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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March 18, 2019

20 years of Persephones



Getting the Persephone Post in my inbox in the middle of a busy afternoon at work feels a little bit like pouring a metaphorical cup of tea as I spend a few minutes daydreaming about books and reading and those endpapers and how happy these things make me.

I just read that Persephone Books is celebrating 20 years of publishing this week.  I wish I could pop into the shop for 'smoked salmon sandwiches, cake, tea, and champagne and a rather special ‘going home’ present' but in lieu of that, I think this calls for a lovely year-long spurt of reading the ones I haven't gotten to yet. {And maybe even repainting a room in Persephone gray, but probably not.} Going to the shop, though, is still on my list. :)

Happy anniversary and congratulations!



March 16, 2019

Anticipation: fiction edition



{September}

I would look forward to anything from this writer, but:
The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition.
Is it September yet?

Anticipation: mysterious edition



{August}

And no covers yet, but I'm also looking forward to A Better Man, from Louise Penny {August} and A Bitter Feast, by Deborah Crombie {October}. 


February 24, 2019

In February, I was reading ...



2018
Greengates, by R.C. Sherriff

2017
Period Piece, by Gwen Raverat

2016
What Maisie Knew, by Henry James

2015
Falling in Love, by Donna Leon

2014
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead

2013
A Glass of Blessings, by Barbara Pym

2012
The Children, by Edith Wharton

2011
Kitchen Essays, by Gertrude Jekyll

2010
The Three Weissmanns of Westport, by Catherine Schine

2009
Twilight of Splendor:  The court of Queen Victoria
during her Diamond Jubilee
, by Greg King

2008
Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil G. Brinton
{This was one of the first Jane Austen 'sequels,'
written in 1913; the characters from different books
all getting entangled with each other}

2007
Messenger of Truth, by Jacqueline Winspear
{I'm listening to the latest-but-one Maisie Dobbs
book now ... I didn't realize how far back this
series went!}

2006
Dear Departed, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
{another long-running series}

2005
102 Minutes:  the untold story of the fight to survive
inside the twin towers
, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

2004
The Good Wife Strikes Back, by Elizabeth Buchan

2003
Rumpole and the Age of Miracles, by John Mortimer

2002
Callander Square, by Anne Perry
{and another!}








February 19, 2019

Henry on my walk to work



      'Now there is one place where perhaps it would be indelicate to take a Mississipian,' Verena said, after this episode. 'I mean the great place that towers among the others -- that big building with the beautiful pinnacles, which you see from every point.' But Basil Ransom had heard of the great Memorial Hal:  he knew what memories it enshrined, and the worst that he should have to suffer there; and the ornate, overtopping structure, which was the finest piece of architecture he had ever seen, had moreover solicited his enlarged curiosity for the last half-hour. He thought there was rather too much brick about it, but it was buttressed, cloistered, turreted, dedicated, superscribed, as he had never seen anything; though it didn't look old, it looked significant; it covered a large area, and it sprang majestic into the winter air. ... As he approached it with Verena she suddenly stopped, to decline responsibility. 'Now mind, if you don't like what's inside, it isn't my fault.
     He looked at her an instant, smiling. 'Is there anything against Mississippi?'
     'Well, no, I don't think she is mentioned. But there is great praise of our young men in the war.'
     'It says they were brave, I suppose.'
     'Yes, it says so in Latin.'
     'Well, so they were -- I know something about that,' Basil Ransom said. 'I must be brave enough to face them -- it isn't the first time.' And they went up the low steps and passed into the tall doors.
      ... Ransom and his companion wandered from one part of the building to another, and stayed their steps at several impressive points; but they lingered longest in the presence of the white, ranged tablets, each of which, in its proud, sad cleanness, is inscribed with the name of a student-soldier. The effect of the place is singularly noble and solemn, and it is impossible to feel it without a lifting of the heart. ... Most of them were young, all were in their prime, and all of them had fallen ... For Ransom, these things were not a challenge, nor a taunt; they touched him with respect... He was capable of being a generous foeman, and he forgot, now the whole question of sides and parties; the simple emotion of the old fighting-time came back to him, and the monument around him seemed an embodiment of that memory; it arched over friends as well as enemies, the victims of defeat as well as the sons of triumph.
      'It is very beautiful -- but I think it is very dreadful!' This remark, from Verena, called him back to the present. 'It's a real sin to put up such a building, just to glorify a lot of bloodshed. If it wasn't so majestic, I would have it pulled down.'
from The Bostonians, by Henry James

