In My Library

Summoned by Books

“Art is…a controlled fury of desire to share one’s private revelation of life.”

It was this quote of Frances Clarke Sayers that led me to pick up Summoned By Books. I wanted to hear more, in context.

Sayers was a protégée of Anne Carroll Moore. She began her career under Moore’s librarianship, followed her as the New York Public Library’s children’s librarian, and took up the mantle after Moore against the “vulgarities” that threatened children’s stories (such as Disney films, new theories in education, and progressive books like those put out by Harper). [1]

In this collection of her essays and speeches, Sayers spoke in minor on threats to the field, in major about the attributes that make for quality literature, and on both with great passion. I appreciated her full-career perspective on the makings of a good book (stories with vitality born of observation, convincing characters, immediacy with no touch of nostalgia, genuine sympathy and conviction on behalf of the author, and a facility of storytelling – rhythm, cadence, pacing and delivery).

But most importantly, good books, containing those “private revelations of life”, should awaken us, challenge us, and change us.