Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Invasion of Picasso

271 previously unknown Picasso paintings have been discovered.

There's a Picasso exhibit on at Seattle Art Museum right now that I haven't been to yet--now I'm really going to have to go see it.
La Lecture de la Lettre (Reading the Letter), 1921

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, was a glorious book. I loved it entirely. Its existence seems so improbable I love it all the more.

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside, the retired Major Ernest Pettigrew lives alone. His wife is dead, his son is a banker in London, and his younger brother lives in the next town over. When his brother dies unexpectedly, he becomes friends with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper. They both love books and a good cup of tea, and both have been left behind by the deaths of their spouses. As the friendship between Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali grows and subtly, almost imperceptibly, becomes something more, the village looks on with a certain amount of suspicion. As Mrs. Ali says late in the book, "A couple may have nothing in common but the color of their skin and the country of their ancestors, but the whole world would see them as compatible." These two have a much more real set of common interests and opinions, but in the face of the world that may not be enough.

Major Pettigrew is wonderful. He is old-fashioned in all the best ways--courtly, honorable, and decorous. He has a fabulously dry sense of humour. He is constantly being thwarted by people--his son Roger, his sister-in-law Marjorie, the village ladies, all of whom just don't seem to see the world the same way the Major does, don't understand how to be truly sensible and civilized. You cannot help loving Major Pettigrew. Mrs. Ali shares many of the Major's views on the world, and she has an equally dry sense of humour. It is this that makes the book so funny. Both of them are constantly giving people well-deserved rebukes for their behaviour, but they do it so dryly that no one ever notices.

The book is about family, both the inherited and created kinds. It is about being happy and making happiness, about race and class and appearances. It does all this so effectively because it is at heart a damn good story. It is wonderfully romantic, the more so because it is the story of romance in unexpected places.

The book is surprising in many ways. The main characters are older. The book is unafraid to assert values the younger characters think are old-fashioned and unnecessary, unafraid to be quiet (though it's not undramatic), unafraid to make judgments on people's foibles, while still accepting their foibles as very human. I can't think of any other book that is quite like this one, which makes it so much more valuable. I really can't quite express how much I love this book. I stayed up until nearly one in the morning to finish it. It's going on my list of books to foist on people. I don't know where I first read about it, though I know it's made the rounds in blogland, but seriously, thank you, whoever recommended it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Photos and links

Photographic evidence of my Thanksgiving. My reading material (more to come on that subject very soon), more snow photos, and pumpkin pie.

A couple of links:

The @ in translation.

Libraries in literature quiz at the Guardian (at which I failed miserably).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book list

Well, this list is going around Facebook and the blogs, so I might as well do it. It's not a very good list, repetitive and with some questionable content. This is the one that supposedly the BBC said the average person has only read 6 of. But I do like a list. Bolded are the ones I've read, in italics the ones I've read bits of.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling 
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier 

16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 

26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79 .Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazu Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl 
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I've read 33.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Ephemera #63

Denny Hall, this Monday in the snow, the same building I posted a 1900 photo of last week.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm rather snowed in at the moment, so this ought to be a fairly quiet Thanksgiving--we'll celebrate properly on Saturday. For now we are baking pie and drinking hot chocolate and staying cosy.

Have a good day! Don't eat too much, and don't let the food distract you completely from being thankful for things.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow day reading

Suzzallo Graduate Library in the snow (and Hi there, crazy guy in shorts on the right)
The last time it snowed worth a mention, I wrote a post about books I thought should be read on a snowy day. Since the snow is here once again to inspire me, I figured I'd do another such post. They're chosen not necessarily because they're about winter, but because I think they'd be good choices for curling up with a blanket and a cup of tea on a snowy day.

Nameless by Sam Starbuck
This one actually does involve snow, but it also involves magic and mask-making and small town life, and it would go very well with a nice calm day. Read more here.

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
I associate cosy winter afternoons with big dense books, and The Children's Book is probably the epitome of a big dense book. It's magical and historical and glorious. Read more here.

