Friday, September 23, 2016

Women Who Read are Dangerous by Stefan Bollmann

Vittorio Matteo Corcos

Women Who Read are Dangerous is such a beautiful book that I wanted to share a bit of its gorgeousness with you.

The premise here is simple: reproduce paintings, sketches, and a photograph or two of women enjoying the company of a book. As I sat paging through these images I tried to imagine someone sketching me thereby including myself in the circle of dangerous women! 

Many of the artists and images were familiar to me but quite a few were not.  Each painting is accompanied by a brief commentary enlightening the reader as to the subject or the artist or putting the painting in historical context.

Here one will find women old and young, servants and saints, mothers and movie queens. You will see them reading in the bed, in the garden, in the boudoir, on the chaise lounge, in the library, or alone in a hotel room. Wherever dangerous women seek a quiet moment with a book.

Here are just a few that I was not familiar with: 

I love the boldness of this one.
Woman Reading
Erich Heckel

The color of her dress caught my eye here.

Details of
Madame de Pompadour1756
Francois Boucher

Who is that reflected in the glass of the cabinet door?
Karin Reading
Carl Larsson

I pretty much love anything by Matisse.
The Three Sisters
Henri Matisse

This woman has such a pleasant yet intent look.
Young Woman with Book
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka

The publishing information for this book is complicated. It was first published in German by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag in 2005, then in English by Merrell Publishers, London, in 2006 and 2008. This American edition with a forward by Karen Joy Fowler was published in 2016 by Abbeville Press.

To further complicate things, Merrell's title was Reading Women and it is apparently exactly the same book as this one. You might also search for the book under that title.

By my count there are over sixty images to enjoy. I have most likely broken all sorts of copyright laws in reproducing these here, and I apologize for that, but I wanted you to see a small sampling of the visual treasures the book contains.

Kick back with Woman Who Read are Dangerous and enjoy the arrival of autumn.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Passed and Present by Allison Gilbert

I don't know about yours, but my mother saved everything. As did her mother. Both my parents and their parents are now deceased and I have inherited all the papers and photos, greeting cards and letters, books, china and silver, jewelry, scrapbooks, family recipes (and I am not a cook!), personal documents, and a plethora of other mementos.

When Mom died in 2009, in my grief I tried as best I could to sort and cull what was left behind. Although some of the items found their way to my brother's house, many of the objects ended up just being closed up in boxes. They continue to sit in a closet waiting for me to revisit them. 

The task of looking through them again, knowing the decisions that have to be made, seems overwhelming still. What to keep? What to throw away?

But help is at hand from a book I discovered the other day at the library: Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive by Allison Gilbert. She writes of her own search for meaningful ways to honor her deceased parents. Instead of just relegating memories of those passed to a special occasion or holiday, she wanted ways to keep their memories with her all through the year.

So she consulted with jewelers, artists, scrapbookers, quilters, techie folks, photographers, upcyclers, and even a Hollywood prop artist. The result is a book full of what she calls Forget Me Nots - creative ways to commemorate those who have passed. 

Her 85 Forget Me Nots are broken into five sections: Repurpose with Purpose; Use Technology; Not Just Holidays; Monthly Guide; and Places to Go.

Here are just a few of her suggestions:

Fashion your father's neckties into a quilt or wall hanging

Make a Memory Magnet using a family photo for the fridge

Volunteer your time to organizations or causes that support your loved one's interests or passions

Create a piece of jewelry that incorporates your loved one's signature

Make a playlist of your loved one's favorite songs (My mom and I both loved Frank Sinatra!)

Many of Ms. Gilbert's suggestions are easy to integrate into your days. On the other hand, you might have to rely on the help of others - a tech person, artist, or even a historian - to assist you in your plans. She includes contact information for helpful sources.

This is a useful guide that deserves a permanent place on one's bookshelf. At times, a suggestion may not make sense to you or may not be one that you can bear to contemplate, so having these Forget Me Nots close at hand could prove useful at a later date.

Already her thoughts have prompted my own Forget Me Not. My high school class has planned various activities for this weekend in celebration of our I'll-Never-Tell-How-Many-Years reunion. Yesterday, a group of us met at the high school, ate lunch in the cafeteria alongside current students, and took a nostalgic tour of the building. Before I went, I dug out my class ring and slipped it on my finger. As my mother graduated from the same high school, I also wore her class ring. It was a way to have her with me and share the experience. 

Have you come up with any ideas to keep and incorporate into daily life the memories of family and friends who have passed away? I would love to hear your suggestions.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bits and Bobs Left Behind

Things left behind in used books can be irritating or entertaining. Reader notes scribbled in the margins and underlined passages often contribute to the 'irritating' label in my opinion. 

On the other hand, in the entertaining realm are the bits and bobs and other ephemera abandoned by previous readers. Items I have found include credit card receipts, business cards, actual bookmarks (always welcome), newspaper articles, dried flowers, and in the following case, quite a surprise.

