Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Congratulations and a May Recap

Woman Reading
Louai Kayyali
Well as everyone I am sure knows by now, American author Madeline Miller has won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut novel The Song of Achilles. Congratulations to her.

Although happy for Ms. Miller, I am disappointed that State of Wonder by Ann Patchett did not win. That book I have read and found it engaging. I read it in two gulps.

This is a short reading wrap-up for May:

Books read: A paltry 4
Books bought: 0 (could that be right?)
Still reading: Amenities of Book-Collecting by A. Edward Newton
Authors met: 0

Mr. Newton has enlightened me with essays on Mrs. Thrale, a good friend and benefactor of Dr. Samuel Johnson; Mr. William Godwin, the ridiculous philosopher (as Newton calls him) whose one claim to fame, besides being a rather contentious and unlikeable fellow, is being the father of Mary Wollstonecraft and father-in-law of Shelley; the origins and life of Temple Bar, the gateway into London; Mr. Trollope; and, James Boswell and his book about Dr. Johnson.

I have a new stack of book review magazines from The Professor across the street. And I have still not unpacked the bags of books bought on The Grand Southern Literary Tour.

Will I ever catch up?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pelican Books

A Levenger catalogue arrived today in the mail. It offers absolutely drool-worthy notebooks, fountain pens, desk accessories, leather gear, furniture, and lamps for the personal library - all out of my price range of course. It touts itself as the purveyor of Tools for Serious Readers.

On the cover of this catalogue is the orange Penguin edition of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Seeing it sent me to my bookshelves to find my one book that has the distinctive Penguin cover. Mine is not a Penguin though. It is a Pelican sporting a light blue cover with the white band. The title is A Book of English Essays by W.E. Williams. It is number A99.

The original price was one shilling and sixpence. I paid two pounds for it in 2002 in a used bookstore on Charing Cross Road in London. The copyright date is 1948 and the owner signed his name in ink on the title page: J. Leslie ???? Nov.'48. I can't quite make out the last name...Weigh or Neigh?

Anyway, this is a prize in my library, not only because I bought it in London, but because is contains essays by Addison and Steele, along with Charles Lamb, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne, and Aldous Huxley.

Wikipedia tells me that Pelican was an enlargement of Penguin books that Sir Allen Lane founded in 1935. Pelicans came along in 1937 and were intended to educate rather than entertain. The first Pelican was George Bernard Shaw's The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.

I see that Mr. Williams, the editor of my book, was one of the four members of the advisory board for the Pelicans and was editor-in-chief of Penguin from 1936 to 1965.

The Pelican series was discontinued in 1984.

I don't see too many old Penguins or Pelicans in American used bookstores which is a shame. In looking for the image above I find that there are some interesting volumes on architecture, composers, poetry, opera, wild flowers, Queen Elizabeth I and life in Shakespeare's time.

This could be a new book quest for me. I see trouble ahead.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Crawled out from under the covers just long enough to report that I am feeling under the weather and have no book report today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day is celebrated today in America. It also heralds the beginning of summer.

Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it used to be called, originated after the American Civil War to honor Union soldiers who had died. Now it is a national holiday to honor all U.S. military men and women.

In the South, some nine states officially celebrate Confederate Memorial Day at different times. In Kentucky, the day is observed on June 3, which is the birthday of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America and a native Kentuckian.

On my bookshelf, sits a very fragile, stained volume. It has a deep maroon hard cover imprinted with gold letters. The title of this book is Confederate Veteran Association of Kentucky. The confederate flag is also printed in gold on the cover.

It is the fourth edition of the membership book of the Association. It is dated July 1, 1893 and contains the constitution and by-laws of the organization formed in 1891

"for the cultivation of social relations among those who were honorably engaged in the service of the Confederate States of America; to preserve the fraternal ties of comradeship; to aid and assist those of its members who, from disease, misfortune or the infirmities of age, may become incapable of supporting themselves or families; to pay a decent respect to the remains and to the memory of those who die, and to see that no worthy member shall ever become an object of public charity."

Why do I have this book, you might well ask.

Because it lists as a member my great-uncle (my grandmother's brother):

 J.W. Lyttle.....Lexington, Ky......Private.....Co. A, 3rd Ky. Battalion Cavalry

It also lists one of his sisters, Mamie Lyttle, as an honorary member along with wives and mothers of the veterans.

This of course interests no one but me, but J.W.'s involvement in the Civil War, (or the Northern Aggression or The Great Unpleasantness as it is sometimes referred to) is part of my family history.

