04 November 2012

Bits and Bobs (the get it all out in one post edition)

Winter Garden by Evelyn Dunbar
copyright: Tate/PCF

Last night when I took Lucy out for her final constitutional of the day, I was struck with what a beautiful night it was. Plenty chilly, but the wonderful crisp, late fall, almost winter kind of chilly. The air was perfectly still and smelled sweet with just a hint of woodsmoke somewhere. The bright, but no longer full moon, illuminated the wispy clouds across an otherwise clear sky. It was just magical. I let Lucy take extra time sniffing all the piles of leaves lined up along the sidewalks. So even though it sill looks more like autumn than winter, I felt that the winter scene above by Evelyn Dunbar was a perfect image for today.

Can't wait to place another Persephone order
I've enjoyed reading all of the blog posts recently about Persephone's 100th book. An enthusiastic Persephone poster in the past, I have found my blogging life a little overwhelmed by a research/writing project I am doing for work. The project is fascinating, but it does sap my strength a bit. (That last line sounded a bit like Elaine whose daily triumphs and trials I find rather Pepysian in their scope, and endlessly enjoyable.) Anyway, I was feeling a bit like I had missed my blogortunity to celebrate Persephone's milestone achievement. But then I finally got the most recent issue of The Persephone Biannually in the mail this week. (From which I purloined the Dunbar image.)

I own about 41 Persephones so far. There are at least another 20 I want to buy not including Nos. 99 and 100: Patience by John Coates, which is getting almost universal accolades across the blogosphere; and The Persephone Book of Short Stories. Not normally a huge fan of short stories, I have loved the collections that Persephone has published in the past and am dying to see what they have collected in this volume.

And speaking of Persephone, did you know that the creative, witty, ebullient, and nerdybookgirl Amanda over at Fig and Thistle is naming her third child Persephone? I wonder if the baby shower will forgo the obligatory pink for dove grey?

A troika / hat-trick / triptych of gifts (pick your metaphor)

Book the First: I mentioned earlier (I think) that I have been the recipient of book blogger generosity lately. First, the wonderful Sarah Faragher of the wonderful Sarah's Books in Bangor, Maine sent me a wonderful copy of The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac by Eugene Field. This summer, while book buying in Maine, I came across Field's book The House. When organizing her collection Sarah found an extra copy of the Bibliomaniac book in the same edition as The House remembered my blog-post about Field and was kind enough to send it to me.

The best secondhand bookstore in Maine.

Book the Second: Somewhere recently I must have complained about trying to find a decent copy of Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm. The version that I bought online turned out to be a truly horrible print to order version that I really hate. Pam, my favorite American ex-pat living in Tasmania, has a great blog called Travellin' Penguin, and had an extra copy of Zuleika laying around which is now making its way across the Pacific (unless it decided to fly the other direction).

Pam's pen of Penguins

Is this the one travellin' to me?

Book(s) the Third: Granite State author and blogger Margaret Evans Porter of Periodic Pearls thought of me while she read Andrew Hollinghurst's latest novel The Stranger's Child on the way home from one of her many (many, many) trips to the UK. She decided to send it on to me knowing that once I finish A Century of Books sometime next year, I would welcome the chance to read it. She also sent along a copy of Mapp and Lucia and, given my recent pilgrimage to Rye, an article about Lamb House. ("Books the Third" sounds like I have had a series of cats each of which I have named "Books." Often called Booksie, I am now on my third cat: Books III. Of course I don't own any cat, just Lucy Honeychurch, the cutest dog in the world. "Books" doesn't seem like a good name for a dog. "Booker," short for Booker T. Dog might work, but not Books.)

When we went to Lamb House in May we didn't get to see the above the ground floor because the rest of the house is let to a family who live up there. I thought it would be a great place to live, but I had no idea the quarters would be this nice.Now I really want to live there. I wonder when their lease is up? Thanks for sending this clipping Margaret.

The rest of the photo. How fantastic is the view of the church through the windown. Looks like a stage set.

Den Haag here we come (with a pile of books)
We are off soon to visit one of my best friends in the world. It just so happens that he and his fantastically witty husband live in The Hague. I know, who in their right mind visits the Netherlands in November? I have chosen five (yes five) books to take along with me. Three of them are mass market paperbacks that I won't mind leaving behind no matter how much I may end up liking them--a re-read of Queen Lucia, House of Stairs by William Sleator, and some Castle book by Elizabeth Goudge. The Sleator is a book I read in 6th grade. A bit science fictiony, I have been wondering for thirty-some years what the book is actually about. Now I will find out. The Goudge looks like it is going to be a DE Stevenson kind of romance. And the Benson should be a joy from cover to cover. I am also taking along The Golden Bowl. I have been a third of the way through this book for months and months now. Time to knock it out. And for some reason, I sometimes hanker for James when I travel. I may also take along the aforementioned awful edition of Zuleika Dobson.

A picture from October 2009, the last time we were in Den Haag. I am guessing this time will be considerably less leafy.

The joy of having an editor
When I met John 10 years ago, one of the first quips I remember him making was "everyone needs an editor." He wasn't thinking necessarily about writing either. He meant we could all use a life editor. Someone to tell us that a particular shirt needed to be sent to the Goodwill. Or someone who could gently suggest that our approach to, well, you name it, might need some tinkering for maximum efficacy.

