Thursday, September 30, 2010

The essentials, revised

This time last year I posted about all the books I was taking to college with me. I am once again back at school, so I think it's time to post this year's essential books.
Not a whole lot has changed since last year. I have less Tamora Pierce and less Tolkien, and no Lost Art of Keeping Secrets because it's off having adventures in Oregon. I bought a set of His Dark Materials a while ago, and I've also added 84, Charing Cross Road and Emma. Still, what I consider essential is pretty similar.
I've apparently gotten more optimistic about my chances of reading any new books. Maybe that's the trick--if you expect to read books, you will. I also brought the two I'm actually working on, American Gods and Evelina. Less books than last year, in total, especially since I mysteriously have no textbooks to buy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Mrs. Gaskell!

I first discovered Elizabeth Gaskell via the miniseries adaptation of Wives and Daughters. Having now read Wives and Daughters, North and South, and Cranford, I think Elizabeth Gaskell stands as my favourite Victorian writer. There is some indefinable, wonderful quality about her writing. Her stories are told lovingly and humourously. Wives and Daughters, my first love, remains my favourite, though I think I'm nearly due for a reread--it's been four years since I read it. And I find on looking at my Elizabeth Gaskell tag, that I had just finished North and South when I first began this blog, over two years ago.

Today is Mrs. Gaskell's 200th birthday. To celebrate, I may have to venture into new territory and read one of her three novels or numerous shorter works that I have yet to encounter. Or perhaps a biography. The internet in general is celebrating with a blog tour. You can find an introduction to the tour over at Austenprose.

It's also my first day of classes. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lounging in the '40s

I've been meaning to make reproduction vintage pants all summer, and it finally happened. I'm tremendously pleased with how they turned out. I used Simplicity 3688, which is a reprint of a 1940s pattern, with relatively little modification. They're very easy to wear, as well, which was my main goal, and the pockets I added turned out well.
You can't really tell from these photos, but the fabric is denim and has a thin stripe (blue/navy). Excuse my headlessness. These were a pain to take, and I couldn't get the exposure right on any of the ones where I had a head.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Le Petit Prince

Possibly everyone but me has already read this. To fully excuse myself, I have to say that I was intending to study French, so I was putting it off until I could actually read it in the original. But then that didn't pan out, and who knows if I'll ever be able to read that much French, so I'm reading it in English.

A pilot stranded in a desert in Africa looks up from mending his plane one day to see the little prince. The sole resident of Asteroid B-612, the little prince has left his tiny planet to explore. He asks the pilot to draw him a sheep--"Dessine-moi un mouton." The little prince sees the world differently from adults, and I think it's totally impossible to read this book without seeing from his point of view for a while.

I read this in my warm living room with the rain absolutely pouring outside, already in a certain odd mood, and it was the perfect moment for such a book. The Little Prince is a children's book which easily reminds adults of their childhood, whether or not they read this in childhood. It's lovely. There's nothing more to say about it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photos and links

The .Doc File of J. Alfred Prufrock. Sam Starbuck wrote this, and it is awesome.

Brand-new Victorian Man. I link How to Be a Retronaut way too often, but this is just too good not to link.

Kids Swearing Earlier. I'm ambivalent about swearing in general, but I find this interesting from my linguistics geek point of view.

More Bookshelf Porn. (totally SFW, not really porn.)

Tina Berning's lovely illustrations. Found via Creature Comforts.

So maybe there aren't any photos today. I've been busy this week, the camera has languished in my desk drawer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I read banned books

Today begins Banned Books Week, which runs through October 2nd. Out of the 10 most-challenged titles of 2009, I've only read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I know there are many other wonderful books that have been banned. I should read more of them.

