About Me

My photo
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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Can you help transcribe a 17th century witches' spell-book?

Among the Newberry Library’s extensive collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts about healing, helping, casting charms and conjuring spirits. The library is asking for help translating and transcribing these texts.

Below is a transcription of a toothache remedy:

Fryer Bacons Charme
against the Toothache.
Fl. ha, hab, hur. hurs; geball. etc.
Pro eodem mordo.
Fl. A. Ab. hur, hus, gebal gamarita
The name of the partie diseased is to be
written right against the Charme upon
the other Side. Prik all the vowells. Et
fiet per Gratiam Dei.
For the Toothache
Take a tooth out of a deadmans skull
and hange the same about the partie’s neck,
till the payne cease.
for the Toothache.
Write theis words upon a Paper. Aligat [cross]
Galis [cross] Aualis [cross]. Hang it about the
parties neck: et Sanus erit.
Where do I find a dead man's skull?


Would you like to own one of Philip Roth's old typewriters?

On July 21, 2019 Litchfield County Auctions will be auctioning off hundreds of items from the estate of Philip Roth, including furniture, fixtures, loads of Chinese art and artifacts, as found in his home and holdings after his death. 

Portrait of Philip Roth Oil on Canvas, Unsigned

See some of the auction highlights at Literary Hub

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Reading the City

While travelers often rely on guidebooks to experience a city, literature offers a deeper understanding and connection with a place, says Julia Feld, founder of Reading the City, a site that encourages readers to explore cities through books, both fiction and nonfiction.
Have a favourite book that captures the essence of a city? Recommend it here.
More: CityLab

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Sweden has a floating library that brings books to residents of remote islands

 (Photo: Bokbåten Epos/Facebook)

Sweden's bokbåten t brings thousands of books to people on dozens of remote islands in the Stockholm archipelago twice a year. Every spring and fall since 1953, the Stockholm Library Service rents a boat for a week, loads it full of books, and charts a course for about 23 inhabited islands.

Read more

Monday, July 08, 2019


Scarborough is a 2017 novel, written by Catherine Hernandez after several years of working as a daycare provider to children in Scarborough, Ontario. The book dedication reads: 

This Review by Words & Stitches makes me want to read it.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Peace Of Wild Things

Poet, novelist, and environmentalist Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace, where he has maintained a farm for over 40 years. ... He is the author of over 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Mysterium Conscientia

Artist Ed Merlin Murray creates lively illustrations that animate with the pull of a tab.

See more of Murray’s moving images, paired with quirky captions, on Instagram.
Via Colossal 

DIY Miniature Bookstore

Build your own tiny, old-fashioned bookstore from a kit. Books, bookshelves, shelf labels, prints and paintings, cabinets, a ladder, a high-backed reading chair, a stepladder (for reaching high shelves), a tiny table, a vase of flowers — even working lights.


Via bookofjoe

Friday, July 05, 2019

Birth Of A Book

This video shows books being made the old fashioned way at Smith Settle printing and bookbinding company in Leeds, England.


Thursday, July 04, 2019

“4th of July” by William Carlos Williams


The ship moves
but its smoke
moves with the wind
faster than the ship

— thick coils of it
through leafy trees
upon the river


The heat makes
this place of the woods
a room
in which two robins pain

over the plight of
their unhappy young


During the explosions
at dawn, the celebrations
I could hear
a native cuckoo

in the distance
as at dusk, before
I’d heard
a night hawk calling

Via  Biblioklept

Machine Without Horses

In Machine Without Horses, Helen Humphreys explores the life of real-life salmon-fly dresser, Megan Boyd, who spent her life creating lures for fishermen in a small village in the north of Scotland. In the first part of the book Humphreys writes about the process of crafting a novel from an obituary of a woman who, though famous for her skill, led a very ordinary existence (it includes Humphreys learning to tie her own flies). She has taken the blank slate of Boyd's life and written about the complex feelings that might have dwelled within. Humphreys is a wonderful, gentle writer whose work I enjoy very much. Initially I thought this book was going to be a letdown but it came to life when the tale of the Megan Boyd character began and I discovered that the discussion of process informs the rest of the novel. Ruth Thomas, as she is named in this book, was born in 1915 in Surrey, England while her father was off fighting in World War 1. When he returns home he cannot bear to be indoors. He is offered a job as a gillie in Brora, Scotland, jumps at the opportunity and moves his wife and three daughters to a small cottage there. Ruth's mothers and sisters are resentful but Ruth and her father share a love of the outdoors and nature which binds them together. When another gillie teaches her to make a fly Ruth is immediately taken with the process of assembling it from feathers, thread and bits of tinsel.When she is fourteen her father secures a job for her and she leaves school without a second glance. For the next fifty years she ties salmon flies, most often from dawn to dusk, always with a beloved dog beside her. She becomes famous for her work and has many wealthy customers from around the world, including Prince Charles who helps her out in her waning years. Her solitary life passes in the quietest way and Humphries captures it beautifully. I'm so glad I read this book.

