Parcels slap and hit; motor omnibuses graze the kerb; the blare of a whole brass band in full tongue dwindles to a thin reed of sound. Buses, vans, cars, barrows stream past like the fragments of a picture puzzle; a white arm rises; the puzzle runs thick, coagulates, stops; the white arm sinks, and away it streams again, streaked, twisted, higgledy-piggledy, in perpetual race and disorder. The puzzle never fits itself together, however long we look.
Monday, 7 December 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
The mystery - which involves espionage, the Apostles and the Cambridge spies - is what kept me reading, despite some rather silly characters and romantic subplots, and too many British versus American cliches. I think any librarian, archivist or academic will also be groaning to see how easily Barron's characters can bring coffee into famous libraries, talk their way into historic homes out of hours, or be left alone long enough with important documents to easily steal them. Still, as far as commercial fiction goes, this was entertaining enough.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Six hours later, I had this:
And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine, and thought, This will celebrate the occasion . . .
'It is a triumph,' said Mr Bankes, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly cooked. How did she manage these things in the depth of the country? he asked her. She was a wonderful woman.
Shiny walls, check. Savoury brown meats, check. Yellow meats - no (maybe the pig's trotter?), but I did add some potatoes even though the recipe didn't call for them. So there is some yellow. Hmmm, no bay leaf in the recipe but there is parsley. And white wine. It was rich, the vegetables were very tender; the meat, just a tad overcooked, but still delicious. I managed in the heart of the city and I feel quite full and wonderful. I certainly have lots of leftovers and I'd definitely make this again for a dinner party. One tip - have some crusty bread on hand; there are lots of tasty juices to mop up.
The recipe was taken from this book.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
I hadn't previously read or seen any productions of Lorca, so in preparation, I spent the morning reading three of his most famous plays, all written during the 1930s - Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba. I loved them - the poetic language, the intensity of the emotions, and all these powerfully strong, yet pained and desperate women characters. In the introduction to my collection, Lorca's brother Francisco writes about how Lorca drew on classical Spanish theatre traditions for his own plays: "Our ancient theatre is a holiday - a great holiday for the spirit, for the eyes and for the ears," writes Francisco. "No modern playwright has made the musical and the plastic share in the theatre to the extent that Federico did."
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I wish I had a more interesting or original excuse than work and a personal life taking up my time, (the latter more than ever lately, but in a good way), but it's just a fact that blogging is time-consuming and I have another blog that I contribute to that's a bit more work related (though not exclusively) and I have been focusing more on that lately, especially since I'm in the midst of a big reading challenge. And since there's a lot of crossover in terms of my interests, it doesn't make sense to blog twice about the same subject. But I'm going to try and keep this one more focused on the original idea behind it - to explore this amazing literary, artistic and historical time period of Woolf's lifetime and highlight not only new books in this category, but those new to me at any rate, as I continue to read my way through the vast literature - my ongoing lifetime project. I'll continue to comment on new and relevant art exhibits, movies and theatre productions that come my way too.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
I can also hardly wait to read The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism by Susan Butlin. My favourite painting in the Art Gallery of Ontario is Carlyle's The Tiff and I've long been wanting to see other examples of her work (turns out a good number of her paintings are in the Woodstock Art Gallery, so a road trip is imminent). Lots has been written about the Paris art scene at the turn of the century - it will be wonderful to read about the experiences of a spirited Canadian woman among them. I've already spent a rapt hour just gazing at the colour plates of some of her other paintings and my admiration for her work has only grown.
Friday, 31 July 2009
These are a few of my favourite things. . .
Just in time for the holiday weekend - my box of Dalkey Archive books arrived (and in less than a week - very impressive). They are having an awesome summer sale and I just couldn't resist stocking up on their backlist. They publish some fabulous books, including a lot of literature in translation. Their website page listing the details of their sale seems to be down at the moment, but keep checking back. Or start making a list in the meantime. The more books bought, the greater the discount, so I ended up buying twenty (and even then it was hard to cull the titles from the over 50 I initially wrote down as potentials). It makes a nice, meaty pile that I can't wait to dive into.
Not sure if you can read all the titles so here they are with links to each book's enticing description:
The Great Fire of London by Jacques Roubard, The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image by Jeffrey Robinson, Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins, Castle to Castle by Céline, Melancholy by Jon Fosse, The King by Donald Barthelme, Odile by Raymond Queneau, The Journalist by Harry Matthews, Time Must Have a Stop by Aldous Huxley, Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre, Brecht at Night by Mati Unt, Pack of Lies by Gilbert Sorrentino, In Transit by Brigid Brophy, Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine by Stanley Crawford, OULIPO: A Primer of Potential Literature edited by Warren F. Motte, Bornholm Night-Ferry by Aidan Higgins, Foreign Parts by Janice Galloway, Spleen by Olive Moore and I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch. I also ordered Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal by Lydie Salvayre, but it's not yet published. More than enough to start with though - I think my first read will be this:
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Friday, 24 July 2009
Thursday, 23 July 2009
I've read Proust and War and Peace. One of my favourite books is A Dance to the Music of Time. Recently, I've tackled Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones and Roberto Bolano's 2666.
