What May be Mended

During the lull between the years, when the nights were at their longest, I took stock of things and decided that, this year, I will focus on what may be mended.

In the world at large there is a storm: it is now all around us. The famous lines from Yeats have ever more relevance, only, this, time, it is impossible to say whether it is the best or worst who lack all conviction, are filled with passionate intensity, or are both at once. These are now the most visible symptoms of a great social ill threatening—determined, it seems increasingly clear—to destroy everything in its wake.

Margaret Atwood, whose essays appearing at In the Writing Burrow are among the most informed and cogent cultural analysis I have read in years, has issued a timely warning of what await us, unless we “call the bluff” that our societies are broken and can only be fixed by revolutions, terrorism, invasions or dictators. Atwood’s most immediate focus is on the upcoming US election, but her analysis applies anywhere democracy, due process and the peaceful transition of power are under threat.

In her commentary, Atwood points out that it is the aim of extremists on both the ultra-left and radical right to sow division, sabotage social accords, spread misinformation, undermine public institutions and elections and create chaos in what she calls “the temperate zone”—in political language this is often referred to as the centre or middle, but includes centre-left social democrats as well as small-c conservatives—in order to create opportunities to seize power.

In pursuit of these aims, extremists harness the dissatisfaction of ideological fellow-travelers, the genuinely aggrieved, and those who cynically anticipate, following the hoped-for revolution, uprising or seizure of power, to be appointed to positions of authority themselves. Their rhetoric becomes increasingly radical and ever more authoritarian. Anyone who questions the ideological imperative is an enemy. The divisions deepen. Rakoth Maugrim—the Unraveler, the Destroyer, the self-appointed bearer of Vengeance—steps in and seizes the world in his teeth.

Unless ordinary citizens refuse it.

I refuse it. And so can you.

It is not even all that difficult to do. One good way to begin is by muting the ideologues who—most often via social media but also, increasingly, in progressive as well as conservative faith communities, political organizations and, depressingly, educational environments—spread the poison of the movements they have attached themselves to. Watch for their absolutism, and for their calls for obedience to cult-like kinds of fundamentalism. And mute them; banish their invented or exaggerated claims, their one-sided narratives, the propaganda they reshare, their exhortations to burn everything down. Halt their takeovers of your communities, and their silencing of anything that sounds even remotely like dissent. Do this even to the ideologues on your own ‘side.’ Do it even to yourself, because chances are good you too have contributed to the ideological dumbing down of our society.

When you do this it’s actually amazing how quickly the airwaves quiet. All at once there is room to breathe, time for perspective, an opportunity to weigh your own thoughts alongside the experiences and perspectives of others, and a chance to notice all the other people who, likely a lot like you, both build and benefit from the social institutions extremists want to use you to destroy.

It’s okay to be critical. Our society is imperfect. There is much that may be improved. But anyone who says it must all be burned down and remade in their name or in the name of their ideology is not interested in improvement.

During the lull between the years, sickened by the news and nauseated at the rhetorical spewage on social media and in one of the communities I belong to, I set aside my laptop. Instead I brought down my sewing box, set it up beside the old wooden table in our kitchen, and, in peaceful silence on a dark winter night, the kitchen warm, the dinner dishes washed and drying behind me, set to work mending what could be mended.

Mending is about much more than sewing up seams, and it would be foolish to pretend that mending a beloved winter coat I’ve had for 25 years has much to do with repairing the world.

But I am a person who believes that the things we do as individuals have resonance far beyond ourselves, and that it is not only big acts but small ones that make the world. Small acts are actually practice for larger ones, in the sense that the way we do small things usually parallels the way we do larger things.

Not all things may be mended. Some things are too broken to fix. But a great deal may be repaired, and much that may be mended exists in the spaces between us—in our personal relationships, in the civility we owe to our communities, and in our duty of care to the natural environment. And if we are able to be mindful of these nearby things, we might also appreciate the virtues of stable democracies and their social contracts, and the separation of church and state, and the close connections between innovation and prosperity, and the benefits of charity, and civil liberties, and so on.

Yes but!, I can sense you saying. Yes but!—late capitalism is evil, communists are everywhere, carbon taxes are destroying the economy, the planet is burning, a drag queen is reading stories at the library, a stranger misgendered me, the deep state is watching us, big pharma vaccinated my dog, pop singer psy-ops, settler colonialism, the lamestream media, chatbots, 15-minute cities, megachurches, stolen elections, Superbowl shootings, the unborn, the undead.


