31 July 2010

Something to look at while I am away

Just got to Portland, Oregon yesterday. This is my third trip to Rose City and it remains as delightful as ever. Today we drive out to the coast for a week with family. I will probably have very limited blogging capabilities so I thought I would leave you with some fun pictures to look at while I am away.

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of meeting Teresa from Shelf Love and Frances from Nonsuch Book. We headed out to Daedalus Books Warehouse in Columbia, Maryland. Daedalus is one of the world's largest wholesalers of remaindered books and their warehouse store is a lot of fun. Even more fun though was the great company. We had a hard time browsing from time to time because we were having too much fun talking about books and book blogging. It is always nice when your browsing companions don't give you a blank look when you mention a book or author. Among the three of us there was enough collective knowledge that we knew a little something about everything we came across. Instant recommendations, gentle warnings, discourse on various editions, and snarky comments about the illustrated Da Vinci Code were all close at hand.

Being slammed with work, home improvements and getting ready to travel, it has taken me almost a week to get around to this recap. Teresa and Frances have already posted theirs here and here respectively.

Here are some pictures of our hauls in progress. Your will note how restrained Francees was compared to Teresa and I.

My Haul

Teresa's Haul

Frances' Haul

And now for my haul, in detail....

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan - I haven't read this one and it is the same edition as other McEwans I own.

Morningside Heights by Cheryl Mendelsohn - The start of a wonderful trilogy about families in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. I've read all three but I didn't own the first volume. Until now.

Somerset Maugham by Jeffrey Meyers - Even though I have read tons of Maugham I know very little about him. This bio should help rectify that.

Selected Letters of Edith Sitwell edited by Richard Greene - I wasn't sure about getting this one, but when I opend it up to a one line letter to Noel Coward that simply said "I accept your apology." I couldn't resist. What crazy thing do you think Mr. Coward did?

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell - I have loved the three other O'Farrell books I have read (and all this year) so I couldn't pass this one up.

The Professor's House by Willa Cather - Not only my favorite Willa Cather, but one of my favorite books of all time, but I didn't actually own a copy. And since Teresa had never read any Cather I bought her a copy as well.

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing - I have only read one Doris Lessing (The Summer Before the Dark) so I thought it was time to read another. This one looks slightly disturbing.

Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee - His novel Disgrace is brilliant.

Off Shore by Penelope Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald is always worth reading.

The Secret Garden by Justin Cartwright - A novel with Oxford at its center, I couldn't pass that up. Especially since this lovely edition is part of its Writer in the City series of which I own a few. It includes Edmund White on Paris and John Banville on Prague. But a note to Bloomsbury and other publishers: When you have a series of books like these, your website should be searchable so that one can see all titles in the series. Why in the world would you make it so hard to find information about books your customers want? It offends my OCD that a publisher would be so bone headed. And if someone comes back and tells me I am wrong that they do have information on the series on their website my criticism still stands because they make it pretty darn hard to find.

Lafcadio's Adventures by Andre Gide - Last minute impulse buy. I like the translation of the original French title much better: The Vatican Cellars.

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen - A heretofore unread Bown in an edition I like.

The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford - For years I have owned a really nice Folio edition of Love in a Cold Climate, but since it is a follow-up to The Pursuit of Love I have not wanted to read it out of order. Now with this lovely 2-in-1 edition I can finally read them both. I must say, however, I am normally not a fan of 2-in-1 or omnibus editions of anything. I  love collecting complete sets, I just don't like them in one volume.

The Demanding Dead by Edith Wharton - I had no idea that Edith Wharton had written some ghost stories. I can't wait to see how she does it.

The Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink - I liked The Reader and am interested to see what else Schlink can do.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer - Everyone and their dog have already read this one. I love this cover but the totally, totally ruined it with three, not one, not two, but three, promotional taglines. Idiots.

Crazy Water and Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry - This is a perfect example of judging a book by its cover. I loved this cover photo so much I decided to buy even before I knew what it was. Happily it is a cookbook.

An Odyssy in Print - A beautiful look inside the libraries of the Smithsonian Instituion here in DC.

Which are your favorites or which one would you most like to read?

