28 December 2012

A party bus I can believe in

Probably not surprising to any of you, but I am not really the type to rent a party bus. Riding around town going from bar to bar getting drunker and drunker as the night progresses doesn't really appeal. Although, now that I have written that, I must say that I would actually rent one in Napa and Sonoma so I could spend a day wine tasting without getting a DUI citation. (But, I wouldn't need one with a stripper pole.)

And then I saw this party bus in a recent issue of Vanity Fair. Not exactly the same concept--a much better one. How about we plan blogger meet up next summer on the grounds of Blenheim? Actually, I would rather have dinner inside Blenheim so scratch that part. Where should we park it for our party? I think it seats about 22 for dinner. Whom should we invite?

26 December 2012

Bits and Bobs (the year-end edition)

This has nothing to do with this post. I was combing through old images
on My Porch looking for something compelling to grab your attention.
Nothing came close to this picture I first posted in October 2007.
Top ten books of 2012
Every year around this time I do what every good book blogger does. I compile list of my top ten (eleven, twelve) books of the year. But as I scroll through the list of books I read in 2012, I have a hard time mustering the energy to make a list this year. I did read some good books, especially of the Persephone and Virago type, but overall the year didn't yield much in the way of books I feel like raving about. And those that I did like seem so long ago, I feel like I read them in another year. So, no top ten this year.

You know what, the paragraph above is all hogwash. I did read some really good books this year, Pym, Whipple, Shute, Sarton, Stevenson, I loved The Ladies of Lyndon, I thought Midnight's Children was well worth the effort, I reread two wonderful Brookners and one of my favorite books of all time, 84, Charing Cross Road.

It seems that my unwillingness to make a top ten list this year is not lack of inspiration, but lack of will to make the effort to write something.

Reading recap
I think I may still finish one or two more books this year, but overall it was a rather slow reading year for me. It looks like I will only have eked out sixty-one books. Many things played a role in this rather lacklustre showing but I think the biggest reason was the nature of my job over the last twelve months. It was very research and writing oriented. Didn't leave me as much brain space for reading and even less for blogging. The good news is I have a new attitude toward books that I feel that I must read. If I don't like them, I am going to kick them to the curb and not feel bad for doing so. Among other things, no more Conrad for me.

A Century of Books update
I continue to inch along to finishing one book from each year of the 20th century. I have had all kinds of strategies about how I wanted to approach the challenge. In the end though, I decided I needed to lighten it up and that I would need more than finish it. So far I have finished about fifty-four. My stretch goal is to finish the remaining 46 by the end of the TBR Double Dog Dare. I could do it if I really apply myself, but more likely I will finish by the end of 2013.

You can see my progress below on my ever changing reading list.  One thing that surprises me is that I have yet to finish any decade. I almost have the 1980s done with only 1989 left to go. It also surprises me that I have read so many from the 1980s already. I would have assumed I would have finished the 1930s or 1940s instead.

 I have them all lined up on my mantel in chron order so I can see the pile slowly shrinking. I've read the ones in red.

1900 - Claudine at School by Collette
1901 - Claudine in Paris by Collette
1902 - The Immoralist by Andre Gide
1903 - The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
1904 - Peter Camenzind by Herman Hesse
1905 - The Duel by Aleksandr Kuprin
1906 - Young Torless by Robert Musil
1907 - The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1908 - Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson
1909 - Martin Eden by Jack London
1910 - Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett
1911 - Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (ML 100)
1912 - The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens
1913 - T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1914 - Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 - The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
1916 - Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
1917 - Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
1918 - Patricia Brent - Spinster by Herbert George Jenkins
1919 - Consequences by E.M. Delafield
1920 - Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
1921 - Dangerous Ages by Rose Macauley
1922 - The Judge by Rebecca West
1923 - The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
1924 - Some Do Not by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1925 - Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
1926 - Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
1927 - Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards
1928 - Quartet by Jean Rhys
1929 - The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1930 - Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestly or The Deepening Stream by Dorothy Canfield
1931 - The Square Circle by Denis Mackail
1932 - Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1933 - Frost in May by Antonia White or Ordinary Familes by E. Arnot Robertson
1934 - The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1935 - A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1936 - Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner or Eyeless in Gaza  by Huxley
1937 - Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
1938 - Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
1939 - Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
1940 - Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1941 - The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
1942 - Clark Clifford's Body by Kenneth Fearing
1943 - Gideon Planish by Sinclair Lewis
1944 - Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp
1945 - The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
1946 - Every Good Deed by Dorothy Whipple
1947 - Not Now, but Now by MFK Fisher
1948 - The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
1949 - Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
1950 - Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
1951 - A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
1952 - The Far Country by Nevil Shute
1953 - Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
1954 - Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
1955 - The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
1956 - The Flight From the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
1957 - Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
1958 - A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
1959 - The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
1960 - The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
1961 - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML100)
1962 - A Clockwork Orange by A. Burgess (ML 100)
1963 - The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy
1964 - The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
1965 - Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
1966 - The House on the Cliff by DE Stevenson
1967 - My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof by Penelope Mortimer
1968 - Sarah's Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
1969 - The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble
1970 - 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
1971 - A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis or My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber
1972 - Augustus by John Williams
1973 - After Claude by Iris Owens
1974 - House of Stairs by William Sleator
1975 - Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Crucial Conversations by May Sarton
1976 - The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 - Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
1978 - The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym
1979 - The Safety Net by Heinrich Boll
1980 - The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
1981 - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (ML100)
1982 - Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
1983 - Look at Me by Anita Brookner
1984 - Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985 - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson  
1986 - Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
1987 - Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher
1988 - The Temple by Stephen Spender
1989 - Passing On by Penelope Lively or Summer People by Marge Piercy
1990 - Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
1991 - The Translator by Ward Just
1992 - Arcadia by Jim Crace
1993 - While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
1994 - The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy
1995 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
1996 - Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood  
1997 - Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
1998 - The Book of Lies by Felice Picano
1999 - Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Books and dogs

The cartoon on the cover of A Book Addict's Treasury by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy, while cute in its own right, is merely an excuse for a new batch of gratuitous Lucy photos.

