23 November 2014

Something for everyone: Truly random thoughts

1. My brother and his family got two new puppies recently.

2. United's merger with Continental has done no favors for us here in the DC market.

3a. I wonder how much of Audible's sales are attributable to erotica?

3b. Speaking of Audible, it is amazing how much a part of my "reading" life audiobooks have become. So much of my anti-audiobook bias has fallen away. I am even tempted to start counting them on my "books read" list because the feeling when one finishes one is pretty much the same.

3c. I love the way Tim West pronounces the word "club" in his Trollope narrations. The guy reading my current Nevil Shute isn't quite as plummy when he says it.

4. I kept trying to replace a comma with a period. Then I realized it was gunk on my screen.

5. I need your banoffee pie recipes. As I asked my FB friends to discuss their favorite pies, a British ex-pat friend of mine living here in DC bemoaned the lack of good banoffee pie available here in the US. I was actually surprised it was available at all. She has challenged me to make one from "a proper British recipe" and with biscuit, not pastry crust. I've been looking around online and can't decide if I have found anything acceptable. Do you have a favorite recipe for it? Mary Berry says that today's condensed milk packaging with the pull tops make it inadvisable to do the boiled can method, so I don't think I will try that--although I would love to.

6. I wouldn't mind if Ted Talks disappeared.

7. Since I've gone back to work in September my sleeping schedule has been decidedly old mannish. I don't seem able to sleep past 6:30, even on weekends and then I want to be in bed by 10 pm. And I've always been a  night person. Plus it is wreaking havoc with my reading time, much of which used to happen after 10.

8. Going to northern California for Thanksgiving next week. Always fun to choose reading for a trip. But I fear my free time while we are out there is going to be taken up with work, as my previously scheduled trip is now in the middle of an unexpected deadline.

Helmut the crocheted turkey posing at the San Francisco airport last Thanksgiving.

Helmut wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving
9. I'm amazed I made it to #9 without mentioning our house. We move back in in 26 days. Not only am I really looking forward to filling up those shelves, but John and I have kind of given up on this apartment. Our interest in keeping the place tidy has reached a nadir.

10. I've noticed that the book blogging world is like a college newspaper in the way that old ideas/issues are brought up every so often as if they had never been addressed before. After I graduated from college and after I worked in London for six months, I ended up in a job at the University of Minnesota Hospital so I was back on the campus of my alma mater five days a week. I continued to read the school's newspaper and couldn't help notice that both news and feature articles seemed to be retreads of ideas and issues that had cycled through once or twice during the four years I was a student. I guess one can't blame each new crop of students has to hash things out for themselves in an endless loop.

16 November 2014

Old news : Old books

I have been so bad at keeping up with my blog feed. It has been about 30 days since I really looked at it and I had about 500 blog posts to look at. Actually, as I write this I still have about 390 yet to go through. I'm just now hitting all the readathon posts, and you all know how long ago that was.

I also just came across Simon's post about the man who got locked in the Trafalgar Square Waterstone's. This is also a topic we have chatted about on The Readers. For those of you who haven't heard the story, a man accidentally got locked in the store and Tweeted about it and it was a big, fun, hullabaloo, especially for us bookish types.

The thing is, I actually wouldn't find that at all interesting. Well, let me qualify that, the only way I would find it interesting is if the store was a secondhand bookshop. I would find a new book, bookshop realllllllly boring. Here's why: I would be too keyed up to want to read anything and there are no surprises in a new bookshop. I pretty well know what I would find, so short of reading, there wouldn't be much that would interest me. Whereas in a used bookshop, the whole night could be spent rooting around for hidden gems. I never have enough time in a used shop to really comb the shelves and dig through the many layers books stacked here and there.

And, as an added bonus, I would have the time to organize and clean the store. This is a fantasy of mine. I would love to be let loose in a messy store in need of alphabetical rigor. I once spent 20 minutes at the main public library putting all their Trollope in proper title alpha order. It was fun and in the process I found five copies of the book I was looking for. (Of course, you are probably wondering why in the world the library shelves were out of order, but alas, that is the state of the sad DC public library system.)

Once on vacation I visited a great used bookstore in Nyack, New York. It was a store I had spent some time in about five years previously. It was clear that in the intervening years the owner had given in to his obvious hoarding tendencies and couldn't keep up with the mountains of books he was acquiring. I told John I could spend the rest of my vacation just organizing that store. If only.

But in a new bookstore. Oh look, there is Atwood. Oh look, there is Dickens.  Oh look, there is...see what I mean? No surprises, everything in order, yawn.

Places I would like to get locked in:

1. A cathedral with a giant pipe organ. I can't actually play the thing, but I would like unlimited time to play around with the stops and see what does what with no time constraints. John once bought me an hour with the organist of the National Cathedral here in DC which was almost as good.

