Month: August 2012

What Are You Reading?

Friends, I have had a very trying week, full of too many things happening at once.  Some of those things are good, of course–many things, in fact–but I’ve gotten a little lost in the tumble.  I could sure use a good book to read at the moment, and your guys’ suggestions never disappoint.

So, everyone, what are you reading?

Until next Thursday,

Katie

(Unwritten, Untitled)

[image by the beautiful Tiffany of Dancing Branflakes]

So much great stuff, so little time: Here are my picks for this year’s ‘best of the best’

Jesse Kornbluth, of HeadButler.com, virtually here but actually 2,000 miles from my keyboard.

It’s that time again. My brood has stood guard over offices, camps and my little corner of the Web all summer, and now it’s our turn to flee. This year we’re off to hike where the last significant event occurred 70 million years ago. After a year of titanic egos rattling through Manhattan’s canyons, Zion will provide a humbling sense of scale — as will a day floating in a Vegas pool with our daughter.

But that doesn’t mean you get to slack. I’ve put together a selection for you: the best of the best. Lots of froth, some seriousness, all top-shelf.

NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

John Green: The Fault in Our Stars
I’ll say it again: “The Fault in Our Stars.” Hell, I’ll say it as many times as it takes to get you to read it. A friend finished it well after midnight. “I was bawling,” she wrote. So will you. And you’ll write to thank me too. Because it’s that good.

Alan Furst: Mission to Paris
“In Paris, the evenings of September are sometimes warm, excessively gentle, and, in the magic particular to that city, irresistibly seductive. The autumn of 1938 began in just such weather and on the terraces of the best cafés, in the famous restaurants, at the dinner parties one wished to attend, the conversation was, of necessity, lively and smart: fashion, cinema, love affairs, politics, and, yes, the possibility of war—that too had its moment. Almost anything, really, except money. Or, rather, German money. A curious silence, for hundreds of millions of francs — tens of millions of dollars — had been paid to some of the most distinguished citizens of France since Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933. But maybe not so curious, because those who had taken the money were aware of a certain shadow in these transactionsand, in that shadow, the people who require darkness for the kind of work they do.”

Brandi Carlile
This is the year of Brandi Carlile. Her new CD, “Bear Creek,” opened high on the music charts. Her tour is a nightly revelation. She just got engaged. It’s been a long time since she sold some of her guitars to buy microphones for Tim and Phil Hanseroth — “The Twins” — the guitarists who stand lean and tall behind her on stage.

William Boyd: Waiting for Sunrise
“It is a clear and dazzling summer’s day in Vienna.” That’s how it starts. August, 1913, and Lysander Rief, a 28-year-old English actor, has come to Vienna for — what else — treatment from one of those newfangled creatures, a psychoanalyst. His problem? He’s interested in sex, but can’t have an orgasm. In the waiting room, he meets the military attaché at the British consulate. And, more to the point, he meets Hettie Bull, a free-spirited sculptor who will quickly solve his problem.

David Byrne and Caetano Veloso

My wife and I saw the 2004 Veloso-Byrne concert from about the tenth row. It was magic, spectacular right from the from start — I think pretty much everyone there got that, and felt privileged, and went nuts with pleasure and gratitude after each song. A while back, we ran into Byrne at a gallery and asked about a CD. “Soon,” he said. “Maybe.” Well, what’s eight years — half as long as it takes for single malt to be drinkable.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond
On the surface, this is an exploration of Michael’s paternity, about which his mother had persistently lied. His father, she insisted, was Edward Lindsay-Hogg, an English baronet who was tall and dark and thin and lived in Ireland. Michael was to ignore all rumors to the contrary. “We [Orson Welles and I] would go out for dinner together,” she told her son. “And you know how people can put two and two together and make three.”

FIFTY SHADES

Fifty Shades of Grey
“Fifty Shades” is a category all by itself. As a piece of writing — sorry, I can’t finish that sentence. “But all my friends have read it,” you say. Fine. Get it done. Just don’t spend more than two hours with it, or it may render you stupid for life.

CLASSICS

The Quiche of Death
“Mrs. Agatha Raisin sat behind her newly cleared desk in her office in South Molton Street in London’s Mayfair. From the outer office came the hum of voices and the clink of glasses as the staff prepared to say farewell to her. For Agatha was taking early retirement. She had built up the public-relations firm over long hard years of work. She had come a long way from her working-class background in Birmingham. She had survived an unfortunate marriage and had come out of it, divorced and battered in spirit, but determined to succeed in life. All her business efforts were to one end, the realization of a dream — a cottage in the Cotswolds.”

