Month: April 2012

An Idea for Self-Learning!

Taschen Books at WeHo's Book Festival

Hello, dear English Muse readers! It’s me again, Gulfem from All Happy Things Around. Today, I would like to share with you one of my favourite publisher, Taschen, and how their books helped me to learn, discover and be more well-rounded person.

Before college, I was uneasy with self-learning, especially from books. I was uncomfortable with the feeling of starting something from scratch all by myself and hundreds page long books were not a good help to that. For me to learn something, I did need a personal contact. Luckily, I was good at asking questions.

With college, my personal interests has been diversified and self-learning turned into a must.Important movements in history, 60s, photography, interior design…

My 2 New Taschen Books

I always love novels, but pure didactic books? Hold on a second. Then one day, pure luck decided to meet me and I discovered Taschen book series. They have great books on architecture, art, design, fashion,  lifestyle/travel and many more…

The thing about Taschen books is that they discuss the subject in a way that you immediately get inspired and want to know even more. Taschen books work just fine form e when it comes to self-learning…

I started with their 60s book, then “Pop Art”, “Interiors Now” followed… Currently, I am reading their series on famous painters and major movements in painting history one by one… Done with Dali and Cezanne, I am reading Impressionism now. They are both rich in explanation and visuals…

I soon want to buy their Portrait of a city, Paris book, the cover of it being “Bergstorm over Paris”, a cult photo by Helmut Newton!

I know you love reading books and you all have many different personal interests. Those interests need constant breeding and I wanted to share my cure for that matter 😉 Also, they do have fair pricing, I think!

PS: Directly taken from their website…  “In the year 1980, an entrepreneurial-minded eighteen-year-old opened a comic book shop in his native Cologne to sell and trade from his massive collection”  Interesting start, don’t you think?

Enjoy your week!

(Photo credits: 1, 2, 3)

Gulfem,@All Happy Things Around



Neon for Spring.

Morning guys. How was everyone’s weekend? Here in SA we are midway through a long weekend. It is wonderful. In my first post here on English Muse I shared an Autumn inspired palette with you. It has gradually been getting colder here, but I know that most of you are steadily marching through Spring and cannot wait for Summer. So, as requested, today I will be sharing a funky neon palette with you- perfect for the warmer weather.


Wise words from Walt

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I bring you wise words from Walt. Walt Whitman that is.

It’s hard sometimes I think and very human at the same time. We grow up in a set of values and it can be difficult to keep an open mind.

Exact words can be forgotten but the sentiment is usually remembered. Be kind to people. Seriously. Putting other people down to make yourself feel better is not nice.

Be yourself. Allow others to be themselves as well.

Have a lovely new week!

Beat the rainy weather

Hello, Jenny here. Puh, what a week it has been. Lots of work and it has been raining every day here in London. I am in need of a colour shock. So when I happened to stumble upon Marimekko’s summer fabric collection while researching a fashion feature, I thought I must share it with you. Hope the weather is smiling at you wherever you are. But if not, I hope the patterns will put a smile on your faces.

How is the weather where you live? Sunny? Rainy? Windy? Cloudy? Snowy?
Have a nice weekend!




Flippin’ the Bird in a Poem

Happy National ‘Poem-in-your-pocket’ Day!

Being a bit of a (wannabe) bad-@ss ballerina myself, I have taken a particular shine to this one by Ruth L. Schwartz. Poetry-related holiday or not, I think I carry it around in my heart and soul. I just love the idea of finding yourself in a poem and anything that mentions a swan conjures up images of the ballet ‘Swan Lake’ for me. I just wish I were as cool as this feathered fowl.

The Swan at Edgewater Park

Ruth L. Schwartz

Cynthia Gregory and American Ballet Theatre in 'Swan Lake'- 1983

Isn’t one of your prissy richpeoples’ swans
Wouldn’t be at home on some pristine pond
Chooses the whole stinking shoreline, candy wrappers, condoms
in its tidal fringe
Prefers to curve its muscular, slightly grubby neck
into the body of a Great Lake,
Swilling whatever it is swans swill,
Chardonnay of algae with bouquet of crud,
While Clevelanders walk by saying Look
at that big duck!
Beauty isn’t the point here; of course
the swan is beautiful,
But not like Lorie at 16, when
Everything was possible—no
More like Lorie at 27
Smoking away her days off in her dirty kitchen,
Her kid with asthma watching TV,
The boyfriend who doesn’t know yet she’s gonna
Leave him, washing his car out back—and
He’s a runty little guy, and drinks too much, and
It’s not his kid anyway, but he loves her, he
Really does, he loves them both—
That’s the kind of swan this is.

That’s me- the Swan from St. Louis

Which poem will you be carrying in your pocket/ heart today?

Cynthia Gregory and Rudolf Nureyev (ABT) 1978

“A Bird may love a fish but where would they build a home?” …..Swan Lake!

see you next week– xo- Jess (that big duck!) from Bodies Never Lie

Guilty Pleasures and Inner Book Snobs

Hello again!  It’s Katie from unwritten, untitled again, here to talk about what I imagine is a common book lover’s problem: reading (and enjoying) books that embarrass your inner book snob.

