Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Bibliophilia’ Category

I’m not a big coffee-table-book consumer. This actually surprises me, since I absolutely love photography, and consider myself a decent amateur photographer.  (My flickr.com profile!)

Maybe I like my books nicely wrangled on shelves.

But, I am a purist. My love affair with digital photography has absolutely nothing to do with its myriad possibilities, and everything to do with storage. While I appreciate the wonders that can be accomplished with a digital toolkit, deep down inside I truly believe that a photo that needs to be re-touched is not a good photo.

Maybe it’s a theme — my coffee black, my music a little unhinged, my fiction a bit wild, and my photography untouched.

Which brings me to the book Untouched — photography by Johnny Rozsa

Untouched cover

From Untouched by Johnny Rozsa copyright © 2010, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

This one was passed on to me by raincoaster, who received it from Glitterati Incorporated themselves….And it’s a gorgeous book, a collection of completely un-retouched photos from 30 years of Johnny Rozsa‘s career.

A sample…showing us that yes, Angelica Huston never needed touching up to be absolute perfection:

The always gorgeous Angelica Huston

And the colourful Leigh Bowery and the rather tragic Trojan (a model who died in 1986 at 20):

The unusual Leigh Bowery and Trojan

The rest of the book is a who’s-who of the famous, the not-so-famous, the beautiful and the interesting…in uncompromising photos. Rozsa definitely has a vision, and this thick tome captures it well.

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This fabulous video-fied talk of Stephen Fry‘s reminded me this morning of what I find fabulous about language:

I may get itchy Sharpie fingers when I see signs with inappropriately-placed apostrophes, and I still geek-out to things like my friend’s t-shirt that reads “Does anal retentive have a hyphen?” [Answer: depends on your style sheet?], but give me rich, frenzied writing any day over the terse and uptight.

Give me the verbal lushness and inconsistency of spelling and punctuation of Keri Hulme’s The Bone People (which I’ve already blogged about here)….

…. or the crazy richness of image that is The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (again, previously blogged here)….

…. or the rich neologisms of Earle Birney (see AngloSaxon Street in this post).

Your favourites?

Lori

My #1 pleasure in life? Browsing in a bookstore, esp. a second-hand bookstore, or one with piles of discount, ‘remaindered’ books…I love the never knowing of rummaging these piles.

Anyone else with me? (If you’re ever in Victoria, check out Munro’s Books, for those sale tables and extensive selection of new books)

Today’s treasures:

The Book of Martyrdom & Artifice: First Journals and Poems 1937-1952, Allen Ginsberg.

Random excerpt (p168 in my copy):

“January 13 [1947]

Tried tea and junk tonite for second time.

Hip conversation:

“You bug me.”

“I bug you?”

“Yeah, you bug me.”

“I bug you.”

“You bet you bug me.”

“Well, you bug me.”

“So, I bug you.”

Hmm. Art?

I also picked up Rita Mae Brown‘s memoir, Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. First couple of chapters are fun…but then her writing is always fun.

Well, I seem to have been in a gay mood, now that I look at it. Must have been the discussion this morning over breakfast about the local baker who discriminates against those of alternate sexual persuasion. Guess where I don’t buy cupcakes?

Lori

I’ve reviewed books, many times. I don’t consider what I do on this blog to be really reviewing though. I think I’m more commenting on how this book or that book moved me or messed with me, or sometimes,  just how it connected with another book in my mind.

Here is the top 10 of the 20 most annoying book review clichés:

1. Gripping

2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

3. Compelling

4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, “The writing in the book is really great. I just can’t come up with the specific words to explain why.”

5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

6. Tour de force

7. Readable

8. Haunting

9. Deceptively simple: as in, “deceptively simple prose”

10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

Thank the gods, I’m only batting 2 for 10 here. I’m so totally guilty of ‘readable’ and ‘compelling’…’cause books often are those things!

Looking at the whole list, I believe I’m still only 20% clichéd. I hope.

My favourite example?

17. That said: as in, “Stephenie Meyer couldn’t identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read.””

Check out the whole article…oh, and the newly created Bingo cards!

I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social
prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?

Are you a book lover? A bibliophile? Do you get no greater joy out of life than browsing a used bookstore? Do your knees get weak at the thought of a library book sale?

Have you been to Paris yet?

The Parisiens know books, appreciate books. You’ve probably seen the pictures of the book stalls that line the Seine, in their ubiquitous green carts. These are les bouquinistes, the legendary booksellers of Paris:

They are part of the Paris legend. 217 booksellers spread out their 900 stands along the capital’s 11 quays, which represent a three kilometer walk. The onlookers pass by their sides, rummage through the famous green boxes, buy a book here and there, a poster, a vintage print. But who are these men and women who brave the wind, the cold and the rain? Winter is here, but they are still at the task. Enter into the biggest outdoor bookstore.

The quote above is a translation of an audio piece from La Guinguette — a very good online French journal. I want to put a plug in for them, as they have great products, and the audio is free to listen to. (You can download it if you subscribe.)

This article is a great example. this is not French for the beginner, instead it is the French as it is spoken in the streets. Read this article in the English translation, but also play it, to get the ambient sound of the Paris streets as bouquinistes are interviewed at their stalls.

I can almost picture where each stall is, as it’s described in the article. On our honeymoon, we rented an apartment next to the Seine, on the rive gauche, with green stalls outside our door…

And the French are wonderfully book mad. Here’s a picture of me paying 2 euro for a book at a vending machine:

Another way to access books!

Another way to access books!

I’m in the middle of two books, and suddenly I feel like I’m reading one of those artsy-fartsy double features at your local, non-mainstream movie house. You know the ones, where there is a connection between the films, and it is your job as the audience to find it.

The most obscure one I ever came across was where the only link was an ice cream cone in each film. The most delightful was Robert LePage’s Le Confessional (1995) shown with Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953).

So, back to books.

I’m reading two books right now:

While both books are utterly different in plot, character, setting, and genre they have in common a wonderful bookyness to them…they are both a literary soup of references that verge on the border of being overwhelming, but instead are almost inspiring in their bibliophilia.

Two different books, two utterly different characters, but both texts are littered with pop culture:

Eco, being a semiologist, does not really surprise us in this. His other books have been thick with historical references, illuminating his amazing well-readness. This time however, it is a plot point, as our protagonist is an older man suffering from amnesia who uses the books of his lifetime to rebuild his lifeline. The references this time are both classical and current, albeit the focus of the current is on Italian modern history and corresponding pop culture.

Pessl, a young woman writing her first novel, holds her own in general bookyness in comparison to the towering Eco. The character, Blue van der Meer, is not quite 18 but is an astoundingly well-read genius, being the daughter of a rather eccentric, nomadic, genius professor father. As she navigates the teen hell of a yet another new school, her every thought is a literary or pop culture reference, at times against her will. Despite how ponderous that sounds, it is a delightful read, and un-put-down-able once you really get rolling.

I need more books of this genre (is it a meta- or sub-genre?). Any suggestions?


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!