The American Library Association sells a bunch of Banned Books Week things. Those banned books bracelets are awesome.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Ephemera #54

The view from my new window, in the rain. It's definitely fall now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nostalgia is a funny word

Something about sunny September afternoons makes me overwhelmingly nostalgic. I don't know why, exactly. I have much more to be nostalgic about in May and June, as those have always been my months for interesting happenings. There's something special about the light in September, though. It's bright but a bit chilly, and there's a certain brilliance to it. May light is softer and warmer, and less reserved to May.
I should be lying in the grass in a park in the Central District, or picking pears off the tree in the wonderfully chaotic Nova farm. Or collecting acorns somewhere. Part of it is the allure of back-to-school, but it's the September sunshine that makes me notice it. It was gloriously sunny last Monday, and wandering around the U District buying school supplies and questing for suspenders and running into lovely people I haven't seen for ages was tremendously pleasant and a little melancholy. I had to come home and stand around in my back yard listening to my favourite Beatles songs.
If nothing else, my autumn nostalgia has dispelled my summer mourning. And I'm super excited for classes to start again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don't overlook Wodehouse

I was walking through the University Bookstore last week, and my eye was fully caught by a particular stack of books. Further inspection proved these to be lovely editions of P.G. Wodehouse by Overlook Press, which I like so much I just have to write about them.

I've not read a lot of Wodehouse. A couple of stand-alone novels and a smattering of Jeeves and Wooster. There are some writers who I read very slowly, no matter how much I like them, and Wodehouse is one of these writers, which sometimes discourages me from picking up his books. I must admit I like the stand-alone stories better than Jeeves and Wooster. It may be my dislike of first-person narration creeping in, but there it is. Hopefully some time in the not-too-distant future I'll read some more Wodehouse.
The Overlook Wodehouse is an enormous temptation to do this. Their website tells me that the series was launched at the 25th anniversary of P.G. Wodehouse's death. The covers are simple, attractive, and totally fitting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I don't know when I'll stop remembering or planning in terms of school years instead of calendar years. Probably when I'm out of school, but I suspect it will be difficult to let go of the feeling that September is the beginning and June is some kind of end.

For now, though, it still makes most sense to me to make my New Year's resolutions (of a sort) in September. And I move out of my house and into my dorm today, so it's a good moment for beginning things.

First, I want a real job that pays me real money. State budget cuts suck and tuition sucks even more (both idiomatically and in that they suck up money like a big education vacuum).

Second, I want to make a bunch of new friends, because I know there are a lot of super fabulous people at UW that I have yet to meet.

Third, I want to make a lot of crafts and art and find a way to make money off it. Not just because of that whole tuition thing, but because it's something I've been talking about doing for years and because I think it would push me to actually make things with my hands more regularly.

Fourth, I want to do a lot more blogging. I've posted every single day since July 12th, and I like that. I was terrible at keeping up with blogging during school last year, and I want to make sure that does not happen this year.

Fifth, I want to go dancing. A lot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Miss Hargreaves

Probably most people who read a lot of book blogs have already heard about Frank Baker's Miss Hargreaves from Stuck in a Book. I'm pretty sure he's responsible for the lovely new Bloomsbury Group edition of the book. Having heard so much about the book, when I was going through my to-read list for books to order from the library, I ordered it.

It's a premise that's entirely suited to me. Norman Huntley and his friend Henry are inspired on the Spur of the Moment to invent an eccentric 83-year-old woman called Miss Hargreaves. Just for fun they mail her a letter, but when she shows up in their ordinary cathedral town complete with the cockatoo, dog, harp, and bath with which they have imagined her, things begin to get difficult. Miss Hargreaves is exactly as Norman has pictured her, and what's more, every time he must come up with a new story to explain her inexplicable existence, that story appears to come true also. It's an impossible predicament. She is inconvenient, embarrassing, and demanding, but trying to rid himself of her only causes Norman more problems. She's impossible (in more than one sense of the word), but he likes her.

