Posts Tagged 'literature'

Flowers in the basement

tempura-flowersThe local library has a kids program, and there are seasonal art projects. For Spring/Summer, they painted flowers on cardboard or cardstock with tempura paints. Each flower is about the height of a 5th grader. I never see this library without kids being involved, or teenagers writing papers on the public computer for school, or providing outreach to people who are job searching or doing family history searches. (Go awesome librarians and library!) I get so much joy out of walking over there to browse the books, and find out the latest technological thing that I can do (download “books on tape” to an iPhone, iPod, or another similar device). Note I said “books on tape”… heh.

I do find myself reading lots of things I wouldn’t normally have bought from Amaz*n or a bookstore. And I do love audio books for when I’m driving. I have a huge Ken Follett book that I can’t wait to stick in the CD player on Monday, once my Irish mystery is done (Faithful Place, by Tana French – grim, dark, yet interesting, mostly because the voice on the audiobook beguiled me into liking a police procedural with lots of messy family details and shifting loyalties). So, any other books I should look for on CD to keep my commute interesting, or me knitting along? Anyone else have a fabulous little library?

Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes

An NPR interview with a photographer (Dina Fried) who took quotes from literary meals, and photographed them from above for a book. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole project. I kind of prefer some of the photographs in people’s blogs, where they try a recipe (with a link to the recipe) that seems to go with a meal in the book. Worth looking at the pictures, whether you agree with the artist’s interpretations or not.


Reading: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

I’ve returned Bellman & Black to the library, but it hasn’t unhooked itself from my memory. I think this suits the story that Diane Setterfield set out to tell. After you see the effects of a character purposely forgetting everything, from his basic thoughtlessness to his ability to take work and make it swallow every living moment … you might want to step heavily in moments so you don’t forget.

The main character, Will, is likeable. His life is well drawn, and you follow him through moments you might recognize — moments we all would like to forget (the pain of losing a loved one, shame at how one behaved in childhood) — until the reader finds resolution of a mystery. There are rooks (cousins of our ravens), there is a shadowy figure, there’s gentle suspense. And, I can’t tell more without ruining it. Worth a read at the library. Worth putting in someone’s Christmas stocking (unless they have a bird phobia). If you’ve read it, put a not in the comments. What did you think? Have you read any other of Diane Setterfield’s books?

Reading: The House I Loved

Tatiana de Rosnay’s book, The House I Loved, is set in Paris during the destruction of much of the old city, and the creation of a modern Paris by Baron Haussmann. Rose Bazelet, the protagonist, writes letters to her departed husband, learns to be independent, and quietly refuses to leave during the destruction of her family home. The house on rue Childebert also comes to life, as the nurturing home her husband brought her home to, and, eventually, a bit of a prison. Told  in reflections written to her husband as she waits for the wreckers, and partially in confessions of new things discovered (reading, friendships with Alexandrine the florist and a Gilbert, the ragpicker). The story does not feel cramped even as Rose’s world disappears around her. Each story opens up new discoveries — Baudelaire, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary — as history slowly contracts around her neighborhood.

I enjoyed this book for the quiet writing of discovery and desperate loss, but above all else, love and friendship.

The year of the library

At the corner of Church and Graveyard. I’ve been slowly culling my stacks of books, because floorboards are only so strong. I’m trying to limit the book intake by checking out books from the library (I’ve had good luck with knitting books). It gives me a limited view of literature, perhaps (British publications and translations take a long time to get in), but regional authors seem to get first place on the shelves, which I think is a good thing.  I may also explore the eReaders that the library rents, since new print books seem rarer and rarer. But if something looks really good, I’ll splurge and buy it — especially if it has illustrations I want to look at, in addition to a good plot. This isn’t a diet, after all, just an attempt to get rid of books I enjoyed a very long time, but that I do not need to reread. Both Cornflower Books and Dovegreyreader have tempting lovely books that have just come in, but they also have bookreadings of classics that one can find at libraries (and some very good ones too).

I’m checking out different options for listening to books while driving (making a virtue out of necessity). Right now, LibriVox is looking pretty good, since I like Victorian authors, poetry, and other items that are in the public domain. So how about you? Is your house insulated by the bookcases on the walls? Do you collect crafting magazines like I do? Are you the possible despair of everyone who visits your house (one tv and bookcases in the dining room)?

And, most importantly, has anyone read Thomas Pynchon’s new mystery, and is it something I should race out to get? Do your local authors get space in your library, and if so — are there any particular books I should try to get through interlibrary loan?