But long non-fiction? That's a whole other matter, and I don't know why this is so. It's not the genre of non-fiction itself, just any book that is over 500 pages. I painstakingly crawl through it, even when I'm enjoying the read (I took over a year to read Hermione Lee's terrific biography of Virginia Woolf and then spent another year with her equally impressive bio of Edith Wharton). Maybe I spend too much time reading the footnotes. Maybe biographies (in particular literary ones) send me off on other reading tangents. Maybe the books are too heavy to cart around and so they get relegated to the groaning shelves of my bedside tables to lie on top of more biographies, histories and litcrit tomes all with bookmarks sticking out at various spots. It's a crazy way to read - by the time I get back into the books, I've forgotten parts of what I've already read.
A friend from England just sent me The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists by Helen Carr. This recently published book looks fabulous and right up my reading alley. But . . . it's 982 pages!
I've read the Prologue which is only four pages. It promises "rich drama, involving passion, betrayal, sexual jealousy, literary envy, bereavement, shell-shock, class antagonisms, friendship, adultery, cruelty, bullying and pique". I've looked at the photos. I'm really going to try to break my habits with this one and actually finish it in a reasonable time - maybe by Labour Day? HA!
Monday, 20 July 2009
Isn't that a great sign? The Pie Shack serves both savory and sweet pies - I had the organic chicken pot pie, followed by a slice of blueberry. The pastry is flaky and buttery and very delicious. Across the street was this:
I bought two skeins of deep red tweed that has flecks of grey and black in it, and have spent most of this afternoon knitting a winter scarf. Yes, I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to do in the middle of July, but I just couldn't help myself; the wool was calling to me. I'm about half-way done. The Naked Sheep has a lovely blog that shows some of the many projects made during their classes.
Halfway between "The Beach" and downtown Toronto, also on Queen St. East, is an area known as Leslieville which boasts The Tango Palace Coffee Company - a great place to get a cup of java before browsing the many antique and home decorating shops along the street. That' s where I snapped this great store window. I'm strangely drawn to the dressmaker's dummy, but my apartment is just too small for a roommate.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
I find it very attractive as well and would be tempted by it, if I didn't live in a tiny apartment with no storage locker. But when I was craving a bike again this spring (I haven't had one for about six years due to said apartment), I started investigating folding bikes and ended up buying this nifty little Dahon 7 speed number two months ago. I LOVE IT! It is super fast to fold up, rides very smooth, and goes much faster than I thought, given its small wheels. I have a 22km commute to work with a stretch that has some big hills and no dedicated bike lanes (the Europeans are so far ahead of us on bike-friendly city planning), but I fold up the bike and hop on the bus for that portion. The rest (about 14km) I can do via bike paths. I've christened him Charles Ryder after the character from Brideshead Revisited (another fantasy - bumping into Jeremy Irons riding a bicycle around Oxford). And best of all, this is what it looks like folded up:
The only drawback is its weight - about 26 pounds. Not a huge problem, but if I'm loaded down with a backpack with my laptop and - ahem - books, it feels very heavy. Still, I'm so delighted with it. If I'd had a bigger budget, I would totally have gone for their oh-so-European-looking Ciao model though! Isn't this a beauty?And I just need to rant for a moment about the idiotic policies of VIA Rail. Last month, I had to work 12 days in Ottawa, which has such wonderful bike paths all along its canal. It's an extemely bike-friendly city. So I was looking forward to bringing my bike along - but wouldn't you know it, VIA doesn't put a baggage car on its Toronto-Ottawa route and so you can't take bikes on the train. Never mind that it's our bloody nation's capital, has several universities, and its bike paths are a major tourist attraction! I can't tell you how frustrated I was with them, and how sad I was to have to leave the bike at home.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Monday, 4 May 2009
Apart from the thrill of seeing so many original editions (I was salivating in front of a first edition of Mrs. Dalloway) and the range of books that the Hogarth Press published, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the accompanying catalogue was - a lovely addition to my Woolf book collection (alas, no first editions there). Written by Dr. Elizabeth Willson Gordon, it uses fonts, paper, and production elements selected, "with the hope of evoking something of the aesthetic feel of the Press books: colourful, exuberant, pleasurably tactile, pleasing to the eye without being precious". The catalogues costs $25.00 and while I don't know if the library will ship abroad, it's worth contacting them to inquire, as I can't imagine a Woolf fan who would not want to own this.