And when would I ever have a chance to write about my ownership of said book except on this blog and on this day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mr. Newton Holds Forth

Photo of A. Edward Newton's library at his home, Oak Knoll, in Philadelphia
The man pictured by the fireplace is his son, E. Swift Newton

I have spent this dreadfully hot and humid Sunday in the cool of my reading chair enjoying time with A. Edward Newton and his thoughts on The Amenities of Book-Collecting. He writes about collecting rare books, but his thoughts are apropos of those of us who love books rare or otherwise.

Here are some I noted:

My sport is book hunting. I look upon it as a game, a game requiring skill, some money, and luck.

And his take on Dickens, written in 1918, which holds true today:

Age cannot wither nor custom stale his infinite variety. As a great creative genius he ranks with Shakespeare. He has given pleasure to millions; he has been translated into all the language of Europe.
 ...and the  marvel is that when Dickens is spoken of, it is difficult to arrive at an agreement as to which is his greatest book.

And finally:
There is joy in mere ownership. It may be silly, or it may be selfish; but is is a joy, akin to that of possessing land, which seems to need no defense. We do not walk over our property every day; we frequently do not see it; but when the fancy takes us, we love to forget our cares and responsibilities in a ramble over our fields. In like manner, and for the same reason, we browse with delight in a corner of our library in which we have placed our most precious books. We should buy our books as we buy our clothes, not only to cover our nakedness, but to embellish us; and we should buy more books and fewer clothes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Garden Stroll

I came across this garden meme on Cornflower's blog. She posted it in celebration of the Chelsea Flower Show. This is my first meme. What fun.

Early this morning during my stay at A Writer's House in Wales, I stepped out into the garden after Breakfast with Socrates and marveled at the Millions of sunlight sparkles in the water in the fountain. They reminded me of Loose Diamonds.

My visit to the house was A Lighthearted Quest along with visits to 18 Bookshops during the month of The Enchanted April. The garden fountain was Framed by rose bushes with blooms of pink, yellow, and white. They reminded me of the gardens I had seen on my many wonderful Journeys in Bella Tuscany.

At that moment, Mr. g, having finished his morning meal that consisted of a Balzac's Omelette and kippers, joined me in the garden and we began to deadhead the geraniums growing along the path. We came across a small wren that had been Killed at the Whim of a Hat by some neighborhood cat, I suppose.

That put me in a thoughtful mood as I pondered that poor little bird's Appointment with Death.

“I like Living Alone,” I told him, thinking of the choices I have made. “It is all part of my Happiness Project.”

He agreed that such decisions were all part of The Greater Journey. As we continued to enjoy our early morning stroll in the garden, I made a promise to remember the State of Wonder and contentment I felt at this moment.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Smarter Smart Phone

I recently upgraded my old smart phone for an even smarter one. It has a huge screen which I love. I downloaded my Nook app and today as I was waiting in a coffee shop between appointments I started reading Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley. It was his first novel and it was published in 1921.

I can't remember now where I read about this book that pokes fun at British customs of that time. It is a country house novel and promises to be witty and engaging.

Crome is the name of the manor.

I have had it on my Nook for some time now, but have never been able to read it on that device. I always got an error message so I was surprised and pleased to be able to get the text on my phone.

It is a short novel and it was free. How great is that. And don't you just love the cover photo that I found?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let's Talk About Book-plates

A. Edward Newton Book-plate

This morning, I began A. Edward Newton's The Amenities of Book-Collecting. As to be expected, Newton's conversational style and personal stories are engaging. He writes of booksellers and book collectors that he knew and that are long gone. The first chapter is about book buying in London while the second brings him closer to home in NYC, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Photographs of people along with samples of inscriptions and letters are generously scattered throughout the book. Mr. Newton, it seems, knew everyone. He collected presentation copies of books and liked to find books in their original form which sometimes means in boards and uncut. Many of the books he writes about are pretty darn obscure, but again and again he mentions finds by Lamb, Johnson, Dickens, Defoe, Thackeray, and Joseph Conrad.

He writes about book-plates. Here are his thoughts on the matter:

No book-collector should be without a book-plate, and a book-plate once inserted in a volume should never be removed. When the plate is that of a good collector, it constitutes an indorsement (sic), and adds a certain interest and value to the volume.

He tells how his own book-plate, made from a sketch he made, included "Fleet Street with its tavern signs, in the background Temple Bar with Johnson and Goldsmith."

The motto is from Boswell: Sir, the biographical part of literature is what I love most.

He sent this sketch off to Sidney Smith (1845-1929) of Boston, the distinguished book-plate engraver.