Walter Tevis: The Queen’s Gambit

An eight-year-old orphan named Beth Harmon turns out to be the Mozart of chess. Which brings her joy (she wins! people notice her!) and misery (she’s alone and unloved and incapable of asking for help). So she gets addicted to pills. She drinks. She loses. And then, as 17-year-old Beth starts pulling herself together, she must face the biggest challenge of all — a match with the world champion, a Russian of scary brilliance. You think: This is thrilling? You think: chess? You think: Must be an “arty” novel, full of interior scenes. Wrong. All wrong. “The Queen’s Gambit” is “Rocky.;

Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop

A noted English poet named Richard Cadogan cadges the awesome sum of fifty pounds from his publisher and heads off to a vacation in — of all places — Oxford. He arrives late at night and stumbles into an unlocked toy shop, but before he can make himself comfortable he finds a freshly-murdered female. Hit on the head, Cadogan wakes hours later in another room and rushes to the police. They hurry to the toy shop. No body. In fact, no toy shop — it’s a grocery. As it always was, apparently.

Denis Johnson: Jesus Son

“Jesus’ Son” is one of the ten funniest books I’ve ever read. A guy has a knife stuck in his eye; a drugged-out hospital orderly saves him without quite knowing what he’s done. Another guy gets shot in a farmhouse, for no reason. A third guy overdoses. Prison looms for everyone. And it all takes place in the gloomy flatland of the Midwest, circa 1971. Funny? You’ll see….


HOT AND BOTHERED


Annie Ernaux: Simple Passion

64 pages. A #1 bestseller in France. And not a bit of actual smut.

James Salter: A Sport and a Pastime

“She cannot be satisfied. She will not let him alone. She removes her clothes and calls to him. Once that night and twice the next morning he complies and in the faint darkness between lies awake, the lights of Dijon faint on the ceiling, the boulevards still. It’s a bitter night. Flats of rain are passing. Heavy drops ring in the gutter outside their window, but they are in a dovecote, they are pigeons between the eaves. The rain is falling all around them. Deep in feathers, breathing softly, they lie.”

Françoise Sagan: Bonjour Tristesse
Her father has rented a large white villa on the Mediterranean for the summer. It’s the house you dream of: “remote and beautiful, standing on a headline jutting out over the sea, hidden from the road by pine woods. A goat path led down to a small, sunny cove where the sea lapped against rust-colored rocks.” The water? “Cool and transparent.” Ahhhhhh…

GREAT LIVES

Julia Child: My Life in France
Her first meal, in Rouen, started with oysters, served with a pale rye bread and unsalted butter. They were followed by sole meuniere, “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.” Mr. and Mrs. Child washed it down with a bottle of Pouilly-Fume. They moved on to a green salad and a baguette, fromage blanc and cafe filtre. “Absolute perfection,” Julia decided. “The most exciting meal of my life.”

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

Marya Sklodowska, a brilliant student from Poland, came to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. In 1894, she met Pierre Curie, an iconoclast who taught physics and chemistry. How deep was their love? As Pierre wrote to her, “It would be a fine thing … to pass our lives near to each other, hypnotized by our dreams; your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream, and our scientific dream.

Jacques Lusseyran: And There Was Light

A leader of the French Resistance in World War II. Oh, he was blind. But in fact, he could see — “radiance [was] emanating from a place I saw nothing about.” He could see light, after all. It only faded when he was afraid.

Georgia O’Keefe: How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living
The standard stuff, and a lot more. Like: Alfred Stieglitz — her lover, mentor and husband — wrote at least 50,000 letters. “Those letters were Angry Birds and I Can Has Cheezburger and American Idol and retail therapy, and everything else we moderns like to do.” Like: The “epic marriage” of Stieglitz and O’Keeffe: “She was the red Porsche purchased by a middle-aged man; he was the football hero who falls in love with the awkward new girl in school.”

Johnny U: The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas
Team first. That was Unitas. In the huddle, a black player said that an opponent had called him “nigger.” Unitas said: “Let him through.” And he threw a bullet pass into that guy’s head so hard it felled him. To sportswriters, after a game, he described everyone’s goofs as his mistakes. He played hurt; he had a Terminator’s tolerance for pain. Of course his teammates loved him. “Playing with Johnny Unitas,” one said, “was like being in the huddle with God.”

MUSIC THAT MATTERS

Teddy Thompson
‘Separate Ways,’ his second CD, starts like this: “I want to be a huge star who hangs out in hotel bars/ I want to wake up at noon in somebody else’s room/ I want to shine so bright it hurts….” Amusing. We’ve all been there. But what is this? “I wanna be death bed thin.” And “I wanna be high strung/Make people wonder/what they’ve done.” Hey, these dreams are new territory.

Krishna Das
“I’m just another person who hears me chanting, you know? That’s why I do it. I’m not doing it for anybody else. I’m doing it because it’s my life blood. It’s what I do. I recognize that so many people get benefit from it. That’s wonderful. Isn’t that great? But that’s not why I do it.”