Farthing by Jo Walton
Alternate history plus murder mystery--you've got to have at least one mystery novel on the list of snow day books, and this is a particularly interesting one. Read more here.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
This one certainly isn't big or dense, but if you wanted to spend your snow day reading a series of short books, this one and its sequel, The Haunted Bookshop, would be perfect. Read more here.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
I realize this is mostly set in the summer, but I still think it would be a good book for a snow day. It's about books and history, which qualify as cosy for me, and it's an extremely satisfying story. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter wonderland

It's been snowing almost nonstop since yesterday morning. I can't remember the last time we got this much snow before Thanksgiving. Perfect weather to curl up inside with a book. Or go to Narnia.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A visit to the Falkland Islands

My mother found this book somewhere, and it's fairly hilarious. It's a collection of Falkland Islands recipes, submitted by individual islanders. Many of the recipes sound distinctly bizarre and/or unappetizing. Lettuce Soup, Smelt Roll Mops (fish salted and left in vinegar for a week), Brain Fritters, Penguin Egg Pavlova, Bosworth Jumbles, Scurvy Wine.

Bosworth Jumbles have the best story. "Bosworth Jumbles, A.D. 1485. According to a well used recipe and handy hints book (Published around 1925) belonging to Joanna Summers' Nan, Mrs Dorothy Newman, this recipe was picked up on the battlefield at Bosworth, having been dropped by the cook of Richard III."

Cures for various common difficulties are also advised. "To Alleviate Rheumatic Pains. Bathe the parts affected in very hot water in which potatoes have been boiled." "Remedy For Boils. Place 1 teaspoonful of gunpowder in a good thick fig. Eat one 3 times a day before meals till the boils disappear." "How To Tell the Age of an Egg. Put in a glass of water. When fresh the egg will sink to the bottom. When 3 weeks old the egg will be nearly on its side, broad end up. When 3 months old it will stand straight up, wide end just showing. When very stale it will rise much higher above the water."

These are so clearly real people's recipes with their real stories attached, and it's such a random find. I don't know how it made its way to Seattle, but I like that it did. It provided very good fun, reading out the recipes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Ephemera #62

Denny Hall, the first building on the current University of Washington campus, taken in 1900 by Calvin F. Todd. Image thanks to UW Libraries.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: The Forgotten Garden

Something about this time of year makes me want fairytales. Maybe because I was reading The Children's Book this time last year, and it fit so well with the usual November weather. I've been wanting to read about Victorian England, fairtyales, mythology, nature, art, families, history.... And then I realized that I had just the book sitting on my desk, waiting to be read.

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton, is about the mysteries within families, the difficulties of knowing who you are, and gardens. On the night of her 21st birthday, Nell Andrews is told she isn't who she thinks she is--her parents are not her parents and her sisters not her sisters. Her name isn't even really Nell. When she was four years old, in 1913, she was found sitting alone on the wharf in Maryborough, Australia, with nothing but a child's suitcase, and no memories of where she came from. In the suitcase is a book off fairytales written by a woman called Eliza Makepeace. Many years later, in 1975, Nell finally goes to England in search of her family. Eliza Makepeace is her only clue, and she leads the way to Blackhurst Manor in Cornwall and the mysteries of the Mountrachet family. But Nell isn't able to solve the puzzle, and it's not until she dies and her granddaughter Cassandra takes up the search that the mystery is unraveled.

The book follows three time periods, more or less. There's Nell in 1975, Eliza Makepeace in her childhood, and Cassandra in 2005. Characters often weave between these times, popping up again, still keeping secrets that have lasted decades. If the title has the ring of The Secret Garden, there's reason. Frances Hodgson Burnett even makes an appearance, and I think the book is meant to be a bit of a homage to children's books like it. The book itself, however, is certainly not a children's book.

One theme in the book I found particularly interesting was that of obsession, almost to the point of madness. It seems to run in the Mountrachet family. They want things they can't have and they'll go to rather frightening lengths to get them, even when having them isn't really perfect. It was rather frightening and definitely not quite sane, the way two characters in particular want things and can't give them up, and it's their attempts to get these things that really causes the drama of the book. And though they're not quite sane, you never feel like this is unrealistic, which makes it even creepier. It's actually quite a tragic book--so many of the characters are victims of circumstance.