28 July 2010

Book Review: The Closed Door by Dorothy Whipple

The Closed Door and Other Stories
Dorothy Whipple

I know I tend to use superlatives when talking about Dorothy Whipple and that doing so too frequently or too effusively can have the opposite of the intended effect. I mention this because I am slightly troubled that all of my past praise of Whipple's novels makes it all the harder to try and convey to you just how brilliant her short fiction is. In fact, although I truly loved The Priory and High Wages, I never thought them brilliant. They are well written, compelling, and highly enjoyable, but they also have some elements that make the plots a little to neat and tidy. But when it comes to the short story, Whipple's plotting deficienices, sometimes evident in longer formats, disappear.

I tend not to like short stories because they often leave me scratching my head wondering what exactly happened. They either tend to feel too much like fragments--a slice of life picked out of time--or they just leave too many loose ends and unanswered questions, and I feel like I am not clever enough to understand what I am supposed to feel. But Whipple writes the kind of stories that are quick to draw one in and they have perfect little plot arcs that can be full of twists, but resolve in a way that lets literal-minded me feel satisfied that I "got it". Of course I realize that this preference for plot resolution is probably something that sets me (and Whipple) apart from the more high minded literati.

My challenges writing plot summaries rises to crisis levels when trying to describe short stories. And these are the kind of stories that one really wants to talk about. But the spoiler alerts alone would take up half the word count so I am going to stick to generalities. Despite it being a joy to read, this collection is not a cozy romp through 1930s and 40s England. These stories deal with abuse neglect, deception, adultery and other types of unpleasantness. Never too desolate (this isn't Precious after all), but some pack a real emotional wallop. Two of the stories are in a dead heat for my favorite: "The Handbag" for its O. Henry-like plot and "Youth" for its exhilarating resolution that made me want to clap and cry and just plain rejoice that Anne did the right thing. Most of the stories offer at least a glimmer of hope if not outright happiness for the protagonists, but a few of them are just plain tragic. The story "Wednesday" is particularly so.

Many thanks to Verity and Claire who sent this book to me as a prize for Persephone Reading Week. Because they are short stories, I probably would not have gotten around to them until I reard everything else by Whipple. And that would be a mistake.


21 July 2010

Books in pictures

Channeling Simon of Stuck-In-A-Book, Karen at Cornflower Books posted an image that reminded her of the book she is currently reading (The fantastic novel Stoner by John Williams). She challenged the rest of us to come up with an image that reflected what we are reading. Since my current read is a Persephone collection of Dorothy Whipple short stories the first thing that came to my mind was that the image had to be of a youngish female from the 1930s or 1940s. I certainly had a general idea of what the subject of the image might look like, but more importantly I felt she had to convey a sense of quiet potential. Like many of those Whipple heroines who struggle to reconcile their own hopes and ambitions with their assigned place in society.  I think this portrait of Shelia McManus by Richard Emil Miller fits the bill. What do you think?


I know you all love a book list

I have written about his before in passing and on comments in and around the blogosphere. But in my recent list mania, it seemed like this would be a good topic for a post and a new tab up top.

Anticipating the end of the century back in 1998, the Modern Library promulgated a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Like any such list, this one engendered much discussion in the media. The list after all is very white and very male. Two responses to the furor were kind of interesting. The more thoughtful was a rival list created by students of the Radcliffe Publishing Course that is much more diverse in its makeup. Much, much, much less thoughtful was the online voting that the Modern Library allowed to create a reader's list. Being 1998, Internet usage was not what it is today and the reader's list was quickly jammed with Scientologist nuts, Ayn Rand disciples and Star Trek geeks. None of which qualify for literary accolades. For a laugh you can look at it alongside the official list here.

Despite its shortcomings I used the Modern Library list to guide my reading for several years. These certainly weren't the only books I read, but the list came in handy many times when I wasn't sure where to turn next. Of course I don't have that problem these days but I still look at it from time to time for ideas.

I used to have a goal of reading the whole list but I have realized that life is too short to spend too much time on books that just aren't going to be enjoyable for me. I highly, highly doubt I will will ever read any, and certainly not all, of the James Joyce and William Faulkner on the list. I feel like I have already spent enough time in those two prisons.

The thing I found with some of these classics is that they aren't as daunting or unreadable as that moniker might imply. On the other hand, some of them were exactly as daunting and unreadable as that moniker implies. Some of the books I had read before the list came out and others were totally new to me. It was this list that first introduced me to some of my favorites like Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark.