Albert King: Born Under a Bad Sign
He used a thumb rather than a pick. And he used that thumb sparingly. “It ain’t how many notes you play,” he said. “It’s how you play them.” Guitar players revered him. Mike Bloomfield, no slouch himself: “Albert can take four notes and write a volume. He can say more with fewer notes than anyone I’ve ever known.

DEARLY DEPARTED

Etta James
Leonard Chess liked “triangle” songs, and he found a great one for Etta’s Chess debut: “All I Could Do Was Cry.” The set-up: Etta watching her lover marry another woman. The refrain: “I was losing the man that I loved, and all I could do was cry.” Etta needed only one take. When she was finished, she was crying — and so were some of the engineers.

Levon Helm
Rock legends die all the time — for some, death is how they become legends — and the rituals of modern mourning follow. But losing Levon Helm feels different. He’s one of the few Authentics, one of the deans of the Old School. As his wife and daughter say, “He loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance. He did it every time he took the stage.”

EXTRA CREDIT

You read thick books in summer. Skip the action thriller for a foreign movie. Or just aspire to read/see/hear better. These are for you.

Troubled Water
Alec Baldwin says that Trine Dyrholm is “the best actress in the world.” Michael Moore has said “Troubled Water” was the best film he saw in 2009. I am in love with Trine Dyrholm — both the actress and her character. I don’t see how anyone could not feel that. No makeup, ravaged by grief, she is nonetheless beautiful. Beauty defined thus: you can see into her and share her struggle to keep it together.

Wislawa Szymborska: Poems
In 1996, Wislawa Szymborska (l923-2012) won the most money in the history of Nobel awards and the most money ever won by a poet: $1.2 million. She stayed in her small apartment — a fifth-floor walk-up. Her output was small, just 350 poems. Why so few? “I have a trash can in my home.” Her favorite phrase was “I don’t know.” This wasn’t conversational. It was the entire matter.

Albert Camus: The Plague
People worship money and devote all their time to making it. Love flourishes briefly, then dissolves into habit. Government is slow and formal; it is shockingly late before it agrees that frothing rats and dying people have any connection. In short, a thoroughly modern city…

Antipodean dispatch: Eucalyptus

Once upon a time, there was a woman so beautiful that tales of her beauty spread throughout the world. When it came time for her to find a husband, her father put out the word: the first man to correctly name every eucalypt on his property would win his daughter’s hand in marriage.

It sounds like something out of Shakespeare. Or the Brothers Grimm. Or Homer. Even the daughter’s name is Ellen, just a tiny step away from that other famous and ill-fated beauty, Helen of Troy. But Eucalyptus by Murray Bail is a much more contemporary fairy tale, a strange romance set not in Troy or Bavaria or on Prospero’s island, but in the Australian bush.

Poor Ellen is powerless, as men from across the globe travel to her father’s land to name the eucalyptus trees. She mostly ignores them: after all they are wooing her father, not Ellen. But slowly she sinks further into despair. Then one day a stranger appears on the land, and he begins to tell stories. Stories and fragments of stories, mostly about women and families.

I read this book recently and I find it hard to describe except that the story was compelling while the language felt like water. Like submerging yourself in a cool river on a hot day. I read parts of it aloud to my baby daughter because she likes the sound of my voice as she drops off to sleep, and the words tasted a little bit like music in my mouth.

Eucalyptus is a wonderful read, steeped in Australian culture, and surprisingly refreshing (there’s that river again). I won’t spoil the ending for you, except to say that it was wholly… satisfying. It gave me an “I should have guessed” moment that sent me scuttling back through the pages for the clues I had missed. And it left me smiling. I didn’t expect that.

Victorian England

Last week I was browsing through the history section of my library, not really looking for any books in particular, when I came across Victorian England Aspects of English and Imperial History 1837-1901 by L.C.B. Seaman.  So of course I checked it out and ran home with it.  It turns out that Chapter 3, Disease and Drudgery, is the most interesting.

Seances became popular during the Victorian era.

Why are we so fascinated with the Victorian era? It wasn’t the best time to be a child or a woman. Yet, I can’t seem to read enough about it, whether it’s about medicine, fashion, marriage, trains or manners.

Victorian hair styles from an issue of Harper's Bazar.

Which era fascinates you and why?

Luli

Fashion inspired by the Victorian era. Via Polyvore.

{Victorian image of seance via here. Hair styles via Pinterest. Bottom image via Polyvore.}

Faces Emerging From the Words

Finding these beautiful faces painted directly onto a newsprint collage has been the highlight of my week thus far. The features seem to float in front of a fog of text and photos behind them.

I love finding beauty juxtaposed with the ordinary.

These paintings are by South Korean artist, Shin Young An. She now lives and works in New Jersey. In her artist statement she writes “Often, world and national events impose an emotional response on the artist, who is otherwise powerless to influence such events. The canvas can become the artist’s vehicle of expression.”

