30 January 2011

I forgot I owned this Virago

[On this final day of Virago Reading Week I have not just one VRW post, but three. Here is the third and final for the day. Scroll down to see the others.]

Earlier this week I posted a picture of all the Viragos that I owned that I wouldn't be reading during Virago Reading Week. Absent from that photo was this book by Barbara Comyns. It was on my shelves where I keep all my other TBR books that aren't in my nightstand and which aren't part of some other collection in my library (e.g., Persephone, VMC, etc.). So I was somewhat surprised when I noticed it today. Especially since Barbara Comyns has gotten a fair amount of notice among book bloggers lately, and this book in particular was the subject of one of Simon's posts this week.

I am in love with the cover, and based on all the Internet buzz, I really want to read it today. Alas, I can't. I will have to wait until after April 1st.

Oh, danger, I just read the opening line and really, really want to read it today. Must. Be. Firm.
A few weeks after my tenth birthday I was sent to stay with some very horsy relations in Leicestershire.

Book Review: Love by Elizabeth von Arnim


Thankfully for both Virago Reading Week and the TBR Dare, I actually had two Virago's in my nightstand so I could participate in the former and stay true to the latter. I had a wonderful volume of Edith Sitwell letters and Love by Elizabeth von Arnim. I didn't get to the Sitwell, but I did read this fascinating von Arnim.

[Aside: Somewhere outside my window right now there is a bird trilling away. Not sure what kind but it is making me really happy.]

The only other von Arnim book I have read is the wonderful The Enchanted April. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this one. Even after reading it, I am not sure what I think. I certainly enjoyed it, but have so many conflicting feelings about the story itself. The big theme of the book is the gender double standard when it comes to May-September relationships. A younger woman married to a much older man is acceptable, but the reverse, a younger man married to a much older woman, seems just short of a tragedy. Perhaps in the days of Demi and Ashton and the rise of Cougars, this isn't so much the case today. But in 1925 it was certainly true. What makes the double standard even more glaring from this period (and earlier) is that the chronological gap in the ages of the young female and the older male is not just a matter of 10 or so years but more like 20 or 30. Can you imagine being married to someone 30 years your senior -- or junior for that matter? At my age I would have to wait another seven years to find a partner since someone 30 years younger than me wouldn't even come of legal age until 2018. Yikes. And what on earth would I ever have in common with this person? 

But I am getting a little ahead of myself. Forty-seven year old Catherine is assiduously courted (today we would say stalked) by 25-year-old Christopher. After doing her best to throw cold water on the situation Catherine finally gives in to the love and interest Christopher shows her and they end up marrying. Yes, he makes her feel young, but more than that she is starved for love and affection. The lack of which in her life isn't apparent to her until she goes to stay with daughter and son-in-law and is made to feel like an unwanted third wheel. 

But here it gets complicated. Catherine's much much older, now dead husband left her comfortable but somewhat poor so that in the event of his death a fortune seeker wouldn't marry Catherine for all the wrong reasons. Instead he leaves his money to his daughter. Of course her husband controlling her life from beyond the grave is maddening enough. But the fact that her daughter has married a rather unpleasant vicar thirty years her senior and they now inhabit the house that was once hers adds insult to injury. Catherine never minds it as much as I did. The gall of a 49-year-old man, to marry a 19-year old who he has known since she was FIVE I find utterly repugnant. The 19-year-old Virginia may love the predator Stephen and be happy in the relationship but no one will convince me that it isn't anything more than the Stockholm syndrome. The man was an active part of her life since she was young child and then he, and the other adults surrounding her think it acceptable for him to go in for the kill. It is disgusting. No 19-year old knows her self (or his self) well enough to enter into such a lopsided arrangement. But even here I digress, the issue in this book is not the age spread so much as it is the double standard.

Long story short, Catherine and Christopher get married. Despite loving each other very much, she looks and feels her age and it starts to bother him when an emotional crisis leads Catherine to forgo her expensive hair and make-up regimen that helps keep her looking younger. And the fool Christopher is repulsed by it.  Even during their courtship, Christopher often commented on how "tired" Catherine looked whenever he would see her in daylight. Well duh. Although the book ends on a hopeful, but ambiguous, note, I have a hard time seeing good days ahead for these two. There were so many wonderful moments in this book, some touching, some enlightening, and some humorous. But the facts of the story itself I find tragic.