Are you interested in finding out more about Megan Boyd? Humphrey directs the reader to Kiss the Water, a 2013 documentary directed by Eric Steel and Megan Boyd: The Story of a Salmon Flydresser (2016), by Derek Mills and Jimmy Younger.

More of my reviews of books by Helen Humphreys: The Lost Garden, Coventry, The Evening Chorus and Wild Dogs

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

'The Wolves' A Poem by Paisley Rekdal

 It was the week of asking. Asking
to watch her eat. Asking if she understood
the doctors’ questions. Asking her
to explain the difference again between
wanting to die right now
and dying later.
The tumor making certain answers
unquestionable. I watched her point
to the incense dish from which
someone swept all the ashes up. Asking
if she recognized us. Because that
is what the living want: thinking
it is a sign we have been loved.
But the answer was a summer
drive, a mountain, piles of leaves beneath which
a wolf slept, suckling her pups.
Some deaths are good
and it makes them hard to grieve.
She was, at times, in great pain. We wanted her
to die, too. That was important. But first
we wanted her to remember.
From the bed, a finger pressed
into its pile of leaves. Gray haunch,
unmovable ashes. I didn’t want to disturb
their tableau, she told us. And drifted off. And
we did not know the meaning behind this.
The wolves must have looked so comfortable
to her: wordless and in this wordlessness
perfect. Did she want to go there, too.
I could point to the image and say, my father
must be in there, my uncle. Or, the wolf
is you, you are still the mother,
as if necessary to name that self
at the end of its world. An animal cry,
memory. That was our selfishness.
As death was hers. She insisted upon it.
And why not. It was good for me
to get a chance to know you,
she said, who had known me
my entire life. Then the pills, a small
handful, crushed into juice.
She was happy then. We all were. Or
said we were. What
is the difference now.

Excerpted from her forthcoming collection,  Nightingale, a book about change.

Via Literary Hub

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Richard Wright's haiku

Writer Richard Wright spent the last eighteen months of his life writing thousands of haiku. In the introduction to the book Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, his daughter recalls watching him work:

He was never without his haiku binder under his arm. He wrote them everywhere, at all hours: in bed as he slowly recovered from a year-long, grueling battle against amebic dysentry; in cafes and restaurants where he counted syllables on napkins; in the country in a writing community owned by French friends, Le Moulin d’Ande.

Read more:  Austin Kleon

A menu for a Jane Austen picnic for 40 persons

This suggested menu comes from Mrs. Beeton’s 1860 book, which is decidedly Victorian, but the foods are indicative of what might have been served in Austen’s era as well.

These are the meats: A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf’s head. These are followed by a vast array of fruits, desserts and beverages.

Can you imagine preparing this? I think I'll stick to sandwiches, potato chips and beer.

More  Random Bits of Fascination

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Month of June: 13 1/2 by Sharon Olds

As our daughter approaches graduation and
puberty at the same time, at her
own, calm, deliberate, serious rate,
she begins to kick up her heels, jazz out her
hands, thrust out her hipbones, chant
I’m great! I’m great! She feels 8th grade coming
open around her, a chrysalis cracking and
letting her out, it falls behind her and
joins the other husks on the ground,
7th grade, 6th grade, the
magenta rind of 5th grade, the
hard jacket of 4th when she had so much pain,
3rd grade, 2nd, the dim cocoon of
1st grade back there somewhere on the path, and
kindergarten like a strip of thumb-suck blanket
taken from the actual blanket they wrapped her in at birth.
The whole school is coming off her shoulders like a
cloak unclasped, and she dances forth in her
jerky sexy child’s joke dance of
self, self, her throat tight and a
hard new song coming out of it, while her
two dark eyes shine
above her body like a good mother and a
good father who look down and
love everything their baby does, the way she
lives their love.

Poetry Magazine

Sharon Olds, “The Month of June: 13 1/2” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002. Copyright © 2004 by Sharon Olds.