To wit:

At the Locust Grove Used Book Sale in March 2015, I paid a hefty one dollar for a paperback edition of P.G.Wodehouse's The Cat-NappersThis is a tale of Bertie Wooster's attempt to get away from London for a quiet visit to the country but, because this is Wodehouse, his stay becomes just the opposite. It is the last novel featuring Jeeves and Wooster - one character with the brains and one with an uncanny way of getting caught up in delightful dilemmas.

Anyway, during a recent bout with insomnia, I pulled The Cat-Nappers from a stack on the bookshelf - you can see right away how far behind I am with my TBR pile - and settled in to immerse myself in the wonderful world of Bertie Wooster and his faithful valet. Nothing like a little laughter to raise one's spirits at 3 o'clock in the morning. Before I opened to the first page, I casually flipped through the book and a small piece of paper fell into my lap. 

It was the stub from an United Airline boarding pass. When I read the name of the person on the ticket I discovered it was someone I knew. I was not close friends with this woman but we had met quite a few times and had several mutual acquaintances. She was from a prominent family in Louisville and contributed much to the community. She died in late 2013. I guess that is how her book came to be in the used book sale a year and a half later.

I studied the stub further. Her flight was from Chicago/O'Hare to Louisville and the date of the flight was March 27 - my birthday! Although there was no year noted, I did some investigating and discovered that the United logo printed on the stub was in use from 1974-1993. 

Her seat was in the non-smoking section and more detective work revealed that the airlines went totally non-smoking on short flights in 1990. This narrowed even further the possible year of her flight. As the edition of The Cat-Nappers in hand had a publication date of 1975, I could only deduce that the flight took place between then and 1990.

Sherlock Holmes has nothing on me.

Of course, all this is just an amusing - to me - anecdote of what surprises books can hold in addition to the stories printed in their pages.

Have you discovered any interesting items between the pages of your books? Or perhaps you have inadvertently left something of your own behind for the next owner to discover. Please, do tell.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Author Event: Hidden Hemingway with Mark Cirino

Image result for hidden hemingway book

Wednesday night I splashed my way through a summer storm to attend another terrific author event at the library. This time it was a presentation by Hemingway scholar and English professor Mark Cirino. 

He is one of three authors who have put together Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Hemingway Archives at Oak Park.  The book includes some 300 images of letters, photos, notebooks, school assignments, receipts, and even a slightly gross dental x-ray. By all accounts, Ernest Hemingway, a Pulitzer Prize- and Nobel Prize-winning author, was a pack rat. 

Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago and where Hemingway was born and grew up, is home to The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park where the archives containing these items are held. Oddly enough, although Hemingway lived and wrote about places all over the world - France, Spain, Cuba, Italy, Switzerland - he never wrote about his hometown, Mr. Cirino said.

Hemingway had a weird childhood. His mother dressed him as a girl. She held back his older sister and sent them off to begin school together and introduced them as twins. After living an out-sized masculine life full of bullfights, wars, women, drinking, and big game hunting, in his final years Hemingway ended up in the Mayo Clinic paranoid and depressed and subject to electroshock treatments. He committed suicide in 1961 just days before his 62nd birthday.

He didn't get a happy ending.

Author Mark Cirino

Mr. Cirino was a delightful presenter. He showed photos of the young and very handsome Hemingway, letters, and the aforesaid dental x-ray. But mostly he was interested in Hemingway the writer. He contends that Hemingway created a new language about war - reporting objective facts rather than the false romance of  'sacred, glorious, and sacrifice'. His writing offers the touchstone of omission and restraint, describing action and scenes but leaving the emotions they create up to the reader.

After his presentation, Mr. Cirino fielded questions from the crowd. There were many inquiries as to Hemingway's psychological and sexual characteristics which Mr. Cirino declined in the kindest way to speculate on. "I am a literature professor, not a psychiatrist."

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Ernest Miller Hemingway. Two books worth attention might be Everyone Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume and Writing With Hemingway: A Writer's Exercise Book by Cathy MacHold.

My favorite Hemingway book is and will remain A Movable Feast. 

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,
then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you,
for Paris is a movable feast."

Image result for number 900

This is my 900th post to Belle, Book, and Candle. I didn't think when I started that I would have so many words in me about books and bookish things! Thanks to all of you who have joined me here. I feel the warmth of your friendship. ---Belle

Friday, August 26, 2016

Two Books: Sixpence House and The Bookseller

Image result for sixpence house

There is a footnote on page 123 in Sixpence House that reads: Please accept my apologies: this book is a disappointment. The author, Paul Collins, is writing about something else, but I couldn't help thinking that he could be referring to his own book. 

The premise is a fine one: American writer (Mr. Collins) moves with wife and young son from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Hay is known as the 'town of books' and is home to dozens of bookstores and a literary festival. There is even a castle. How could this possibly go awry?

