Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from September, 2009

It's that time of year again...

The Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale! - this year attended by me and my friend Laura (who visited this blog earlier as Bellatrix Lestrange). We woke early and arrived at the Magnusson Park hangar at the ungodly hour of eight on a Saturday morning, but kept each other occupied with strategic planning and other stories.



To my utter surprise, I remained within my budget (I can say no after all!) and financed by a birthday gift from my brothers, I found many treats:

The Brontes Went to Woolworths - Rachel Ferguson (This title always makes me think "The Brontosaurus went to Woolworths." I have no idea why. I never think of Jane Eyre as being written by Charlotte Brontosaurus. Complete mystery. At any rate, this is being reprinted by Bloomsbury and available in the US next March.)

Monday or Tuesday - Virginia Woolf (Lovely slim volume published by Hesperus - though sadly underlined in some places...)

Days of Abandonment - Elsa Ferrente (Published by Europa. I have bee…

Annus Mirabilis

On Saturday, I rang up a purchase which came to $19.63. The customer said: "Oh, that must have been a good year for somebody."

To which I invariably - could not help but ask if she'd read Larkin's poem, and when she did not reply I found that to my horror I was launching into the first verse:

"Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP."

And anyway, it slipped out and I mashed it up and swapped some of the lines around but the general effect was realized and instead of grinning at me (like I was hoping she would), she pursed her lips and turned all her attention to her check book.

"Well," she said after an uncomfortable pause, "it was a good year for somebody."

And then we rushed on to talk about the death of J.F.K for whom 1963 was not a good year. I've learned my lesson. I must not recite at the cashier's desk. And I will have to…

Ernest & Elizabeth

Two books read this week, with very different voices: Hemingway's Farewell to Arms and Elizabeth Taylor's Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (a sneaky-but-worth-it swerve from the Great Books...)

Again, like Madame Bovary, I knew the ending of Farewell to Arms by osmosis. But - one reads books not only for the conclusion of a plot, but for the enjoyment of the atmosphere the author creates and Hemingway’s voice is so unique.

A Farewell to Arms is the story of an American ambulance driver for the Italian army during the First World War and who falls in love with a British nurse, Catherine. I’m not sure how autobiographic it is – since Hemingway drove ambulances for the Italian army during the First World War. In true Hemingway fashion there is much understatement, there are scenes of drinking camaraderie and the hero’s canoodling with the nurse which leads to a pregnancy regulated by sound medical advice such as: “Do you think I ought to drink another beer? The doctor said I was ra…

Madame Bovary, c'est moi!

In reading Flaubert's Madame Bovary, I occasionally came to such a feeling of eerie self-recognition in the character of Emma Bovary, that I felt as though I was reading the journals I wrote as a teenager. Frightening and unflattering thought. Sadly, if I had read this as a teenager, I don't think I would have made it all the way through, and I'm not sure I would have been self-aware enough to see my reflection in Emma Bovary's compulsions. But we learn our lessons.

I finished late Friday night, feeling myself starting to sneeze and the cold start to settle, but I couldn't leave it hanging. And still I needed to read on, to the very last death bed scene (because we know that death is imminent. We feel from the beginning, like Anna Karenina, that Emma is doomed.)

Emma Bovary is the desperately unhappy wife of a provincial bourgeois doctor. She thought marriage would be exciting, but it's not. Each anticipated stage of her life is accompanied by the dull monotony …

Quotable Morgan

While reading E.M. Forster's memoir of the time he spent in India as a young man, The Hill of Devi, as a companion to his novel Passage to India, I came across this magnificent line in one of his 1921 letters home and I had to share it:

“Religion approaches, to me in a very tangible form, as I have been hit on the head by an iron bar belonging to a sacred swing.”

Cads and Virgins

I have always been wary of epistolary novels. I have no idea why; I love receiving letters, and reading through my grandparents' love letters in early August occupied me for hours. Perhaps because I've always felt that the device was too heavy-handed, and weighs the story down. It's for this reason that I've delayed on reading Laclos' Les Liasons Dangereuses, that scandalous French novel found even in Marie Antoinette's library in an unmarked binding, filmed in the 90's (Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer), and reincarnated for teenagers as Cruel Intentions (Ryan Philippe, Reese Witherspoon).

But I have broken the soil! Evelina was a delightful read despite being epistolary. Burney uses the device without artifice, revealing letters from a variety of characters to round out the narrative.



("The Music Party" by Rolland Trinquesse, 1774)

Evelina Anville is a beautiful, innocent and virtuous country girl, out to see London and the Big Wi…

Collectible Penguins

It is a truth locally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of continuous overdrafts must be in want of MORE BOOKS.

That being said, I have recently developed quite a crush on Penguin's Celebration series:



Something about the bold, simple design draws my eyes. This morning on a early bookstore jaunt, I wanted a Penguins Celebrations edition of Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen but (that being sold out) found a book on the Classical World instead.

Penguin has a great team of designers. My friend and co-worker Erin obsessively collects Penguin Deluxe editions with their colorful covers, snarky cartoon biographies, French flaps and rough-cut pages:



And then the box of postcards with 100 different Penguin jackets! I wish I could look inside to drool even more, but alas, I have yet to find a way.



It combines two of my favourite things: postcards and books. What better combination? On second thought, Penguin also has these book bags:



Mmmmm.

Women to Note

Right now, one of the only things to coax me into the car and into the late afternoon traffic rush is the promise of Imogen Heap playing through the stereo, slipping out through the window and into the sunlight. I've been a fan of Imogen's since (like everyone else) I first heard her lush "Hide and Seek" from heard her solo album, and last summer I bought the album she produced as a part of the band Frou Frou. Her newest album, Ellipse, was released on August 25th and kindly given to me by Patrick. I am always half skeptical listening to a new Imogen Heap song since there cannot be much more she can do. I was wrong.

From the persuasive pulsation of the first song “First Train Home” propelling you into her unique blend of electronica and lyricism, to the humorous oddity of a woman confronting the evasive woman in the mirror in “Bad Body Double,” the pared down, eerily synthesized chirping social commentary in “Little Bird,” and the quiet but soaring intimacy of “Betwe…