Friday, 1 May 2009
Monday, 13 April 2009
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
"It took three radio sound men, a control-room engineer and five hours of hard work to create the sound that was heard for less than 30 seconds on the air. The sound consisted of a ticking metronome, tom-tom beats, bubbling water, air hose, cow moo, boing! (two types) oscillator, dripping water (two types) and three kinds of wine glasses clicking against each other. Judiciously blended and recorded on tape, the effect was still not quite right. Then the tape was played backward with a little echo added. That did it. The sound depicted the manufacturing of babies in the radio version of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World."
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Doris - a pretty, young, ambitious girl who wants to be a movie star and famous - scribbles her adventures in a notebook covered with white doves: "I think it will be a good thing if I write everything down, because I'm an unusual person. I don't mean a diary - that's ridiculous for a trendy girl like me. But I want to write like a movie, because my life is like that and it's going to become even more so." She lies her way into working as an extra in the theatre, schemes to get a line in the play, steals a fur coat from the cloakroom and then confidently escapes with it to Berlin to seek her fortune. The introduction calls Doris a precursor to a Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw, but while she has some of the same cheerful optimism as her fictional heirs and is also constantly searching for love, her experiences on the street, basically working as a prostitute to support herself, are far more serious than anything you'll find in the chicklit of today. I'd compare this more to Alfred Doblin's 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz - Keun is articulating the female voice and reality behind the many prostitutes that pop in and out of that novel. Or even to Stefan Zweig's The Post-Office Girl, in which a bored and frustrated woman also engages in an unhealthy fantasy life. All these novels do illustrate the real and desperate economic options placed on unmarried women in the post WWI era. Doris has a great and admirable talent for making the best of situations, and this comes through her gutsy narrative voice, so that the reader keeps rooting for her. But though she attempts to conquer her fear and loneliness behind her writing, it becomes another facade, another "pose" to help her get through the daily grind. Mind you, it's her best talent; her observations are frequently quite funny and yearningly childlike as in the following. She's describing the party goers in a Berlin restaurant to a blind WWI veteran:
" a handsome man just kissed a woman fat as a tadpole - old men are kissing each other - the music goes one-two, one-two - there are lamps hanging from the ceiling that look like Paul's starfish collection stuck together - the music is covered with flowers like a chiffon dress which tears very easily - let me tell you, Herr Brenner, a woman should never wear artificial silk when she's with a man. It wrinkles too quickly, and what are you going to look like after seven real kisses? Only pure silk, I say - and music - "That phrase - "seven real kisses" - oh, the longing in that. I found this novel fascinating to read and I certainly want to explore more of Keun's work. There's a brief biography at the back and her life also reads like a novel. While The Artificial Silk Girl became a bestseller, her books were later banned by the Nazis. She left Germany during the beginning of the war, met authors Stefan Zweig and Ernst Toller, had an affair with Joseph Roth, and then returned to Germany hiding under an assumed name. Like many Virago authors, her work was rediscovered and republished in the 1970s during the feminist movement. She died in 1982.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Once upon a time, I had grandiose notions of writing a PhD thesis on Storm Jameson (abandoned alas, because a gal has to pay the rent). I'm always fascinated by writers - particularly women - who lived through, and wrote about both world wars and Jameson's additional work in publishing and for PEN made her all the more fascinating to me. So I'm very excited about Margaret Storm Jameson: A Life by Jennifer Birkett. I've read Jameson's own memoir, Journey From the North, but while beautifully written, it's a bit coy about her personal life and doesn't focus as much on her books as this biography promises to.
I've dipped into Frances Partridge's diaries from time to time and have come across bits of her story as a minor figure in the biographies of Carrington, Lytton Strachey and various other members of the Bloomsbury Group. But I'm delighted she'll take center stage in Anne Chisholm's upcoming book, Frances Partridge: The Biography. I first heard about it listening to this delightful podcast from the Guardian, interviewing the indomitable Diana Athill, whose latest book, Somewhere Towards the End, is also on my to-be-read pile. At one point Athill talks about her love affairs with married men and mentions she is reading a proof of Chisholm's book. She admires Partridge's tolerant attitude to her husband's affairs and her disdain of the "geometrical approach to emotional relationships". This, Athill contends, closes one to the "tender curvaceousness" of life and love that is everywhere in the world. I love that phrase and as Athill acknowledges, "there was plenty of tender curvaceousness going on in that set!".