I can't wait to read more by von Arnim. Her writing and her stories are fascinating.

Sunday Painting: Moment Musicale by Charles Frederic Ulrich

This could be a vintage Virago cover.

Moment Musicale, 1883
Charles Frederic Ulrich 1858-1908
de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

In honor of the last day of Virago Reading Week, I thought I would choose a painting this week that looks like it could be a vintage Virago cover. I think this one fills the bill quite nicely. I don't think Virago ever has (or will) publish any E. M. Forster titles, but the image image also reminds me of the scene in Forster's A Room With A View where Lucy Honeychurch is playing piano in the Pension Bertolini in Florence.
It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or a slave.
And of course the Reverend Mr. Beebe's assessment of her playing:
If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting -- both for us and for her.
I feel a re-read of this book coming on. But given my TBR Dare, I can't until after April 1st. Then again I could watch the film for the 400th time.

28 January 2011

Another Virago Giveway. This one requires much less effort.


I must have figured this out when I arranged the books on the shelves, but it wasn't until I posted this picture earlier this week that I remembered that I have two copies of The Lost Traveller by Antonia White. I believe it is the third of a trilogy, but not having read them yet, I can't say whether one should read the other two first.

In any case, it will be available to one lucky reader by random drawing. Just leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Sunday, January 30, 2010 to be eligible. Will ship anywhere.


An interruption in Virago Reading Week cuts both ways

Until 1:30 this morning, we were without power for 31 hours. Thanks to about six inches of very wet and heavy snow, our neighborhood was again in the dark, and cold. It was a chilly 52 degrees F (11C) in our house last night when we went to bed. Needless to say, we were without the Internet for that same period which eliminated my ability to keep up with VRW online. But it did give me plenty of time to finish a Virago Modern Classic yesterday. All things considered, I would have preferred not to lose power.

The other thing that made it difficult is that we weren't prepared for a storm and so both of our work Blackberries and my personal mobile were almost out of battery charge. And since we have cordless phones that require electricity to operate we felt really cut off. Then about 20 hours into the outage I remembered that we have a hardwired phone in the basement. So at least we had the comfort of being able to communicate with the outside world.

Besides having time to read--at least as long as it was daylight--we also got lots of time to snuggle with Lucy.

Last night to get out of the cold we went to see a movie. When we got to the theater the only thing playing that we thought would be tolerable was a film called No Strings with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman (I think that's who it was.) We were wrong, it wasn't tolerable. It was awful. This is the kind of movie that convinces me that Hollywood should no longer make movies. Full of all kinds of inappropriate messages.

And I am so sick of Hollywood pandering to the straight man's desire to see two women kiss/have sex. Which brings me back to the wonderful world of Virago Modern Classics. A world where if the women are kissing or having sex with each other, it is because they are Lesbians or at least are doing it for their own enjoyment, not for the prurient interests of salivating straight men.

Thankfully I am connected again and can continue reading all the other great VRW posts around the Intertubes.

26 January 2011

Here are the Viragos I won't be reading this week

Day three of Virago Reading Week has me lamenting the Viragos I won't be reading this week. Since I am determined to stick to the TBR dare until April 1st, I can only read the books that are currently in my nightstand.

So here are the books I won't be reading this week. For those of you looking crosseyed at those black spines, I understand that there was a time when Viragos were published in the US by The Dial Press with these black liveries but otherwise looking like Viragos. Keen eyes might also note that some of those green Viragos have penguins on them. At another time, Penguin published Viragos in the US.  Virago experts: if I have any of this wrong, please let me know.

Some of you may remember this post where I talked about finding all these Viragos for cheap at an otherwise pricey second hand bookshop here in DC.

25 January 2011

A Virago Reading Week Giveaway

In honor of day two of Virago Reading Week, I have decided to hold a giveaway. But this is no simple giveaway, this one requires a bit of work on your part.  I will buy any VMC book currently in print for the person who can identify the Virago book cover art on the VRW banner/button I created.

Here are the rules.

1. The person with the most correct titles wins. Ties will be decided by random drawing.

2. I am looking for the title of the Virago book that had these paintings on their covers. Remember I am looking for the book title, not the title of the work of art.

