The Alpine Path by L.M. Montgomery

The Alpine Path: The Story of My CareerThe Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As one of millions of readers in the world who have loved Canada’s most famous red-haired Anne of Green Gables in books, films, and animation, I have always admired Anne’s creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s choice of words and illustrative descriptions of characters, things, and situations that make the story at once vivaciously realistic and fantastically romantic. Naturally, when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it with a heart to find out more about her life written by herself.

The Alpine Path is her autobiography, originally published as a series of essays in the Toronto magazine Everywoman’s World in 1917 at the request of its editor to write about her writing career. Montgomery found it odd because she did not think it as a “career” but something of a niche where she would always find comfort, happiness, and life itself abounded with the memories of beautiful Prince Edward Island whose chaste and restive loveliness was unsurpassed. Added to her natural affinity for words was her incessant diligence in practicing writing on a daily basis. Her topics of writing ranged from scribbling her thoughts and feelings to biographic accounts of her cats and critical book reviews.

Of all her fortes that enabled her to arrive as a writer, it was her indefatigable will combined with commendable perseverance and brilliant imaginativeness, all grouping around her indomitable aspiration to become a writer, as discerned in her narrative. Montgomery believed in herself and struggled in secrecy and silence by making writing activities strictly private because deep down, under all rejections, discouragement, and rebuff, she knew she would arrive as a writer someday.

What makes Montgomery’s books entertaining and approachable to readers of all ages are her ideas of a good story that consists of the following components: (1) absence of a moral undertone in a story lest it should be a didactic textbook or a fable devoid of literary merits and entertaining quality because literature should be “art for art’s sake and fun for fun’s sake”; and (2) use of imagination, which is a powerful tool to create a world of make-believe, based upon studying people and observing scenery in life to render realistic feelings to the imaginary world of fiction. To Montgomery, making use of the real to perfect the ideal is what gives to art its true meaning.

To illustrate, the famous liniment cake episode that happened when Anne made the selfsame cake by accident for the parson and his wife was based upon her own experience as a school teacher in Bideford boarding at the Methodist parsonage there; the parson’s wife mistakenly put liniment in a cake, but only the parson himself did not recognize it. Also, while working as a reporter for The Daily Echo in Halifax, she was often asked to write up a society letter when it was not sent by the requested lady of high society. Montgomery used her wide scope of imagination by writing such a letter as if she were the lady of high society, which gained popularity from readers.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Heaven helps those who help themselves,” Montgomery’s unyielding will and diligent practice of writing every day were the sine qua non of her meet reward as a successful writer. This charming autobiography is a must-read for not only fans of her books but also those who love writing and cherish in secret the thought of becoming writers. Furthermore, those who are struggling to rise above the planes of biological, psychological, or sociological inhibition through what means they deem inspirational and meaningful to achieve will find a kindred spirit in this book. Montgomery encourages her readers to climb up the alpine path so steep, so hard that it will eventually lead to the height sublime as she once did.

The Romans as close as you can be

Life in Ancient RomeLife in Ancient Rome by Lionel Casson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a time when all the roads led to Rome that lasted approximately 1,500 years ranging from the era of B.C. to that of A.D. It was from this Roman world where the art of politics was crafted and exemplified; it was also from this grandiose empire where Christianity gained ground and dispersed Christendom/Christianity to Urbi et orbi. However, what piqued me most was the key phases of life in the Roman world; what life was like in the various spectrum of society, ranging from the slave to the aristocrat? How different was the life in the Roman world from the life in our modern world? This book by the erudite historian Lionel Casson presents elegant sketches of such aspects of the Eternal City, particularly during the first and second A.D.

Although Rome was the center of the Empire, its strength came from its provinces. For instance, the grain, wine, and oil came from Egypt, France, and Spain. The businessmen who traded such goods were largely provincials, so were the army recruits. Moreover, even slaves could achieve upward social mobility once they became freed through manumission which granted them Roman citizenship. In fact, it was this practice of incorporating into the state the communities it claimed and the populace it governed by bestowing upon them citizenship on the whole. To illustrate, Horace, the famous Roman poet, was a son of a freed slave who later became a wealthy farmer. Felix, who threw St. Paul in a jail, was himself a freed slave who rose above the planes of his melee. These nouveau citizens joined the citizen body and contributed their labor to the society.

Most girls married between the age of twelve and fifteen, and they must possess a dowry. If her husband died, or the couple divorced, it was returned, except a portion for the raising the children by the husband and penalty in case of her misdemeanor. No dowry, no husband in this paterfamily society. Also, the common law marriage was accepted, such as in the case of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor ruling Rome from 161 A.D. to 180 A.D. After his wife died, he lived with the daughter of his wife’s business agent as concubine. An upper-class woman could have a lover of humble status, even including a slave.

There are lots of other interesting facts that will surprise the reader with a feeling of closeness to these citizens of the Eternal City because they were not much different from the citizens of the modern world in many ways; the scenery changes, and the people change, but the human nature does not change as long as the humankind exists.