Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leaf Peeping and Leaping

Just a tinge of fall color in North Carolina.

Driving through the Smoky Mountains last week, I was surprised to see that the fall colors were not as vibrant as I had thought they would be. I am sure there were many disappointed tourists who had planned trips to the area for the express purpose of 'leaf peeping'. The Chamber of Commerce, or whoever is in charge of such things, should have been out with cans of spray paint adding color to the trees!

Here, we are having a late fall as well. Some of the trees have shrugged on sweaters of red, gold, and orange and some are still cloaked in summer's green.

This is what Jean Hersey had to report on leaf happenings in October in New England in her book The Shape of a Year:

We forget from year to year how stirring fall colors can be. Annually we tell each other these are the very best we have ever had. And this year they really are! No one has any adjectives left. The scientific-minded speak of pigment and chlorophyll, the rest of us just surrender to our emotions.

The fragrance of burning leaves is another autumn delight. Their delicious rustle and the scent of their smoke invariably carry me back to the days when my father used to rake great piles to burn. Before he lit them my friends and I would burrow deep and hide ourselves in the slightly scratchy heaps. From here we would look out at the world through tiny odd-shaped chinks of light. My father would build several immense piles taller that he, and call us out when he was ready for the bonfires.  We'd stand beside him while three fires burned at once. He always did things in a grand manner -- never just one fire at a time. Enthralled and slightly awed we watched the blowing feathers of blue smoke circle heavenward, and now and then a great volcanic eruption would mushroom out, followed by a roar of flames as a new part of one of the heaps caught fire.

I recall such a scene from my own childhood only it was my grandfather who raked the leaves and set them alight to fill the air with that distinctive autumn smell. Now, of course, one can't burn leaves in the city anymore which is a shame as whole generations of children will never experience the delight of jumping into piles of leaves and the thrill of watching them burn. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Road and the End by Carl Sandburg

I promise I will eventually stop posting about Carl Sandburg, but for today, here is a selection from his Chicago Poems (1916) that seems appropriate for the ending of the Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013:

The Road and the End

I shall foot it
Down the roadway in the dusk,
Where shapes of hunger wander
And the fugitives of pain go by.
I shall foot it
In the silence of the morning,
See the night slur into dawn,
Hear the slow great winds arise
Where tall trees flank the way
And shoulder toward the sky.

The broken boulders by the road
Shall not commemorate my ruin.
Regret shall be the gravel under foot.
I shall watch for
Slim birds swift of wing
That go where wind and ranks of thunder
Drive the wild processionals of rain.

The dust of the traveled road
Shall touch my hands and face.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Random Notes on Carl Sandburg's Life and Home

USA - North Carolina - Carl and Paula Sandburg
Carl Sandburg, wife Paula, and a champion goat
Here are some random notes from the Carl Sandburg home tour at Flat Rock, North Carolina:

>>The Sandburgs were the fourth family to own the home built in 1839. It was originally called 'Rock Hill' but the third owner, a fellow of Irish ancestry, changed it to 'Connemara'.

>>The Sandburgs bought the house and its 246 acres in 1945. At the time of the move, Sandburg and wife Paula were living in Michigan; he was writing and she was raising goats. She wanted a warmer climate; he wanted peace and quiet.

>>Paula found the house, decided it was perfect, and remodeled and modernized it. She had bookshelves built in every room. She had the home completely finished and furnished and organized before Carl moved in. All he had to do was sit down at his typewriter!

The lake at the bottom of the hill - you can just see the house through the square opening in the branches at the top right

>>They lived in the house with their three daughters, Margaret, Janet, and Helga, and Helga's two children. 

>>The first floor has a front parlor/reading/music room; a dining room that looks out of the back of the house; a kitchen; Paula's office from which she ran the goat farm and kept her extensive breeding records; another office that Carl used; and a large bedroom with bath where Paula slept.

>>At the top of the stairs is a landing with shelves filled with more books; Carl's writing room and his bedroom; a guestroom that Paula originally set up as Carl's writing room but he thought the view was too glorious so he moved his typewriter to the room in the back; two bedrooms used by the daughters and the grandchildren; and a small bathroom. 