2. A grand old English house like Chatsworth, but also preferably one that hadn't been kept up too well. I want to see all the rooms that the public doesn't get to see like attics and such.

3. The Cabinet War Rooms in London. They are set up just like they were during World War II. So many files and push pins and typewriters. It would be fun to play around.

4. Buckingham Palace. For a similar reason to number two above, but also because I would love to comb through the Queen's collections of jewels and clothes. See what's on her bedside table, etc.

5. The V&A. Of all museums, I think this one would be the most fun. Again, lots of attic-fossicking action.

6. The library at Sissinghurst. Not only because it is a library, but because it is chock full of early 20th century fiction. No doubt I would find some gems there. Would also like access to Vita's study up in the tower which also is lined with books.

7. The library at Blenheim. I've noticed when I have been to Blenheim, that not all the books in the library are ancient. Plus there is a pipe organ and really comfy furniture.

8. The food halls at Harrods.

01 November 2014

The perils of reading more than one book at a time

The new job appears to be having an impact on my reading habits. I just don't seem to have the energy to do as much reading. I can't really complain about not having the time, I just choose to waste it in front of the TV these days. Hopefully that won't last forever, but that is where I am.

Some of this stack, like Out of Africa, The Foryste Saga, and The Vicar of Wakefield, I started what seems like eons ago. I didn't put them down for any reason other than I picked up something else(probably more frivolous) to read.

Others like Chef and Levels of Life have proved to be a little more tedious than anticipated. I will finish the Barnes because it is so short and I have so few pages left to read, but I am not so sure about Chef. I haven't found it very compelling and I would have to probably start over to reacquaint myself with the characters and plot.

I'm almost done with the Kerry Hudson, which I have been enjoying, but as I started my job, I found myself needing something a little less gritty and a little more comforting.

I am enjoying both the Murodoch and Artic Summer by Damon Galgut, I just let other things like The Sparrow get in the way. The Galgut incidentally is a fictionalized account of E.M. Forster's travels in India. I've been wanting to read it since Eric first wrote about it at Lonesome Reader.

And finally, Eric Ambler's The Care of Time is the page turner that is keeping me from getting back to everything else in the stack. During the readathon I was going to devote 12 hours to finishing up more than a few of these, but that weekend, I had to bring home work.

Even as I sit looking at the stack, I don't feel all that compelled to pick any but the Ambler up. On the other hand I could knock out the Barnes and the Hudson in short order. And I could jettison Chef and not feel badly at all. That would still leave six in the stack. Hmm.


As we slide into the final two months of our renovations and have to pay for moving expenses, floor coverings (probably sea grass in most places), and transition from construction to permanent financing, the last thing we needed was another expense. And I haven't even mentioned the deferred maintenance on the car finally, and unavoidably, caught up with us. So what do we do? We buy a painting.

When I met John he was a huge fan of the abstract expressionist artist Jon Schueler (1916-1992), a member or the New York School of painters who swirled with the likes of Rothko. Through his cousin in New York, John was friends with the artist's wife Magda (she is too lively to be thought of as a widow). Our first Thanksgiving together was spent in Greenwich Village where I not only met Magda, but got to see three or four really amazing Schuelers that belonged to his cousins. On a subsequent trip to New York, John got a chance to pick out his very own Schueler painting, albeit a small one. About 10" x 12". It was painted in 1979 and is called "Galeforce: Waiting". It's a subtly beautiful study of the sky and ocean off the coast of Mallaig, Scotland, presumably while there was some weather happening. It has had pride of place in the four different bedrooms we have occupied in the past decade. In all cases it has been interesting to see the various moods it takes on in the changing, indirect light, that filters into our mostly north-facing rooms. No doubt, almost like the changing moods of the skies over Mallaig.

When we moved into our house in 2010, we realized that our small, art collection was really a small-art collection. With one exception, we really didn't have anything of a big enough size to hold it's own on even a modestly, big wall. Most of what we had was picked up here there, often while traveling, and, while enjoyable, didn't really give us much to work with. We needed something bigger.

Then, a few weeks ago, John came across a Schueler up for auction and we decided it was too good to pass up. It was from the late 70s/early 80s which is the period of Schueler's work John likes most. At 24" x 36" it was a size that could comfortably fill a real wall, and it was buried in an auction catalog with a bunch of frou-frou antiques and fussy figurative painting so we thought we could actually have a chance of winning it. Which we did. Similar to our existing Schueler, it is called "Waiting" and it is beautiful. The title seems particularly apt given that we have been waiting so long to start and now complete our house project, not to mention that we will still need to do a bit more waiting before we can go back to New York to pick out another one.

Our mish-mash of enjoyable, but small art.
A few earlier, bolder Schuelers.
A Yellow Sun (1958)
National Galleries of Scotland
Snow Cloud Over the Sound of Sleat, New York 1959

(Cross posted at Lucy's Forever Home)