Myself a master of inventing absurd stories, this book ought to be perfect for me. It wasn't though, not quite. I think I'd heard too much about it, and so formed a vision of it that predictably was not accurate. Perhaps it was the tone of the book or Norman's response to Miss Hargreaves, or Miss Hargreaves herself, that didn't agree with what I wanted the book to be. I'd have written it differently. I'm sorry this happened. I think, had I had no preconceived notions, I'd have loved it. That said, it is a fabulous book. I suspect is is growing on me in the aftermath. It has something to say about creation and creative thought, and that's something which fascinates me. It has a lot of thoroughly funny lines, though it was not a book I especially laughed over. It is a fabulous idea, and if not done the way I'd have done it, done well. I suspect it will also be memorable. It may make me think twice about inventing stories.

Though not perfect for me, it is perhaps perfect in itself, and well worth reading.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Photos and links

I love modified street signs. There used to be one near my house where somebody had turned "Residential Street" into "Presidential Street", and they used a sticker, too, so it actually matched the sign and looked like it was supposed to be that way.
I think this tree is hilarious. I have no idea why they trained it like that.

The world in photos. It's like Google maps--you get to wander around the world and zoom in and zoom out, but instead of maps you see photos.

The Hermitage is a beautiful blog. I love the art of folktales and fairylands, and the stories just as much.

The alphabet in books. Thanks to Stuck in a Book for the link.

Goats on the roof. This is delightfully absurd. And when it comes to goats, size clearly does matter.

On a side note, I'm finally enacted my long-planned notion of going through my book lists from previous years and linking to my reviews of all the books. Hopefully this should make navigation easier. I only tag posts by author, so if you want to read about a specific book, now you can do that via the "Books read" section. I can't promise, though, that that will get you to all mention of the book in question. I'm only linking the most review-shaped post, except in one or two special cases.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Dead Isle

You know I love Sam Starbuck, and find his unusual process fascinating. I read Nameless and Charitable Getting and all that's available of Valet of Anize, but I can't believe I hadn't finished reading The Dead Isle until now. Its' first draft has been sitting in my Firefox tabs for months, which is absolutely not to say that it deserved to be put off. It is a story of adventure, fantasy, alternate history, steampunk, and revolution, and it is fabulous. It made me want to learn about all sorts of things, which is a reaction that I associate with all my favourite books. And how often to you get to read the whole first draft of a novel? The final, paper version is not yet available, but some day it will be, and I'm sure it will be a fascinating exercise to compare the two. And though I know major revisions are planned, this story is already wonderful. I'm sure rewriting will make it even better, but don't be afraid to read it as it is. I won't review it properly, because it somehow doesn't seem fair to review a first draft, though I wouldn't really have any serious criticism to make.

You can find the complete first draft of The Dead Isle here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Ephemera #53

I've always liked cartography. When I was younger I used to draw maps of imaginary places, which often became the settings for stories. I don't think this particular map ever acquired a mythology, but it's one of my better ones. Obviously, drawn during my fascination with Welsh. Sorry it's so pale, but old pencil doesn't scan well and I couldn't get it any darker.

I have a bunch more maps, so at some point I may post some of them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Latest reading

Now the library is open again my books are beginning to arrive. I've been meaning to get back to Lord Peter Wimsey, and I apparently don't own The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, so here's a library copy. The Neil Gaiman isn't from the library, but I took a fancy to reading some more of his writing and my lovely friend Beverly brought me a copy of American Gods. I've already started that one, and find it a bit odd but intriguing.

I can't remember whose review I read of Frances Burney's Evelina, but it was obviously such a good review that I rushed to order the book immediately. I've started reading already, and I'm quite enjoying it. I've been meaning to read more classics and more from the 18th century, so this satisfies both. The epistolary form is also rather pleasant. Evelina was written in the 1770s, and I keep having to remind myself that they're all dressed for the 1770s and not the 1810s, so I can definitely see why people consider Frances Burney when talking about Jane Austen's influences. I know I ran across mentions of Frances Burney a lot while reading about Jane Austen. It certainly is good to remember there were other women writing during this era. This Oxford World's Classics edition is really lovely, and it has lots of notes, most of which actually are necessary, unlike some notes I've seen.

So that's what I'm up to, aside from cleaning and packing for school. You'll hear what I think of Miss Hargreaves next week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

P.S.: Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!