>>Carl wrote by night and slept by day. Paula and the family kept the opposite hours as there was milking to do and farm chores to take care of. Sometimes, in the morning, he would wave to them from his upstairs window as he was preparing for bed and they were just starting the day and heading out to the goat barns.

One of Sandburg's daughters usually took his breakfast to him on this tray

>>The family always gathered together for dinner to discuss the events of the day. Sometimes, Carl would read from the writing he had been working on.

His seat at the dining table - newspapers and his mail at hand. There was a television in this room given to Sandburg by Phillips Electronics. Notice the remote on the arm of the chair!

>>There was singing in the evening - Carl loved American folk songs. He hated the television and rarely watched it calling it 'a waste of time'.

>>It was at Connemara that Sandburg completed his one-volume biography of Lincoln which he whittled down from his Pulitzer Prize-winning, six-volume biography Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years and Abraham Lincoln: the War Years.

>>After Sandburg died in 1967 (at the age of 89 at Connemara) Paula sold the house and farm to the National Park Service and donated the contents of the house as a memorial to her husband. It took almost seven years for the NPS to catalog the contents: index card records of the goat farm; Kleenex boxes; chairs and footstools; bedspreads; kitchen utensils; magazines and newspapers; photographs; busts of Sandburg and Lincoln; and all the ephemera related to his writings.

A stack of magazines by the staircase - this cover showing a young Elizabeth Taylor

>>The goat farm is still a working farm with a herd of maybe 20-25 goats. 

>>There is a wonderful video presentation shown to visitors. One is of Carl Sandburg (in his 70s) being interviewed at the house by Edward R. Murrow. Sandburg sings (badly but enthusiastically), reads aloud from his poetry, and tells the four things he needs to be happy: to not be in jail, to have his work published, to eat good food, and to love and be loved. (I think I got that right!)

>>There is also a video interview with wife Paula and one with granddaughter Paula Steichen about her life growing up at Connemara.

The home and the tour guide information really piqued my interest about Sandburg. I bought a book about the house with many photos, his granddaughter's book about growing up at Connemara, and Sandburg's Chicago poems. Surely these will help to satisfy my curiosity!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Teetering, Tottering Tower of Books

Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013
October 20 - October 27

A Tower of Books and...

...a Tower-ette of Books

Second Read Books
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
St. Augustine, Florida

Anastasia Books
As We Were by E.F. Benson
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
St. Augustine, Florida

Color illustration from Anne of Green Gables

E. Shaver, bookseller
Note Cards of Savannah by local artist
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil autographed by
author John Berendt (I had it gift wrapped as a present to myself!)
Charlotte's Web (hardcover edition) by E.B. White
Savannah, Georgia

The Book Lady
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson
The Bedside Guardian Volumes 28, 30, 33, and 35
Savannah, Georgia

Hattie's Books
On Love and Barley
Haiku of Basho
Brunswick, Georgia

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg Home - The Official National Park Handbook
My Connemara by Paula Steichen (Sandburg's granddaughter)
Chicago Poems - Carl Sandburg
Flat Rock, North Carolina

Joy of Books
The Grits (Girls Raised in the South) Guide to Life by Deborah Ford
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Hendersonville, North Carolina

Robie Books
Books Notes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Great Modern Short Stories (1942) - Selected by Bennett Cerf
Postmark Paris: A Story in Stamps by Leslie Jonath
The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphries
Berea, Kentucky

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Berea, Kentucky and Home Again, Home Again - October 27, 2013

The last day of the Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013. A day of driving but now I am home. One literary stop on the way in Berea, Kentucky at Robie Books which I visited this past March. You can read a bit about the town and this great used book store here.

This time I met Joe, owner Avena Cash's husband, and found some more gems on the store's shelves. I think I bought five more books!

I have no idea what my grand total is for this trip, but I carried in many, many bags of books from the car. It will be like Christmas when I begin to unwrap them all tomorrow! I bought multiple books at every store we explored. I am hoping for a cold winter which will keep me indoors and reading. I do feel as if I perhaps overdid it on this year's Tour. I visited many more used books stores than on last year's trip which may account for my dwindling cash reserves...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Carl Sandburg National Historic Site - Flat Rock, North Carolina - October 26, 2013

Connemara, Flat Rock, North Carolina

Today we visited Carl Sandburg's home, Connemara, in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Our tour guide Ginger was truly a fan of the poet and it showed in the stories she told about him, his family, and his work. We were lucky to have her lead us through the house which contains all his books, his typewriters, and stacks of magazines and newspapers. The original furniture is all here from the orange crate he used as a typewriter stand to his bed with its green chenille bedspread to the dining room table set for family supper. 

