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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Medieval Book Opens Six Ways, Revealing Six Books in One

This 16th-century book contains six different books in a single binding.

"They are all devotional texts printed in Germany during the 1550s and 1570s (including Martin Luther, Der kleine Catechismus) and each one is closed with its own tiny clasp"
More: Open Culture

The Miniaturist

In the 17th century, dolls' houses were not toys; they were a hobby, the equivalent for women of the collection cabinets kept by men - Rijksmuseum
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is set in 1686 Amsterdam. Eighteen year old Petronella Oortman (Nella) arrives in the city following an arranged marriage to Johannes, a wealthy trader who is much
older than she. Nella is a farm girl whose father has recently passed away leaving the family in tightened financial straits. She is disappointed at her husband's emotional detachment and physical distance and her attempts to initiate a closer relationship with him are rebuffed. His sister, Marin, lives with them and rules the house with an iron fist. Two servants are the other occupants of the canal house. We learn that Johannes had taken both Cornelia and Otto into his employ to rescue them from separate dire circumstances. Nella feels lonely and adrift and her attempts to take on the role of mistress of the house fall flat. As a wedding gift Johannes buys his young wife an expensive and elaborate dollhouse that is a cabinet-sized replica of their own home and encourages her to furnish it. Nella, believing Johannes is treating her like a child, decides to fill the house with items that will be a subtle affront to him. The mysterious miniaturist Nella employs to make the furniture seems to know more about the household than she does and, unbidden, continues to create puzzling pieces even after Nella hs told her to stop. The little house soon holds as many secrets as the larger household.
I read this novel on a trip to Amsterdam because I planned to see the 17th century dollhouses at the Rijksmuseum. It moves along at a very slow pace in the beginning and I nearly set it aside but the story suddenly ramps up. The star of The Miniaturist is Amsterdam in its Golden Age. Unfortunately the characters are anachronistic; it is impossible to imagine the socially progressive Nella existing in Amsterdam at that period of time. The rapid escalation of the relationship of Johannes and Nella from stone cold to deep and enduring friendship is also unbelievable. Those who prefer to have the loose ends tied up at the end of a story will likely be disappointed because the central mystery is unresolved. It is not a great work of fiction but it created a backdrop for my own experience of the city so I enjoyed it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon

Vulture has published a list by a panel of critics that tells us what belongs on a list of the 100 most important books of the 2000s:

The Best Book of the Century (for Now)
1. The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt

The 12 New Classics
2. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen (DISSENT: Freedom)
3. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. How Should a Person Be?, by Sheila Heti
5. The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante
6. The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
7. 2666, by Roberto BolaƱo (DISSENT: The Savage Detectives)
8. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
9. The Outline Trilogy (Outline, Transit, and Kudos), by Rachel Cusk
10. Atonement, by Ian McEwan
11. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
12. Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner
13. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

Read the rest here 

This Month's Notable Releases

I'm looking forward to reading Haruki Murakami's new novel, Killing Commendatore, and journalist Kurt Eichenwald's memoir about his life with epilepsy,  A Mind Unraveled.

More: Signature's Best Books of October 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Have you found Philip Pullman's pen?

Author Philip Pullman has misplaced the pen with which he handwrote the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy.The Oxford-based writer has turned to Twitter in the hope that itl can be tracked down.

More: BBC News

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Babysitter - Robert Coover

She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are still eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet. From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running, a television musical (no words: probably a dance number — patterns of gliding figures come to mind). Mrs Tucker sweeps into the kitchen, fussing with her hair, and snatches a baby bottle full of milk out of a pan of warm water, rushes out again. ‘Harry!’ she calls. ‘The babysitter’s here already!’

Read “The Babysitter” at Biblioklept

It's Banned Books Day

The most common reasons behind a book being banned are race, blasphemy, sex, violence, witchcraft or Satanism and political bias -- all of which are pretty interesting subjects for writers and readers.

Via Dr. Caligari's Cabinet

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Judge's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover to be auctioned

A copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, used by the judge who presided over the famous obscenity trial in 1960, is to be sold at auction next month.The paperback was kept in a damask bag, hand-stitched by the judge's wife, for discretion as it was carried into court each day.

It's expected to fetch up to £15,000 when it comes under the hammer.

More: BBC News

Monday, September 24, 2018

Patti Smith on 'Little Women'

"Perhaps no other book provided a greater guide, as I set out on my youthful path, than Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved novel, Little Women. I was a wiry daydreamer, just ten years old. Life was already presenting challenges for an awkward tomboy growing up in the gender-defined 1950s. Uninterested in preordained activities, I would take off on my blue bicycle, to a secluded place in the woods, and read the books I had checked out, often over and over again, from the local library. I could hardly be found without book in hand and sacrificed sleep and hours at play to enter wholeheartedly each of their unique worlds"...

Read more

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Damn Everything But The Circus

Stories for Ways & Means features original ‘grown up’ children’s story collaborations by some of this era’s most compelling storytellers from the worlds of music and contemporary art.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Clock Dance

Reading a novel by Anne Tyler always soothes me. This story unfolds in chunks, each a distinct stage in Willa Drake's life. She is an unexceptional passive woman who has faced some adversity in her life. Her mother was an erratic and emotional woman who often disappeared for days at a time. Willa married her bossy and hot-tempered college sweetheart, abandoning a promising academic career, only to be left widowed with two sons at the age of 41. She is older now and remarried to Peter, a retired executive who comes across as demanding and disapproving. They have settled into a predictable sort of life in Arizona. Then Willa receives a phone call that Denise, an ex-girlfriend of her son,  is in hospital and her daughter and dog are in need of care. Although Willa has never met Denise she decides to head east to Baltimore to help out. Her involvement with this family gives her a focus and she slips into a comfortable routine. Not much happens. She meets the neighbours, her husband gets impatient with her, Denise's young daughter becomes attached to her, she discovers, to her surprise, that she enjoys a tv show called Space Junk. By the time the story wraps up it appears that Willa is ready to take control of her aimless life. It's all very Anne Tyler-ish and made me feel warm and fuzzy. Tyler writes exquisitely crafted, understated novels and I have enjoyed each and every one I've read. Clock Dance is no exception.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Jack Kerouac letter to mother asks for $25.00

In a 1947 letter, written at the height of the travels that would form the basis of On The Road, Kerouac begs his mother, Gabrielle, for $25 to help him get from Denver to California.

The handwritten note, dated 29 July, was written when Kerouac was 25, and is being sold through Abebooks by Pasadena-based rare book dealers Whitmore for $22,500.

Read more: The Guardian

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dylan Thomas Reads "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

 When his father lay on his deathbed, Dylan Thomas wrote a poem that captures the profound sense of empathy he felt for the dying old man. The poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night," was written in 1951, only two years before the poet's own untimely death at the age of 39. Despite the impossibility of escaping death, the anguished son implores his father to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

More: Open Culture