3. Since I don't want any of you giving away the answers in your comments, you must EMAIL your guesses to me at:   onmyporch [at] hotmail [dot] com

4. Guesses must be submitted no later than midnight U.S. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, January 30, 2011.

5. Once declared, the winner will have one week to choose a Virago currently in print they want me to send. I will ship anywhere in the world, the south side of the moon, and select postal codes on Mars.

UPDATE: Out of the blue, and totally unsolicited, Little Brown and Company (UK), the parent company of Virago, have offered to fulfill the prize for this giveaway on my behalf. So cheers to the generous folks at Virago!

24 January 2011

All Passion Spent: My First Virago Modern Classic

Riding the Tube with Vita Sackville-West.

Today is the first day of Virago reading week being hosted by Rachel and Carolyn. It seems appropriate to kick-off my participation by writing about the first Virago I ever read.

In 1992 I lived within walking distance of Charing Cross Road and the myriad bookshops on, and adjacent to, that famed stretch of book lovers' London. I was certainly bookish back then, but two things conspired to keep me out of those shops. The first was that I had no money to buy books. I made just over 500 pounds a month and most of that went to housing, food, and transport. What little money I had left over I would use to buy tickets for concerts at the South Bank Centre and a season ticket to the Proms. The second was that I was 21 years old and living in a hostel with 27 other people my age. Who had time to spend in bookshops when there were all those hormones flying around?  That doesn't mean I never went into them. Just not as often as I would today if given the same proximity.

One day while combing through the cheapish paperbacks in the basement of the old Quinto Bookshop I came across All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West in a Virago Modern Classics edition. I don't remember why I chose it, but I do remember very vividly reading it. There is a scene in the book where the protagonist, Lady Slane is making her way to Hampstead on the Northern Line of the Underground. The narrative intersperses her progress on the Tube with her thought process. Paragraphs of text are separated by indications of which stop the train is passing through as she thinks each thought. The reason I remember this so clearly is because as I read it, I was also on the Northern Line--passing through the very same stations the fictional Lady Slane had passed through 70 years earlier (Tottenham Court Road, Goodge Street, Warren Street, etc.).

The novel is the quiet, lovely, somewhat joyful and melancholy story of Lady Slane being independent--emancipated by the death of her husband--at the ripe age of 88. I thoroughly enjoyed reading All Passion Spent. It was a type of novel that I hadn't really encountered before. And the back cover of the green banded Virago edition suggested that there were legions of similar works by women authors just waiting for me. Over the years I picked them up here and there, but it wasn't until into my 30s that I really began to appreciate the niche that Virago filled. I am no expert on Virago, but it seemed like there was a time when they focused on out of print, hard to find works. But today it seems they even publish the likes of Margaret Atwood. So that niche, if indeed it ever was exclusively their focus, seems not to be as tightly focused as I originally thought.

Since Viragos, especially newer editions, aren't really sold new in the US, I am unlikely to become a devotee of their newer offerings. I am happy to maintain, however, my interest in their older titles. This probably explains why I remain equally devoted to their older cover designs, but more on that later in the week.

Interesting to note that the first version of the now iconic diagrammatic map of the London Underground was created by Harry Beck in 1931, the same year All Passion Spent was published. This means that Lady Slane would have been looking at a map quite different from the one I looked at in 1992. 

A rather pretty Underground map from 1920. While maps as early as 1908 simplified or removed geography
to make the maps easier to read. Still, this pocket map by MacDonald Gill aims to depict some
of the geography in terms of the location of stations in relation to other stations. The use of cursive
lettering was unusual for the Underground which had been using the iconic Johnston sans serif typeface since 1916.

This 1925 map by Fred Stingmore is even less geographically correct to make the map
easier to read. The use of the more common Johnston typeface also improves clarity.
This is probably the map that Lady Slane would have consulted in 1931.

First sketched out in 1931, Harry Beck's highly diagrammatic version of the Underground map system
is depicted here in a 1933 foldout map. What little evidence there is of geography, basically just
adherence to north/south/east/west and the Thames is highly stylized to maximize legibility.
This is the map that not only set the standard for the Underground to the present, it also prompted
hundreds of less than perfect adaptations in other cities as well as frequent references in popular culture.

23 January 2011

War of the book buttons

Tomorrow begins Virago Reading Week, but I am also in the midst of the TBR dare where I can only read from the TBR pile in my nightstand until April 1st.

