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    Holland, Barbara


If a quick glance back over world history shows us anything, it shows us that war was one of our most universal joys from our earliest beginnings, savored at every possible opportunity and even some quite incomprehensible ones, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, whomever he may have been.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
“War,” Wasn’t the Grass Greener? (1999)
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First appeared in Smithsonian (Jun 1992).
 
Added on 16-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Life, after we’d had a few millennia to observe it, turned out to be dreadfully unfair, so we invented sports.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
(Attributed)
 
Added on 29-Dec-21 | Last updated 29-Dec-21
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I have ferreted out the alarm clock, plugged it in, and set it, musing on the word “alarm” and why the world must be wakened daily to cries of panic and danger.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Bingo Night at the Fire Hall (1997)
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Added on 17-Nov-21 | Last updated 17-Nov-21
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Coaches and headmasters praise sport as a preparation for the great game of life, but this is absurd. Nothing could be more different from life. For one thing sports, unlike life, are played according to rules. Indeed, the rules are the sport: life may behave bizarrely and still be life, but if the runner circles the bases clockwise it’s no longer baseball.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures (1995)
 
Added on 29-Sep-20 | Last updated 29-Sep-20
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Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures (1995)
 
Added on 20-Dec-21 | Last updated 20-Dec-21
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Almost any dog thinks almost any human is the Great Spirit, the Primal Creator, and the Universal Force Behind the Sun and Tides. What human can resist?

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures, “Dogs” (1995)
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Added on 29-Aug-22 | Last updated 29-Aug-22
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One’s own flowers and some of one’s own vegetables make acceptable, free, self-congratulatory gifts when visiting friends, though giving zucchini — or leaving it on the doorstep, ringing the bell, and running — is a social faux pas.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures, “Gardening” (1995)
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Added on 1-Aug-22 | Last updated 1-Aug-22
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Visiting is a pleasure; being visited is usually a mixed or ambivalent joy. The visitee, unless he or she is unusually self-confident, probably felt it necessary to clean up the house or at least unhook the dirty socks from the lampshades and swab the sticky patch on the kitchen floor. Food had to be bought and cooked, possibly expensive or quirky food to accommodate the visitor’s latest dietary fad. The sheets on the guest bed had to be changed and clean towels ferreted out. And once ensconced, the visitor may come to seem like occupying troops and possibly permanent. The visitee is helpless: nice people don’t throw guests out into the street because their airspace feels crowded and they’re tired of thinking up entertainments. The visitor can always go home; the visitee is already home, trapped like a rat in a drainpipe.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures, “Visiting” (1996)
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Added on 25-Jul-22 | Last updated 25-Jul-22
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Of course, there are those who don’t eat lamb chops, for moral reasons. There are also those who rise before daybreak and leap into a cold shower in February; those hwo disapprove of idleness, gin rummy, slang, dancing, unauthorized sex, naps, socialism, and Jacuzzis for moral reasons. They enjoy it; moral indignation is a pleasure, often the only pleasure, in many lives. It’s also one of the few pleasures people feel obliged to force on other people.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures, “Wearing Fur”(1995)
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Added on 28-Feb-22 | Last updated 28-Feb-22
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The thousands of possible lives that used to spread out in front of me have snapped shut into one, and all I get is what I’ve got. It’s time to pass on the possibilities, all those deliciously half-open doors, to my children, and drive them to the airports, and wish them bon voyage.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
In Private LIfe, ch. 7 (1980)
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Added on 5-Jul-22 | Last updated 5-Jul-22
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No doubt about it, solitude is improved by being voluntary.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone (1996)
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Added on 25-Jan-22 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
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The thing to remember is that children are temporary. As soon as they develop a sense of humor and get to be good company, maybe even remember to take the trash out and close the refrigerator door, they pack up their electronic equipment and their clothes, and some of your clothes, and leave in a U-Haul, to return only at Thanksgiving. They were just passing through; they were always just passing through on their way to their own lives.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone, ch. 4 “Children” (1996)
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Added on 7-Nov-22 | Last updated 7-Nov-22
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For ages past, women were defined only in relation to other people, and the definition lingers: a woman may be called a wife and mother for most of her life, while a man is called a husband and father only at his funeral.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone, ch. 1 (1992)
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Added on 9-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Sometimes, with luck, we find the kind of true friend, male or female, that appears only two or three times in a lucky lifetime, one that will winter us and summer us, grieve, rejoice, and travel with us.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone, ch. 3 “Friends” (1992)
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Added on 8-Aug-22 | Last updated 8-Aug-22
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Drink, the social glue of the human race. Probably in the beginning we could explain ourselves to our close family members with grunts, muttered syllables, gestures, slaps, and punches. Then when the neighbors started dropping in to help harvest, stomp, stir, and drink the bounty of the land, after we’d softened our natural suspicious hostility with a few stiff ones, we had to think up some more nuanced communications, like words. From there it was a short step to grammar, civil law, religion, history, and “The Whiffenpoof Song.”