All of this brought to mind a box of book-plates I had from long ago. They were certainly not engraved by Mr. Smith of Boston. Now, book-plates are peel and stick. They pictured a cat sitting on a pile of books with the words Ex Libris at the top. They are still available. I don't think I ever used one as I was afraid to damage the book. Now I see I should have been proud to declare my ownership.

There are quite a few shops on the web that offer personalized (or not) book-plates for sale. It is fun to look at the different examples but difficult to make a choice.

As Mr. Newton writes, "The selection of a book-plate is such a serious matter."

Do you have book-plates in your books?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Lost Inclination and a Lost Sponsor

I have lost the inclination to read anything today. It happens.

And, I understand that the Orange Prize has lost its sponsor of seventeen years. Its sponsor being Orange. I thought that the name was just another institute, foundation, charity, etc. that had corralled a color. You know, like breast cancer and pink, honor our troops and yellow, or blue and child abuse prevention.

I stand corrected. Orange is the British mobile and broadband company.

The Orange Prize is the annual book award for fiction written by a woman,

This year's winner will be announced on May 30. The ceremony will take place in the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. The winner receives £30,000 which is a hefty sum. About $47,000 in U.S. dollars.

Here is the shortlist of nominees:

Esi EdugyanHalf Blood BluesSerpent’s TailCanadian2nd Novel
Anne EnrightThe ForgottenWaltz Jonathan Cape Irish5th Novel
Georgina HardingPainter of SilenceBloomsburyBritish 3rd Novel
Madeline Miller The Song of AchillesBloomsburyAmerican1st Novel
Cynthia OzickForeign BodiesAtlantic BooksAmerican 7th Novel
Ann PatchettState of WonderBloomsburyAmerican6th Novel

The reason I am interested is because I actually read State of Wonder and visited Ann Patchett's bookstore, Parnassus, this month. I have not read any of the other books. Nor have I read any of the books on the long list. Nor have I read any of the books of past winners.

Am I missing something?

If you are interested, there are brief synopses of each of the six finalists' books at the website:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

V is for Vengeance Complete

Sue Grafton never fails to amaze me. Her writing is clear, her characters are lively and quirky but not in a forced way, her dialogue is witty, and her solutions are clever and come together perfectly.

Oh yes, people get shot, thrown off of bridges, and even Kinsey herself suffers a bloody nose or two, but nothing too gratuitous or too descriptive.

V is for Vengeance does not disappoint. How Grafton weaves her characters' stories and back stories with Kinsey's narrative keeps me turning the pages. I even liked the 'bad' guy in this adventure.

I won't go into the plot because I don't want to spoil the fun. Besides, anyone can read a synopsis in many places on the web.

I love Grafton's way with description. Here is one from the book that sticks in my memory:

The storm clouds were gathered on the horizon like black trash bags against a fence.

Or something close to that. There are more but I in my absorption with the story, I failed to mark them.

I am fascinated with Kinsey's penchant for index cards and the way she records clues and information on them and then mixes them up to get a fresh perspective. I wonder if that is how Grafton keeps her story lines straight.

I have mentioned that Grafton lives part time in my hometown and in Santa Barbara, or Montecito to be exact. I too have lived in that area of California and it is fun for me to read about familiar cities, streets, and beaches. So those are two connections I have with the author.

I also love seeing how Grafton's hair styles change on the book jackets over the course of the years.

There was one little hiccup in the book, however. Kinsey has a conversation with someone and she makes a point of spelling her last name with two Ls. Millhone.  She says, "Most people miss the second L."

I am one of those people and I have since corrected the spelling of Ms. Millhone's name in two blog posts. The funny thing is though, the last chapter of the book is the wrap-up report by Kinsey. She signs off as 'Kinsey Milhone'.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Time and Circumstances

I fully intended to finish V is for Vengeance today, but then life happened. So instead of reading the final six chapters, I only got through about six pages.

I hate being this close to the dénouement and stymied by time and circumstances.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Finish Line

Charlotte Brontë

The race is finished; I have crossed the line and stand in the winner's circle.

All that chatter just means I have completed Derby Day and Other Adventures by A. Edward Newton. He ends his book with two tales of the Brontës. One chapter about his first visit to the parsonage where the father, son, and three daughters lived in Yorkshire. A dreary, desolate place by all accounts.

The final chapter has to do mostly with information about Charlotte and her life. I was surprised to read that Mrs. Gaskell, of Cranford fame, had written a biography of Charlotte. Later, it was discovered that she had left out or simply ignored certain information that didn't fit her idea of who Charlotte was. Since then who knows how many books about the Brontës have been written.