In an excellent recent essay on the excess of noise—literal and figurative—in contemporary culture, and on the urgent need for quiet, cultural commentator Michael Harris observed that

[S]ilence leaves room for the development of a rich interior life, for daydreaming and the formation of an identity independent of the hive mind. Our personalities mature in the empty spaces that allow them to self-reflect; we discover what we really think or really feel when inputs hush and we can sit a while with what we’ve already received. In this way, amid doses of quiet and stillness, the self coheres.

If the loudest mantra of the moment is “burn it all down,” then the mantra of those of us interested in mending should be “turn it all down,” and “tone it all down.”

Turn down the ideologues, especially on the social media platforms whose algorithms promote extremism via ‘engagement’ and ‘reach.’ Tone down your own propensity to be persuaded by one-sided rhetoric and oversimplified narratives. Stop making everything about politics (and maybe consider: When did choosing what to read, watch, attend and value become principally a performative expression of political identity? And what has doing so cost us in terms of perspective?).

Put down your phone. Go for a walk. Pet a cat. Talk to a dog. Smile at a baby. Pick up some litter. Say hello to a stranger on the street. Get up early. Look at the sunrise (no: really look at it). Stay up late, and listen (even for just a few moments) to the wind roaring in the trees, or to the silence, or to cars on the highway, or to those tiny rustles in the grass. Grow something (in a pot, on your balcony, in your yard, or in a nearby park). Pick a dandelion. Thank a bee. Go to a bookstore or a library. Read a poem. Remember, even if only for a few moments, how fortunate you are—how fortunate we all are—to have been born in this corner of the expanding universe.

Mend something.

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A Return to my Salad Days

When I first moved away from my parents’ home in the 1990s, I spent a summer buying basic household items at eastern Ontario yard sales. Dinnerware, mixing bowls, a giant sunflower print … and cookbooks. Nearly all these things are long gone—the giant sunflower print, having hung in various narrow apartment kitchens and then in our basement stairwell, finally went out to curbside a few months ago after a quarter century of service—but I still have two of the first cookbooks I ever bought: Anne Lindsay’s Smart Cooking (1986) and her follow-up, Lighthearted Everyday Cooking (1991).

In the eighties and nineties, Anne Lindsay was a Canadian household name. A longtime home economist and food writer for numerous Canadian publications who was named to the Order of Canada in 2003, she partnered first with the Canadian Cancer Society and, later, the Heart and Stroke Foundation to produce cookbooks featuring healthy recipes geared to reducing diet-related disease risks. In keeping with the understandings of the era, the recipes were lower in fat than many contemporary recipes—although, as Lindsay herself has noted, they were not usually low fat. Lindsay’s balanced approach to fats was a prescient choice, given subsequent medical research finding that a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fats is the cornerstone of a healthy diet.

My interest in Anne Lindsay’s cookbooks was not so much dietary (although in those days I was, like most young women of my generation, usually trying to lose weight) as being about developing a basic recipe repertoire.  I did, of course, like that the recipes were healthy, but even more than that, I appreciated that they were simple and unadorned. They used ingredients that even I, on a grad student budget, and living in an area with limited grocery options, could find and afford.

Two of the early recipes I learned from Anne Lindsay remain standards in my household: chick-pea salad with red onion and tomato (from Smart Cooking), and red bean salad with feta and peppers (from Lighthearted Everyday Cooking). After all these years I no longer need to consult the cookbooks to make these salads, but for some reason I almost always haul the books out and prop them open on the counter. I have adulterated both recipes over the years (I add avocado and often fusilli to the chick-pea salad, and always make the red bean salad with red cabbage and dried hot peppers) but they remain essentially as Anne Lindsay intended them: straightforward, healthy, and delicious.

Earlier this week while out running errands, I stopped in at a thrift store  to look at (among other things) the cookbooks. Among dozens of discarded paleo, vegan and celebrity cookbooks (one can always trace the downward trajectory of dietary fads and celebrity chefs’ careers by the appearance of their related cookbooks in thrift stores) was a ‘new’ Anne Lindsay cookbook: Lighthearted at Home (2010). I pulled it out and assessed the book, wondering whether it was worth adding to my already burgeoning cookbook library.

