Friday, September 30, 2016

Best.State.Ever. by Dave Barry

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Reading Dave Barry's Best. State. Ever. - A Florida Man Defends His Homeland is a great way to visit the The Sunshine State without actually having to go there and be subjected to relentless sun, sand, and big bugs - unless, of course, that is your thing.

Mr. Barry, who is always hilarious, decides to tour his adopted state (he has lived in Florida for 30 years) and write about its many attractions - from a spiritualist community to a shooting range. No Disney World fantasies here. These are homegrown, albeit strange, places that he visits in an effort to highlight a few of Florida's charms.

So we are treated to the wonders of Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the underwater theater featuring mermaids performing aquatic ballets. It is a place, a little north of Tampa, where the fifties never ended, he notes, and makes for a pleasant, low-key outing. There is a Wilderness Cruise where one sees actual animals and fish and not the animatronic ones encountered on Disney's Jungle Cruise.

This is also where he comes across, to his delight, the classic Mold-A-Matic (which he adopts as the icon for his tourist site rating system), a machine that spits out a freshly baked plastic souvenir related to whatever attraction one is visiting: in this case a mermaid.

He makes other trips to livelier places: LIV, a nightclub in the Fountainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach where the young hip crowd dances till dawn, and The Villages where many of the residents of this popular retirement community also spend the evening dancing (although they are usually home in bed way before dawn).

In all, he checks out eight tourist spots including Key West where he and a friend spend a day and evening bar hopping which leads to the inevitable morning hangover. 

He writes a fractured history of the state and includes photos of many of the sites which add even more pleasure to this literary journey. 

If you are a native of Florida or are one of its many Snowbirds you might either be highly amused at Mr. Barry's take on the state or highly offended. I for one have never seen the attraction, but then I don't take to heat and humidity. I noticed that he made his tour during the winter months so as to avoid that double dose of discomfort.

Anyway, Mr. Barry is in good form here. He offered me a tropical trip that put me in the mood to reread Carol Ryrie Brink's The Pink Motel (here).

For my own Best. State. Ever. I would definitely have to include Mammoth Cave National Park (although I have only been there once and cave crickets scare me...they jump so high and so quickly!), and My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown that was the inspiration for Stephen Foster's famous song. If you have ever been to the Kentucky Derby or watched the race on television, you can't help but get chills when all in attendance stand and sing this anthem.

What places from your city/state/country would be on your list?

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

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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."

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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