Sometimes–no, often–I feel as if I should devote myself to capital-L Literature.  Do you ever get that feeling, like you must solely read literary fiction to be a true bibliophile?  The stack of books and authors I feel I ought to read is probably higher than my to-read list. The result of this feeling is sort of amusing, though: for every guilty pleasure book I indulge in, I end up reading at least two works of literary fiction to assuage my inner book snob’s shame.  Oddly, I find that my inner book snob only judges me, and never other people’s reading choices–in fact, I’ll often find myself jealous of others who can devour entertainment fiction without feeling guilty.  It’s not that I mind reading extra books, of course, but I’d like to read them with a motive besides guilt.

The process generally goes like this: recently, I plunged through the last published book in a YA series, then read the Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies and the critically-acclaimed Sputnik Sweetheart (discussed here).  I loved all three books equally and in different ways.  Yet I still felt like I need to read Dostoyevsky or Melville or some more capital-L Lit books written before 1950.  So I went to the dust-accumulating stack of classics on my bookshelf and picked up Mrs. Dalloway, which I’ve started and enjoyed three times but never finished.  It lived in my purse for a day or two before being exchanged for another YA novel, which will start the process all over again.

So I wonder, do you share my bibliophile’s guilt?  Do you have an inner book snob or literary critic?  What are your favorite guilty pleasure books?  And how do you calm that inner book snob when you’ve polished off a few books read mostly for their entertainment value?


[original source of image unknown–I’ve searched for it unsuccessfully. please comment if you know!]

The Great Indian Novels

Do you read books just to get a glimpse into life in a particular place?

Books can tell you all about the life, culture, activities and people of a particular place. A good writer can transport you in time and space and take you on as poignant and soulful a journey as any.

Have you seen this poster available at the most amazing Literary Gift Company? (Seriously! You gotta shop here if you love books!)

It is a literary map of the U.S!

And this got me thinking my own country, India.

To say that India is a melting pot of cultures and traditions is an understatement; India is a veritable stew of all that is good, bad, kitschy, and cheeky, split up into 28 states and 7 union territories, all different from each other as chalk and cheese. The languages spoken in each state are different, the clothes are different, the traditional music and dances are different, the skin color is different, and the temperament of the people is different. India is a manifestation of  joy, anguish, and frenzy, amalgamated!

But what amazes me is the power that art, particularly books, has to capture this multifariousness… this mélange.

So until I make a literary map of India for you, here are a few books that embody and reflect the lives and times of the people living in this country. Read these books if you can get your hands on them, and if ever India beckons, come to Bombay and call me! I’ll buy you gulab jamuns till your heart’s blissed out.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: This dazzling and devastating book offers a peek into Christian life into Kerala in South India. This is one of the first “grown up” books that I fell in love with, and Roy’s lush, lyrical, almost poetic prose made it really easy to do that. In this book, themes of social unrest, colonialism, communism, and casteism are dexterously woven into a story about the pains and pleasures of a pair of fraternal twins.

“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic.”

Need I say more?

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: Undoubtedly, this book would be on any list on the prominent literary works on India; it is on most “best books of all time” lists in any case. This is a story of a man born at the exact moment that India became independent, and it is vintage Rushdie: spirited, magical, and full of awesome.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry: Fatter than most of the fattest books that you would own (I’ll bet you my bottom dollar though, that you’ll finish it in three days if you start.), this book is a magnificent and unabashed reflection of all that is joyous, distressing, laudable, lamentable, heroic, and heartbreaking about life in an India that is recovering from a colonial past and trying to grapple with forming a vision of itself for the future. It is a moving tale of four strangers who are catapulted into a common future and are forced to deal with the vagaries of life in the form of death, betrayal, corruption, and caste violence, when a State of Emergency is declared by the government. Though the time we live in now is far removed from the period described in this book, I could not help feeling that every single thing that Mistry was talking about, happened, and probably to him or his loved ones—his prose is that empathetic. And that is a truly worthy literary victory.

“But nobody ever forgot anything, not really, though sometimes they pretended, when it suited them. Memories were permanent. Sorrowful ones remained sad even with the passing of time, yet happy ones could never be recreated – not with the same joy. Remembering bred its own peculiar sorrow. It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain.”

The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru: I studied this book in school and in retrospect (you are allowed to hate your textbooks), I would like to appreciate what a glorious work of art this book is. Read it, and you will probably fall in love with India. Nehru writes as if he has been allowed glimpses into the soul of his nation and is reveling in it; it is a veritable treatise of his raving love affair with his country. He covers the history of Indian civilization starting from what happened at Indus Valley to the political,economic, and social milieu of his time, and though the text is heavy at times, the lyrical prose makes it altogether worth it.

The Great Indian Novel: Now Shashi Tharoor, the author of this blinding demonstration of his sheer wit and cheek, is possibly my number one literary crush. He is suave and he is fancy and his writing reflects that. A marvelous retelling of the Mahabharata (the greatest epic on Hindu mythology; a tale of ) recast and reset in the context of the Indian Independence movement, this satire is mischievous, piquant, and gloriously irreverent. The story also includes, gloriously intertwined into it, puns and allusions to famous works about India, such as those by Rudyard Kipling, Paul Scott, and E. M. Forster. Just thinking about the book makes me smile! Elephant shoes, Shashi! Elephant shoes!

Now go on, get yourself a Lonely Planet India, and come on over!

Waiting for you with bated breath,

The Indian girl Elizabeth

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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