Agatha Christie turns 120 today! Have a look at, it's all dressed up for the occasion (normal Google is sadly plain).

Study break books

School is starting soon, which on the one hand I'm really excited for, but on the other hand I know it will mean much less time to read and make things. Last year I was terrible about keeping up with my reading, though I know usually I did have time I could have devoted to it. Television and the internet were just too distracting, especially since they have the added attraction of requiring zero effort. But this year I want to be better about reading. I have a large stack of books I'm really looking forward to, and I want to actually read them.

A lot of it is a matter of choosing the right books. Last year I was mostly working on books I own, but I've always benefited from the deadline library books require. Library books also tend to be new and shiny. When I'm otherwise busy, I need to be excited about a book to get all the way through it in a timely fashion. Books that provide a nice change from what I'm reading in class are also more likely to get read. Surprisingly, nonfiction worked well for me last year. I loved Bluestockings and read it in only a few days, and I read quite a lot of Victorian Visitors, too. Last fall Dorothy Sayers did a good job getting me back to reading. I think mysteries are particularly good busy-time books. They're suspenseful but not too taxing.

I think most of my problem last year was my attitude towards reading. Somewhere along the line I forgot how nice it is to just sit down and read for hours. I treated reading as something you do when you're waiting for something else to happen--before your class starts, on the bus, in waiting rooms. But this summer I've rediscovered how to spend a whole afternoon reading. With any luck, I won't soon forget that.

If anyone has suggestions for books that might make a good study break, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hemp braid

I used hemp cord as boning for a bodice and Renaissance corset a couple years ago, and I had some left over, so one day I started braiding it, with notions of making a belt. And then of course I never got around to the belt, and took a fancy to making necklaces out of it, and three necklaces later here we are. I can't possibly wear all these, though; I'm contemplating selling them or something.
hemp braid and copper charm necklaceThis necklace is a double strand of hemp braid and clock-themed copper charms.
hemp braid and gun metal necklaceThis necklace is pretty plain, just the braid and the gun metal wire clasp as decoration.
hemp braid, pearl, and ribbon necklace
Pearls and ribbon. A bit of an experiment, but I rather like it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Blackout

This is one of the best books I've read in ages. But then, Connie Willis's books always are.

Continuing in the time-traveling world of Doomsday and To Say Nothing of the Dog, the Oxford historians of 2060 are going to World War II. Polly is in the London Blitz in 1940, working in an Oxford Street department store. Eileen is a maid in Warwickshire, helping take care of troublesome evacuees. Michael is on his way to Dover to interview the survivors of Dunkirk. The prevailing theory of time travel is that historians cannot affect history, that they are always prevented from going to major historical divergence points, but when Michael makes it to such a divergence point he begins to question that theory. And when the "drops" that are supposed to take them home to 2060 stop working, and they're all stuck sheltering from air raids in the London Underground, things begin to spiral out of control.

I learned more about World War II reading this novel than I ever did in school. Not only about major events, Dunkirk or when and why the Blitz started, but about smaller things, like how Londoners dealt with the bombing and where they took shelter, and the ways in which life went on. I learned from Blackout that when Buckingham Palace was bombed, the Queen said "Now I can look the East End in the face," because it had received the brunt of the bombing. This is (as far as one can tell) a true story. Enormous amounts of research must go into books like this, and here it is woven in extremely well. And it is not only facts like this that are transmitted, but the whole mood of the war. After reading large chunks of the book, I found myself feeling kind of paranoid, like I was waiting for a bomb to hit. Blackout sweeps you up and dumps you into its setting. Like the historians visiting World War II, you know Britain wins, but Connie Willis has enough skill to make both you and the historians doubt that.

The book jumps around in time a lot, especially in 1944 and different parts of 1940, but it never gets confusing. The date is always well labelled, and you soon come to associate each place/time with the relevant character. This also gives you a very good idea of the shape of the war. The book leaves plenty more to learn about World War II, but it gives you an incredibly good introduction and tells an incredibly good story.