I'll admit I was about 100 pages ahead of the plot the whole time. I knew it was inevitable who Nell's mother was going to turn out to be, way before Cassandra did. I think my trouble with plotlines like this is that it's how I would write it so I always know how it's going to turn out. Of course, this didn't really kill my desire to finish the book and find out how it all went down. This is a long book--550 pages--which involves a lot of interwoven plots and clues and characters, and though it's perfectly easy to follow, I'm sure it took some doing to write.

It's a lovely book--eerie and magical and historical. It's not deep or dense in the way The Children's Book is, but it does touch on some similar themes and have a similar mood. It's a children's book for grownups, in a way, and that makes it extremely satisfying.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New book

I think I'm in a book-buying slump--this is the only thing I bought at Baker Street Books last weekend. But I'm excited about it, so that's all right. I've been meaning to read E.F. Benson for ages and ages. I think I first heard of it when I encountered the miniseries (which I haven't really watched), and I've heard it recommended  by various people in blogland. I gather these books are reminiscent both of P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh, which is a great recommendation for me. Plus, Nancy Mitford wrote the foreword. The bookstore had a bunch of these books, and two different editions of this one, but of course I had to pick the one involving a Mitford.

Hopefully I'll get to read this soon!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baker Street Books

Last weekend my parents and I visited Baker Street Books in Black Diamond, Washington. The town is tiny enough that if you go there you should have no trouble finding the place, and I'm not joking when I say it's worth a day trip just for the bookstore if you're close enough. It's large and cosy and full of good used (and some new) books. The building was apparently built in 1885, which certainly adds to its charm. And complementary coffee, which I hear was actually really good (I don't drink coffee). The "literature" section, though it didn't take up much space, had a great selection. You'll see what I bought tomorrow. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book out of the blue

I've had the good fortune to win a book! Nathalie Foy had an extra copy of Unknown Masterpieces: Writers Rediscover Literature's Hidden Classics, published by NYRB, and held a giveaway for it, and now it's winging its way in my direction.

You know I love books about books, and this one looks particularly interesting. In the spirit of Anne Fadiman's Rereadings, it's got essays by writers about specific books--the double draw of well-known authors and a book about books. I'm looking forward to it, though I admit I feel a bit guilty that I failed to participate properly in NYRB Reading Week but still acquired a book. But I'm determined to sit down and read all my NYRBs soon.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A visit to Black Diamond, Washington yesterday, satisfactorily grey and damp. The zeppelin is from the lovely bookstore there, which later this week I'll do a whole post about.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding?

I keep hearing rumours that they're  making a movie of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. People keep finding their way here looking for confirmation of the rumours, because I read the book last July. Sorry everyone, I don't know any more about it than you do! I've heard Sinead Cusack is in it, I've heard Emily Blunt is in it, and I've heard (yay!) that David Tennant is in it, but IMDB doesn't seem to know anything about it.

Does anyone have any more information? I think it would make a very interesting movie.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too much knowledge

Happy Veteran's Day! I got up at 5:45 a.m. to register for classes!

I had an unusually hard time choosing classes this quarter. I'm so overwhelmed with work right now I can't tell what looks interesting or doesn't look interesting, or what I'd rather learn, or whether it will be too much work. I'm definitely still taking German, though.

As for my other classes, though I've already registered, I'm less certain, and my schedule is definitely subject to change. Do I want to learn about the Social History of American Women in the 20th century, or the Jazz Age? The German-Jewish Tradition? DNA and Evolution? Everything is so interesting, I seem to have lost my ability to figure out what interests me.

I'll figure it out. I'm just having a moment in which there is too much to learn and not enough time to learn it in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Persephone in the mail

This is apparently the week for posting about lovely publishers. My Persephone Biannually arrived in the mail on Monday, which is always tremendously exciting. Mail all the way from England!
It includes information about their new books, blurbs from bloggers, and a short story by Eva Ibbotson (who died recently, you may remember), which I'm super excited to read. Persephone Books makes me so gleeful, and I really couldn't tell you why.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Visual NYRB

I confess I like these books as much because they're pretty as because they're good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NYRB Reading Week is here!