According to Mr. Newton, it was a friend on his who called on Mr. Nichols, Charlotte's widower, after he had returned to Ireland and remarried. With the offer of some coin, this friend walked away with a chest full of letters, stories, and other Brontë personal papers.

Also, there was a story about an unrequited love of Charlotte's, a married tutor, whom she met in Brussels. Some letters of hers, expressing undying devotion, came to light.

Of course, by then, all the Brontës were dead.

I don't consider myself a fan of the family. I have never read Jane Eyre. I may have read Wuthering Heights in high school, but am more familiar with that story through film. And I must admit, even after reading about them, the Brontës are not on my To Be Read list.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

V is for Very, Very

Once again I am in thrall of the clever plotting and wicked dialogue as only Sue Grafton can mete out.

V is for Vengeance has me turning pages and trotting to keep up with Kinsey Millhone. At last count there have been at least two murders; who knows how many other bodies will turn up. I am only 150 pages in and breathless.

It has been the perfect Saturday for immersing myself in the shenanigans of Kinsey and her town of Santa Theresa - otherwise known, in the real world, as Santa Barbara. How comfortable to be back in the lives of Rosie and her tavern, Henry and his baking, and William with his hypochondria and penchant for attending funerals of those he doesn't even know.

Kinsey is still tooling around town in her Mustang, comforting herself with junk food, and running in the mornings to counteract the effects of such indulgences as Quarter Pounders and fries.

All's right with the world.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Collecting and Sleuthing

Being a book collector and being a detective are surely one in the same thing - only one deals with perhaps more blood than the other although I have heard tell that book collectors can be a ruthless bunch.

I was summoned to the library today to pick up two books on hold for me: V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton and The Amenities of Book Collecting and Kindred Affections by my now good friend A. Edward Newton.

The copyright date of V is 2011, the copyright date of Amenities is 1918. Quite a spread.

I have had Grafton's book on hold for months. I am not even sure how long ago I reserved it, but if I were to add my name to the list today I would be 62nd on the list. The library has 75 copies of the book.

Not so amazing as Sue Grafton is a local author with a home here and a home in Santa Barbara.

Anyway, I plan on spending the weekend reading Kinsey Millhone's latest adventures and am glad to get the book before her creator comes out with her next in line: W is for ???

As to Mr. Newton, I am delighted that the library has not discarded this quite ancient volume. The spine has the notation 090 N561 written very carefully in white ink as they used to do. The spine was then shellacked or had some sort of hard, clear coating painted on so that the title and call numbers are forever preserved.

The book is fragile. It has many photos, illustrations, and samples of autographs and handwritings. The photographs all have the library name stamped across a corner. I guess to prevent tearing out and framing?

Anyway, I am happy to have both of these books by my reading chair.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mr. Newton's Brief About the Brontës

Haworth Parsonage and Cemetery

Only two adventures left on which to report.  Mr. Newton has chosen to visit the Brontës, not once but twice.

His first visit to Haworth parsonage, "a dreary dwelling set in a graveyard," is made not for what he can see there, some books, papers and the odd piece of furniture, but for what he feels there.

"Because it was, a hundred years ago, the home of the greatest number of geniuses that ever lived in one small house, at the same time, anywhere. Father, son, and three daughters. What a family!"

Exhibits were in glass cases, which left him cold. There was a poorly composed inscription thanking Newton's friend Henry H. Bonnell of Philadelphia for the generous donation of the majority of such exhibits. To ease his mild disappointment, a drink was had at the Black Bull where the son Branwell used to regularly get drunk.

So goes the first pilgrimage.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mr. Newton Bonds With Budapest

Library at Melk Abbey
Here is another city of Mr. Newton's that I have not visited. He almost didn't either. At the time this piece was written, Buda was the old city and Pest was the new. I don't know when it became one.

He relates to the reader histories of the city, talks of music, the difficulty of the Hungarian language, and the style and taste of the people.

But before he traveled east from Vienna to Budapest, he headed west and wrote of  his lunch with the Abbot of Melk.

The Abbot, who is a delightful old man, became much interested when I told him - my wife acting as interpreter - that I had seen his famous Gutenberg Bible sold at auction in New York. This is the Bible that Dr. Rosenbach bought for $106,000 and sold to Mrs. Harkness, who gave it to the Library at Yale.

"Has it a good home?" the Abbot inquired. I assured him that it had.

"I was sorry to part with it," the old man went on to say, "but we have many noble books in our library, which you shall see after lunch, and we had to have money for some very necessary repairs. We are very poor now."

