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Showing posts from May, 2009

Bound Together

After finishing the Aeneid (and pronouncing it wrongly in front of friends and co-workers for days and, come to think of it, still forgetting how to pronounce it without embarrassment), I got on a short-lived Greek kick. This also comes from watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and thinking about the Aegean. Because this followed swiftly my Scandinavian kick, I thought the perfect way to tie my brief obsessions together would be to read Nobel Laureate Par Lagerkvist's Sibyl.

The Aeneid took days to read, and though one never really wants to embark on epic poetry, it gets you in the end. But the Sibyl was instantly engaging, written in a style both beautiful and elementary. I was so moved by this novella that the night I finished it, I forced my roommate, Kristin, to listen to the whole story as paraphrased by me. I was nearly in tears by the end.



A traveler, a foreigner, comes upon a small, crude house on a mountain slope and sits down to tell his tale to the old woman who…
Am undertaking bigger project than I thought: have taken down books (once shelved alphabetically by author) to shelve them chronologically. This scheme rather fails as I am required to look at every book for publication info. Will turn me into Chronological Fiction Genius One Day?

I declare

There cannot be anything better than walking down a bustling street in the sun, impulsively wandering into bookshops with dear friends.

Ode on the Purchase of Elizabeth Von Arnim's Enchanted April

O NYRB*
I heart you
I buy you
Too Much.




* NYRB = New York Review of Books selection; usually out-of-print classics brought back into print. The whole line of books are produced with uniform (though variegated) design and multicolored spines. Google them. They are very pretty. Very collectible. Munchable.

Weekly Acquisitions

Last week was a very good book week (though not so good for personal finances). I scraped enough for Celine Curiol's Voice Over and Greene's End of the Affair from work, and then last Wednesday en route to Discovery Park with friends popped into the U Book Store and found used copies of the Fagles translation of the Aeneid (beautiful Penguin Deluxe Edition with the flaps) and a Persephone copy of Dorothy Whipple's Someone At a Distance. Am presently embarked on reading the Aeniad, and though it was a little work getting into, am now wholly enjoying it (and seriously contemplating starting or joining a Classics Club).



I read Voice Over in March and loved it. A debut novel translated from the French by Sam Richard about a lonely, nameless woman who is an announcer for the metro at the Gare du Nord in Paris, hopelessly in love with a man in love with another woman, and drifting through the city. She allows herself to be buffeted by the choices of others, and deceived and sham…

Summer Preview

Driving down Westlake Avenue on the way to Lower Queen Anne on Sunday morning, I was stopped at a traffic light and saw a white butterfly weave its way over the car windshields and flutter away. I remembered the part in Finnish author and artist Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll when Snork and Moomintroll spot the first butterfly of spring:

“(As everyone knows, if the first butterfly you see is yellow the summer will be a happy one. If it is white then you will just have a quiet summer. Black and brown butterflies should never be talked about – they are much too sad.)”

Moomintroll and Snork saw a golden butterfly, which is the best kind of all. But, fortunately or unfortunately, this summer looks like it will be a quiet one.




Note: For those unfamiliar with the Moomin series, I highly encourage you to read them. First published in 1945 in Swedish, the series concerns a raggle-taggle bohemian bunch of forest creatures from Jansson’s imagination living in an idyllic place called Moom…

Now that spring is here

Since it’s spring, and it’s been raining so much the flowers outside our window have been flattened and are drowning, I thought I would submit an e.e. cummings poem (the poet of Spring for me) in order to celebrate spring surprises and puddles:




CHANSONS INNOCENTES

I

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

And eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

Magical Byatt

I have been a fan of Byatt since I read Possession last year. I have her quartet on my shelves but haven’t attempted anything other than the pairing of novellas Angels & Insects (which I liked, but not nearly so much as Possession). I am hesitant to claim that The Children’s Book (to be published by Knopf in October 2009) will be as popular and award-winning as Possession was, but there’s no doubt that Byatt is making use of her most witching powers as author.

An extensive tale that stretches from 1895 to World War I, covering the end of the Victorian era, through the Edwardian to the fall of the Golden Age in the trenches, the story hinges around the Wellwoods, an English family with Fabian and socialist leanings. Olive, the mother of a large brood, is the author of children’s books and fairy tales and is writing a fairy story for each of her children as an ongoing project (hence the book’s title).

The book begins with two boys (one is Olive’s son) discovering a third boy, Phil…