Christopher Morley, a Sustaining author to discover

Christopher Morley, a Sustaining author to discover

If you know Christopher Morley at all, you’re most likely to know him for his eloquent introduction to “The Complete Sherlock Holmes,” the first omnibus edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterful detective stories.

If you don’t know Morley’s work, that’s a shame, and yet I envy you. You have some wonderful books to discover. “Parnassus on Wheels” (1917) is likely to join your list of Sustaining Books, and its sequel, “The Haunted Bookshop” (1919) will ease your nostalgia for bookshops like Evanston’s late, great Bookman’s Alley. Both are a great way to remind yourself of the joy of reading.

In the first book, “Parnassus on Wheels,” traveling bookseller Roger Mifflin shows up at the home of “Andrew McGill, the author of those books every one reads,” intending to sell Andrew his traveling bookshop (or bookmobile, as I couldn’t resist thinking of it).

Instead, Andrew’s sister buys the van, called Parnassus, and sets off on an adventure. Mifflin accompanies her to teach her how to sell books, and their travels soon turn into a sort of rhapsody on reading.

In Chapter Five, Mifflin tells a crowd, “Calling us men doesn’t make us men. No creature on earth has a right to think himself a human being if he doesn’t know at least one good book.”

Later in the same presentation, Mifflin says of his (and Helen’s!) books, “They’ll speak for themselves.”

So let “Parnassus on Wheels,” “The Haunted Bookshop” and Morley’s other titles (eight, according to my copy of “Parnassus”) speak to you for themselves. You’ll need to make room on your own list of Sustaining Books.


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  • Thanks, Margaret, for reminding me of this sadly neglected American writer. He was truly one of our literary luminaries.

    Wikipedia says he was a founder of the Baker Street Irregulars, one of the premiere Sherlock Holmes fan clubs.

    He also wrote his own obituary for American Authors of the 20th Century.

    And (although I've never read it) his novel Kitty Foyle was ahead of its time in having abortion as a plot element.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    You're so welcome for the reminder. I wasn't sure you'd need reminding, considering Morley's Baker Street credentials, but I couldn't pass up the chance to get word out about him. "Literary luminaries" is a great, apt way to describe him.

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