I so wanted to like this book but never could quite get the point of Mr. Collins's rambling account. It seemed to be part journal, part disjointed dialogue that was neither enlightening nor entertaining, and part record of obscure facts that often seemed forced and didn't really advance the story. Finally, there was a sense that many of the episodes were simply the result of timed writing exercises.

Sixpence House refers to an ancient pub that Mr. Collins thought about buying in an effort to settle in Hay. That didn't work out. Unfortunately, in my eyes, neither did this book.

Image result for the bookseller

I took my leave of Mr. Collins and the bookstores of Hay-on-Wye and traveled south to the bookstalls in Paris where I got lost in a new-to-me mysteries series. 

The Bookseller by Mark Pryor introduces a worthy protagonist to the world of crime solving. Hugo Marston is a former FBI profiler and now is head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. A bibliophile himself, he befriends Max, one of the elderly bouquinistes selling books from a stall along the Seine. When Max is kidnapped right before Hugo's eyes, the adventure begins. Does his disappearance have to do with a rare book? Drugs? An old grudge? Someone's greed for money and power? 

I followed Hugo and his friend, ex-CIA agent Tom Green (whose every sentence is expletive-filled which I admit grew quite tiresome), along with Claudia Roux, a journalist and Hugo's newest flame through the narrow streets of Paris, into a French count's well-stocked library of rare first editions, on to a handful of literary sites, and, of course, a few refreshing stops at the caf├ęs and patisseries of the city.

Hugo Marston is a fine upstanding fellow. He hails from Texas and it doesn't perturb him one bit to wear his cowboy boots with his tuxedo to a formal dinner. But he is not a Good Ol' Boy. He lives in a terrific fifth-floor apartment on Rue Condorcet that is filled with books and has a balcony that overlooks the city's rooftops. Not quite the wide open spaces of Texas, but for him it will do.

There are five more mysteries is this series including The Button Man, a prequel that recounts Hugo's post at the U.S. Embassy in London. I can hardly wait to join him on his next adventure.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is not so much a book as it is an experience. Oh, sure, it has a hardback cover, pages, and spine. But, as you read along you come to instructions to text a certain phone number to hear, among other delights, a recording of Amy reading a list of vocabulary words from a notebook she started in her twenties, three renditions of Humming Wine Glass, and the musical accompaniment to the final section of the book. 

At one point she asks the reader to hop onto the book's website and write a few words about what he or she is doing at that very minute. She calls them Purple Flower Moments. I happened to be reading the book the other morning at two o'clock and did exactly that. You can read my contribution here along with those of other readers.  Mine is titled 'The 2 a.m. miracle'.

The book, just released ten days ago, comes a decade after her Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (that I wrote about here). I was crazy about that book and thought the idea of writing autobiographical sketches in the form of encyclopedia entries was brilliant. And I love how she dreams up projects that allow her to include and interact with strangers. 

A sketch from Textbook

This 'textbook' is designed with nine subject headings including Geography, Social Studies, Math, and Music all of which give Ms. Rosenthal a chance to tie in her musings (loosely) with each division. 

The book is full of her meditations and memories, incidences of coincidences, anagrams, mathematical formulas using words instead of numbers, an assortment of short essays, charts, blank pages, sketches, photos, and an effusion of other clever goings-on. 

Like I say, this book is an experience. I hope it is one that you will share with Amy. And me as well. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Diamond Caper by Peter Mayle

Image result for the diamond caper

I am quite a fan of Peter Mayle's tales of Provence. I have read several of his stand alone novels but he also has a crime caper series. The first is The Vintage Caper which has to do with the theft of millions of dollars' worth of wine. (I wrote about it here.)

Somehow I missed the next two of the series featuring freelance investigator Sam Levitt, but I just finished the most current one, The Diamond Caper. This adventure finds Sam and his amoureuse Elena Morales buying and fixing up a house in Marseille with its sweeping view of the Mediterranean. At the same time, Sam - along with the police - is curious to know who has been stealing millions of euros' worth of diamonds from the houses of the rich and famous along the Riviera Coast. So, while Elena is busy choosing kitchen appliances and terrace tiles, Sam comes up with a plan to catch a thief.

It's all great fun and Mr. Mayle as always does a stellar job of immersing the reader in Living the Good (French) Life. Scenes of beautiful people in fashionable clothes enjoying gourmet meals, fine wines, lavish parties, and boules all follow one after the other. 

The one unsettling note was that some of the action took place in Nice and the Promenade des Anglais was often mentioned. It was a painful reminder of the killing of 84 people last month in the Bastille Day terrorist attack. 

That aside, I enjoy traveling along with Mr. Mayle and now will catch up with Sam and read the two books in the series that I missed: The Marseille Caper and The Corsican Caper

Vive la France!