 1980, which surprised me because I thought it was older. It has a classic, old-fashioned feel. It has woodblock prints from Clifton Karhu. I love the style of the buildings, the colors, and I think of my grandfather when I look through it. A treasure.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Hey! I’m so late with the answer… I know, I know :)) I had 2 crazy days. About leaving the book in public places – definitely fun! I think I’ve heard it had been quite common some years back. I’d like to have a little free library, but not so many people are reading in English here 🙂 I never read “Kyoto Rediscovered,” have to check… and I also love the feel of the older books; that’s why I prefer to buy secondhand paperbacks if I can. Thx God I still have a place for them in my house. 🙃🙃 And absolute truth – the family books are the biggest treasure. Ah, all those memories!! p.s. About interview – I’ll send this weekend.

      • I hope your days have calmed down! Thanks for letting me know about the interview. And we can do a regular interview. I think my idea to do 2 interviews was making it overly complicated. Sorry 🙂

        • Victoria Ray NB says:

          Lol 😂 no problems. I’ll send you 6-7 questions today (late ev, Swedish time…so probably it will be afternoon in US) – you’ll answer & add 5-6 questions from your side. I’ll compose it LOL in 1 interview & post it next week + send to you the same file.

  5. librepaley says:

    My goodness, your reading is so diverse. I love discovering old books that have been half forgotten – not to mention the physical beauty of the books and bindings themselves. We need lists of authors to be brought back to public attention.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      I think I answered, but the comment is gone, ouch 🤔😂… in one word – agreed 💙📚📚

  6. Thanks Victoria for sharing such wise quotes; and I loved the cover of this book. I have a lot of old books with their old covers and yellow torn papers (of course I fixed them as much as possible). I confess I rarely open them now but having such books usually reminds me of the old days when I was younger and there are a lot of dreams….

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      True 😀🙌 ah, the beauty of the old books/paperbacks, especially from our childhood. They r full of memories & has no limits or boundaries:)) when we touch them, we are transported to another time or dimension ☀️📚💛

  7. markbierman says:

    What a piece of history you hold in your possession. Like you said, how many hands has this book passed through?

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      🙌📚📚 true! And yes, amazing treasure & I love old paperbacks 🙂

  8. kinkyacres says:

    OMGosh what a treasure! Upon reading of the “Houseboat” my mind went straight to the Mississippi river and my favorite rafting buddy Huck Finn! I do like the quotes you provided, the best of course was the Swedish quote! Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Thank you, K 😀🦋👋 today is so warm day in S. Sitting in the outside-patio cafeteria… drinking cappuccino ☕️