Unlike a lot of the cookbooks I see (and buy) these days, Lighthearted at Home is not filled with glossy food-porn pictures. The recipes are plain and unadorned. But as I flipped through the book (at 486 pages it’s a hefty compendium), a feeling of something like solid familiarity filled me. “I could make this for dinner tonight!” I said about one recipe after another. “I already have all these ingredients in the fridge!” So with real regret I put Crissy Teigen’s Cravings back on the shelf and brought Anne Lindsay home instead.

I must pause here to note that I love fancy food-porn cookbooks. I love their glossy pictures. I love the long preambles to the recipes. I love the stories about how the recipes came to be, especially when they involve travel to the south of France or anecdotes about the author’s Kurdish grandmother. I love hearing about the glittering dinner parties where these dishes have held centre stage. I love to imagine the glittering dinner parties at which I will serve all these delectable dishes.

The problem is that between Covid lockdowns and three years of 24/7 caregiving to someone with dementia, there haven’t been a lot of dinner parties in my life lately. The days when we catered our own wedding reception, and hosted midsummer garden parties for years thereafter—those days are long past.

It’s tempting, now that the pandemic is over, and with our elder in long term care, and especially after having redone our dining room, to send out invites, plan table settings—and haul out the most lavish recipes I can find.

But I’m busy, and tired, and sometimes think I’ve forgotten how to cook food. Real food, not the delicious but hours-long effort of making, say, the Barefoot Contessa‘s roasted eggplant parmesan (worth every minute, by the way). Real food, not hot dogs and Caesar salad, which were the only foods we could get my mother-in-law to eat in the last months before she went into long term care. Real food I could make for dinner any night, without a great deal of fuss—real food I could even make tonight. Anne Lindsay’s cookbooks fit the bill perfectly.

Tonight, for example, I am going to make pasta with sweet peppers, cheese and basil from Lighthearted at Home. It’s a simple, straightforward, healthy recipe that doesn’t take long to prepare, of the sort one could make any weeknight while casting about for something to cook. It reminds me of the recipes and ingredients included in meal delivery kits (which may well crib their offerings from cookbooks like this one). It’s almost a stretch to call it a recipe: just pasta, some vegetables, some cheese, olives, and some herbs. Lindsay recommends serving this dish with broccoli or green beans; I think it would also be great with chicken on the side. I think this dish would also be excellent as next-day leftovers chilled in the fridge, by which point it would be more like a salad (I have a thing for salads, in case this is not already obvious, and am happy to call almost any chilled leftover a salad if it has any vegetable matter in it at all).

No, it’s not exciting. But this dish, this cookbook, and Lindsay’s entire oeuvre, is ideal for when you are either starting out and don’t know what to eat, or have been making dinners for so many years you’ve run out of ideas, or have glutted yourself on so much food porn you’ve forgotten how to cook the basics.

Update: Here’s tonight’s dinner! I wilted in some fresh spinach greens, because I love spinach and throw a few handfuls of it into just about everything. I also stirred some dried hot pepper flakes (from Apache peppers grown in our garden) in with the onions while they sautéed. I should have saved a cup of pasta water to stir in for extra creaminess. And maybe poured in a glug of red wine vinegar, just to take Lindsay’s recipe, already half Greek with the feta and Kalamata olives, the rest of the way (and, if so, I would substitute oregano for the basil).

This is the great thing about this kind of recipe: you can add or substitute ingredients to suit your preferences (Lindsay encourages this very thing) but always have, at base, a solid recipe you can count on to get something good to the table any night of the week.

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The Changing of the Clocks

swamp milkweed

Unusually this year, although I had made a note in the calendar, I forgot that the clocks ‘fell back’ an hour overnight. It was about 10:30—er, 9:30—before I looked at a digital clock this morning and realized our daughter, whom we’d hounded out of bed already exhausted from the first day of her Bronze Medallion qualification course, still had an extra hour to get ready for swim.

The extra hour is illusory, of course: a reminder that there is always a cost to playing with Chronos. An extra hour on a November morning is lovely, but by mid-afternoon one looks up at the clock, thinking it must be getting on to dinnertime, maybe even bedtime, and is dismayed to see how many more miles hours there are left to go before sleep.

