Month: September 2012

Sometimes more is better

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I have my preacher’s hat on. For my own sake as much as yours.


(Illustration by Ivana Cunja.)

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But to truly, honestly and deeply love yourself isn’t always that easy. We’re inundated with advertisements that play on our weaknesses just so we would buy that one product that will make us perfect.

You know what? You’re already perfect. You’re perfectly you.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Until the next, dearies!


PS: If you don’t know where to start I highly recommend taking a look at Gala Darling’s posts on Radical Self-Love.

Image via Flickr

The wisest, worldliest — and most enjoyable — novel I’ve read this year.

Jesse Kornbluth, of, wildly in love this week with a recently published novel.

I don’t lose books.

But we were at a hotel in Las Vegas with a wave pool, it was 101 degrees and umbrellas cost $100. Then there was the human factor: women with tattoos across their back, women with tattoos staining their legs, women with entire sentences on their arms. With all that ink, could you remember to take a mere book from under your chaise?

To my astonishment, no one in this crowd turned “Beautiful Ruins” in to Lost & Found.

So I bought it again.

I soon understood why anyone who found it would have held on to it — it’s a stunner. Or, as they’d say at the wave pool, awesome. Very unique. A real journey of a novel.

And it’s not just one literate Vegas vacationer who thinks so. Richard Russo, no slouch as a novelist, and I agree: “Why mince words? ‘Beautiful Ruins’ is an absolute masterpiece.”

Masterpiece. A work of high quality made by a master. In this case, Jess Walter. (I’d read not a word of his until this, but his books are consistently honored: Time Magazine’s #2 novel of the year, finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the LA Times Book Prize, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel, New York Times notable book.) Born in Spokane, he lives in Spokane. And yet he’s written the wisest, worldliest novel I’ve read this year. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

What’s it about? Italy in the 1960s, Hollywood in the 1960s, Hollywood now, World War II, the set of “Cleopatra,” the Donner party, World War II, Seattle, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Idaho — but this long list is scaring you, yes?

If the locations aren’t daunting, the massive cast might make you nervous: the proprietor of “The Hotel Adequate View,” a six-room, three-table nothing of a resort in an Italian coastal town only accessible by boat, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, a Hollywood publicist turned producer, a novelist who can’t get beyond the first chapter, an unproduced screenwriter, a singer-comic, an assistant film executive whose boyfriend can be found at strip clubs, and — I almost forgot — the woman who seems to be at the center of all this, a young American actress named Dee Moray, who was briefly in “Cleopatra” and has come to this nowhere hotel because she’s been told she”s dying of cancer.

Too busy for you? And when I confess that the novel jumps around in time, do you feel you will be confused? In lesser hands, you would be. But this is a masterpiece, remember? Fifteen years in the making, many drafts. And in the end, not a foolish move.

“Beautiful Ruins” is, by turns, funny, tragic, satirical. Like life, it is always surprising. Like life, it has threads that connect unlikely people — but only in retrospect. Like life, victories are hard-won, defeats are learning experiences. And better than life, it all makes sense in the end.

I won’t quote it; it’s too hard to isolate what’s great about this novel. Because it all is. Every sentence. I know: That’s crazy talk. But “Beautiful Ruins” is one of those reading experiences that delights and challenges you along the way, thrills you often, and, at the end, makes you cry — well, makes me cry — for a world glorious enough for these characters and this writer.

Get it. Read it. If you hate it, I’ll refund your money.


The water is a friend of mine.

I love floating in the waves or under the still water. It makes me feel graceful.

All the cares of the world can literally float off my shoulders as the water envelopes me.

These beautiful photos are so clear and at the same time a little fuzzy in the best way. They conjure up the slow, silky feeling of falling into cool, welcoming water.

This beautiful series is a collaboration between South African fashion designer Joel Jansen vanVuuren, art director and model Elsa Bleda, photographer Ilse Moore, and makeup artist Liezl Zene Oberholzer.

The photographs capture the experience of floating and the gracefulness the water imparts so well. I can almost feel my hair swirling around me.


have a lovely Tuesday,

Sarah from Design Flourishes

all photos from Joel Janse van Vuuren’s website

via My Modern Met

It’s in the air

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I want to talk about my absolute favourite season. Autumn.

It’s in the air here in Belgium. Autumn has only just arrived with yesterday’s equinox but it’s already gotten a tad colder over the past week and a bit. The leaves are just slightly beginning to turn and I’m dreaming of boots and knee-high socks again instead of sundresses.

Children have gone back to school, Ostend is getting a bit quieter without all of the tourists and the beach is suddenly vast and beautiful again instead of filled with people. Do I sound like an old angry woman? Perhaps. But apart from those practical things the sunsets are nothing short of glorious at this time of year.

Autumn is for me a time to appreciate change.

What about you? What is it about autumn (or fall) that you love?