Content with this world, sure of the next, no wife to order him about - the Abbot has much to be thankful for. I have never before thought of turning Abbot. It is a matter deserving consideration.

According to Wikipedia, there are eleven copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States; five of them are complete. I have viewed copies at the Library of Congress,  the Huntington Library in California, and the British Library.

The last complete copy that sold was in 1978 and it brought $2.2 million. It is in Stuttgart. The price of a complete copy today is estimated at $25-35 million.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

State of Awe

"I don't know another story to match this," said Dr. Swenson, shaking her head.

I can only concur. The quote above comes on page 344 of Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Just minutes ago, I finished the 353-page book having read it in two long gulps. And I have the insect bites to prove it. Or at least I feel as if I have been sucked on by Brazilian insects, bitten by snakes, suffered from fevers, and bathed in dirty and dangerous river water. Such is the intensity of Patchett's writing.

This is an incredible book. I am in a State of Awe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mr. Newton Visits Vienna

Austrian National Library
My dear Mr. Newton has left the West Coast and has traveled to Vienna. I am at a disadvantage as I have never visited the city, but he writes so fondly of it that perhaps one day...

To his advantage, however, his wife (never named) is Viennese and helps with the translating. He quite breathlessly gives in just a few pages the long history of the country. And this only up to the 1930s. He writes of the Great War which to him is WWI. I doubt if he had an inkling of the horrors that were to come.

Of course he visits the library:

The library, which interested me most, is one of the great libraries of the world. The building itself is the work of the famous Fischer Von Erlach, an architect to whom Vienna owes some of its finest buildings. The great hall is one of the most superb rooms in Europe. It is baroque at its very best and is so placed that the doors at one end can be opened; it then becomes a part of a great ballroom.

How lovely it would be to find oneself walzing to the "Blue Danube" among all those books.

He later states:
The National Library in Paris is the most unhospitable institution in the world; the British Museum holds out a welcoming hand to the scholars of all nations; but for sheer beauty the Hofbibliothek of Vienna surpasses anything I have ever seen.

In looking for a photograph of the library, I read that it almost burned to the ground in 1992 but was saved. It contains over 200,000 manuscripts and books and remains the largest baroque library in Europe.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mr. Newton Conquers California

Library at Hearst Castle
San Simeon, California

I read this morning from Derby Day. Mr. Newton is in California. He visits Huntington Library, Hearst Castle, the redwood forests, and San Francisco. Since I have been to all those places, albeit some 40 years after him, it was fun to revisit. He stayed at Hearst Castle as a guest of Mr. Hearst. I didn't have that pleasure. I had to buy a ticket. But it was worth it to see how the really, really rich live. Can you fault Mr. Hearst for wanting to surround himself with so much beauty? Some did.

Newton writes that he headed straight for the library as soon as he had the chance. As a book collector, he would certainly be interested in what books the wealthy man owned. He recounted a couple of times when he was bidding on books at an auction only to lose out to Mr. H as he was known at the auction houses.

I hosted a Mother's Day brunch at a private club for a friend and her mother and another friend whose mother lives in another state. My mother was there is spirit only. This was my third Mother's Day without her. We toasted mothers living and dead and settled in to enjoy the food and the conversation.

I regaled the three - my captive audience - with tales of the Grand Southern Literary Tour to great acclaim.

I planned on curling up after the brunch to read State of Wonder. Alas, that was not to be.

The friend whose mother lives elsewhere came back to my house to retrieve her car. She came inside. We had tea. We talked. And talked. Next thing we knew it was 5:30. No afternoon of reading for me. But friends are friends and we hadn't been together for a while so it was time well spent.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

State of Perplexity

I awoke this morning with the thought: I will begin reading State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I have owned the book for about a year now, I have been to Patchett's bookstore in Nashville, and Cornflower Books (the blog) reported that it is now out in paperback and that it has been shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize, the UK's only annual award for fiction written by a woman.

But then, trouble. I looked and looked for the book. I could picture the spine, but it was not on my shelves. I looked four different times. Had a book thief come in the night and stolen it away? I was in a State of Perplexity. And a bit depressed when I realized how many books were on my shelves that I owned but had not read. Some books I had forgotten I had. Some I wondered why I still had them. And others, I was so glad I had not given away in a fit of purging.

Finally, on the fifth go-round, after breakfast was eaten and two cups of coffee were drunk, I found the book. Maybe it was the coffee.

I am here to report that I am captivated. Swept away. After 150 pages I can feel the insect bites, the heat, and the lethargy of the city of Manaus, Brazil, South America. I won't go into plot or characters as they are discussed all over the book blogging world. I will save my report for a post upon finishing and digesting the book.