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Joy of Drinking (2007)
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Added on 22-Nov-21 | Last updated 22-Nov-21
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A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat (1988)
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Added on 25-Oct-21 | Last updated 25-Oct-21
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It’s curious that throughout our history together, with no apparent effort, people have been able to think of the cat simultaneously as the guardian spirit of the hearth and home, and as the emblem of freedom, independence, and rootlessness.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat (1988)
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Added on 21-Mar-22 | Last updated 21-Mar-22
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By and large, people who enjoy teaching animals to roll over will find themselves happier with a dog.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat (1998)
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Added on 27-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Dec-21
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Very few people have no opinions about cats. Even those who have never known a cat personally, scarcely even spoken to one, feel strongly and sometimes hysterically on the subject.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat, ch. 3 (1988)
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Added on 6-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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People who hate cats tend to be proud of the fact, and brag about it as if it proved something honest and straightforward in their natures. Nobody brags about hating dogs. To hate dogs would be meanspirited and peculiarly unpatriotic; dogs are a very American concept, fraternal, hearty, and unpretentious, while cats are inscrutable like the wily Oriental and elitist like the European esthete. In advertising cats turn up selling perfume (wily) and expensive rugs and furniture (elitist) , while dogs sell such solid family values as station wagons, life insurance, and sporting goods.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat, ch. 3 (1988)
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Added on 13-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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If we have a decent sort of cat to begin with, and have always treated it courteously, and aren’t cursed with meddling, bullying natures, it’s a pleasure to let it do as it pleases. With children, this would be wicked and irresponsible, so raising children involves a lot of effort and friction. They need to be taught how to tie their shoes and multiply fractions, they need to be punished for pocketing candy in the grocery store, they need to be washed and combed and forced to clean up their rooms and say please and thank you.

A cat is our relief and our reward.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat, ch. 3 (1988)
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Added on 17-Oct-22 | Last updated 17-Oct-22
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However long you have a cat and however plainly he lays his life open before you, there is always something hidden, some name he goes by in a place you never heard of.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat, ch. 5 (1988)
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Added on 20-Jun-22 | Last updated 20-Jun-22
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“Are you seeing a psychiatrist?” as a conversation opener would nowadays earn you a punch in the nose, but for fifty years it was a compliment. It meant, “One can plainly see you are sensitive, intense, and interesting, and therefore neurotic.” Only the dullest of clods trudged around without a neurosis.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Wasn’t the Grass Greener?: A Curmudgeon’s Fond Memories (1999)
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Added on 21-Feb-22 | Last updated 21-Feb-22
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For the first time in six or seven thousand years, many people of goodwill find themselves confused about art. They want to enjoy it because enjoying art is something they expect of themselves as civilized persons, but they’re unsure how to do so. They aren’t even sure which of the visible objects are art and which are furniture, clothes, hors d’oeuvres, or construction rubble, and whether a pile of dead and decomposing rats is deliberate art or just another pile of decomposing rats.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Wasn’t the Grass Greener?: A Curmudgeon’s Fond Memories, “Art” (1999)
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Added on 27-Jun-22 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
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Once considered an art form that called for talent, or at least a craft that called for practice, a poem now needs only sincerity. Everyone, we’re assured, is a poet. Writing poetry is good for us. It expresses our inmost feelings, which is wholesome. Reading other people’s poems is pointless since those aren’t our own inmost feelings.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Wasn’t the Grass Greener?: A Curmudgeon’s Fond Memories, “Poetry” (1999)
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Added on 7-Feb-22 | Last updated 7-Feb-22
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Smiting enemies has always been so admired that, unlike medicine or archaeology, it entitled its successful practitioners to become kings, emperors, and presidents of the United States like Washington, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Wasn’t the Grass Greener?, “War” (1999)
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Added on 30-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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My friends and I were all deathly afraid of our fathers, which was right and proper and even biblically ordained. Fathers were angry; it was their job.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
When All the World Was Young, ch. 1 (2005)
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Added on 5-Sep-22 | Last updated 5-Sep-22
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Napping is too luxurious, too sybaritic, too unproductive, and it’s free; pleasures for which we don’t pay make us anxious. Besides, it seems to be a natural inclination. … Fighting off natural inclinations is a major Puritan virtue, and nothing that feels that good can be respectable.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Quoted in Alex Beam, “Literature, One Screen at a Time,” New York Times (16 Nov 2005)
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Added on 31-Jan-22 | Last updated 31-Jan-22
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