How will this bookish face off end? Which of these book buttons will be victorious? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The buttons aren't really fighting. I was just trying to be cute. The fight is between the lure of Virago Reading Week and the need to stay true to the TBR dare.

(By the way, I couldn't find a button for VRW, so I made my own. Feel free to use if you are participating.)


Dogs In Motion

If you don't like looking at endless pictures of other people's dogs, you may want to scroll on down to something more bookish.

If, on the other hand, you can't get enough of canine cuteness, look no further. We took the camera along to the dog park yesterday and Lucy had a ball.

Saying hello.

Gettin' it goin'

Full flight

Home stretch

Coming in for a landing

Contemplating whether or not to say hello to this friend

21 January 2011

Cover Fail

Many of you are already fans of Caustic Cover Critic. But this latest post about really bad e-book covers for public domain lit is hilarious and maddening. Here is just one to whet your appetite.

Book Review: The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James

It isn't often (ever?) that I post bad book reviews. Well, that isn't true, many of my book reviews are bad...but it isn't often I post a review of a bad book. (ha) And I might be overstating the case to say that The Spoils of Poynton is a bad book. No doubt it is chock full of redeeming value that I am too dense, or was too bored and confused to understand.

The gist of the story is that mother doesn't like son's choice of fiancee. Mom is afraid the vulgar young thing won't properly venerate the art and collectibles that she (the mom) has spent her adult life collecting. Mom steals everything and puts it in her dowager house. Mom enlists young woman of limited means to help split them up. Young woman is too principled to do so despite falling in love with son who also seems to fall in love with her. Son ends up marrying fiancee who he now seems to hate, once mom returns all items. House full of returned treasure burns to the ground.

I assume that somewhere in this tale about a worshipful, singular, fixation on material goods there is a moral, but Henry James' use of language is so convoluted at times that I was never more than 80% sure I knew what was going on. There were times while reading this when I felt like reading Shakespeare would have been less taxing and far more rewarding.

Still, I give it a 5 (out of 10) on my rating scale which equals "ambivalent" because there was some pleasure in the formal Victorian details. I plan to read more Henry James. He wrote too much to ignore. And I didn't hate Washington Square or Portrait of a Lady.

I bought this book for the Penguin cover. And it was only 50 cents.

19 January 2011

Book Review: The Glass Room by Simon Mawer


This is one of those books I was kind of avoiding because it seemed like everyone was reading and reviewing it. I know that is a dumb reason to avoid a reading a book, but I also know I am not the only person who gets caught in that psychological trap. Fortunately, I found a cheap remaindered copy The Glass Room when I visited Daedalus Books this past summer with Frances of Nonsuch Books and Teresa of Shelf Love. Once the book was in the house it seemed like I was one step closer to getting over my aversion to popular books, at least in this instance. I had picked it up a few times since I bought it and thought I might be in the mood to start it, but it wasn't until I focused in on the TBR pile in my nightstand that it really started to bubble to the surface. And I am so happy that it did.

It is easy to see why The Glass Room was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Despite a typo or two (see here), it is a marvelous novel that is hard to put down. At its essence it is a World War II story focusing on the lives of a group of people in Czechoslovakia. What makes the novel unique is that its organizing structure really is an organizing structure. When Viktor and Liesel Landauer are on their honeymoon in Venice they meet Rainer von Abt, a German modernist architect, whose design philosophy is right in line with the couple's desire to live in a house that looks to the future rather than the past. The result is a stunningly modern architectural gem which acts as far more than a piece of the backdrop for the events of the novel. The clean lines and pure spaces of the house not only provide a multifaceted and apt metaphor for many of the themes of the book, but the house also often plays a catalytic role in the lives of the people who live and work in it.

And the lives of the people that Mawer creates are interesting and joyous and tragic. He shows the many ways people learn to survive not only politics, war, and dislocation, but also how we survive personal upheaval and adversity. None of Mawer's main characters are paragons of virtue but they are all likable and so believably human.

I am often fascinated, perhaps morbidly so sometimes, by the fact that human lives are so fleeting and ephemeral. That regardless of the importance of any given thing, or feeling or event in our lives, they are but  momentary blips on the map. They only matter to a relatively small circle of people and even then for only a brief period of time. The memory of the feeling or event event fading into oblivion faster than most of would care to admit. It is just a matter of decades before the Landauer House, so important to those who imagined it, built it, and lived in it, loses its original use and meaning and its history is defined and redefined by those who don't necessarily have the knowledge, or the right, to do so.