As I write this it is 5:15 pm, and outside it is at the tail end of twilight—as close to dark as it might be at 9:30 pm at midsummer—and this makes me feel as if rather than gaining an hour with the changing of the clocks, we’ve actually lost about four.

These lost hours are what propel us toward hibernation, or at least carbohydrates and cozy mysteries. We turn inward, measuring the hours by midnight snowfalls and mugs of cocoa, and remain that way until New Years’ resolutions and the blinding January sunlight drive us out of our dens.

With the coming winter in mind, I went out today and, in the bleary November sunlight, put the gardens at the circle park to bed. Yesterday my excellent neighbour and I planted about 100 bulbs as a springtime surprise to our community, and today I mulched the beds with fallen leaves, swept the walks, and communed with the native plants tucking themselves in for winter.

Swamp milkweed pods
habitat logs

I am so pleased with what we accomplished this year at the circle park. In April the park was barren, much of its soil compressed into hardpan. In a single growing season we have transformed much of it into a living green space, replete with native flowering plants buzzing with insects. But I think the real measure of the park’s progress has been its late-season appearance–seed-heads bursting with promise, habitat logs settling into the soil, fallen leaves laid down like a blanket. It looks like a healthy woodland, a place possessed of its own sense of time, whose rhythms are closer akin to Kairos rather than to any arbitrary changing of the clocks.

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Treasures from the Victoria College Book Sale, 2023 Edition

Every September my pulse quickens as book sale season rolls around. Book sale season is, of course, the time of year when the University of Toronto’s colleges hold fundraising sales—collectively known as Bibliomania—to support their libraries and other college projects. The books are donated, and include castoffs and sometimes entire collections from Toronto’s bookish set—university faculty, readers, writers: anyone who loves the printed word but finds a need to cull a few shelves. The sales are massive and attract huge crowds, particularly on opening day when the lineups even before opening can be hundreds of people long.

I started attending the UofT book sales as a grad student, and became a regular while working on a Toronto-focused research project. When my daughter was a newborn 15 years ago, I brought her into the Victoria College book sale in a chest carrier, and jostled with her down the aisles while wondering how many books I could stuff into the stroller I’d checked outside. Quite a few, it turns out, although I remember it listing a little on the subway.

These days I look for two kinds of books: domestic manuals, decor guides, and old cookbooks dating up to the mid-1950s, for another research project; and just generally quirky books that suit some of my more ridiculous sensibilities. I love that weird old books are still out there for the finding.

The Victoria College Book Sale was a couple of weeks ago. I always try to go as early as possible to get a decent place in line, but this year I was only able to get to Vic about an hour before the sale started, and as a result was quite far back in line. Still, I managed to get into the ‘specials’ room (rare, antique, quirky) immediately upon opening, and after that was able to navigate the crowds through the large halls where most of the sale is held fairly easily, digging through the well-sorted boxes with tremendous joy.

Some of this year’s special finds:

I don’t think I had never heard of Dora Hood or her ‘Book Room,’ which Hood operated on Spadina Avenue near Bloor from 1928 to 1954 before retiring and selling the business to successors (who, variously, ran the business until it closed in 1981). The Side Door: Twenty-Six Years in My Book Room (Ryerson Press, 1958) is an unassuming-looking book with a rather uninteresting title—but is actually a fascinating read. I bought The Side Door mainly because I didn’t have it already, and because I was mildly interested in what the author might have to say about bookselling in Toronto during her era.

Hood was a purveyor of rare and antiquarian books, and a renowned dealer in Canadiana. Her memoir details a selection of these books with relish, making it a kind of catalogue in itself. Hood’s stories about how she acquired books, and from whom, and to whom she sold them, are amazing and envy-inducing. Hood lived a remarkable life, and her contributions to the book trade, to the preservation of old books, and to Canadian history scholarship more generally, were immense.

While researching Hood and her Book Room, I was unsurprised to see that Toronto historian Jamie Bradburn (a fellow book hound whom I run into at nearly every book sale) has previously written about her life and times: please visit Jamie’s blog to learn more about Hood, her shop, and her era.

[P.S. Looking at the font on Dora Hood’s advertising makes me think I have seen it somewhere … possibly on a bookmark found, perhaps appropriately, in an old book.]


