The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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January 3, 2021

Anticipation: Biography edition


Oh, yes, please!  I don't see a U.S. publication date but it looks like it will be out in the UK in April. I shan't wait.

December 30, 2020

Favorites from this year


For me, this was unquestionably a strange year for reading, for reasons beyond the pandemic, but I loved these five books (listed in the order that they were read) and greatly enjoyed many others ... and because this year was sort of a missed opportunity, I'm especially looking forward to all the reading I'll do next year. :)

Thank you for visiting this year, and for sharing books with me here and in other places ... and I hope you have a safe and especially happy new year.


December 23, 2020

Before the snow goes...


This is what I love about experiencing the world at walking pace:  the small but significant luxury of having the time and headspace to notice details that make me feel part of my surroundings, a sense of belonging rather than passing through.

from Thinking on my feet:  the small joy of putting
one foot in front of another
, by Kate Humble

A lovely book to be walking with! 

December 20, 2020

Elf on a (book)shelf


My Christmas spirit definitely needs some boosting this year, but I'm getting there -- with the snow, and some extra time off before Christmas to bake cookies, and most of all, with the early gift of very easy and brilliantly successful surgery to fix a vision impairment that emerged earlier this fall. I can read again!! 

And with lovely bookish friends. I've already started a Christmas mystery by a favorite author (thanks to Frances!), and that started me thinking about looking for more Christmas books.  And that started me wondering about an Anthony Trollope Christmas book of some kind that I vaguely remembered from a few years ago, when I first went Trolloping with JoAnn.  And there it was, on my bookshelf.  It was either there and forgotten all along, or there was an elf.  I know which one I'm going to believe in. 🎄 

November 15, 2020

' delectable that it cannot be missed'

There is something almost outlandishly generous about the act of offering away the best of something — we humans are so innately selfish — rather than keeping it for yourself. And it was always like that with her:  whoever has the good fortune of sitting at her side at a meal will be offered something from her plate — but only if it’s so delectable that it cannot be missed. She would allow herself only a piece of the second best peach, the subpar pear, the plum that needed another day, so that her company might taste the very best fruit. It was like that with everything, really:  the perfect morsel of lobster claw that slid from its pincer shell. Anything that took effort, that might be messy but whose taste was a reward — she would do the dirty work and turning to me, give it away. … These were delights harvested or prepared especially for me. There was a knowingness in it, though, as if she were saying, ‘I’ve been here before. I’ve sipped the ambrosia. It’s tour turn now.’ I do wonder whether this is typical of motherhood or of the love that attends that role. I can’t yet venture an opinion, but I suspect the impulse is more driving in my mom’s case than in most. 

from Always Home:  a daughter's recipes and stories
by Fanny Singer

I just started this lovely book, which just arrived from the library, for my Kindle, months after I put it on reserve.  (All things to be grateful for.) Fanny Singer's mother is Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, nnd her book is filled with food (of course) and love,

The painting is Still Life (Table with Bowl of Fruit), by Pierre Bonnard

October 11, 2020

The Age of Innocence (1920-2020)



     Edith Wharton set aside the manuscript of A Son at the Front next to that of The Glimpses of the Moon, and after an interval came up with the scenario of still another novel. It bore the working title 'Old New York' and the scene was laid in 1875. The two main characters, Langdon Archer and Clementine Olenska, are both unhappily married. Falling in love, they 'go off secretly,' Edith explained, 'and meet in Florida where they spend a few mad weeks' before Langdon returns to his pretty, conventional wife in New York, and Clementine to an existence, separated from her brutish husband, in Paris.
from Edith Wharton:  A biography, by R.W.B. Lewis
Happily, it became so much more than this, although I wish she had kept the 'Clementine.' :) 

It was hard for me to believe this, but I first read The Age of Innocence 40(!) years ago, in Professor Lewis' seminar on fiction set in New York.  It may not be the first book by Edith Wharton that I read, but it's probably the one that drew me to her. {I'm not sure; I may have read Ethan Frome in high school; I know I've read it and didn't like it very much. I should try it again.}  I'm also not sure how many I've reread The Age of Innocence since then, maybe two or three.

This is its 100th anniversary, and I made big plans early this year to read it in installments, and re-read this biography or another one, to set it in context, and so on, but here it is October, and a few things this year have gotten in the way of this and most other plans. :) But I'm glad it's still timely. The novel was published in serial form from July to October, and then in book form shortly thereafter. The biography will have to wait till this winter, but I have a read-listen version of the novel set up and enjoyed the first two chapters this morning. 

My first observations:  it's set at an earlier than I remembered, about 50 years before it was written, at a time when Wharton was about 13 years old; so she wasn't writing about the world she experienced as an adult, but looking backward.  

She writes delightful zingers ... 
To come to the Opera in a Brown coupe was almost as honourable a way of arriving as in one's own carriage, and departing by the same means had the immense advantage of enabling one ... to scramble into the first Brown conveyance in the line, instead of waiting till the cold-and-gin congested nose of one's own coachman gleamed under the portico of the Academy. It was one of the livery-stableman's most masterly intuitions that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it. 
... and Newland Archer, who {despite Daniel Day-Lewis} never seemed admirable in the end, comes across as self-absorbed right way. 

August 30, 2020



      She's neither bitter nor boisterous about her people; instead, she has irony, tenderness, clear vision, and most of all, a gorgeous sense of their absurdity, which is never really exaggerated into more than life-size. ,,, She does not have to distort or magnify what they're like;  she just recognizes them, delights in them herself, and then creates them for our benefit...So there they are, her characters, concentrated for our benefit into a small circle of time and space, deliciously giving themselves away not only in action but by the smallest working of their motives and preoccupations; absolutely unaware, of course, that anyone is catching them out in it.  It's mo crime to be a lover of Jane Austen; but if you aren't, you can't understand why we find her so restful, because you're much too inclined to translate 'restful' into 'soporific'; if we just wanted an author who would send us nicely to sleep , we should not go to Jane Austen; she's restful from exactly the opposite reason:  we're alert all the time when we're reading and re-reading and re-re-reading Jane, otherwise we might miss something, some tiny exquisite detail, an almost imperceptible movement in the mind of one of her characters. ... the air of Bath is relaxing, but the air of Jane Austen isn't; she's pungent, she's bracing, you're breathing good air while you read Jane, and so you feel well.

from More reading about Jane Austen
by Sheila Kaye-Snith and G.B. Stern

I realized last night that I actually have to return this book to the college library in ten days, and wouldn't be able to take it out again for a while. I hope all our little problems are this nice. ) 

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