Maggie and Her Many Moods

November 8, 2014

Maggie Edith Mosteller McLendon is the subject of a new book by author Linda Hewitt, contributor to this site. Titled Maggie and Me: A Granddaughter’s Memoir, the book explores the ups and downs of the relationship between a woman and her oldest grandchild, very much alike in many ways but of two very different eras.

The heart of the book is the transition undergone by the author as she grows up and begins to view Maggie not only as the most important part of the world they share, but as a woman of  great presence and decided opinions, a woman whose traditional views collide explosively with the life philosophy of a granddaughter who assumed that it was her responsibility to become the best that she could be within the limits and possibilities of her abilities and aptitudes. Their growing disagreements play out against the backdrop of a dying industrial town whose seeming stability is an illusion based on corporate priorities.

In the end, Maggie and Me: A Granddaughter’s Memoir is a tribute to the strength of family stories and the endurance of love and precious ritual in the face of change. It’s also a recognition of the fact that, as the book would have it, “the main thing all satisfying lives share is the courage to do what must be done with grace.”
Print This Post Print This Post

© 2014, Neat Old Books. All rights reserved.



The American Way with Books

October 27, 2008

Linda Hewitt continues a dialogue about “Neat Old Books,” books that are simply too pleasurable to be forgotten. In this post, Linda confides her addiction to books and reading and the way in which it has shaped how she and her equally book-addicted husband Robert live.

There weren’t a lot of books in colonial America, especially in the earliest years. Apart from Bibles and theological works, in fact, there were very few. As universities developed, their libraries remained overwhelmingly theological in nature but also included works of history, science, poetry, legend and the like – most in Greek or Latin. There were some personal libraries, which often tended to include the same kind of content and were rarely open to any but the owner and his immediate family and friends.

Books were particularly necessary in the colonies of the 17th and 18th centuries. They were viewed as the “go to” source for accurate or inspirational facts and opinions, because there was no other way of getting definitive information on an idea or issue. Public and private discourse and disputation were important in the ability of the ambitious of the time to make useful connections and exert influence. This meant that a man without access to books who had professional or political aspirations was at a definite disadvantage. Books also served as a way of passing along practical information, important in a situation where continuity of knowledge might not exist regarding certain crafts or agricultural practices.

Three of our most book-dependent Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson – approached the library-building conundrum in very different ways. Their strategies reflected both their personalities and their resources. Print This Post Print This Post

© 2008 – 2009, Neat Old Books. All rights reserved.



Linda Hewitt continues a dialogue about “Neat Old Books,” books that are simply too pleasurable to be forgotten. In this post, Linda confides her addiction to books and reading and the way in which it has shaped how she and her equally book-addicted husband Robert live.

I began to read when I was three and have never stopped. Nothing printed has ever been safe around me, and anything printed is just about irresistible to me.

When I was a child, I was fortunate enough to have adults either give me books or arrange access to them. When I got my first job, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, my first paycheck went for books, and boys quickly learned that books were the gifts of choice. I married an artist who is as compulsive a reader as I, and some of the happiest hours of vacations in a multitude of interesting and scenically spectacular locations have been spent in bookstores, usually of the “used and rare” variety. There is an unfortunately long list of domestic and international dealers who, aided by FedEx, UPS and USPS, have added to our stacks. Speaking of those stacks, the house is full of them because my husband Robert has made a hobby of learning to build extremely handsome bookshelves. It’s been said that some people furnish with books, but we furnish for them.

Since both of us work in creative fields that require reference, many of the books we’ve bought have been new and/or for a purpose. At the other extreme is a small collection of fine bindings. In between is the fun stuff, the books bought for no reason other than that they looked as if they’d be an enjoyable read. A lot of those books came from the more-obscure shelves or “miscellany” catalog pages of the “used and rare” bookstores mentioned earlier. Some of them turned out to be duds (deaccessed or, depending on time and inclination, packed away in storage), but most were a total delight – and these were often the most unpretentious, modest volumes.

It is from the ranks of the delightful that these “Neat Old Books” posts are drawn. We hope that you get as much pleasure from them as have we. We hope, also, that you will amass an ever-growing list of “used and rare” bookshelves to mine for your own delectation.

Books are no more a luxury to the thirsty mind than water to the thirsty body.
Print This Post Print This Post

© 2008 – 2009, Neat Old Books. All rights reserved.


The Reading Connection

September 30, 2008

Linda Hewitt opens a dialogue about Neat Old Books, books that are simply too pleasurable to be forgotten. In this first post, Linda fondly recalls the grandmother who read nonstop and early inculcated her with a love of the written word.


My mother Evelyn was the youngest daughter of this lady – Maggie Mosteller McClendon, seen here as a teenager around 1910.

Maggie read the way most people breathe and always had as many books around as budget and space would allow. Her taste ran to P.G. Wodehouse and Somerset Maugham, as well as to mystery writers of almost any kind, from Agatha Christie, through Earle Stanley Gardner, and on to Mickey Spillaine and Ian Fleming (it was the mystery that absorbed her, not the style).

By the time I came along, Maggie spent much of her day, on the porch in summer and before the fire in winter, reading whatever was at hand. Each night, before she went to bed, she read a chapter from her worn, almost tattered Bible; each morning found her devouring the short stories then published in magazines like Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Home Companion, Ladies Home Journal, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

I spent a lot of time visiting Maggie and my grandfather Dennis, and in her I saw a person who craved words, plot lines, character development, and literary atmosphere the way all addicts crave the substance that gets them going. Having access to her drug of choice was as much a necessity for Maggie as alcohol is for the drunkard. Reading, Maggie entered worlds she would never otherwise visit and met people concerned with issues so far from those that crowded in upon her existence that following their resolution was a form of catharsis, precisely because they were totally outside her experience and so were only interesting and not depressing or worrying.

In the first few years of my life, I probably spent half my time with Maggie and my grandfather Dennis. Seeing how much fun Maggie derived from the simple process of picking up and opening a book, I couldn’t wait to do the same.
Print This Post Print This Post

© 2008, Neat Old Books. All rights reserved.