The second part of the story comes out October 19th, and I'm so impatient I'm rather contemplating ordering it. I can't remember the last time I bought a new hardcover, so this says a lot.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Not a lot of links this week, and no photos. Slow week?

Hyperbole and a Half. Stuck in a Book linked this last week, and I'm gonna link it again 'cause it deserves it. Stories, rants, advice (of sorts) and hilarious cartoons to accompany it.

1955-7 boy's school photographs by Alan Hails, on How to Be a Retronaut. I love stuff like this.

Overheard in a Bookshop. Thanks to Cornflower Books for the link.

The Cabinet Card Gallery. Vintage photographs galore.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Roger and Old Nurse

I told my nurse I had a pain;
She wondered on the price of pickled beets in Spain.

I told my nurse I'd hurt my head;
She wondered if she would ever wed.

I told my nurse my noggin ached;
She wondered if the buns were baked.

I told my nurse my neck was sore;
She wondered who was at the door.

I told my nurse my heart was fast;
She took a bun--it was the last.

I told my nurse my tum was queasy;
She asked the dog to play parcheesi.

I told my nurse my knees were quaking;
She said the lawn--it needed raking.

I told my nurse my toes were numb;
She looked at me and sucked her thumb.

In despair, I climbed the chair
And whacked her with my cricket bat--
It toppled Nurse's feathered hat.

My nurse told me she had a pain;
I wondered on the price of pickled beets in Spain.

My mother and I wrote this in 2006, totally spur of the moment nursery rhyming. The phrase "The price of pickled beets in Spain" came up (yes, phrases like this just happen in my world), and we thought it sounded like a nursery rhyme, so we wrote one. I found it in a notebook while cleaning, and thought it deserved resurrection.

Silly poetry is my anti-Koran burning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Ephemera #52

This stripey 1890ish dress is super fabulous. I especially like the cuffs. Thanks to lamodeillustree for the photo.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Without the library

The entire Seattle Public Library system was closed last week due to budget cuts. And not just the buildings were closed--you couldn't return books to the book drops or order anything from the library catalog. Luckily three of my books arrived the day before it closed, so the closure was not as painful as I expected it to be, and I had plenty to read at home anyway.
Here are the books I was reading during my library-less week. Both arrived at the last possible moment, for which I was very thankful, as they kept me busy. I also checked out The Little Prince, but I haven't got to it yet. You'll hear more about these next week.

I know libraries all over the place are seeing similar effects of budget cuts. And I can't possibly express how important I think libraries are.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Secret Adversary

I've decided that Agatha Christie is the perfect author to read via DailyLit, but unfortunately I've exhausted the Agatha Christie novels they have available. The latest I've just finished is Secret Adversary. Not Marple or Poirot, Secret Adversary has some of Agatha Christie's less famous heroes. This is the first of the Tommy and Tuppence books, less murder mystery and more adventure novel, set in the early 1920s. A missing girl, a ring of conspirators, multiple kidnappings, a hidden document leftover from the war which must not fall into enemy hands, who better to save the day than two very young adventurers, against the brilliant and invisible Mr. Brown? Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley are childhood friends who meet again years later, and since both are jobless and in need of money, they decide to start a Young Adventurers company, with the aim of having other people's adventures and getting paid for it. They are very much part of the 1920s. Tommy has a sort of boy scout air to him, young, sporting and not very imaginative. Tuppence is a resourceful and intelligent modern sort of girl.

This is somewhat less serious than other Agatha Christie novels, even if they do speak of saving England. It's a good old adventure story. Still, the plot is just as convoluted and clever as any Agatha Christie. I was suspicious of the character who turned out to be Mr. Brown quite early on, but I was never sure, and I had no idea why or how or who else was involved. I got within the last 25 sections of the book and had to race to the ending. It keeps your attention and is a very good, untaxing sort of read for an afternoon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fading summer

summer and lace
Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your long shadows on the sundials,
and on the meadows let the winds go free.