I will say that I love that it is a mystery although it isn't catalogued as one. I am constantly torn between reading quickly to find out what will happen next and reading slowly to savor the words.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gough Square

I enjoyed reading Mr. Newton's essay on Gough Square. He is right, "Gough Square is not too easy to find."

I was in London in 2002 with my mother, fondly known on that trip as The Aged Parent. We wandered back and forth in search of the tiny square and Dr. Samuel Johnson's House. But we persevered and were delighted to be admitted to the house at number 17 that has been a museum since 1914. After Johnson moved out in 1759 having written his famous Dictionary of the English Language there in 1755, it served as tenement apartments, a sort of family hotel, and then it was let to a firm of printers.

But it was purchased in 1911 by a Mr. Cecil Harmsworth and with great restraint it was repaired and restored. There is no furniture to speak of as anything owned by Johnson is long gone, but there are a couple of his letters, portraits of the man, the original door handles, and two copies from the original run of the dictionary.

I climbed the stairs and sat on the wide windowsills in the Dictionary Attic where Johnson's staff of amanuenses put all those words together. And on my way out, I gave a pat to the head of Hodge, Johnson's most famous cat. The statue features the cat sitting on a dictionary. I wonder what word he is waiting to look up when no one is watching?

My other question is, how does one pronouce Gough. Is it "Gow", "Go", or maybe even "Goff"? If anyone knows, please let me know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Book of a Different Color

The only bookish activity I engaged in today was to make an album for Rose memorializing the
Grand Southern Literary Tour. I printed out all the blog posts - with photos - and even pulled photos from the Internet of the restaurants, hotels, bookstores and the sites we visited. I put each sheet in a page protector and gathered them all in a binder.

I was quite excited about the finished product.

It was really quite fun and she was so surprised and pleased when I presented it to her today when we met for coffee.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Non coupé!

In French, "non coupé" translates as not cut. That is exactly what I say when I come upon, as I have three times now, pages in Derby Day and Other Adventures that are still joined. In trying to find out information about this condition on the Internet, I discovered that the correct term for this state is unopened.

Uncut refers to pages that are rough or uneven. Untrimmed. Think deckle-edged.

Unopened refers to the book's pages at the fore edge and/or top that are still joined from the folding. Back in the day, many books were issued unopened. Men used to carry a paper knife ( in some sort of protective sheath, I hope) to cut the pages in such books. Today we would call such a tool a letter opener which is just what I used to carefully open the pages.

I guess this means that the original owner of the book did not read all of it. That is a shame for I find it engrossing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Stroll Through London circa 1932

Queen Elizabeth II (age 3) with her father, the Duke of York
who went on to become King Edward VI
July 1929

A. Edward Newton is a delightful tour guide. For an American, he is well versed in the history and the streets of London.

We start off in the morning with a church service at the Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks:

"At the stroke of eleven, such guards as are in attendance enter. They come in with heavy tread, in their gorgeous uniforms, carrying their tall black bearskin headgear at rest, so to speak, upon their left arm, as though each man had been entrusted with a baby."

The service ends with "a rattle of kettledrums and everyone in the church stands at attention, while "God Save the King'" is sung."

We are in for a morning walk afterwards from the Chapel to Piccadilly, past the Burlington Arcade, the Ritz Hotel, Mayfair, and on to Hyde Park where "Subjects which are taboo in the drawing room  -- chiefly, politics and religion; the wickedness and stupidity of the party in power, whichever it may be, or the superiority of Mohammedanism over Christianity" are shouted about from talkers on the open stands or pulpits.

Along the way we are given histories of Nell Gwyn, the favorite mistress of Charles II; the purported burial site of Lawrence Sterne; Hercules Pillars, a famous tavern where Squire Western in Tom Jones takes a rest; Coutts's Bank; and, the Underground.

There is also a point at which we approach Apsley House "which is now the residence of the Duke and Duchess of York, with the young Princess who will in all probability become a second Queen Elizabeth."

What a splendid stroll. And all before lunch.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I love reading essays from the past. The comments on that time's current culture and conundrums prove that there is nothing new under the sun.

For instance, in my 1934 copy of Derby Day and Other Adventures, author and bibliophile A. Edward Newton has this to say in his essay about the Grand National steeplechase:

"In a word, we (Americans) do not know how to enjoy life; we work like the devil and save our money, only to be robbed of it by our politicians and the bookmakers who call themselves bankers."

Doesn't that sound familiar.

Mr. Newton has nothing good to say about bankers or brokers. He lets slip little asides that one stumbles upon in the body of the essay. And don't even mention Prohibition, which at this time he is happy to refer to in the past tense.