To see the list and which ones I have read click here or on the tab at the top of the page.

20 July 2010

Book PREview: The Modern "Rake's Progress"

The Modern "Rake's Progress"
Words by Rebecca West
Paintings by David Low

I am giving a preview of this book rather than waiting to do a review because I haven't read it yet, but I am dying to share it with you all. I found this one a few weeks ago at a second hand bookshop not too far from our new house. It was one of those finds that I almost didn't find. First I didn't see it until I was on my second pass through this particular section and second because it is of a size that I normally wouldn't pay too much attention to it. Being a larger format I never would have picked it up if the name Rebecca West hadn't jumped out at me.

But I did look at it and I sure am glad that I did. Published in 1934 by Hutchinson and Co. the story follows George as he wakes up one morning to find himself unexpectedly a millionaire and a peer. Each chapter starts with a double page color plate and chronicles a step in his rise and fall. The Rake Gives a Cocktail Party, The Rake Invests in the Movies, The Rake's Marriage, The Rake's Divorce...you get the idea.

From here on out I will let the book speak for itself.


19 July 2010

Book Review: Good Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of
Mollie Panter-Downes

Writing a review that doesn’t bore the pants off of one’s readers sometimes feels as insurmountably arduous and impossible as writing the book itself. I got over my recent reading slump but I think I may have traded it for a reviewing slump. So let’s just see if I can do Mrs. Craven justice.

Mollie Panter-Downes was a correspondent for The New Yorker, writing over 852 pieces between 1938 and 1987. Some of that output included these 21 short stories about life in England during World War II. Panter-Downes manages to write social history in the guise of fiction but does so in a way that one never feels like one is learning a lesson. The factual details Panter-Downes includes about wartime life certainly do provide the framework for each of these stories but they are ultimately there in service of exploring more universal truths. And although the stories retain an upper-middle class gentility, Panter Downes doesn’t shy away from exploring the baser side of human nature and behavior. These are not tales of heroic actions and selfless dedication to the war effort.

The eponymous story is one of the most poignant in the collection. It focuses on the emotional state of a mistress who begins to realize the tenuous nature of her personal life while her married lover is deployed in the war zone. In “It’s the Reaction” Miss Birch is a government worker whose inability to connect with her comrades at work and at home leaves her isolated and lonely. Out of the several stories that deal with displaced persons “Combined Operations” brings a bit of humor to the collection as one couple tries to deal with the once dear friends who have been staying with them for four years after being bombed out of their London flat.

Present throughout many of the stories is a sense, sometimes implied and sometimes explicit, that things won’t be the same after the war. That the social revolution begun in World War I has gone both wider and deeper as all manner of folks try to deal with altered circumstances. In “Cut Down the Trees” Dossie, an old servant is having a hard time dealing with Mrs. Walsingham’s decision not to dress for dinner and even worse, her decision to take meals in the warmer, cozier kitchen rather than the dining room. When Mrs. Walsingham’s son comes home on leave he recognizes how traumatized Dossie is by the changed circumstances.
The old woman’s eyes seemed to implore him to play their game for a little while longer, to pretend that things were just as they used to be, that their world, which had come to an end, could still be saved.
I liked this volume quite a bit. Although some of the subject matter is similar, I think it is better than the rather shallow House-Bound by Winifred Peck or the more humorous Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennis.

18 July 2010

Sunday Painting: Kitchen with a View of the Viaduct by Elena Climent


Cocina con vista al viaducto
Elena Climent, 1995

I have had a postcard of this wonderful painting for several years. Probably at least a decade or more. When I decided to make it the focus of my Sunday Painting today I looked at the artist's website and was happily surprised to see that she has done many book related paintings. She even did a six-panel mural at New York University that shows the bookish surroundings of six different writers. This one below is of Edith Wharton but she also did one for Zora Neale Hurston, Jane Jacobs, and three others. You can see them all here.


16 July 2010

Book Review-let: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson

Although I had been tempted to buy and read this book for some time, It was Frances from Nonsuch Book that pushed me over the edge. When I was in my reading funk recently and looking for suggestoins to get me out, Frances suggested Major Pettigrew. So I went out to the independent bookstore in my new neighborhood, the excellent Politics and Prose, and bought a copy. I don't often buy brand new books and even then not hardcover, but in this case I am glad I made an exception. Not only did it get me out of my reading funk but it was such a wonderful read it was an antidote to all that ailed me.