The life of the house before, during, and after the Landauers illustrates wonderfully the ways in which buildings change use and sometimes form over time. Think of seminaries that became grand houses, that became wartime hospitals, that became prep schools, that became something else. Sometimes those new uses suit the building and other times the fit is less than ideal.

I liked this book a lot on many different levels. Certainly not a perfect novel, but one that gives the reader a lot to think about and discuss. This really is a perfect book club book.

A few other reviews:

I know that I saw many other reviews out there in the blogosphere but I am having a hard time finding them now. For those of you who review lots of books you should go over to FyreFly's Book Blog and register your blog for the Book Blogs Search Engine.  That way I can find your reviews more easily in the future.

16 January 2011

Book Review: Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Before I read Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White I would probably never have picked up this book even though it was only a dollar at Book for America. Then again I would have never picked up The Woman in White either. Most times I have very strong feelings about the kind of books that I think I like. This usually works in my favor as I end up not wasting time on books that I really don't enjoy. But occasionally I am persuaded that I really should give a particular book or author a chance. It has happened over the years with books like A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving), The Andromeda Strain (Crichton), Deliverance (Dickey), and thanks to the evangelism of Simon at Savidge Reads, The Woman in White. In all of these cases, I managed to drop my tendency toward obstinacy just long enough to discover some really great reads.

Like The Woman in White, Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret is a sensation novel where the normal strictures of Victorian social mores are used to frame a plot full of scandalous, sensational, comings and goings. Imagine all the proper, detailed trappings of a Trollope, but replace a purloined cheque with a bigamous, murderous, lying, mad woman and you start to get the drift of Lady Audley.

Because there is so much detailed plot in  most sensation novels it is somewhat useless to try and convey the plot in a review. One could probably outline these plots very easily, filling up a page with a bulleted list of succinct plot points but that would remove all the fun of letters, messengers, and secret compartments; to-ing and fro-ing from town to town, train station to station; and of course interviewing all manner of characters who hold some little piece of a massive, mysterious, puzzle.

Lady Audley's Secret is the kind of mystery where you know pretty early on the truth behind the mystery--at least at a broad level. But you read along wondering by what means it is all going to unravel and be revealed. And many little surprises pop up along the way that keep you on your toes.

My third Sensation novel, I would put Lady Audley's Secret behind The Woman in White, but ahead of Collins' The Dead Secret.

13 January 2011

Is it just me, or is this bad grammar?

I am currently reading a fantastic, and often reviewed, Booker Prize shortlisted novel. But I came across this whopper of a sentence.
"The Germans themselves doesn't know either."
Am I crazy? I know I am no expert in grammar, but I am pretty sure this is wrong.

Two Non-Reviews

When I first started doing my own book "reviews" on My Porch the intention was simply to put something down in writing so I would remember what I read. I got tired of coming across titles on my list of books read that left me scratching my head trying to remember what in the world they were about. So over the last couple of years I have reviewed pretty much every book that I have finished. I have no set formula for the reviews and many don't even include plot summaries. Some are insightful, but most are fairly superficial descriptions of my experience with a particular book. Hopefully enough to jog my memory years down the road when I am trying to remember a particular book, but beyond that I don't really have any aspirations for these musings.

You would think with such a loose review format that I wouldn't care too much about what I reviewed and what I didn't review. But my obsessive tendencies make it difficult for me to not review every book I finish. However, sometimes I just can't pull my brain together enough to come close to anything that would pass for a review.

And so it is this week. I have two books to review that I really enjoyed: Lafcadio's Adventures by Andre Gide and Isabel's Bed by Elinor Lipman, but I just don't feel like writing about them.

Book Review Isabel's Bed by Elinor Lipman


Regular readers will know that I love Elinor Lipman. The Inn at Lake Devine is one of my favorite books. And then there are couple other novels of hers that I really enjoyed, and few I found just okay. Isabel's Bed falls short of being a favorite and kind of falls kind of at the bottom of those that I really enjoyed. Interesting and fun and full of twists, it just wasn't as clever as My Latest Grievance or Ladie's Man. But when comparing Elinor Lipman to Elinor Lipman she can't lose right.