Yesterday was Labor Day, which is kind of the traditional end of summer hurrah holiday, and tomorrow the Seattle public schools start, so this seems like an appropriate moment to wrap up the summer, even if I'm hoping September will be warm and sunny and I don't start school for another three weeks.

Wrapping up, for the moment, is a matter of looking back. I know a lot of people are looking forward to cooler weather and the associated cosy sweaters and hot tea, but I'm not quite ready to let go of my summer yet. I've had a pleasant summer, though I still feel rather destined to have imperfect summers. But I have got a lot done--remodeled a dress and a skirt and a t-shirt, made a blouse and a purse and a lot of jewellery, with pants and another blouse in progress. One of my goals for this summer was to steer my wardrobe to a more cohesive place, and I'm definitely getting there. I've also done a lot of reading and blogging, which is always satisfying. So it's been a pretty good summer.
blackberry pieYesterday we made my favourite summer food, blackberry pie, with the blackberries we picked at my grandparents' house on Vashon Island. Blackberry is the best kind of pie. I can't imagine living somewhere that doesn't have blackberries.

blackberry pie
The poetry, by the way, is "Autumn Day" by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from German by Edward Snow.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Greengage Summer

I'm actually not sure where I first heard of The Greengage Summer, by Rumer Godden. It was probably A Work in Progress, but it's possible someone else read it as well and knocked it onto my to-read list. When I went through said list looking for books I wanted to finally read, this was one of the ones I picked, so something about it must have appealed to me from the start.

It's a lovely book. It reminds me of Joanne Harris novels--small town France, a certain dreamy quality to the storytelling. For some reason I always have difficulties with Joanne Harris novels, though, even when I like them a lot. I got through Chocolat all right, but I've started Five Quarters of the Orange two or three times and never finished it. I had no such difficulties with The Greengage Summer. It was hard to put down. I'd start reading it, and keep reading and never find a good place to stop, though once I put it down it didn't poke at me to go back. Funny how differently books behave in this.

The Greengage Summer tells the story of five English children who spend a summer in a hotel in the wine countries of France. Their mother is absent, in a French hospital, and they are haphazardly looked after by the people in the hotel. The oldest girl is Joss, sixteen and just beginning to grow up. The next oldest girl is Cecil, thirteen and our narrator. Then we have Hester, 10, and Willmouse, who spends most of his time sitting in the orchard designing clothes. The youngest is Vicky, who is four years old and hangs out in the kitchen. The other inhabitants of the hotel are Mademoiselle Zizi, the proprieter, Madame Corbet, the manager, Monsieur Joubert, a painter, and Eliot, and Englishman who is temporary guardian to the children and many other things besides. There are also various hotel employees who flit in and out of the story, some more important than the others.

Cecil tells the story from her memory, and true to memory, the story jumps around and gives hints of the future. Though you never particularly suspect her of embellishing, you know that to Cecil some parts stand out more than the others, some are remembered in a certain light. There's something about summer which leaves behind memories as impressions, certain signs that bring it to mind. Though the story has a very strong plot, it is remembered and told in increments, so that sometimes the individual actions or things seem bigger than the whole. I don't mean to imply that the book doesn't hang together well, or have a strong sense of continuity. It absolutely does, which is part of why it was so hard to put down.

This is a story about growing up, about the adult world intruding into the children's world even more than they intrude into the adult world. What the children know is crucial to the mysteries the adults are trying to solve. The children see people differently than adults see them, sometimes because they see more clearly, sometimes because they are ignorant of adult concerns, and sometimes because the adults really are different when they are with children. The book seems to say that the point of view of children is just as valid as that of adults. If a person has been nice to a child, the child can think of that person as nice, and it doesn't matter what that person does to adults, and that's okay. It's a nice message.

This is a wonderful book, perfect for long bright summer afternoons. I may not have explained it well, but that's because it holds together so perfectly and imprints itself on your memory in such an indefinable way. I loved it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Photos and Links

The recipe for these banana cookies is fabulous. I made them last Saturday and they turned out perfectly. Spongey and banana-y, and I added chocolate chips, too. For once my cookies came out looking just like the ones in the recipe's photo.