24 December 2012

Christmas in Washington

We haven't had any snow yet this year but this image was too good to pass up. It shows First Dog Bo Obama frolicking in front of the White House. I know the card is sent to contributors by the Democratic National Committee--it is not like I am a personal friend of the Obamas-- but I was still delighted to get it.

Merry Christmas from My Porch.

23 December 2012

The danger of selling other people's books

Recently I was in Austin, Texas helping my brother-in-law get ready for an upcoming move. One of the things we did was sort through his books and figure out what would be kept and what would be sold. I offered to make the trip to Half Price Books to sell the box of culled books. Once there, the clerk told me it would take about fifteen minutes to assess how much they would give me for the books. Unfortunately, the buying counter was quite close to the "Books on Books" section. At first I thought I would just browse. Then one title ended up in my hand and then another. But wait, I didn't have room in my luggage take anything back to DC. I soon found myself, however, up at the information desk asking if they shipped books. Next thing I knew I had a rather heavy basket in my hand filled to the brim with books.

When all was said and done, my brother-in-law got $26.50 for his books and I ended up spending $152.00. I too, have been culling my books lately, so what in the world was I doing buying books? Having fun? Feeding an obsession? Feeding my soul? Yes, yes, and yes.

Among the treasures: Two Anita Brookner hardcovers (one not pictured--now I only am misisng one
AB first edition) and a Betty Smith novel I haven't read.

I've seen so much about Enid Blyton on UK blogs, but I have never read any. How could I pass this up?

This kind of speaks for itself.

And then the Books on Books haul.

22 December 2012

I love the Literary Gift Company but I don't like this map


One of the most pleasant commercial spots on the interwebs for the bookish is The Literary Gift Company. So many wonderful things. I love it.

One of their offerings is this literary map of the United States of America. I recognize that, like any book list, the map is essentially an exercise in subjectivity. I don't hate this map. But a couple of things bother me slightly. The first is the location of certain authors. It must have been hard to decide where to put certain authors. Do you place their names in their birthplaces or where they spent most of their lives, or where they set most of their work? I get it. But I still take exception to things like the largish F. Scott Fitzgerald being placed in his (and my own) natal state of Minnesota. Does anyone think of Minnesota when they think of Fitzgerald, I mean besides Minnesotans? Not likely. He should be near East Egg and West Egg. Not only is Gatsby his most popular novel, but it is easily one of the seminal works of American fiction. I also take exception to Garrison Keillor's name being more prominent than Sinclair Lewis's. I like Garrison Keillor, but his writing is but a shadow of the literary icon Lewis.

I understand why the literary cartographers would want to shift Fitzgerald to his Midwestern roots. Not only are there far more northeastern authors, but they are all duking it out for a fairly small geographic area. Geography also wreaks havoc with how big an author's name should  be. Based on this map you would think that E. Annie Proulx and Black Elk (who?) were the biggest writers to come along before and since sliced bread. Literary figures who tower above the likes of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.

If I could actually see the map up close I am sure I would have even more challenges with it. But I don't need to turn this into a flaming rant. I will just leave it as a slightly excited observation with the occasional raised voice.

They have also made one for the UK, but I will leave that critque to my friends across the water.

09 December 2012

Bits and Bobs (the Barbara Pym Edition)

Barbara Pym is turning 100
The effervescent Amanda at Fig and Thistle (@nerdybookgirl) sent me a message this week on Facebook telling me that the centenary of Barbara Pym's birth was coming up in 2013. She suggested that we do something to mark the event. I was immediately on board. I love Barbara Pym, I like that she was having a nice round anniversary, and I like that there is plenty of time to get something good going.

We decided to host a Barbara Pym reading week in early June that nicely coincide with Pym's birthday on June 2nd. So off I went to the interwebs to look up images of Pym and came across the web page for the Barbara Pym Society of North America.

Not only do they have a really fun landing page, but they have merchandise and an announcement for their annual conference in Boston in March. I've already become a member and hope to get to the conference. The presentations sound fascinating (e.g., The Therapeutic Value of Barbara Pym Novels) and the kick-off event on Friday night is evensong at the Church of the Advent. Right up my alley. Plus the Boston Symphony Orchestra is doing a program that weekend that I would like to hear and I have only been to Boston once and that was about ten years ago.

Amanda and I aren't sure what the reading week will look like, but we do know it will be fabulous and appropriately Pymsian.

Save the Date:
Barbara Pym Reading Week
1-8 June 2013

I think this will be especially fun because there are many Pyms I haven't read. I have been saving them for the proverbial rainy day, but this seems like a good reason to go on a Pym binge. (Although binging of any sort doesn't seem particularly Pym-like.)

And speaking of 2013
Once again I am looking forward to C. B. James' TBR Double Dog Dare over at Ready When You Are, C.B. This is his annual event where those brave enough to take the dare only read books from their To Be Read (TBR) pile from January 1st through April 1st. This means that you only read whatever books are in your physical possession as of midnight on New Year's Eve. I have enjoyed this immensely the past two years. This year I plan to combine it with my ongoing attempts to get through the A Century of Books challenge. I am determined to finish that list off and I think I am going to try and finish it by April 1. And I have tracked down all of the books on that list and have them in my library so it fits in quite nicely.

I think C. B. has made a particularly clever button for this year's Dare.