Images via nostalgic-wanderlust

No Such Thing

Once this weekend has come and gone, I am sure my husband, brother-in-law, dad, and whoever else helps us move into our new apartment will beg to differ.  I don’t mean to accumulate books.  It just happens: one here, one there, and suddenly I have no room left on my shelves or the floor next to them.  I even did the unthinkable and sold some of my books, mostly texts from college that I never liked, which left me feeling rather crummy until I spent a little of the money on two new books that I actually wanted.  Then my husband took me to the used bookstore and said I could pick out any books I wanted for my birthday present and four more books needed a home on my bookshelves.  Oops?

So, in spite of getting some books out of the house, I have a lot of books to move: three smallish but not tiny boxes full, with a dozen or two more awaiting the suitcase and backpack set aside for their travels to our little one-bedroom with a patio.  So I’m going to enlist a little help and start giving some away later today.  If you plan to enter, you must promise to be very nice to them, read them, and love them.  They’re mostly be classics I’ve accumulated with the intent to read (remember this post?) but can find at my library anytime I actually do need them.  Pop over to my blog, Unwritten, Untitled, after 3:30 EST to see what I’m offering and find the more official rules there.

In the meantime, let’s chat: do you have a book accumulation problem, too?

Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)

[image source unknown–share if you know it!]

Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’ is a stunning, satisfying storm.

Jesse Kornbluth, of, this week delighted to report that you can be 71 and still dazzle.

My wife has decreed that we will no longer attend Bob Dylan concerts. I was slow to agree, but I have come around. In live performance, you can hear every one of Dylan’s 71 years. It’s not just that Dylan loathes playing his songs the same way twice and that his updated versions seem more random than inspired. It’s equally that his voice is cracked, rough as a rancher’s hands. To compensate, he plays a lot of guitar, even a bit of piano. In essence, you’re watching a brilliant instrumental band playing songs you barely recognize, peppered with the occasional vocal.

The recordings are something else.

In the mid-1980s, Dylan asked Mark Knopfler to be his producer. “I’d like my records to sound more … professional,” he said. The collaboration didn’t last, and Dylan turned to producing himself, using the name “Jack Frost.”

He has become a brilliant producer.

“Tempest” — Dylan’s 35th CD, released half a century after he burst on the scene as a latter-day folk singer — is the proof. Critics are falling all over themselves to praise it; some say it’s in his top ten. Too soon to tell, I think. But “Jack Frost” has mixed these 10 songs so Dylan’s rasp is appealing and then some. As for the band, it’s just beyond. “Tempest” is very much worth your time and attention, and at $9.99 for the CD and $5 for the download, this 98-minute collection is the quality buy of the year. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]

What’s to love?

The range. Dylan has the entire history of modern music in his head, and he draws upon it to create the greatest variety of genres in recent memory. Not that he’s slavishly recreating long-forgotten classics. “Tempest,” like the best of Dylan, is a swirl — especially the lyrics, which range from highly focused to free association. But as smart as they are, and as dark as they can be, it’s wrong to listen to “Tempest” as if it were a literary document, the musical equivalent of, say, Shakespeare’s play. These are stories told by our greatest musical storyteller. The value is in the music as much as the words.

Like this:

What does it mean? Don’t go there. Dylan doesn’t particularly “mean” anything. If anything, this is the takeaway: Use what you’ve got to get what you need.

“I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes/ There’re secrets in them I can’t disguise.”

Consider yourself warned.

Paris + New York in children’s books

Hello dear English Muse readers, Naomi Bulger here. I also like to blog little messages in bottles from Australia.

I recently had a little girl, Madeleine, and I have discovered that one of the most fun parts of having a baby is having a legitimate excuse to delve head-first into children’s books. Ok at 13 weeks, my little girl isn’t exactly advanced in the literary department, but that doesn’t stop me reading to her. And already she loves to look at the pictures, and makes little “Oooh” noises, trying to copy my speech, as I read aloud.

I bought Paris Y Es-Tu while I was in Paris last year. It is a stunningly illustrated ‘hide and seek’ book by Japanese artist Masumi, kind of like Where’s Waldo/Wally, except you are looking for different people and little lost things all over Paris. When Madeleine is older, we will trace our fingers together over all these places, and I’ll tell her what is there, and we will dream about going to Paris together.

Then on the weekend I found this little New York, Baby book, and I have already read it to her several times.

“Look, they’re shopping in SoHo, that’s where Mama lived,” I say. And, “This is Central Park. One day, we will go together and see the turtles.” And, “That’s ‘The Lion King,’ on Broadway. Mama took Daddy and Nanna and your two sisters to see ‘The Lion King’ when they came to New York for a visit.” And, “Just around the corner from there is where Mama and Daddy met.” So she will learn about her mother’s life in New York.

What would/do you read to your child?

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