After his death in 1967, his wife Paula, who was as brilliant as her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband, sold the house and land to the National Park Service. She donated all the contents of the house to the park service. The home is so natural looking I felt as if Mr. Sandburg could come walking in from the front porch at any time.

I will write more about the experience and our trip to The Joy of Books in Hendersonville in the next day or two. Lots to tell!

Until then, here are photos I took for your pleasure.

You get a wonderful view from the home's front porch

A reading chair and just a few of the 10,000 books in the house.

A typewriter and table in his downstairs office

The family always ate dinner together

Mr. Sandburg's bedroom
Notice the house slippers at the foot of his bed

The author's upstairs writing room
He balanced his typewriter (far right) on a orange crate
Carl Sandburg and wife Paula
The photo was taken by Edward Steichen, Paula's brother


Friday, October 25, 2013

Chimney Rock, North Carolina - October 25, 2013

This was another travel day. We are in Chimney Rock, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains outside of Asheville. The fall colors have not quite hit the leaves yet, but the cool temperatures are here in spades. It is 35 degrees and is going to drop ten more degrees before the night is over.

I am sorry to report that we didn't really have any literary adventures.

We did make a spontaneous stop at the little town of Newberry, South Carolina, home to Newberry College, a liberal arts school with a little over 1000 students. We only saw about three of them on our drive through the campus. We couldn't find the Wessels Library which serves the students and faculty.

The only bookstore we saw on our drive down Newberry's Main Street was next to a shady looking place called Jeze Belle's. The front windows of the bookstore were totally covered up with brown kraft paper. We weren't sure, what with a spot called Jeze Belle's next door, exactly what kind of books were sold there!

According to the Web, though, Jeze Belle's was simply a pub that is closed for business and the bookstore was probably perfectly legitimate. We may have missed our chance to browse, but we did find a bakery and bought some killer oatmeal cookies and chocolate truffles. All was not lost.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Savannah, Georgia - October 24, 2013

We struck pay dirt today in Savannah. Two bookstores and eight books. I had to restrain myself! But I did find some gems.

E. Shaver, bookseller 
OK, I broke down and bought a new, autographed hardcover edition of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I was prompted to buy because we had just toured the Mercer-Williams house which was the home of Jim Williams, the fellow featured in the book and the movie. I also purchased a new hardcover edition of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White to replace my paperback copy. And I bought a box of notecards featuring pen and ink drawings of Savannah landmarks.

Turns out the owner, Esther Shaver, used to own a bookstore in Louisville, my hometown. Small world.

Books stacked on a staircase in The Book Lady

The Book Lady
This is just the type of place that one wants a used bookstore to be: a bit crowded and a bit comfortable. Worn leather sofa, plenty of chairs to pull up to shelves, and helpful assistants. I bought two books by Bill Bryson (The Lost Continent to replace the copy I gave to my brother and a hardcover edition of A Short History of Nearly Everything) and four volumes of The Bedside Guardian - 1978/79; 1980/81; 1983/84; and 1985/86. These contain columns, reviews, and cartoons from this London newspaper. I don't know where I heard of these anthologies, but I have never seen them in a bookstore. I could barely contain myself and instead of trying to pick one volume I just went ahead and bought all of the four on the shelf. The introductions are by John Cleese, William Golding, Peter Ustinov, and Salman Rushdie. I am excited to see what treasures I will discover in these volumes!

Shelves of vintage books decorate Gryphon restaurant

This was the place we wandered into for lunch. I looked about me and there were books all over the place. The building used to be a pharmacy, then a college bookstore, and now is a restaurant and is somehow connected with Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Our bill came stuck between the pages of a book! A perfect complement to the Grand Southern Literary Tour.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Savannah, Georgia - October 23, 2013

I forgot to take a photo of the front of the bookstore we visited today
 but here is its business card...