Even though I count myself a decent writer, I am fully aware that I have more than a few writing ticks (or is it "tics"?) that might be adorable in a blog (or not), but not so adorable in a professional work product. Some of you may even vaguely recall when I published the My Porch Manual of Style (MPMS) back in September 2010. You probably remember it, because after setting rules for my blog, I have spent the last two years being entirely lazy and inconsistent in their usage.

So now I have this year-long research/writing project for work that is coming dangerously close to an end. After completing about four-fifths of the manuscript I realized that pain of death could not induce me to go back and copy edit the thing. Then I thought of Teresa at Shelf Love. I have always admired the way she writes and I know that she makes a living as an editor. Would she perhaps do a little freelance work? Would she take on my typed ramblings? Thankfully, yes and yes. And what a joy it was to get back my marked up draft. Teresa preferred to mark her edits electronically in Word, so incorporating her excellent suggestions was as easy as a click of the mouse. Having an editor is amazing.

(It wasn't until I linked just now to my previous post about the My Porch Manual of Style, that I realized I had actually mentioned Teresa as my inspiration for that post. It certainly seems like it was meant to be.)

Evelyn Dunbar
In searching for a digital image of the Dunbar painting that I posted above, I came across a great blog all about her wonderful paintings. Even more fascinating is Christopher, the writer of that blog. A native of Scotland, Chrisopher lives in Languedoc, France where he writes, composes, conducts a "multi-national chamber choir," and builds drystone walls. How fabulous does that sound. I hope my retirement is that interesting.

Gratuitous garden pictures
John took these garden photos the day before Hurricane Sandy arrived in town. The winds were not as strong as were expected so we came through unscathed.


  1. Thomas, thank you so much for your kind words. (I've been meaning to reply to your last e-mail for ages, but life got away from me.) It was a pleasure to work on the project, and I'm so glad my work was helpful!

    I just got my biannually this week too and have been drooling over the new offerings, as well as some old ones that I've been wanting. I'm right now reading Miss Buncle Married (not a Persephone edition alas) and enjoying it. With every Persephone I read, my admiration for their work increases. They make such excellent choices!

  2. This was a perfect post for Sunday morning reading. I'm off to look at some of the links you've included now.

  3. Glad you enjoyed the article, and that the Hollinghurst plus Mapp & Lucia found their way to a worthy home.

    The Netherlands (and Belgium) in November are quite nice. We were there at this time of year a few years back. Except for one terrible storm on our Binnenhof day and another we met driving back from the magnificent Palais Het Loo) the weather was crisp, but perfectly bright.

  4. Yes, Thomas. More grey and less pink. I'm cool with some of the traditional looking pink stuff. In fact I found a bunch of "baby Barbara Pym" looking cardigans at the thrift store the other day. Most baby girl clothes are horrid. Hot pink, zebra striped, tutu-puking monstrosities with horrible sayings bedazzled on ("diva baby," "high maintenance," "spoiled by daddy"). Ugh.

    Persephone Jane was almost named Persephone Grey (for the books and for Jane Grey). I was smart and googled the name and apparently there is a "fan fiction" writer named Persephone Grey and this person writes badly, often, and scandalously. So Persephone Jane it is.

    BTW -- do you know if Persephone week is happening at some point again. I cannot remember who planned that the last time.

  5. As another who reads CMOS for pleasure as well as for work I'm delighted that you found having an editor such a rewarding experience!

    I do hope you will enjoy Goudge's Castle on the Hill - it is set very near where my parents live (think soft green hills and valleys and red earth) and I think it's a lovely book. Very gentle.

  6. Hi Thomas, so glad the Eugene Field book has found a home with you, from one bibliomaniac to another. Speaking of which, LOVE that photo of the Penguin editions, holy mackerel, that makes me want to start a collection of my own. Must... resist...

  7. Thomas, in the second to the last garden photo is a lovely red blooming plant. Do you know what it is? Thanks.

  8. Garden pictures are never gratuitous AND thanks for pointing me to the Travellin' Penguin. I love Tasmania, and reading about an expat American there is too good to resist.

  9. Teresa: I can't wait to finish my Century of Books so I can read some more Persephones.

    CB: I am glad you liked it.

    Margaret: So far the weather is perfectly pleasing. I don't mind grey and cold and thankfully the rain has stayed away.

    Amanda: I haven't seen anything for Persephone Week or Persephone Secret Santa. I think that whoever mentions it ends up having to host it, so I haven't made inquiries. Maybe next year I will host something.

    Geranium Cat: I like reading CMOS, I just never manage to be consistent about anything.

    Sarah: Aren't those Penguin's cool. I think Pam limits herself to first printings of the original 3,000 (or so).

    Barbara: John tells me it is an Abutilon, but he isn't certain of the cultivar. Could be 'Fairy Coral Red', but not entirely sure.

    Whispering Gums: Always nice to link up bloggers.

  10. I'm sorry, I've only today come across this treasure house of a blog, one of the few you can just curl up in and enjoy. Thank you for your kind words about Evelyn Dunbar. I hope you continue to enjoy it!


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