365 days of collections. I have so many collections that I don't really think of as collections, and I love random, mostly useless things like this, especially when they're old.

Christopher White's photography. All the food photos made me hungry, and the still life is lovely. It's all so fabulously colourful.

Fabulous handmade buttons. I've been meaning to make some clay buttons. These are lovely.

N.E.E.T. Magazine. It's free, it wastes no paper but it looks like a paper magazine, and it's pretty. It is, in fact, neat.

Black Tie Beach. Hilarious video, and a lot of the others are also great.

Lena Hoschek's fashion is exactly the style I would be wearing if I were less lazy.

New cover design for The Secret Garden, three dimensional and totally apt. Thanks to Nathalie Foy for the link.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


There were round cheeses
and green cheeses,
brown cheeses.
Ones with seeds in between cheeses.
There were new cheeses,
blue cheeses.
There were strong cheeses,
long cheeses.
There were cream cheeses,
and dream cheeses.
There were even the English stuffy cheeses.
There were the white feathered fluffy cheeses.
There were goat, cow and ewe cheeses;
There were old, very old and new cheeses,
Cheeses with soft rinds and hard rinds,
Cheeses with holes in the middle kinds,
Cheese that could be eaten by cats,
Cheese that could be nibbled by rats,
Some to be eaten with ladles,
Some to be given to babies in their cradles.
There were cheeses from the North.
There were cheeses from the South.
There were dozens of ones which
Melted in the Mouth.
There were cheeses which were abominably smelly,
Fromage de RĂ©gime, that is 'good for the belly.'
Cheeses some too good for mortals,
Cheeses to be taken to the portals of heaven
And offered to the gods.

- T.A. Layton

I've typed "cheeses" so many times I couldn't tell you how to spell it any more. I found this typed out on a slip of paper in my room, probably a relic from the year I made cheese for the science fair (which I won).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Ephemera #51

Big blue bottle on my back porch. (I wish porch started with a B.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: At Large and At Small

I love Anne Fadiman. I still remember reading Ex Libris, three years ago, as an experience. I read the entire thing in one go, lying on somebody else's bed in the June sunshine from a skylight. Shaun of the Dead was on tv in the background, which I realize is kind of incongruous, zombie movies not being much in the line of calming books about books, but it adds to the memory in a nostalgic way all the same. I read Rereadings not very long afterwards, but for some reason it's taken me until now to get around to At Large and At Small.

The whole book is an ode to the familiar essay--not quite a personal essay, not quite totally impersonal, but slipping easily between both. The subjects of the essays range from insect collecting to Charles Lamb to coffee to mail to moving to ice cream to the American flag to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (it sounds like a bizarre word association game, doesn't it?). Anne Fadiman has never failed to make me want to write essays. She's a brilliant writer in technical terms--impeccable grammar, lovely turns of phrase--but she also clearly loves the writing and loves her subjects. The familiar essay is interesting in that way--it tells the story of the subject from a historical, objective perspective, but the motivation for writing about it is personal, and the personal story is told also.

In the essay about coffee, Fadiman writes, "Don't we all just keep doing the things that make us even more like ourselves?" (186). This line caught my attention, because it struck me as descriptive of all the essays in this book. The people she writes about--Samuel Taylor Coleridge Charles Lamb, Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, her father, her brother, her husband, herself--are all very thoroughly themselves. The parts of their lives she picks out to write about are the parts that most set them apart, without which they would be less themselves, someone else. Possibly someone more normal, sane, or balanced, but probably someone less interesting.

I love books about books, so Ex Libris remains my favourite, but there's no questioning that no matter what she writes about Anne Fadiman is a completely wonderful essayist. I'm terribly sad I've now finished both her books of essays, but I know they will always be thoroughly rereadable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Last Saturday a couple of friends and I lit up our fire poi and hoops. We had fire safeties, I promise.


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