There have been so many other good reviews out there that I hesitate to try and re-cap any of it here. Let's just say I found it charming, fun, and unputdownable. This definitly qualifies for a good summer read. Something to pick up when you need a pick up. [Insert additional lavish econmium here.]

Others who say it well:
Random Jottings
Cornflower Books
Letters from a Hill Farm
Rochester Reader

By no means a perfect book, but perfect enough to be wonderful. And a first novel at that. And for those of you a fan of E.F. Benson's Mapp & Lucia books, as I read this book I kept thinking of Major Benjy. Especially as he was portrayed by Denis Lill in the television serialization of those wonderful books.

13 July 2010

Bartering for Books

Now that I have begun to get settled into my new library I culled about three grocery bags of books from the rest of the herd. I took them to a secondhand shop and ended up getting $80 of store credit. Well, that plus $20 got me this stack of books. For me this is a pretty short stack for $100, but two of them were quite costly because of their rare nature. One was a no-brainer: a first edition of my FAVORITE Willa Cather novel, The Professor's House. And the other is a large format, Rebecca West story illustrated with really amazing color plates. I will have more on the Rebecca West volume in the days to come.

A Room With A View by  E.M. Forster - I think I already have a copy of this favorite book, but I couldn't resist the sweet cover. (see below)

Sophie's Choice by William Styron - I need some mass market volumes to take with on vacation in a few weeks. That way I can leave them behind as I finish them. This is one of the Modern Library's Top 100 that I haven't read yet.

The Men With the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger - A rare first-hand account of a homosexual prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

The Diary of  Provincial Lady and The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield - I have one of these already in the same edition. But not with these amazing dust jackets. I have never seen this edition in dust jackets. What a find.

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton - This one sounded very interesting and I am fast becoming a sucker for NYRB editions.

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather -  A great cover on a Cather I haven't read yet.

The Professor's House by Willa Cather - A first edition of this, my favorite Willa Cather novel.

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald - I don't always love her books but I am always glad I read them.

The Modern Rake's Progress by Rebecca West - You guys are going to love this book when I blog about it later.

Dust jackets?!

Not the best shape, but how cute is this illustration?

12 July 2010

My Blog Roll


I have been wanting to add a blog roll for some time now but just couldn't figure out how I wanted to do it. For better or worse I am married to my current blog template and didn't want to upset the general order of things. I loved having my "Books Read" lists down the left side so that anyone reading a post might catch glimpses of other books that might pique their interest. But who am I kidding it was probably just more to do with my reading vanity. ("Ooh, look at me, look at all the books I've read. Aren't I impressive?") But alas, the book rolls have had to move to their own pages. Just check out the "tabs" just under the header. I am still in the process of formatting these but they are there for your perusal.

Another issue I have with blog rolls is that they can become unwieldy and often end up full of blogs that have been abandoned by their creators. I think I have solved that one by formatting the roll so that each time someone posts something their link automatically gets bumped up to the top of the list.

Then of course there is the issue of forgetting to include one of your blog friends. (By the way I have taken referring to you all as "my blog friend Frances, or my blog friend Claire" etc. to my husband.) If you know I am a fan of yours, or you are a commenter on My Porch, or you just think I am missing out on something special, please email me and let me know I am missing your blog.

Finally, there is the issue of how it will all look. I love the ability to include thumbnail pictures in the links, but it appears that Blogger doesn't pick these up for all blog formats. So if you are wondering why your link doesn't have a thumbnail you can blame it on Blogger.

What are your thoughts on blog rolls? I know I have been booted off of a few. I think it is because I didn't have a blog roll on My Porch and a few bloggers seemed to be really interested in page traffic. Well so am I, but if I cut you off of my blog roll, it won't be because you don't send traffic my way. It will be because I think you are lame. LOL. Sorry, I couldn't resist saying that.

11 July 2010

(The Return of) Sunday Painting: Britten and Pears by Kenneth Green

Months ago the scanner died interrupting my weekly "Sunday Painting" feature. I am happy to say the scanner has been replaced and the show can go on. I wasn't sure what I was going to post this week for the return of this venerable institution, but last night I watched Tony Palmer's documentary on Benjamin Britten, "A Time There Was".

