Hall’s Reading List

Editor’s mournful note: We cannot solve the problem of italicizing this web font. I HATE using quotation marks, but I am forced to do just that. Sorry.

Hall raided the S.S. Clairton‘s library and plowed through at least eight nameless mass-market novels on the voyage to Europe.

He first mentions studying his French dictionary—presumably brought from home—when he is in Paris; he carries it with him and mentions studying it at least through Saigon—the last place where he actually needs to speak French. I think it is a grammar as well as a dictionary.

Although he mentions reading a 400-page History of Europe while he is in Europe, he picks it up again—or a similar book—in Jaipur:  Haven’t done a thing all day except stay at the hotel and read English history from William III and Mary through Edwards I, II, III, and IV, to Queen Victoria. Is a good book and gives the personal lives of these rulers.” In Jaipur, India. . .go figure.

In Gibraltar Hall had lots of time in his hands—the hotel or his friends had books. He read more than a few nameless trifles (“I have a couple of heroes happily married off and the villain sent to Siberia.”), but then tackled Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, presumably in English. After The White Lie Company (author unknown; probably another trasher) and The Valley of the Voices by John March (ditto), he found something entirely different. This latter book causes him to comment: “. . .got a book of a series of lectures on Mesmerism and Electrical Psychology. These are extremely interesting and so far seem consistent with one exception. He calls the mind ‘that substance which has innate or living motion; and the result of that motion is thought, reason, and understanding and, therefore, power.’ He proves the world was not made of nothing, but something, and states that the Creator is a real substance or being, possessing personal identity, and is infinite in every perfection of his character. But then he says electricity, which he regards as the primal form of matter, is an emanation from Spirit, Gods. God, then, must be of a more primal form; or is he the motion, function, property of this primal matter? If so, he is not mind—a cause—but an effect; otherwise, spirit is wholly distinct from matter of every form.”

January 5, 1929, Gibraltar: “Mr. Merrick wants me to go to Malaga, not only to see the city and Andalusia, but [to meet] one C.E. Scoggins, an American novelist staying there with his family getting local color for a novel. I’m afraid the trip is too expensive, though, for me. Besides, I have no clothes and Malaga is quite a fashionable place, but this latter deficiency wouldn’t cut much ice if the fare were not so dear. I have one of Mr. Scoggins’ books here to read now, The Red Gods Call.”

In Port Said, after having been to Palestine, Hall settles down to read a book about Palestine. He also enjoys Harry Hervey’s “very good book about Indo-China, King Cobra.

The next opportunity for leisurely reading is the month that Hall, Frank Aldridge, and Mort Hartman spend on a houseboat in Srinagar, Kashmir. Hall gets very caught up by Magic Ladakh by ‘Ganpat,’ (Louis Gompertz) a British army officer, when the boys think that they might be able to take a five-week trek to Tibet. “I read about 100 pages to Frank and Mort and we all decided we had better not miss this opportunity for the unusual, cut out southern India and Ceylon.” N.G., as he would have written. Didn’t happen, and that was probably a good thing.

It’s unclear whether Hall actually read Where Three Empires Meet by E.F. Knight, or whether his discussions about the book with Mort and Frank allow him to quote an appropriate passage from it for his June 29 journal entry. But, he did certainly read Unhappy India by Lajpat Rai, a controversial book at the time, given circumstances that Hall later becomes aware of. On June 5 he comments: “It certainly knocks England as she deserves to be knocked, and proves Miss Mayo a liar on every page. The book is a very good one from which to get information as to India, its customs, religious practices of the Hindus, and of their private lives; comparison of sexual morality of India with England, France, Spain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, America, etc. The book is very well written and is no doubt true.”

Hall was so struck by this book that he created an appendix to his current journal for quotations from it—you will find these under the June 5th entry for Srinagar because I also find them interesting and wanted to remember them.

On June 11 in Lahore the boys have dinner with a local policeman, an American from Seattle who noticed them waiting in the station between trains, and ” the true cause of the death of Lajpat Rai, author of Unhappy India, was brought up. A young man named Saunders joined the Punjab Police some months ago. He was anxious to make a name for himself and the occasion was not long in presenting itself. Lajpat Rai is a big agitator against British rule in the Punjab. A delegation came to Lahore to whitewash the British rule and praise it up. Lajpat Rai and a committee met this delegation at the station and told them they were not wanted in Lahore. A brawl resulted in which Saunders distinguished himself by severely beating the old author. As a result of injuries, he died 16 days later, though this is not generally known. Some days later Saunders was shot and killed. It was done very cleverly and although they caught the man, the evidence was insufficient to hold him. This happened some five months ago and it is still a head-liner.”

