“Parnassus on Wheels”

The Classics Club

Morley, Christopher.  Parnassus on Wheels (1917)

Christopher Morley (May 5, 1890 – March 28, 1957) was an American essayist, poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist. His first published work, Parnassus on Wheels, features Helen McGill, a 39-year-old woman who buys a horse-drawn wagon equipped as a traveling bookstore, and the people to whom she peddles her wares.

There’s not really much to review here, but the book celebrates the pleasures and benefits of reading. Here are some of the best quotations from the text:

“Lord!” he said, “when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night—there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

I think reading a good book makes one modest. Whey you see the marvelous insight into human nature which truly great book shows, it is bound to make you feel small—like looking at the Dipper on a clear night, or seeing the winter sunrise when you go out to collect the morning eggs.

A good book ought to have something simple about it. And, like Eve, it ought to come from somewhere near the third rib: there ought to be a heart beating in it. A story that’s all forehead doesn’t amount to much.