The Compendium of Imaginary Saints: A Review

The loveliest, funniest, most amazing book landing in my mailbox all the way from Dubai the other day. The Compendium of Imaginary Saints is the creation of Ella, who runs Box of Books, when she’s not running after her toddler and helping her newborn realize that sleep is a good thing.

It is a wonderful book — and it’s also beautifully made. The saints have these gorgeous halos, for one thing, and their eyes make you feel like they’re looking at you and wondering why you, Lily Hamrick (or you, dear reader), haven’t done anything with your life that’s led to your martyrdom and eventually elevation to being in a book by Ella.

We all loved these saints, saints who patronize endeavors like dairy farming and laundry doing, among others. I don’t know how Ella came up with this, or how on earth she can make a book that’s so beautiful to look at, when she has her hands so full, but I just want to say that I would like to buy every book in this series.

In what I think rightly shows Ella’s influence over an entire generation of compendium creators, each of my boys read her book from cover to cover (after I made them wash their hands and pray to the patron saint of cleanliness, St. RoseAnna Moses, named after the woman who cleaned our house until she declared that the tub was going to have to stay dirty unless the boys washed it themselves. Good for RoseAnna.) And then, after reading the book, William began to make up his own compendium. Heathen that he is (although his first communion is fast approaching), he seems to believe that a saint and a god are pretty much the same thing.

Here is his effort.

“St. Ida The Laundry God. As a kid, young Ida loved to do laundry with her mother. She made sure that everybody had extra laundry so that she could wash it with her mom. Ida loved laundry so much that she would sneak into other people’s houses and do their laundry for them.”

I’m looking forward very much to the next installment of Ella’s Compendiums. A total and complete High Five.

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10 thoughts on “The Compendium of Imaginary Saints: A Review

  1. That looks amazing. Aren’t saints the same as gods? They certainly fulfill many of the same functions. Ooh, there’s a long discussion to be had there.

    A book of imaginary lawyers, though – now that’s something to conjure with.

    And you’ve reminded me that I need to get my complete “Borges – Fictions” back from the much-loved friends who have nonetheless borrowed for a very long time.

  2. U-Dad — Well, they sort of are god-like aren’t they? Except they’re so silly too.

    Hello Jen, and Welcome! I enjoyed checking out your blog, and look forward to seeing more of it. xo

    Dear Cam, I think it says a lot about a book that it so immediately and thoroughly captured everyone’s imagination. They loved it that someone could not only MAKE a book that’s so beautiful, but also make up such fun stories. It’s very inspiring.

    Dorothy — agreed. Ella’s amazing.

  3. I am a Protestant clergyman with a very Catholic–maybe even an Orthodox–love of saints. I read Robertson Davis novel Fifth Business at an impressionable age.

    U-Dad is right. The Catholic and Orthodox wisdom was to let former pagans have saints in lieu of polytheism, a good move since the European soul needs feminine divinity. Enter the Blessed Virgin, and St. Ida the Lanudry God. (Actually the BVM also took in laundry for a living). Maybe William has a future in hagiography.

  4. Genie — Check out Ella’s interview — it’s on 7/22/08 on my blog, and called author-author Ella Lesatele. Ella takes subscriptions, and you can contact her at her blog to find out how to do that. (she blogs at http:boxofbooks.wordpress.com) xo, L

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