Struggling writer Harriet Mahoney is dropped by her boyfriend of 12 years. You know the type, won't commit but finds himself married just months after he breaks up with you. She goes off to live on Cape Cod to be a ghost writer for Isabel who was in bed with her older, rich lover when his jealous, crazed wife shoots and kills him. Intelligent chicklit with enough 1990s detail to make you want to put on stirrup pants and an over sized sweater and then cinch it.

Book Review: Lafcadio's Adventures by Andre Gide


I think my reluctance to review this one stems from the fact that I don't know enough about Gide, and I don't remember enough about the other novels of his that I have read (and liked) to say anything meaningful. Back in the mists of time I used to get Andre Gide and Jean Genet mixed up. Both Frenchy homos with last names that begin with G. And now I learn, both apparently interested in motiveless crimes. (Although I think Genet falls more into the "isn't being a criminal profound and fun and sexy" camp.)

The title, Lafcadio's Adventures, is a bit misleading. Lafcadio does indeed have adventures but so do all the other characters. And they all seem to get equal time as well. One cranky old atheist converts after the virgin Mary comes to him in a dream and cures him of his rheumatoid arthritis only to have him unconvert later when his RA comes back. Another character is the lead in a con game to convince rich Catholics to hand over large sums of money to rescue the pope who is supposedly being held captive while a Freemason impostor pope sits in his place. And then there is the 47-year old virgin who goes off to Rome to try and help free the real pope. In Rome he loses his virginity and on a train between Rome and Naples loses his life. And then of course there is Lafcadio, a poor, 16-year old bastard who becomes unexpectedly wealthy when his real father kicks the bucket. No longer having to struggle to survive, it seems that boredom or curiosity leads him to commit a purely opportunistic and motiveless crime. He pushes the previously mentioned 47-year old no longer virgin character off the train.

If you read other reviews of this work you will understand how woefully I describe it. You will also note that I don't begin to scratch the surface of the themes that run through the novel. I did have some deeper reactions to the book that I might have gone into if I weren't so incapable of finding the energy to produce anything more than what you see here.

I quite enjoyed the writing and the setting and Gide's ability to spin a bunch of great stories. If you want something a little historical, a little quirky, and rather dark with some humor, this might be one to look into.

09 January 2011

Reading Against the Clock

You can read merely to pass the time, or you can read with an overt urgency, but eventually you will read against the clock.

 - Harold Bloom, How to Read, and Why (2000)
So reads the final entry in a fantastic new book I got from Simon, my Persephone Secret Santa. The book, Buried in Print by Julie Rugg is a collection of "literary extracts, quotations and bon mots concerning every aspect of bookish behavior." It is the perfect volume for bibliophiles to dip into when a spare moment pops up. One is tempted to keep it in the littlest room in the house, but I have too much respect for books to do that.
And it is fitting that I should stumble across this particular quote given my recent fascination with what I might choose to read as I sat waiting for the world to end. Those of you who who did not assiduously read my review of The Hopkins Manuscript may have missed that discussion. (If you were sitting down to your final night on earth, you had said goodbye to everyone, you knew the earth was ending, which book would you pick up to read?)

And of course, for so many of us book bloggers, so much of what we do in some way has to do with reading against the clock. We join challenges, read-a-thons, read-alongs. We create lists of things to finish. We count the number of books we read in a certain time period. We join in reading weeks (e.g., Persephone, NYRB, Virago). We always seem to have our eye on the clock and we never seem to have enough time to read.

I would be remiss in not noting the actual Persephone that young Simon, dressed as Father Christmas and acting in the guise of my Persephone Secret Santa gave me: The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow by Mrs Oliphant. I almost bought this one when I was in London in November so I was glad to get it. And also glad to have a shorter novel of Mrs Oliphant. I have been somewhat daunted by a very thick volume of hers, the title of which escapes me at the moment. And finally happy that I had both the Mrs Oliphant and Buried in Books in my nightstand so they fall within the TBR dare between now and April 1st. (See another time related reading goal!)

Thanks Simon. Your guided tour of Washington DC awaits.

Sunday Painting: Alameda Gran Torino by Robert Bechtle

Alameda Gran Torino (1974)
Robert Bechtle, b 1932
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art