{A footnote in the edition I've been reading reminded me that Memorial Hall was built in the 1870s 'as a memorial to Harvard students and graduates who fought on the Union side in the Civil War; those Harvard men who fought and died for the South (60 or so out of a total of 200 dead) were not included.'}


February 10, 2019

Henry in the neighborhood


'Olive will be down in about 10 minutes; she told me to tell you that. About ten; that is exactly like Olive. Neither five nor fifteen, and yet not ten exactly, but either nine or eleven. She didn't tell me to say she was glad to see you, because she doesn't know whether she is or not, and she wouldn't for the world expose herself to telling a fib. She is very honest, is Olive Chancellor; she is full of rectitude. Nobody tells fibs in Boston; I don't know what to make of them all. Well, I am very glad to see you, at any rate.'


When he told her that if she would take him as he was he should be very happy to dine with her, she excused herself a minute and went to give an order in the dining-room. The young man, left alone, looked about the parlour -- the two parlours which, in their prolonged, adjacent narrowness, formed evidently one apartment -- and wandered to the windows at the back, where there was a view of the water; Miss Chancellor having the good fortune to dwell on that side of Charles Street toward which, in the rear, the afternoon sun slants redly, from an horizon indented at empty intervals with wooden spires, the masts of lonely boats, the chimneys of dirty 'works,' over a brackish expanse of anomalous character, which is too big for a river and too small for a bay.  The view seemed to him very picturesque, though in the gathered dusk little was left of it save a cold yellow streak in the west, a gleam of brown water, and the reflection of the lights that had begun to show themselves in a row of houses, impressive to Ransom in their extreme modernness, which overlooked the same lagoon from a long embankment on the left, constructed of stones roughly piled. He thought this prospect, from a city-house, almost romantic ...

Afterwards, when his cousin had come back and they had gone down to dinner together, where he sat facing her at a little table decorated in the middle with flowers, a position from which he had another view, through a window where the curtain remained undrawn by her direction (she called his attention to this -- it was for his benefit), of the dusky, empty river, spotted with points of light -- at this period, I say, it was very easy for him to remark to himself that nothing would induce him to make love to such a type as that. Several months later, in New York, in conversation with Mrs. Luna, ... he alluded by chance to this repast, to the way her sister had placed him at table, and to the remark with which she had pointed out the advantage of his seat. 
     'That's what they call in Boston being very 'thoughtful,' Mrs. Luna said, 'giving you the Back Bay (don't you hate the name?) to look at, and then taking credit for it.'

from The Bostonians, by Henry James (1886)

February 3, 2019

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019: Working on my list



I'm late getting started, but I'm signing on for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge this year (thank you to Karen for organizing it and JoAnn for leading me to it). I'm not sure whether I'll read 6 or 9 books (probably not 12), or which book I'll read for which category, but I've started making a list (and making the list is a big part of the fun, don't you think?)

Here's where I've gotten to so far, list-wise...


  1. A 19th-century classic:  Miss Mackenzie, by Anthony Trollope
  2. A 20th-century classic:  Delta Wedding, by Eudora Welty
  3. A classic by a female author:  Scenes from Clerical Life, by George Eliot
  4. A classic in translation:  something French, TBD
  5. A classic comedy:  Love and Friendship, by Jane Austen
  6. A classic tragedy:  Daisy Miller, by Henry James
  7. A very long classic: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  8. A classic novella:  something by Edith Wharton, TBD
  9. A classic from the Americas:  Washington Square, by Henry James
  10. A classic from a place you've lived:  The Bostonians, by Henry James
  11. A classic play:  TBD

I know there's a lot of Henrys, but I've been wanting to read or re-read two of them for a long time, and some of the others have been on my wish list for a while as well. This isn't a definite list anyway, but it's one I'm really looking forward to.


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