I have long been a fan of composer Benjamin Britten, his life partner and tenor Peter Pears, and this touching painting of the two of them from 1943. Watching this documentary last night reminded me of Britten's brilliance and the brilliance of their professional partnership. It also gave wonderful insight into the deep and loving personal relationship they maintained over 40 years. And this 67-year old portrait of a prominent gay couple is nothing less than a revelation.

Kenneth Green, 1943

07 July 2010

It's Official: I'm in a Reading Funk

I don't know if it is the heatwave or what but I am entirely uninterested in reading right now. I have slipped into that mode where sudoku and minesweeper are more interesting to me and sitting and staring into space on the Metro doesn't seem like a waste of time.

I have about five things going right now and none of them are holding my interest.

The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James (about 30 pages in)

Frost in May by Antonia White (about 75 pages in)

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (about 5 pages in)

Good Evening Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes (about 100 pages in)

It might be that I just haven't found the right book for the moment. I think my problem is that I may need  something contemporary. Everything on my plate right now is a little on the antiquated side.

So, what should I read?

Here are the parameters:

1. Published in the last five years (that is recent for me).
2. Action takes place in the present.
3. Nothing that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief (no magic powers or time travel).
4. Something kind of light, maybe even fun, but not necessarily funny.

(No, that picture isn't me.)

06 July 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week


Last September I remember seeing lots of blog posts about Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW). At that time I had only recently started to focus my blog more on the world of books. Finding so many other great book blogs through BBAW pushed me over the edge to essentially turn My Porch into a book blog.

This year for BBAW I want to register (err...nominate) my blog to participate in BBAW So, here are my five posts for my registration/nomination. Although I blog about other bookish bits, I have decided that these five reviews show both my reviewing abilities as well as my overall point of view and sense of humor (I hope).

Best Eclectic Book Blog

1.  As We Are Now by May Sarton

2.  Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

3.  Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

4.  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

5.  Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

Best Written Book Blog

1.  As We Are Now by May Sarton

2.  Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

3.  Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

4.  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

5.  Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym


05 July 2010

My Life at the Library

All the recent posts in the blogosphere about the American Library Association conference here in DC have gotten me thinking about my own relationship with libraries.

The Early Years
When I was a little kid I practically lived at the library. About the time I was seven years old, a brand new library opened just two blocks from my house. I was well aware of it even before it opened because my older brother had been assisting the construction workers by making trips to the Dairy Queen for their lunches, scoring himself DQ treats as payment for his efforts. Don’t think I wasn’t jealous of that. And when the new building opened it was like a revelation. At that point the books themselves were somewhat secondary to my interest in the new facility. It was this big (to me) modern (to me) building the likes of which I had never really been in. It was a dark brown brick building with a curving wall, giant doors, and what seemed like acres of bright green carpet apparently meant to suggest grass. Growing up in an old house that was perpetually being remodeled in the old part of the small town of Elk River, Minnesota, the new library was like a fantastic spaceship. And I was just old enough to make the short trek all on my own.

The children’s area was astounding, they had coat racks in the shape of giraffes, this great play set based on Richard Scarry characters, bean bag chairs--it was like kid heaven. It is surprising that I even noticed the books. But notice I did. As I sit here today I realize that over time I worked myself counterclockwise through the library’s fiction collection. Every few years or so moving generally west through the stacks from the ‘E’ section (easy? Elementary?) to ‘J’ (juvenile) to ‘YA’ eventually to ‘A’. In those days I didn’t ignore non-fiction the way I do now, maybe because kid’s non-fiction has all those great pictures and drawings. I would spend hours browsing paging through anything that looked interesting. Including a book on human reproduction that I still remember to this day:
Part of your father fit inside your mother like a key in a lock, like a foot in a sock.
Wow. Really?

And of course there were also the programs: reading programs, summer films (pre-video), hobby night, and many others I know I am forgetting. When I was still quite young, Janet, the librarian in charge of children’s programs, created this giant Dickensian holiday street scene to go up on the wall in the children’s area. It was like one of those advent calendars where there is a window that opens for each day until Christmas. Except it was giant, it had to be at least eight feet tall and covered the whole wall. My friend Jeff and I were lucky enough to be able to help Janet do some of the coloring which we loved. We were rewarded by being included in the Victorian vignette as little carolers. Despite being over the moon about this at the time, I oddly did not remember it until recently when I came across this picture in my parent’s photo album. I am the one on the left.