Just another reminder that NYRB Reading Week started yesterday. I've got another book I really need to finish because it was due at the library last Saturday (oops!), so I may or may not get a chance to participate. I have the day off on Thursday for Veteran's Day though, so I'm  hoping that in addition to getting a bunch of homework done, I'll get a chance to do a bunch of reading.

In lieu of talking about new-to-me NYRB's, I'll talk about ones I've already read. Though I did not read them in the NYRB editions, they have now published lovely copies of both Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April and Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. I'd apparently just finished The Summer Book when I started this blog, and The Enchanted April was read the summer after that.

Though apparently I was not overly impressed with The Enchanted April at the time, it's one I remember very fondly. I rather think the fact that it's stuck with me says more for it than whatever quibbles I had at the time. It's colourful and full of lovely characters, and in being escapism for the characters it becomes escapism for the reader.

The Summer Book, by the creator of the Moomins, is a wonderful story about a little girl and her grandmother living on an island. I don't know quite how to describe it, but it's full of childlike philosophy and magic, and it's lovely.

I've just paged through 31 pages of NYRB's on their website to figure out which I own and which I've read, and now I want to read them all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The Button Lady. Lovely photos of a fabulous button store.

Deck of cards sweater.

The Exquisite Book. This has been all over blogland, and deservedly so. It's a play on the game Exquisite Corpse.

Gorgeous library photos.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Ephemera #60

Tuesday was election day, and this year is the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Washington state, so let's have a suffragette for the occasion. It was taken between 1910 and 1915, but I don't know where. Thanks to the Library of Congress.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The reading cup is full

I've had enormous amounts of reading to do for my classes lately. Four days a week I have to have things read, and the reading tends to be long and dense. Interesting, but very time consuming. So, by the end of the day, no matter how excited I am about the book I'm reading for fun, all I want to do is curl up and watch TV. Now that I've finished Single Father, Gilmore Girls is my show of choice--it's an old favourite, and I'm slowly rewatching the whole thing. Sometimes Sarah Jane Adventures also makes an appearance.

Do you think there's a maximum capacity for reading in a day? I would imagine the 24-hour read-a-thons I hear about in blogland fill that capacity, but there must be a difference between what you read for class and what you read for yourself. There's something comforting about curling up and reading a novel all day, but the same is not true about assigned reading.

The book that's falling by the wayside in all this is The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. It's very intriguing, and involves Australia, which I've been interested in lately. I just wish my reading quota didn't already feel so full.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sick day in the Shire

I was going to post about more fun stuff from my semantics class, but I'm sick this morning and am probably going right back to bed after I post this. In lieu of real content, have a pretty photo.
I know I found this on A Bloomsbury Life, but I don't know where it came from before that. I love it; I want to live there. It's like the Hobbit gatekeeper's house.

Also, hello David Tennant fans! I had no idea mentioning his name would bring me up in so many Googlings.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Single Father

I've just watched the last episode of Single Father, the new miniseries starring David Tennant. We know him from Doctor Who, of course, but it's impressive how little he's been typecast. He's been a crazy Death Eater, Hamlet, an alien, and now a single father, and somehow every time all you think about is what he's doing now.

He plays Dave, married to Rita, with whom he has three children, plus they each have a child from previous relationships. In our make-believe of a beginning, Rita dies suddenly in a car accident. The show tells the consequences, which are numerous and messy and sometimes lovely.

Many of the twists and turns of the show would be melodramatic in other hands. The writing and the fabulous acting make this perfect. The characters are flawed and realistic, the kids are especially great, the relationships complicated. I loved the whole thing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scary stories

Halloween was yesterday, and I know one is supposed to read spooky stories for Halloween, but I didn't. I've never been a fan of ghost stories. I remember people in elementary school reading those Scary Stories books, or Goosebumps, but I was just never interested. Now everybody in blog land is reading ghost stories, but I'm not. Granted, I don't have time anyway, but if I'd wanted to read one, I'd have made time.

I like funny Halloween stories, and I like stories about unexplainable happenings provided those happenings aren't creepy (which is hard to find, for Halloween). I don't particularly have any conclusions to make from this preference of mine, but I thought it was interesting all the same.

NaNoWriMo started eight and half hours ago, so if you haven't started writing yet, you should get on that. Have a happy November, full of pumpkin pie!


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