He chats on in one essay about racing at Ascot and greyhound races, which were just coming into fashion, in another. He then moves on to a stroll through London. Recognizable landmarks are still standing today. Newton quotes Dr. Samuel Johnson quite often and I see from the book jacket that he has written a play about the distinguished British author.

A well-written essay is like having a spirited conversation with its author - the topic wanders here and there and comes back to here...usually. But if it doesn't, where's the harm.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Loose Diamonds

A tidy tome is Loose Diamonds, a collection of memorable and funny stories from the life of Amy Ephron. Yes, she is one of the famous Ephron sisters - Nora, Delia, and Hallie.

This is Amy's first book of non-fiction although she has written six books of fiction. I could tell she was a fiction writer. Her breathless, head-long narratives kept me flipping pages. She writes in a confidential, nothing-left-out style. I felt as if she were talking just to me, so personal are her stories.

I think my favorite was "Champagne by the Case" about a friend of Amy's that was a kept woman and living the high life. The relationship didn't turn out well, but when life was good, it was very, very good.

In these stories there are visits to Saks, burglaries, children, step-children, husbands, ex-husbands, lost jewelry, houses, tropical birds, a Filofax, and the arrest of a possible terrorist on an airplane. Quite a roller-coaster ride.

Since I have read some of her sister Nora's essays, I am a little familiar with the Beverly Hills background and unbringing of the girls. Quite an unusal and talented family. Quirky, but then what family isn't.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby Day

A. Edward Newton
When in Burke's Books in Memphis, I came across a hardcover copy (with dust jacket) of Derby Day and Other Adventures by A. Edward Newton. I chuckled when I saw the title as my hometown is famous for the Derby and I usually try to escape its madness. This book is not about the Kentucky Derby though, but rather the Derby at Epsom Downs in England.

As today is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, I felt it was fitting that I should read what Mr. Newton had to say about the Other Derby. I pulled the book out of one of my bags. It is a collection of essays by an American author I had not heard of but upon further investigation I see that Newton (1863-1940) is best known as an avid book collector and is the author of The Amenities of Book Collecting which was published in 1918 and became a bestseller.  Wikipedia notes that at the time of his death he had over 10,000 books in his collection.

The first essay is "Derby Day" about the race that Newton attended in 1932 -- 80 years ago. He writes of fashion, betting, the expense of refreshment, the push of the crowd, difficulty in actually seeing a horse, and standing for seven hours in the sun. Sounds just like what the folks at Churchill Downs are experiencing.

Newton has a droll sense of humor. He asks a British friend how to go to the Derby and the response he receives is to buy a white top hat, an overcoat, spats, and to travel by motorcar.

Newton interrupts his friend:

"Sir James, you know perfectly well that I have to more idea of buying a lot of clothes and a top hat and going to the Derby in my own motor than I have of asking the King if he can give me a seat in the Royal Box. Let me put my question another way. If you were going the the Derby, as I am, by train, would you go from Charing Cross to Tattenham Corner, or would you go from Victoria to Epsom Downs? That is what I want to know."

"I know nothing about going to the Derby by train," replied Sir James. "One does not go that way. It's not done."

I love that this book has illustrations and photographs - some in color. Of the sixteen essays, six are about literature and literary figures, four are on sport, and six are personal travel narratives.

This is just the sort of treasure I delight in.

Friday, May 4, 2012

April Recap

Reclining Woman Reading
Femme Couchee Lisant
Pablo Picasso

Books read: 4
Books bought: I haven't yet counted books purchased on the trip but I am guessing 15
Books returned to the library unread: 1
Still reading: Loose Diamonds by Amy Ephron
Authors met:
Living - 0 
Dead - Faulkner, Welty, Foote, and Warren
Dipped into: Short stories by Faulkner and Welty
Grand Southern Literary Tours: 1

A short list of books read this month. Of those four, two were my own, and two were e-books, one of which I checked out from the library. The other, The Enchanted April, I downloaded for free from Gutenburg Project. The short stories I also read in e-book format that I checked out from the library.

 Of course, I spent many hours reading in preparation for the GSLT.

Now that I am home, I realize I don't have much empty shelf space for the new purchases. Sigh. A never ending battle for a booklover.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dateline: Home

After eight days of immersion in books, bookstores, authors (live and dead), libraries, literary sites, and all things bookish, I took a break. The books I bought on the Grand Southern Literary Tour are still in the bags and resting on my chaise lounge. I will sort them over the weekend. It will seem like my birthday - all presents for me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dateline: Bowling Green, Kentucky

Desk of Robert Penn Warren
Special Collections Library
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green

This morning in reviewing our Grand Southern Literary Tour, I discovered that we had not visited a single library. I decided that since we would pass through Bowling Green, Kentucky's third largest city and the home of Western Kentucky University, that maybe there would be something for us in this college town.