A completely unexpected find this year was Horse d’Oeuvres (PaperJacks / General Publishing, 1975)—a collection of works by avant-garde Canadian sound poets The Four Horsemen … published in a mainstream pulp paperback of the sort one could have bought at any Coles Bookshop or even the local drugstore. And not that kind of drugstore, either. It blows my kind that there was ever a time, in Canada or anywhere, really, when weird poetry could produce mainstream publishing success.

The Four Horsemen were Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, and bp Nichol. Nichol is perhaps the best known of the Horsemen outside poetry circles, having published prolifically across genres and having contributed extensively to children’s television programming, but all four were gifted, multidimensional poets and performers. The works in Horse d’Oeuvre are strong and varied, and wow: I’d have loved to be a 14 year-old coming across a book like this while spinning a paperback rack at the local pharmacy, because this was about the age I started producing, on the heavy old manual typewriter in my bedroom, things (‘compositions’ would be too strong a term) I called ‘pomes,’ which played with words, syllables, and the space on the page. I had no idea these textual / spatial experiments even counted as creative work, however, and soon gave them up, not knowing I was making crude attempts at concrete / visual poetry.

Of all the pieces in Horse d’Oeuvre, I think my favourite is Paul Dutton’s ‘this is a poem:’

this is a poem for my father’s gravestone
a grave poem for my father’s stone
a father for my poem’s gravestone
a groan for my father’s grave

Dutton’s poem is deeply (pre-post) modern, but also reminiscent of eighteenth century poets in its cadences and tone (an elegy of sorts, it of course reminds one of Thomas Gray).

Bonus: my copy is signed by two of the Horsemen (by Dutton; and by McCaffery, who inscribes his section, via a simple code, to Mary) although not, sadly, by bpNichol. [Although to be frank, bpNichol’s poems in this collection are among his more self-indulgent, and lack some of the vital fervor of his subsequent work.]


I have an enduring love for twentieth century design of the pre- and immediately post-war period. There is something about the clean lines and pale, earthy tones that seems fresh and genuinely modern. This promotional guidebook is from 1938, and features Asbestos (!) Flexboard suitable for use in commercial as well as residential settings. The brochure references the 1934 National Housing Act (US), which was New Deal era legislation intended to reduce foreclosures, and which also provided and insured loans for home repairs.

Behold the colour tints available: “rich and distinctive” Rose, Green, Light Gray (a “shade of unusual adaptability”), “admirable” Buff, and Slate. I also love the concept kitchen (in Green and Buff) with its streamlined appliances, colour-coordinated canisters and nook for radio and cookbooks.

Did any real people have this sort of decor in their actual kitchens in the late 1930s? While I’ve seen concept kitchens of this sort in quite a few magazine spreads of this era, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an archival photo of a real, lived-in kitchen like this. I wonder if the tail end of the Depression, followed so quickly by the war with its attendant restrictions on non-essential manufacturing, meant these concept kitchens were destined to remain dreams. There are hints of these stylings in 1950s diner-era kitchens, but after the war modernism turned in different directions—to international influences, or to kitsch. The cool, clean stylings of the 1930s seem to have vanished.


Another, related, find was this Plan Book of Charming Exteriors and Livable Interiors, produced in 1938 by Bennett Homes and Lumber Co. of upstate New York. Books of home plans were common until the early 1960s (Sears Roebuck being the best known); from these books, property owners could order entire house-building kits, including architectural plans and all lumber pre-cut to size. This book includes 50 home plans, most of modest size, with two or three bedrooms.

The original owner of my brochure marked house designs of special interest to her, and appears to have settled on the Columbia, a fairly simple 1 1/2 story home with a gable over the front door. From her notes it appears that a complete kit for the Columbia (plans, lumber, and kitchen cabinets) could be bought for $3,769, and financed at 3 1/2 percent. Her annotations include notes about additional costs, estimated as follows: “Mason Work 750.00, Plumbing 450.00, Wiring 125.00, Heating 250.00, Painting 225.00, Carp(entry) labor 600.”

If the costs for this home seem low—in 2023 dollars, $3,769 works out to a little over $81,000—it is worth noting that this amount covers only the architectural drawings and lumber. It would not include HVAC, plumbing, wiring or foundation work–all costs that would now be many magnitudes greater than the estimate indicated by the prospective homeowner. Nor would it include the cost of the land. The 1938 design, however quaint, would also not conform to contemporary building codes in terms of structure or insulation.

