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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

More reading! I must admit, I’m enjoying this…it’s been awhile since I put reading on my priority list. It’s helped that I’ve been a bit sick the last few days, so I’ve done nothing but read!

#8 – Leslie Darbon‘s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced. A play! Yes, I’m sure I’ll read a few more in the coming weeks. I do enjoy plays, the theatre and the like – as evidenced by my other blog, Theatrical Thoughts (also a bit neglected unfortunately). This one we had around because my husband had been in it years ago…and to be honest, I didn’t know the story. Turns out, it’s a Miss Marple story, so there was an added bonus!

#9 – Ronald Millar’s Abelard and Heloise: A Play. This one I’ve had hanging around for a bit, waiting to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fascinated for awhile about the tragic story of Héloïse D’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard. The play dramatizes events of the story, with a strong philosophical/religious angle. Not bad, in that it humanizes the characters a bit more, and gives Heloise a very strong role.

#10 – Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (now a movie!) A friend loaned me this absolutely delightful, cinematographic novel, and I can see (get it?) why it was snapped up as a film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will soon. It’s truly a wonderful little novel, although at 500+ pages it seemed far more daunting than it was! Selznick, being an illustrator, has drawn a goodly part of the book, so it was really a matter of a couple of hours of looking and reading.

#11 – Roger Ebert‘s Life Itself: A Memoir. The first movie reviews I ever paid attention to were his and Siskel’s – how could I not pick up a copy of his memoirs? Some things stand out in a book full of interesting moments and pithy observations:

“The main thing wrong with a movie that is ten years old is that it isn’t thirty years old. After the hairstyles and the costumes stop being dated and start being history, we can tell if the movie itself is timeless.” (page 157)

“There is a test for an actor who, for a moment, is just standing there in a scene: Does he seem to be just standing there? Or does he, as John Wayne did, seem to be deciding when, why, and how to take the situation under his control?” (page 253)

(Regarding his inability to eat/drink/speak) “What’s sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at a midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involved talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments, and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment’s notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that why writing has become so important to me. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.” (page 383)

Overall, a highly enjoyable, meandering memoir. I didn’t realize that they’d made a documentary of this book, and his life. Now I have to look that up!

That’s 11 books in a month, at this rate, I should be able to finish 95+!

 

 

 

Where do you pile your books? My hubby and I have piles on our bedside tables mostly, then some in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room…and they all live in the basement library/movie/party room (technically the ‘family room’).

The other day I was tidying the bedroom, and emptied the already-read and not-going-to-get-read-soon books off the two bedside tables:

Putting books away...

Then, I pulled books from the living room and kitchen to complete the tidy:

More books being put away..

This post for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

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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!

As you may know, I have a weakness for cultural histories — “See the history of the world through this odd angle!”

So, the other day, when I was browsing the local 2ndhand bookstore, I happened upon a brilliant addition to my library — The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroksi. ‘Tis a delightful romp through the history of such an amazingly simple, obvious thing (at least to us today), in the hopes that the mysteries of engineering become clearer:

“If we can capture the essence of engineers and engineering through the most elementary and least abstract of examples, then we can more easily get to the heart of the matter when confronted with something so large and unfamiliar that we can barely conceive of what it really looks like, let alone hold it in our hands and think about it.”

I have only just begun Chapter 5, Of Traditions and Transitions, the start of which should give you a more fanciful sample of Petroksi approachable academic, sometimes poetic style:

“The history of the pencil, when it has been written down at all, is full of erasures and revisions.”

Accurate, and cute.

To my delight, he’s written more, including an upcoming book (due in October of this year), entitled, simply enough: The Toothpick How can one resist!?!

It’s on the wishlist.

Perfume

Posted on: June 19, 2007

I wonder if it’s significant that two of the more memorable books I’ve read have to do with perfume…

Jitterbug Perfume is my favourite Tom Robbins book [not linking to any TR sites…there just seems to be Wikipedia and fan sites — nothing definitive]. If you’ve never read any Robbins, then you don’t know that he’s got a bit of thang for many a topic, and will take on a major theme or two in each book, going on these wonderful rants that end up being rather heady, like a warm brandy. In Jitterbug Perfume, the main theme is, of course, the power of our sense of smell….and sex, but then it’s always sex….oh, and beets.

Anyway, the sense of smell.

On the same theme is the brilliant novel by German author Patrick Suskind, Perfume.  It’s an adjective-rich descriptive soup of a novel…where you can almost perceive the stench of Paris in the Middle Ages rising up from the pages. Imagine reading it in the original German!!

We watched the movie version of Perfume: The Story of a Murder last night — well done! It was so nicely done that it was almost scratch’n’sniff (a la Odorama of John Waters)! Fetid Paris streets, foul tanneries, odiferous breath…ick. And the most difficult detail of the novel was subtly portrayed: that the main character, John Baptiste Grenouille, with his superhuman nose, had absolutely no aroma of his own. It’s an odd detail, covered in much more detail in the book, but conveyed in some very interesting ways.

I wonder if it would have been harder to discern if I hadn’t been looking for it?

Two very good books. One rather disturbing movie.

Luckily, I’ve married into a bookish family, and my man is bookish, and his friends are…and my mother has been trained to give me a book gift certificate every year.

Books and consumables are the best presents (consumables…you know — wine, cheese, cookies, jam…).

This year was a nice mess of books:

I found The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer for Metro. He’s always talking about how he’d like to learn more about it, etc. Well, now he can.

Metro’s sister found him John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise.  An odd book of satirical essays and the like…perfect.  The same sister sent me the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I put a lot of browsing time to use in my local 2ndhand bookstore…made my husband a list of books that were there, that he could pick up for me. And he took me up on it, and bought me the rather unusual Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece by Joan Schenkar. I’ll have to blog on this book individually one day, soon.

Metro also got me two more books — I feel spoiled! The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls was one. New York Times bestseller, winner of various awards…I think that’s the next book I’m reading. He also bought me Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault. The interesting thing about this book is that LeGault wrote it in reaction to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink…Blink essentially glorifies the decisions we make subconsciously, in the moment, while I believe LeGault’s point is that we need to put more thought into our decisions. I’ll let you know more when I’ve read LeGault’s book (I’ve already read Gladwell’s).

Funny thing, is that our friends sent us some books too…one is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and appropriately enough, Literary Feuds: A Century of Celebrated Quarrels — from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe by Anthony Arthur. His sequel will have to include Gladwell & LeGault.

The final book on the list is Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This one is also from the same friends…and again, a good call. We bought this for Metro’s mother last Christmas, so it’s been on our radar for awhile.

So, leave me a comment to tell me what books you got for Christmas!!

Today would be a good day to comment on the classic SF genre of dystopian lit. You know the books: 1984, A Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale…books about totalitarian governments that use media manipulation and torture, among other techniques, to control their populations.

Why today? If you’ve been sleeping the last couple of days, then you may have missed the scary news that the Shrub, and the USA, are well on their way to bringing the nightmare of the dystopian world view to reality…the Powers That Be can now torture to their cold hearts’ content. Here’s raincoaster on the topic, and Metro.

On a related note, here is Creatrix on the state of art education in the USA — a report that again makes me glad I don’t live there.

Dystopian literature is supposed to be a labratory for what should not be, not a blueprint for the way a government could function…


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!