There is. The Kentucky Museum and Special Collections Library. We found the building on campus easily. We started at the top of the three-story building with the quilt gallery and then rambled through a furniture exhibit. On the second floor we hit pay dirt. The elevator opened to a large room with long tables, bookshelves, filing cabinets, and wooden card catalogues - a joy to behold.

I looked to the left and saw a room with the large words "Robert Penn Warren Library" over the door. I practically accosted Allison, the librarian at the desk, in asking what was in this room.

Turns out Mr. Warren donated his entire library, his desk, typewriter, desk lamp and other items to this Special Collections Library. Nothing was mentioned about this on the web site and was quite a surprise. Allison unlocked the door and I nearly swooned. Like a giggly schoolgirl I gushed over the items displayed on his wooden desk, photographs of him and his wife, the writer Eleanor Clark, and his library books. I was so impressed by the intellectual range of the man. Here were Tacitus Histories, short stories, French authors, plays and poems, reference books, and biographies. His interests had no limits, it seems.

I was glad that I had purchased Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the King's Men just the day before. It seemed to close the circle of the tour.

We talked with another librarian, Sue Lynn, and then made our way to the first floor with its Civil War exhibit which we unfortunately had to rush through.

We left wanting more, but the Grand Southern Literary Tour had to end sometime and we headed north to home.

And so to bed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dateline: Nashville, Tennessee

Parnassus Books
Nashville, Tennessee
After a three-hour drive and lunch in Jackson, Tennessee, we arrived in Nashville. It was fun to stop in again at Jackson, although we didn't go to see Henry at the Rockabilly Museum, we did stop and took a photo of the mural of Carl Perkins and Paul McCartney.

In Nashville, we headed straight off of I-40 to McKay's. Here is a huge bookstore where people come to trade in books, get money, and then they get sold (the books, not the people). I was on a quest for a biography of Andrew Jackson as his home, The Hermitage, is a museum here. There was a tall youngish guy with a big stack of books in a cart and I asked him where the biographies were. He took me to them but I couldn't find a volume that appealed to me. Later, I ran across him again and asked where books of Civil War diaries might be and he led me to them.

I said, "I am sorry to take you away from shelving books. I used to work in a bookstore and know that can be frustrating when customers interrupt you."

He looked at me and smiled. "I don't really work here. I am a wholesale book dealer and am in here all the time so I pretty much know where everything is."

We both laughed at that and got into a conversation about the Literary Tour. He signed the autograph book and listed another five stores we might want to visit. Thank you Carl.

I only bought two books: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, a Kentucky author who attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. My other choice was not a Southern writer unless A.A. Milne lived in the south of England. I found a hardcover copy in excellent condition of Winnie-the-Pooh which I have in paperback at home and will now be able to replace. One can never turn down a Pooh.

I also found a DVD of Under the Tuscan Sun which I was glad to get as my rental store, Wild and Woolly, doesn't have a copy any longer. Not a book, but based on a book I read the year.

Rose chose Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, The Coffee Trader: A Novel by David Liss, and Feather Crowns by Bobby Ann Mason. Kingsolver and Mason are both Kentucky authors.

We then headed to Vanderbilt University and BookManBookWoman which is on the edge of campus by the huge medical center. This small shop has aisles and shelves full of books. In order but sometimes stacked higglety-pigglety. We had a nice conversation with Sue who had worked at the store since it opened in 1991. Neither one of us found anything that we thought we couldn't live without, so we went on our merry way.

Insert by Rose: This was my least favorite bookstore. I felt the books were priced a little higher than at other stores we had visited, it had a limited selection of Civil War books and Southern writers, and there was a musty smell that didn't come from old books, it just came from old.

Our pièce de résistance came with a visit to Parnassus Books which is partly owned by author Ann Patchett. It was a lively, light store with wood floors. Immediately inside the door was a display of books by 16 to 20 native Tennessee writers.  This pleased Rose to no end.

I purchased What Now? based on Patchett's commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence (her alma mater) in 2006. Rose bought Truth and Beauty, the story of her friendship with Lucy Grealy. Both had been signed by Ms. Patchett which was a nice touch.

I also wrote a note to Patchett telling her about our Literary Tour and wished her luck with her new venture.

And so to bed.