Not Making a Living on the Wages of a Library Page
When I was eleven my sister got a job at the library which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Five years later when I applied for a library page position of my own I thought I was a shoo-in. Not only was I a sibling legacy, but I knew that library backwards and forwards. I knew the Dewey decimal system not because I studied it, but because I knew every single book on the shelves and where they were located. And there wasn’t an element of the collection that I hadn’t used over the previous nine years. Periodicals, the A/V collection, every section of books, the catalog on microfilm, the inter-library loan system. I knew it all. I even knew more than I should about romance novels having indulged my OCD on more than one occasion by surreptitiously organizing the twirling racks of mass market editions by publisher and the color of the spines. So imagine my surprise when I didn’t get the job! The head librarian was new and not someone who had known my years of hanging out at the library. He hired someone a year younger than me on the notion that they wouldn’t graduate from high school as soon as I would. I was crushed. Not only because other job prospects weren’t so hot, but this was MY library. Well, after a week the other guy didn’t show up for work. I happily stepped in on short notice when the call came and needed almost no training whatsoever.

It was during my two years working there that I really began a relationship with books and other book lovers. I had always been a reader, but this was the first time I had the chance for adult-like conversations with colleagues and patrons about books. And what great friends I made while working there. A wonderful woman named Mick (short for Margaret) eventually replaced the head librarian who hired me and children’s programs were taken over by a kind, creative, bubbly woman named Georgia Jones who for some reason always made me think of a young Connie Francis. We had so much fun it was astounding. Probably the best work mates I have ever had. With the books, the gossip, and the giggling, I didn’t mind that I was only making $3.25 an hour. Unfortunately my career at the Elk River Public Library was cut two months short. Needing to make more money the summer before I went off to college I ended up working at a Sanford and Sons, a potato farm in nearby Big Lake where I would make a whopping $3.75 an hour and get many more hours than my 20 hours a week at the library. Needless to say, working at the potato farm was not as fulfilling as working at the library.

Oh, the Libraries I Have Known

The place where it all started: The old “new” Elk River Public Library. They have since closed this library and opened a bigger one out on the highway in a location that no 7-year old is going to be able to walk to.

And who couldn’t like the library system at the University of Minnesota where I went to college. With almost 7 million volumes in 14 collections, it is a treasure trove I still miss.

The Holborn Library, not a fantastic library but it was my local back when I worked in London in 1992.

An old Carnegie Library, the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu was a great place to hang out during my two years in graduate school at the University of Hawaii. This was the place where I would head for pleasure reading as soon as the semester was over and the place where I first met Willa Cather, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Leo Tolstoy and many others. A real time of discovery in my mid-20s.

The libraries at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were of course wonderful but I didn’t spend as much time in them as you might think while I was in graduate school there. I was studying Regional Planning and much of the data we needed in our studies and research was available online by the time I was there in 2000. Still there were a few wonderful places to immerse myself in books.

And then the sad case of Washington, DC. I haven’t yet checked out the branch in my new neighborhood, but my experience with DC libraries has been less than gratifying. The main library is a Mies van der Rohe building that has seen better days and always feels more like a homeless shelter than a library. I think the majority of folks in this very highly educated part of the country must be buying all of their books.

Of course there is always the Library of Congress which is an unbelievable resource, but not one that one uses for anything other than serious research. Unfortunately, between the sad state of libraries here and the fact that I have been buying so many books in recent years, I don't go to the library very often these days.

(Photo Credit: David Iliff)

04 July 2010

A Month Ago...

The long Independence Day weekend is giving me time to catch up on a few things. These pictures were taken back in late May/early June when I was in California and Minnesota.

Sonoma County, California
We spent Memorial Day with friends who have a really beautiful weekend house in Sonoma. We had a great time and the weather was perfect. The second to the last one is me enjoying Widow Barnaby after a swim.

Under the flight path for MSP
Would you believe that this beautiful wetland was right next to our airport hotel in Minnesota. Despite the "closed" signs, my sister and I took a nice walk in the evening as an antidote to our dinner at the nearby Mall of America.