Have a lovely Tuesday,

Sarah From Design Flourishes

all images from An’s website

What’s Your Favorite Picture Book?

I have always had an affinity for children’s books. I believe it’s one of the main reasons I studied design. There’s a special place in my heart reserved just for my favorite illustrators who, of course, are too numerous to mention here. Reading a children’s book is sort of like transporting yourself on a little mini vacation. The worlds become destinations you can inhabit for the next 10 minutes while the characters quickly become old friends. Don’t you think so? Anyway, today I was thinking that since English Muse is a blog where we all our shameless bookworms, why not share with you some of my favorite *new* children’s books. (disclaimer: “new” in this context means published within the last 5 years or so) This way we can all take a few minutes to indulge our inner Kathleen Kelly.

“A Sick Day for Amos McGee”
written by: Philip C. Stead | illustrated by: Erin Stead

My sweet mother-in-law got me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it is beautiful! The book was written and illustrated by a husband + wife team, which I thought was really neat, and I was particularly fascinated with the illustration process of Erin, which you can read more about here.

“The Composer is Dead”
written by Lemony Snicket | illustrated by Carson Ellis

As the wife of a former band director, this book had me laughing so hard I had to listen to it twice. That’s right: Listen to it. You see, the book itself is great, but it also comes with a cd that not only adds a bit to the story that you won’t find in the original text, but illustrates the text with beautiful music. Think “Clue” meets “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.”

“I Had a Favorite Dress”
written by: Boni Ashburn | illustrated by: Julia Denos

This book is close to my heart for a couple of reasons. First of all, my mother is an absolutely amazing seamstress. I had no idea how spoiled I was until I got older and my wardrobe was no longer custom tailored. (It  is impossible to buy clothes that fit perfectly ‘off the rack!’) Second, the illustrator, Julia Denos, has become an “interweb friend,” and is just as sweet as you would expect when you see her lovely illustrations. I just *adore* her style! This is a must have for any girl!

“Leonard the Terrible Monster”
by Mo Willems

I have always had an affinity for monsters. I was scared of absolutely everything when I was little, but monsters? Never! They were my friends! I just knew that the ones that lived under my bed only wanted to be friends. Why in the world was everyone else so frightened of them? Well, this book was written for everyone that ever thought like me.

“Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs”
by Mo Willems

This book will be a joint present for Husband and I next week (our birthdays are a week apart). Mo Willems always scores, but a dinosaur retelling of Goldilocks? Seriously? Who doesn’t want to read this book?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So now let’s chat… What is your favorite children’s book?
Is there any particular reason it’s your favorite?

Until Next Week,
Hannah B.

P.S. If you too are a lover of children’s books, you may want to check out this new blog called Three Books a Night. It’s authored by Caryn, whom I consider a kindred spirit. She’s the only grown-up I know with more children’s books than me! Oh, & be sure to say *hello!*

Décor inspiration: lounge areas

Morning friends. It’s Lelanie here from Of Beauty and Love. Welcome to Monday. We had a super busy weekend preparing for and celebrating my Hubbies 30th birthday. On Saturday evening we had an awesome, Old Hollywood glamour/ James Bond inspired party. It was fabulous, but it meant that the weekend was way to short and to tiring to be up and at ‘e today. So, to get the creative juices flowing and the ideas generating, I thought I would post a few inspiring and interesting living spaces to get us all going today. I would much rather be lying on the couch than working, but that’s not going to happen. So, the closest I can get this morning are these cool pics.

This lounge has a cool, eclectic style. The gilded mirror, modern chairs, ikat scatters and contemporariness art all ad their own message a feel to this light and airy space.

Cool and calm is the order of the day in this unique space. The geometric carpet makes a bold statement. While the rest of the room is decorated in light, holiday mode inspiring fabrics and materials. The wicker look shown above also makes me long for a break-away. The gilded mirror collection makes an interesting statement here.

Don’t you just love this jewel tone lounge? I adore it. I don’t know if I would ever be brave enough to go all out like this, but I love the combination of the turquoise blue, emerald green and soft pinks. This energetic space is sure to inspire. This look cold be great in a  studio. Maybe I should try it in mine…?

This African inspired space is calm and neutral. A sunny spot on the couch is ideal for sinking into a great novel. The art is what makes this room. A quirky collection will keep your guests talking and your mind inspired.

This vintage chic New York loft is bright and airy. The awesome view definitely steals the show.

Which is your favourite look? I love the African lounge for it’s bright, light colouring and the unique art. But I am still hunkering after that gorgeous jewel tone space. Choices, choices…

Have a fabulous, happy and creative Monday.

Lelanie.

Lounge1-6, Lounge 7 & 8

%d bloggers like this: