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.

Monday, August 02, 2021

An illustrated version of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye

German illustrator Klaus Kremmerz has created a fully illustrated version of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye. He captures the dark seamy atmosphere of 1940s Los Angeles.

See more: Creative Boom

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Extract: A Short Fiction Set In Brick Lane's Beigel Bake

Sadie wants the bagel with salt beef and plenty of mustard. She wants it hot, but not so hot she’ll burn her mouth. She says she wants the bagel sliced in half, do they do it sliced? Can she have pickles, and also can she have two shakes of pepper?

‘Two shakes?’ asks the woman behind Beigel Bake's counter. Her hand hovers near the pile of fresh bagels. Each is open and plump, layered with tongues of meat. ‘I’ve worked here for fifteen years,’ she says, ‘and no one ever said exactly two shakes.’

Sadie whoops and clasps her hands together as though she’s won a prize. Her necklace catches Brick Lane’s sunlight shining through the glass doors. People along the queue comment and smile. Two men in high vis jackets call to her.

‘What can I say?’ she replies, scrunching her hair on one side. ‘I know what I want.’

I’m sixth in line and, like everyone else, like everyone always did, I’m watching her. We haven’t seen each other since school.

I’d arrived in the middle of term, moving from my parents’ house in Luton to my cousin’s place on the edge of London. I was small, shy and played the violin. Unexpectedly and swiftly, lots of girls singled me out as their friend. Many wanted to be in plays or on television. I would watch them arrange their hair by their lockers and listen to their complaints about others. When I first saw Sadie, I thought she was beautiful. She noticed I was from out of town. ‘I like new things,’ she said, linking arms one day. We were fourteen when we started to spend time out of school together.

Sadie liked to create alternative versions of me. I remembered one time in particular. We sat in my front garden and she spat into a palette of mascara, the kind they made in the sixties, to mix a black paste with the tiny brush. She drew the wand along my lashes. ‘The trick is to work slowly,’ she said. ‘It builds up with each application.’ After blowing on my eyelashes, she said, ‘I have five layers on today.’ She held up a mirror to my face. ‘Do you like it?’ I nodded, turning my head from side to side. ‘You look amazing. You look like a different person.’

The woman says, ‘Two shakes.’ Opening the bagel, she adds the pepper and the pickles, then spreads mustard on top. Sadie steps backwards from the counter, digging around in her purse. Her eyelids are pastel-coloured with a meticulous dark arch of eyeshadow in the socket crease. She has radiant red lips. We’re both in our late thirties, and she’s tremendous with it.

‘Hey,’ I call over as casually as I can. ‘Sadie?’

Sadie snaps her purse closed and looks at me. She says nothing.

‘Your hair looks great,’ I say. I didn’t think I’d see her again but if I ever imagined the moment, this was always my first line.

‘You really think so?’ She tucks a strand behind her ear. ‘Juliet,’ she says. ‘Been such a long time since I thought of you.’

I was dedicated to Sadie. I kept notebooks of everything she liked (pink lipstick, peonies, greyhounds) and what she didn’t (rabbits, strong tea, eyebrow piercings). On weekends, it was the two of us. We played her parents’ vinyl in her bedroom, listening to every song. Or, we’d watch videos. Her favourite was The Graduate. It wasn’t only the mascara: we loved everything from the sixties. I’d read Nell Dunn’s Poor Cow and made us watch the film version again and again. I wanted to be like the main character Joy, who pushed her pram across London pavements with her backcombed hair and a sad, but hopeful, internal monologue. ‘All any woman wants is a man and a baby,’ says Joy in the film.

Sadie’s eyes drift across my body. She is searching for something to say. ‘You know, I like your top,’ she says. ‘Classic styling.’

 Read More: Londonist 

From Ways of Living by Gemma Seltzer. Available to buy now at  Influx Press.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Booker Prize Longlist 2021

I have read only one of the listed books  (Second Place) but I do plan to read more. On my list: Light Perpetual, A Town Called Solace, No One Is Talking About This and Bewilderment

A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)

Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)

The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)

An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)

A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)

Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)

China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)

Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)


Old Book Illustrations

Old Book Illustrations is an image collection on the web that also includes articles, either biographies or short pieces about books and the cultural context in which they were published. You can search by subject, artist or title. If you search for "hair" you might land on this:

Flight Plan by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett reflects on home, family, friendships and writing in These Precious Days , her upcoming collection of essays.  

Two hours later, there was still no call, and still no answer when I tried his cell phone. Around midnight, the clock and I had a conversation. I told the clock that I wanted to wait fifteen minutes before my new life began, the life in which Karl had been killed in a plane crash.

Read more: The New Yorker

Monday, July 26, 2021

Xu Bing’s Phoenixes At The Cathedral Of St. John The Divine

standing under Phoenix and his lofted bride
both newly risen in the nave of a church
at a quarter of the height from floor to vault
—I am small and still beneath their static glide.

a cross in the distance where they might have perched,
is centered on choirs set on either side
as simple as the nexus of sinners’ faults
at the crux of the moment their songs might rise.

these ninety foot creatures made of sweat and steel
and of light and of industry and touch and feel
and of hoses and spades and of wire and sight
and of chain and of pipes and of silent nights
and of canisters pulleys ducts and vents
and of reason for rebirth to where innocence went
and of hope and contrition and of blood and bone
all Phoenixes together here un-alone

Jim Culleny

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Japan's Oldest Surviving Cookbook

Published in 1643, the surviving edition of Ryori Monogatari resides at the Tokyo National Museum, but you can see a facsimile at the Tokyo Metropolitan Library. The book’s explanations of its dishes open a window on how the Japanese ate during the Edo period

In the video below Max Miller of Tasting History recreates a recipe for Edo Era Noodles from the book:

See an English translation of Ryori Monogatari by the late Anthony Bryant.

Read more: Open Culture

Thanks Bruce!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Raymond Chandler's Most Iconic Lines

American-British novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler was a master of snappy patter. Many, many years ago a friend who shared my Chandler-love silkscreened a t-shirt for me that I wore until it was threadbare. It had an image of Chandler's hard-boiled private detective, Philip Marlowe, on it with the caption "Not peculiar, just uninhibited" from Farewell My Lovely.

Literary Hub has gathered together some of the most Raymond Chandler-y lines.

You Can Buy Elvis Presley’s Annotated Copy of The Prophet

Elvis Presley reread Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet many times, memorizing parts of it. He gave annotated copies to several friends. This particular copy was given to Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate, who became Presley’s close friend, sparring partner and occasional bodyguard.

The volume of twenty-six prose poems is being offered by Peter Harrington, London  for £19,500 ($26,670). (Page 80)

Read More: Literary Hub 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Artistic Cocktails

Art Boozel contains recipes for 50 mixed drinks inspired by artists, including the Frida Kahlo with tequila and watermelon, the Salvador Dalí with Spanish sherry and sesame, and the Yayoi Kusama, a sweet-tart mix of gin, pumpkin, lime, and ginger.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

At The Bend In The Road

On the Camino de Santiago, a female pilgrim walks in solitude—utterly vulnerable, utterly free. By Aube Rey Lescure

Her name is Denise Thiem. She is a forty-one-year-old Asian American woman from Arizona. In the picture on the flyer, her face is framed by jet-black hair. She sticks out her tongue as she rests on a stone bench, a turquoise backpack nestled at her feet like a patient dog, waiting to get up and go.

Read More: Guernica

Sylvia Plath's Recipe Cards and Rolling Pin

"Although she was acutely aware of the tension between domesticity and artistic creation, Sylvia Plath loved to cook and refers often to her love for cooking and baking in her journals and elsewhere. She read commercial cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking "like a rare novel" but also enjoyed cooking from family recipes. These cards are typed on two different typewriters: half of them appear to have been typed by Sylvia Plath, the other half were probably sent to her by her mother Aurelia."

These are part of a cache of Plath’s letters and personal items – including her wedding ring, a captioned photo album and her drawings of Ted Hughes that are on the block at Sotheby's. Better hurry - this lot closes in a few hours!

Unread Messages

Short fiction by Sally Rooney: 

At twenty past twelve on a Wednesday afternoon, a woman sat behind a desk in a shared office in Dublin city center, scrolling through a text document. She had very dark hair, swept back loosely into a tortoiseshell clasp, and she was wearing a dark-gray sweater tucked into black cigarette trousers. Using the soft, greasy roller on her computer mouse she skimmed over the document, eyes flicking back and forth across narrow columns of text, and occasionally she stopped, clicked, and inserted or deleted characters. Most frequently she was inserting two full stops into the name “WH Auden,” in order to standardize its appearance as “W. H. Auden.” When she reached the end of the document, she opened a search command, selected the Match Case option, and entered “WH.” No matches appeared. She scrolled back up to the top of the document, words and paragraphs flying past illegibly, and then, apparently satisfied, saved her work and closed the file.

At one o’clock she told her colleagues she was going to lunch, and they smiled and waved at her from behind their monitors. Pulling on a jacket, she walked to a café near the office and sat at a table by the window, holding a sandwich in one hand and a copy of “The Brothers Karamazov” in the other. At twenty to two, she looked up to observe a tall, fair-haired man entering the café. He was wearing a suit and tie, with a plastic lanyard around his neck, and was speaking into his phone. Yeah, he said, I was told Tuesday, but I’ll call back and check that for you. When he saw the woman seated by the window, his face changed, and he quickly lifted his free hand, mouthing the word Hey. Into the phone, he continued, I don’t think you were copied on that, no. Looking at the woman, he pointed to the phone impatiently and made a talking gesture with his hand. She smiled, toying with the corner of a page in her book. Right, right, the man said. Listen, I’m actually out of the office now, but I’ll do that when I get back in. Yeah. Good, good, good to talk to you.

The man ended his call and came over to her table. Looking him up and down, she said, Oh, Simon, you’re so important-looking, I’m afraid you’re going to be assassinated. He picked up his lanyard and studied it critically. It’s this thing, he said. It makes me feel like I deserve to be. Can I buy you a coffee? She said she was going back to work. Well, he said, can I buy you a takeaway coffee and walk you back? I want your opinion on something. She shut her book and said yes. While he went to the counter, she stood up and brushed away the sandwich crumbs that had fallen into her lap. He ordered two coffees, one white and one black, and dropped some coins into the tip jar. How was Lola’s fitting in the end? the man asked. The woman glanced up, met his eyes, and let out a strange, stifled sound. Oh, fine, she said. You know my mother’s in town. We’re all meeting up tomorrow to look for our wedding outfits.

He smiled benignly, watching the progress of their coffees behind the counter. Funny, he said, I had a bad dream the other night about you getting married.

What was bad about it?

You were marrying someone other than me.
Read more

Sally Rooney has written three novels: Conversations with Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World, Where Are You, which will be published in September.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Is Life Meaningless?

Dive into Albert Camus’ philosophy of the absurd, and explore the question: if the world is meaningless, could our lives still hold value?

Via  Aeon Videos

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Empty Library

That was but a prelude;
where they burn books,
they will ultimately burn people as well.

On May 10, 1933, in the Bebelplatz in central Berlin, members of the National Socialist Student Union burned 20,000 books. In 1995, Israeli sculptor Micha Ullman created a memorial room under the plaza, with empty shelves enough to accommodate 20,000 books.

Read more: Futility Closet