An enclosure around space

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer provides a story of WWII that is difficult to forget. The image of a house built to enclose space is haunting — its inhabitants walk into the unease of WWII and then are enclosed by the events of history. Liesel’s story, and the multiple romantic entanglements between her, her husband Viktor, and their extended group of friends manages to give a view of lives that are messy and interesting, and not so heroic as to be unbelievable. And through it all, the house remains as stolen property, like the lives that were stolen from the protagonists. Things got so messy in the novel, I worried there wouldn’t a close to the book that would leave me satisfied, without it feeling false. I’ll let you read to see how Liesel and Viktor’s story finishes in a tangential way.

Since the house itself was a real one, even though the lives in the novel are very fictionalized, you can walk through the house’s sun-drenched rooms if you visit Czechoslovakia. There’s an article from 2012 here, with some photos of the space. Definitely a modernist aesthetic — and interesting that the house remained through it all and has been restored.

The Irregulars

I’ve been reading The Irregulars by Jennet Connant. It’s engaging reading, if you need something you can set aside and pick up again later. It isn’t a new book, and I picked it up at the library. But the information about Roald Dahl is new to me, so it’s diverting. (I never knew how carefully the elections in America were followed during WWII, with different friendly Canadians and British visitors chatting up politicians and newspapermen in Washington, DC, hoping for information or to sway votes.)

And, in the way that books connect you to other books, it has inspired me to pick up Dawn Powell’s A Time To Be Born for a re-read, now that I’ve read contemporary recountings of what Clare Luce Booth was like. Anyone else follow this sort of bookweb of associations out there, or is it just me?

In less bookish news, the weather has been rather dreadful here in the USA. Many of us on the Eastern seaboard have been told that the heat and humidity will push out today, after a week long heatwave. We have thunderstorms pushing through now, so maybe it will be nicer tomorrow.

The Player’s Boy, by Bryher

Rose from a golf course in New Orleans

“The dark Thames (oh, here it was not silver) slipped easily below the wall on which I leant, a thread stringing London together from the quiet Fulham gardens to the palaces of the Strand. There was movement everywhere, it was the changing of the seasons, old wives hung up their last, end-of-summer washing, boys chopped wood, and neside me, on a wattle fence, I noticed a final, clinging rose. ”

Bryher, The Player’s Boy. Republished in 2006 by the Paris Press, Ashfield, MA.

A lovely dreamlike book, spanning the days of Shakespeare to the death of Raleigh. It’s short (194 pages), and parts of it are quite sad, but they’re intermixed with golden light. After reading a bit about Byher’s life, and her connection with HD, I’m now quite eager to find a good biography of their lives.

Caramels of discord

When running a fever, that is NOT the time to pick a recipe from the Joy of Cooking and start merrily making chocolate caramels. I got to use my double boiler, I found my candy thermometer, and used up some corn syrup leftover from last year’s holiday baking. I doggedly tried to get the mix to make it up to the desired 242-degree temperature, with no luck. After 3 hours of coddling along the water in the base of the double boiler, I think I just made a pan of caramel sauce. (It’s really good on challa bread, and I have some apple slices to try tomorrow, if it hasn’t set.)

Home Ec goddess I am not.

Finished Cakes and Ale. It’s worth reading, even if only for revisiting the paths that male authors continue to wear down with their footsteps — the selfless woman who loves sex and doesn’t worry about the Victorian moralities around her, the cattiness of other women, and the men who are changed (made older and wiser, made fools) by the acts of the selfless woman. I am grateful that I will never be able to meet any of the people in the book.

What Was Lost

Catherine O’Flynn’s novel, What Was Lost, is worth reading, whether you’re a teen or someone who remembers being a teen. It’s 240 pages of tight, interesting prose.

Yes, there’s a moment where I felt lost, as the author switched points of view midstream, but it added to the experience of reading this short novel. So much is lost, that it almost defines the characters. The reward for the reader is an interesting path to “finding” what was lost, and finding the “real” story by the end.

This path of discovery makes me want to re-read the novel to see how O’Flynn carefully chose portions of the story to unravel first. And no — I don’t think that skipping to the end really “reveals” the answer to the whole thing. It just reveals the answer to one story.

This book won the Costa Book Award in 2007 for First Novel. I’m hoping for other novels from O’Flynn. So, have you read any good new authors lately?