23 Nov 2009

Charlotte Mason on the internet

The start of the journey also coincided with my decision to curtail my use of the internet, which can have an insidious, corrosive effect. Too much internet usage fragments the brain and dissipates concentration so that after a while, one's ability to spend long focussed hours immersed in a single subject becomes blunted. Information becomes pre-digested in small pieces, one grazes on endless ready-meals and snacks of the mind, and the result is mental malnutrition.

Of course this are not really Charlotte Mason's words, but I'm sure that if she were to read them she would be nodding her wise head in total agreement of their sentiments. I do not believe that Miss Mason would be a strong advocate of the internet. Of course, I may be wrong. What do you think?

The quotation is actually by English author Susan Hill in her new book, Howards End is on the Landing.

What a pretty book cover!!

I am so enjoying this book - a memoir of the year Hill spent rereading all the books on the shelves of her rambling English farmhouse home. My home is packed with books too - a fact that will come as no surprise to most of you. So far, Susan's library and mine are quite different from each other, owing mainly to the fact that most of my collection is Australian Children's Literature, but there is enough crossover for me to relate quite strongly to this fascinating woman. Dickens, Blyton, Hardy, Trollope, Wodehouse, George Eliot, Nancy Mitford, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers (wearing her English detective novel hat not her Classical Education one), Arthur Ransome, John Wyndham... Actually, perhaps our bookshelves are not so different after all. She just has more shelves and more books. Plus she doesn't like Australian novels. Obviously there'll be a little bit of a divergence there. Just a little one.

Hill doesn't keep all of her books. Neither do I, and a weekend of purging this past weekend left me agreeing completely with the following paragraph:

Many, many have gone – lent or left, sold or given away, for there is nothing essentially sacred about a book just because it is printed on paper and bound between covers. Only look at the rubbish available in book form. Some are quickly read, been, gone. You don’t read many thrillers twice. Others served a temporary practical need – your cat was having kittens and you needed to know how to look after them; you were travelling to Denmark and wanted a guide. But the kittens grew up and the cat was neutered and you will never visit Denmark again. Pass the thriller to a friend, give the cat book to the charity shop, sell the guide to Denmark on eBay. You don’’t have to pay its rent just because it is a book.
Hill is critical of small hardbacked books bought in the run-up to Christmas, calling them 'non-books:
They are about Everything Being Rubbish or how to microwave a budgerigar or where to go before you die, or why Slough is the armpit of the universe; they are little anthologies of love poems or things read at funerals or cartoons about politicians.
Now this is kinda funny given that Howards End is on the Landing has been released just in time for Christmas in a little hardbacked form, but I for one am not going to lump this one into the non-book category.

This is a wonderful 'book on books', and next to Children's literature, that is my favourite genre of all. I love reading about people who love books as much as I do - which is why there are so many literature blogs in my reader. But wary of the possibility of mental malnutrition, a fragmented brain and dissipated concentration, I shall momentarily curtail my literature blog addiction and enjoy instead a slow browse through the shelves of Susan Hill's library. I am sure there will be additions to my own as a consequence, and after my book purge this past weekend I may just have room for them as well.


  1. Have you read Helene Hanff's book on books: 84 Charing Cross Road.?

    If you haven't, you really, really must. ☺

  2. No, not yet, but Christmas is coming, isn't it!

  3. I think that you may be right about Miss Mason.
    The book looks quite interesting.

  4. Oh, surely you didn't get rid of some of your books - how could you? lol

  5. I 2nd Helene Hanff's books--all of them! Have you encountered Nancy Pearl of "Book Lust"?? She's the "National" librarian on NPR and even has her own action figure! She writes about books....

  6. In agreement with your thoughts on CM and the internet. She may also have added a paragraph on the inability of a mother to be truly available to her child whilst on the internet.

    My own sad experience.

  7. I think your assessement is correct about what CM would think of the internet. I do allow my kids to use the internet as a tool but I am careful.

    "" But wary of the possibility of mental malnutrition, a fragmented brain and dissipated concentration"" I so love your comment! That is only part of it..reading that I was cheering with every word.

    I also agree with Richele about the internet..lol. Oh and not just because we have the same name. LOL.

  8. I think you pegged the "modern" Ms. Mason dead on! She would have definitely furrowed her literary brow at the twaddle of the internet. It is vastly junk food for the brain...except for your blog, of course!

  9. I love this post! I'll have to get the Susan Hill book. I, too, have a few shelves of books about books. I'll have to share some soon.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...