Mostly a day of driving from St. Augustine to Savannah. We did stop in Brunswick, Georgia and stumbled across Hattie's Books which is located downtown. It is a clean, small independent bookstore with a nice selection of new and used books along with books by local Southern authors.

The store sponsors two book clubs. This month the Daytime Book Club is reading The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. The Evening Book Club is reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Marcia is the owner of the shop and her assistant is Mr. Wiggles, a well-read schnauzer.

Although we only stopped for a quick visit, I found a sweet used copy of haiku poems by Basho that has black and white Japanese illustrations. Rose says it is a beautiful book and I must agree.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

St. Augustine, Florida - October 22, 2013

Second Read Books
St. Augustine, Florida

If I had a dollar for every time the name of Flagler is mentioned in St. Augustine, I would be a wealthy woman. Henry Flagler (1830-1913) put the city on the map in 1888 by building an elegant winter resort for the rich and bringing the railroad to the town so they could get here. He wanted his hotel to rival any of New York City's poshest hotels. He had the money to do it.

Today, this Spanish-Moorish building formerly known as the Ponce de Leon Hotel with its courtyard fountain and gardens, is Flagler College, a private, four-year liberal arts school. It opened in 1968. Twenty-five hundred students are enrolled.

The one-hour tour was led by Dan, a student of the college. We saw a lot of mosiac tiles in the entrance rotunda; painted ceilings and Tiffany stained-glass windows in the formal dining room (which is now the student dining hall); and velvet covered furniture, paintings, fireplaces, and eleven crystal chandeliers in the formal parlor where the ladies of that day gathered to chat in their bustles and feathered hats.

The day was very hot and humid. After walking around a bit, we found two bookstores and made our purchases. We were melting. We headed back to the B&B for a siesta.

I am happy with my purchases:

Second Read Books:
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, a Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice mystery.

Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings about her experiences in the Florida hamlet of Cross Creek, where she lived for thirteen years. I was very happy and surprised to find this one especially after discovering Ms. Rawlings' connection with St. Augustine yesterday.

Anastasia Books:
Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse, always a delight.

As We Were by E.F. Benson, a memoir of Victorian and Edwardian England. Mr. Benson is the author of the humorous Mapp and Lucia books.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, a lovely edition published by the Everyman's Library Children's Classics. It has color illustrations by Sibyl Tawse.

Tomorrow we leave Mr. Flagler's town and move up the coast to Savannah and more literary exploits.

Monday, October 21, 2013

St. Augustine, Florida - October 21, 2013

Castle Warden Hotel
circa 1940s

Our literary discovery of the day: 

Castle Warden, a Moorish revival mansion in St. Augustine, Florida was built in 1887 for a Philadelphia industrialist. It was bought in 1941 by author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her hotelier husband and run as a classy hotel. The couple had an apartment on the top floor.

Ms. Rawlings was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939 for The Yearling She died here in St. Augustine of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1953 and is buried next to her husband, Norton Baskin, in Island Grove, Florida.

The former hotel is now home of the first Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum of Oddities. It features displays of shrunken heads, torture devices, life-size wax figures, and unusual works of art. Hmmmm. We didn't go there.

We did take a trolley ride along the waterfront led by a Navy Seal veteran who was very knowedgable and entertaining. Later, at the bed and breakfast where we are staying, a local storyteller/historian wove the tapestry of St. Augustine's history that included Spanish, British, and Confederate occupations.

It is the oldest city in America, founded in 1565, and is still going strong. A Spanish fortress called Castillo de San Marcos sits overlooking the harbor, holding a strategic defensive vantage point. It is the oldest masonary fort in the U.S. and is made from coquina, a soft, local shell rock.The fort was declared a National Monument in 1924.

Tomorrow, we will visit Flager College with its 79 Tiffany stained glass windows; munch our way through the Whetstone Chocolate Factory; and pay a visit to Anastasia Books.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

McDonough, Georgia - October 20, 2013

There is not much literary going on in McDonough, Georgia, our first stop on the Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013. It is one of those perfect little Southern towns laid out on a square. Sometimes the middle of the square holds the courthouse; however, in McDonough there is a war memorial. Civil War, of course. Or as they call it here - The Great Northern Aggression.

