Squirrels to the Nuts – Cluny Brown on Margery Sharp Day

clunybrown-1My journey to author Margery Sharp – whose birthday it is today – was complicated.  After reading about her on a fellow reader’s website (Beyond Eden Rock), I tried to find her books but only one consistently appeared in the library and from online booksellers – The Rescuers, known to modern audiences through the Disney animated movie. Her other books were out of print or relegated to rare book collections.

Suddenly, Early Bird Books offered one of her books online for $2.99.  Then, a late night movie on Starz – She’s Funny That Way with Jennifer Aniston – cited the storyline (“squirrels to the nuts”) as being stolen from an old Charles Boyer movie titled Cluny Brown, based on the 1944 book of the same title by Sharp.  Margery Sharp, the forgotten prolific writer,  was making a comeback. Today she would be 111 years old.

Cluny Brown is a charming novel about a young woman in Britain in the late 1930’s who is sent off to be a housemaid at a country estate “to find her place.”  With the same upstairs/downstairs formula as Downton Abbey, the film story used the theme of Margery Sharp’s character in its plot – but I could not find the quote “squirrels to the nuts” in her book.

“Nobody can tell you where your place is…Wherever you’re happy, that’s your place, And happiness is a matter of purely personal adjustment to your environment.  You’re the sole judge. In Hyde Park for instance. Some people like to feed nuts to the squirrels.  But if it makes you happy to feed squirrels to the nuts, who am I to say nuts to the squirrels?”  Charles Boyer in director Ernst Lubitsch’s rendition of Cluny Brown

In the book, Cluny Brown scandalizes her uncle when she goes to tea at the Ritz by herself – just for the experience. She tries to stay in bed for a whole day, eating oranges because it’s good for her energy.   She defies convention and asks so many questions, and her uncle is fearful of her future.  unknownSo he sends her off to the country to be a housemaid to a clueless old wealthy couple.

Although her uncle had hoped learning how to clean and serve would sober her, Cluny, of course, brings her zest and curiosity with her – and changes the lives of everyone around her, including a few gentlemen who are not prepared for her influence – one in particular.  Of course, the ending is happily ever after – but with a surprising twist.

unknown-1I spent an afternoon eating oranges and happily immersed in Cluny’s outlook on life; now I am a fan, and have found another of her charming books available through iBooks to read.  I wonder if I have enough oranges.


When You Need a Good Laugh

If today is your birthday, you share it with one of my favorite authors – Calvin Trillin.

Known for his humorous views published in The New Yorker essays, Trillin has also written books with that same flavor…the one I most like is

Tepper Isn’t Going Out  – read my review –  here

I would often read one of  Trillin’s essay, and then follow up with the topic expanded in one of his books.  Trillin wrote about his wife in  “Alice, Off the Page,” in the March 27, 2006 issue of The New Yorker; in his short book,  About Alice, a tribute to his wife after her death, he retains his familiar wry take on life.

Trillin has a new book – Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin – an anthology of his best.  I have it on my wish list for Santa.

Happy Birthday!  Keep smiling.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Cannot let this day go by without a tribute to Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.  Of all his books, the favorite of one of my favorite people is Green Eggs and Ham

I do not like
green eggs
and ham!

I do not like them,

What’s your favorite?

You have over 60 books to choose from, and if you are an aspiring writer, keep in mind that Geisel’s first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected 29 times before being published.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

For last year’s tribute, check out Dr. Seuss Birthday

A Little House on the Prairie and a London Home

If today is your birthday… you share it with Laura Ingalls Wilder and one other great writer.

Among the famous Little House series books, Wilder wrote the Long Winter, a Newbery Honor Book, about the Ingalls family surviving one of the worst blizzards in the Dakota territories.  If you think this winter is tough, try not being able to shop for bread, water, and toilet paper until April.

And that other famous author with a birthday today?

Charles Dickens

“…it was the winter of despair…”  from a Tale of Two Cities

Last year was his 200th birthday anniversary with lots of books using him as inspiration – thrillers and romanticized historical fiction…

You’ll find them at …Charles Dickens

And, if tomorrow is your birthday…you can give yourself a birthday present – under the sea or around the world with online Jules Verne who would be 183 years old on February 8th.

Happy Birthday, Jacques Cousteau

If Cousteau were alive today, he would be 100.


Cousteau spoke out about indiscriminate dumping of waste in the oceans – endangering the planet – years before it became a popular cause.  Wonder what Jacques would be ringing out about the terrible situation caused by the BP oil spill?!

The inventor of the aqua lung, Cousteau longed to have gills, but managed to stay underwater most of the time anyway.  His son immortalized him in My Father, The Captain, and Cousteau himself was prolific in his writings about the sea – over 50 books and over 120 documentaries.

Happy Birthday, Jacques!  And “thanks for the fish”…