That’s the end of Hall’s thought-provoking reading. I think that he buys only guidebooks from now on and finds his other reading material in the ubiquitous take-a-book, leave-a-book shelves that all foreign lodgings accumulate. The exception: June 15, Delhi “Bought a Physics book today and expect to do some studying in the future.” OK—I doubt that happened.

Back to the books. When Hall left Howarth Station in Calcutta, he was reading a “bloody pirate story”. During the following six months, until he returned home, here’s his reported  reading list with a few comments he had about the more memorable of the books or authors.

Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad (1900) in French.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (1927). Madras: ” Mid-afternoon was passed by lying half-stripped under a big fan, and on real sheets, reading The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Quite a novel book.”

Shanghai Nights, by Tamsan Ile (must have been a prepublication copy as the official pub date is 1930); aboard Linan, Amoy, China: “It is a story of life in Shanghai and very nearly represents true conditions according to the ship’s officers—so true in fact the book has been banned and recalled. It is a good story and tells a lot about Shanghai night life and the Chinese.” Go to September 6, 1929 for further excerpts.

The Plastic Age, by Percy Marks (1924)

Seventeen, by Booth Tarkington (1916) Shanghai: “a darned good funny book and too true.”

Buddhism and Buddhists in Japan, by Robert Cornell Armstrong (1924)

History of China, by W.E. Soothill (the only one of these books to have survived to 2010)

Earthquake (?)

All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1929) “a splendid book . . . Besides being well written and interesting, his style is a departure from any I have ever seen before. I think the modernistic trend is in this direction. Short expressive sentences; a different way of expressing facts, leaving some to the imagination; a chain of separate incidences or events that connect to make a story. Descriptions are vivid with no words used that are not necessary.”

Kipps, the Story of a Simple Soul,  by H.G. Wells (1905)

Meanwhile, the Picture of a Lady, by H.G. Wells (1927)

Hawaii Today, by Roscoe C. Wriston (1927)

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway (Jan. 1929) “I had read Hawaii Today . . . yesterday, so attacked a book Mrs. Noble had recommended me, A Farewell to Arms by Hemmingway or some such name. The book had a good write-up, I guess, but I am not sure I like the style. I think it goes to the extreme of modern style—so far that it often sounds juvenile and childish. Still, it is a good story and I like its frankness.”

Paradise of the Pacific, by John Thomson Faris (1929)

Selected Prejudices – II Series, by H. L. Mencken “Always gives you plenty of food for thought—enough to put you to sleep anyway.”

A Year of Prophesying, by H.G. Wells (1925) “An interesting book. Wells’ outlook on life and world problems appeal to me.”

The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France (1914)

Thoughts Without Words, by Clarence Day (1928) “A darned good book. Hasn’t so many words, but what there are really say something. True to the title, the sketches accompanying the verses or words convey the thoughts—words are not necessary—merely suggestive. You linger over each sketch, afraid you have missed part of the thought, and having read on several pages, turn back again to the sketch in question with an entirely new interpretation.”

The Jade God, by Alan Sullivan (1925) “Now my reading has degenerated to a mystery. . . It is not a bad story, however, and is good entertainment today—there being no work.”

The Story of a Great Schoolmaster, by H.G. Wells (1924) “Not especially interesting except for some advanced ideas on school education and training of the future.”

Portrait of a Young Man With Red Hair, by Hugh Walpole (1925)

Metropolis (??) “Didn’t care for the book—money, money, money was the main theme and overworked from the first chapter to the last.”

Mr. Britling Sees It Through, by H.G. Wells (1916) “I like his stuff and humor, but he so often introduced British and world politics and history into his stories and it slows them up considerably, even to the point of being almost boring sometimes. Then too I think he sometimes overdoes the subjectivity of his characters.”

A Far Country, by Winston Churchill (American writer, 1915) “A good novel.”

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