Rose and I walked the square which was set up with all different Halloween straw-men, straw-women, and even a straw-chef. It was a cool afternoon with cornflower blue skies and a very bright sun.

We did find one bookstore, Dawg-Eared Books, but it was closed and sadly had a Going Out of Business sign in the window. We peeked through the window and saw shelves full of books and Rose and I would have been very content to browse a while.

Here are a few of the folks we met on the Square:

We spotted Scarlett O-Scare-A
and her beau Rhett Butler.

Then we came upon Vincent Van Gogh at his easel. If you look closely you will see his severed ear in his pocket.
Earlier in the day, we ate lunch at a restored train depot in Dalton, Georgia. The entire town was decorated with peacocks and we couldn't resist this one. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

And So We Prepare to Begin

Mapmaker: John Melish

Tomorrow is the start of my Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013. The itinerary includes St. Augustine, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Chimney Rock, North Carolina with surprises along the way.

I have my list of bookstores that I want to browse through, historic homes with literary connections that I want to visit, many maps, tour books, and my charge card.

My traveling companion, Rose, will be with me again this year. She accompanied me on last year's Grand Southern Literary Tour and was a great help in navigating and spotting intriguing places to stop along the way.

Now that the U.S. government is back to work, we should be able to visit Carl Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, N.C. It is part of the national park system and was closed during the shutdown.  I have been there before but that was many, many years ago. Rose has never been to the site and we were both disappointed when we thought we would not get to visit. But now, it is definitely a planned stop.

I don't know what my blogging schedule will be, but on last year's trip I was able to post every day. Even if the entry is just a photo or two, I will do my best to keep you updated on our adventures.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kentucky Book Fair on My Calendar

The Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, which I have often attended, is coming up in a couple of weeks. This year I see that some of the regular favorites will be in attendance at this one-day event: Wendell Berry; Bobbie Ann Mason; and, the state's former and only female governor Martha Layne Collins (whom I have had the pleasure of interviewing). Sue Grafton, Louisville native and author of the alphabet mysteries featuring Kinsey Millhone, is scheduled to be there to sign her newest, W is for Wasted.

Also on the list is Duffy Brown who writes the fun mysteries set in Savannah (where I will be next week!). I met her last year, bought her first book, Iced Chiffon, and now, after reading her second, Killer in Crinolines, consider myself to be a fan of hers. 

Here is a link to author photos I took at last year's event.

Even though I am in the midst of getting ready for my Grand Southern Literary Tour 2013, I am definitely going to put this book fair on my calendar. It makes for a fun, literary day. And one that is always full of surprises.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Twelve Sights of October

My walks this month have been filled with the scents and the colors of the season's change from hot summer days to cooler autumn weather...a reward for slogging through the humid heat of the past few months.

I have spotted the following in the park as I trudge around the walking track and if you will read my little offering aloud as you would sing The Twelve Days of Christmas, you will get a glimpse of the things I have seen:

Twelve geese a flying
Eleven bees a buzzing
Ten leaves a falling
Nine asters blooming
Eight woollies crawling
Seven maples turning
Six dogs a romping
Five fluffy clouds
Four fishermen
Three grasshoppers
Two gray squirrels
and a warm sun shining on all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two Treasures From the Sale Table

When I was at the library recently, I plucked two gems off the sale table. I was intrigued by the subject of each and also attracted to the end-of-summer hues of both covers.

The first, The Island of Lost Maps (2000), is a true story about a fellow who went around stealing valuable maps from libraries in the U.S. and Canada. It makes me a bit sick to think about the destruction that he wreaked on rare books because not only do I love books but also have a great fondness for maps. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading what author Miles Harvey has to say on this cartographic crime.

One can never read too many books about Tuscany and this one, A Thousand Days in Tuscany (2004), looks to be a treat with chapters titled "The Gorgeous Things They're Cooking Are Zucchini Blossoms" and "Perhaps, as a Genus, Olives Know Too Much".   Author and chef Marlena de Blasi writes about life in her adopted Tuscan village along with its food and festivals and includes some mighty tasty looking recipes.

Have you picked up any bargains lately?