Still, the Columbia, like the other house plans in this brochure, is lovely and deeply evocative of its era. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that there is a fair amount of historical interest in Bennett house plans–here’s an interesting account, complete with images, of the Dresden, another of the Bennett kit houses, and here’s some more commentary on Bennett’s 1920s offerings. And click here for home plans from a variety of manufacturers.


To my small library of practical guides of yesteryear I add Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them (1909; 1928). It is a dear little book with a lovely, arts-and-crafts-inspired cover and interesting illustrations accompanying instructions for (among many other devices) devising sawhorses, sowing machines, fruit picking devices, adjustable clotheslines, and smokehouses. I’ve added it to my bookshelf, alongside Boot Making and Mending (1898; 1912) and Practical Buttermaking (1924), because after the zombie apocalypse these skills, alongside blacksmithing, dowsing and witch hunting, will probably come back into vogue.


The Hawks and Owls of Ontario (revised edition; 1947) was one of my favourite finds at the Victoria College Book Sale. It is a charmingly illustrated guide published by the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology during that long and sadly long gone era in which governments and cultural institutions made efforts to share accessible information about Ontario’s flora, fauna, fossils and geology as an important part of public education. My copy is signed by its author, Lester Lynn Snyder, a noted ornithologist, “curator of birds” at the ROM, and co-founder of the Toronto Field Naturalists.

It’s very interesting to note that some of the birds of prey once reported uncommon and in decline in Southern Ontario, mainly due to deforestation (and, later, pesticides)—e.g. sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons—are now seen regularly in this part of the province, having adapted to urban life and benefitted from cosmetic pesticide bans in cities. If only the many other animal species now in decline could enjoy such comebacks. I love the cute saw whet owl on the cover — a bird I’ve never seen in real life.


Insect Life: An Introduction to Nature Study (1919) was written principally for middle-grade school children interested in exploring outdoor life. The book, which is organized by locale (various chapters are titled ‘Pond Life,’ ‘Brook Life,’ ‘Orchard Life,’ ‘Forest Life,’ and ‘Roadside Life’), encourages students to venture out into natural environments to observe insects in their natural habitats, and sometimes to collect and mount them.

Books like this challenge the commonly held view that, until the rise of critical pedagogical theory in education, all learning had been rote learning, and consisted mainly of memorization and repetition. Much of it was, but in the natural sciences at least, Darwin’s investigations prompted several generations of educators and natural science writers to see nature as a classroom, and science as a subject best explored in the field.

It’s a pity this approach is no longer standard in elementary schools. Budget cuts, risk aversion and ideological intrusions from the left (e.g., the rise of critical animal studies) and right (especially among religious fundamentalists seeking to replace science with theology) have made educators reluctant to have students do more than look at YouTube videos and memorize taxonomy. It seems to me that kids would be far better  equipped to handle the very severe environmental challenges of our era if they knew a little bit more about how ecosystems actually work from spending time out exploring them.


The Natural History of the Year (1896; 1901) is a delightful guide, written for young people, to nature throughout the seasons. It is charmingly illustrated and slightly florid in its language—but no less intelligent for it. The author cites the discoveries of numerous 18th and nineteenth century naturalists and recommends scientific works for further reading, even while quoting bits of doggerel and comparing winter to the story of Sleeping Beauty.

At the same time, the book is definitely influenced by late Victorian sensibilities, as this text on the withering of leaves in the fall suggests:

But there is something very beautiful in the manner of their dying. For before they fall they surrender all their worldly goods to the plant which bore them; all the useful material–sugar, green pigment, more complex substances, and living matter itself—retreats into winter quarters in stem or root.


I will include one final treasure before this post gets any longer. It is Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage (1942; 1949), written by William J. Fielding, apparently a noted American sexologist, albeit one who left school before finishing grade 8. But, presumably with an adolescent’s fascination for all things sexual, this autodidact seems to have spent his life researching and writing about sex—his side gig while also working as a secretary at Tiffany’s.

Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage was originally published in 1942 and appears to have been reprinted repeatedly up until the mid 1960s. It is one of a number of rather surprisingly well-researched books about salacious or at least eyebrow-raising subjects published for general audiences in inexpensive pocket paperback editions, among them Daniel P. Mannix’s A History of Torture and Burgo Patridge’s A History of Orgies.

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