• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

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    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Writing that endures

From Jonathan Darman’s recent article on biographer Robert A. Caro, “The Marathon Man”, in the current issue of Newsweek:

By training, Robert Caro is a journalist. By profession, he is a biographer, among the most highly acclaimed living, thanks to his four books—three volumes on Johnson and a saga about the New York public-works titan Robert Moses. But in his daily life, Caro more resembles a scientist, driven by the principle that you understand something only by observing it, watching it with great concentration and for a long time. In his New York City office, where everything has its particular place, he works long hours, seven days a week, poring through interview transcripts and primary source notes, working slowly and deliberately on books he publishes, on average, once every 10 years. His meticulous routine is sometimes painful, he says, but necessary. Only by gathering as many facts as possible, cataloging them, cross-checking them and sitting with them at great length, can he choose the right words to re-create the past inside his readers’ heads. Words matter to Caro. “I have always thought,” he told me this winter, “that in nonfiction, the level of the writing has to be as good as any novel if it is going to endure.” …

The story of Robert Caro is the story of a man who set out at a young age to produce writing that would survive. A close look at his research and writing process offers lessons at a moment when it seems that nothing endures. Does Caro’s obsessive work life — ruled by diligence, deliberateness and desperation—offer hope for the printed word? Or is Caro the last of his kind?

Robert Caro has always needed more words. Growing up on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1930s and ’40s, reading was his haven; as a student at the Manhattan prep school Horace Mann, he devoured all six volumes of Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” At Princeton in the ’50s, he wrote his senior thesis on Ernest Hemingway, who believed ideas were best expressed in as few words as possible. (Caro’s essay ran 235 pages.) Working as a cub reporter for the Long Island tabloid Newsday, he learned that, while editors would technically limit the number of words he could write, when it came time to measure his stories, they would count only lines on the page. So Caro peppered his typed prose with tiny carets, squeezing every inch of available white space.

Oh, and no computer (though he does have a website).  Read the rest here.

A Robert A. Caro bibliography:

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1975 Pulitzer Prize for biography)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, Volume 1 (1982)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, Volume 2 (1990)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Volume 3 (2003 Pulitzer Prize for biography)


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4 Responses

  1. ‘Or is Caro the last of his kind?’

    Not quite. There is Michael Burlingame’s new Lincoln biography of 2000+ pages in two volumes, and Taylor Branch’s recently completed three volume life of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Edmund Morris is still banging away on his third volume of Theodore Roosevelt’s life having taken time out to write his fictional biography of Ronald Reagan. Obsessive biographers will always be with us.

  2. OC, too many books, too little time. Forget writing them, how’s one supposed to read ‘em all?!

  3. Less time on the computer.

  4. Except that it’s a handy way to find out about and discuss new books, request them from the library, and buy them!

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