Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Books for Every Mood

Hallie Ephron, a mystery writer who writes for the Boston Globe, has written a nonfiction book called 1001 Books for Every Mood. Our taste differs but it is always interesting seeing other people's favorites (like looking at their bookshelves). And now that I think about it, she did like the Nicola Upson book about Josephine Tey that I was entranced by. I haven't met her but she blogs with Hank Philippi, who is very nice as well as being what we call "an aggressive self promoter."

Speaking of Josephine Tey, I was very surprised to learn earlier this month that my sister Andrea had not read Brat Farrar. I quickly lent her Three by Tey, with instructions to read Brat Farrar first.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On the street where you live

Unbelievably, one could buy the house across the street from Betsy Ray's and next door to the Kellys in "Deep Valley" for only $125,000:

"Step through the window into the past to the turn of the Century of Deep Valley in the Historic Betsy-Tacy neighborhood of Mankato. Step back in time 112 years in this Victorian house nestled into the hillside on a quiet dead end street. Enjoy a little bit of country in the city with the deer and wild turkeys. Walk the hiking trails or sit and reminisce on the Betsy-Tacy bench. There is tons of potential in this 4 bedroom, 1 and a half bath, 2-story Victorian home. Original woodwork and floors, various stained glass windows, stained glass transoms above bedroom doors, even a working 112 year old door bell! Front Parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen and half bath take up the first floor. Four bedrooms, a full bath and a sleeping porch occupy the 2nd floor. There is a back deck to gaze over the Valley View and a front porch to relax on."

Of course, it might be a tough sell if the potential buyers learn of the eccentricities of some of our members . . . And it doesn't seem to have a garage which is a deal breaker for me, as I keep telling brokers here. Note that in Boston, $125K would barely pay for a garage!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Manny being Manny

What should we do with Manny Ramirez? Have the Red Sox had enough? I have!

Converted Churches

I am somewhat fascinated by a church near me that is being turned into overpriced condos, on the other hand, I seem to be able to waste infinite amounts of time gazing at any and all real estate listings as I try (without noticeable success) to find one right for me.

I can't think of a book where the characters actually live in a church (although obviously there are many where they live in a vicarage) but in Five Farthings by Monica Redlich, the family moves into quirky lodgings across the street from St. Paul's Cathedral in London to be near their father who has been hospitalized and make the city their own. The book itself is very hard to find (I think I borrowed it from my friend Emily in NY when I read it) and the original illustration for the frontispiece (I love that word) is or was on sale for £3,750.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ballet Shoes

There's an interesting story in the NYT about an intensive summer ballet program sponsored by the Bolshoi Ballet, but the part I liked best is where one of the students says she thought her instructors would have canes!

Has she been reading about Madame Fidolia in Ballet Shoes or perhaps the Maestro in Lorna Hill's Sadler's Wells series?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Walking on Broken Glass

The light fixture in my hall just fell down and smashed into a zillion pieces....

Ice Cream at Harvard

Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard, has more of a sense of humor than I had realized - at an ice cream bash in the Yard earlier this month, she served ice cream flavors called Lamont Lemon, Cookie Endoughment, and Berry-tas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Manny scolded for jaywalking!

Funny to think of Manny Ramirez being scolded in Seattle for jaywalking! And the fact that the policeman didn't realize who he was is funny (did he figure it out once Manny showed him ID?). The Red Sox' hotel must be very close to the Seattle stadium* for him to be strolling there by himself.

During my one summer in DC, I remember the Capitol Police asking me to refrain from jaywalking but I also recall that when I explained I was from Boston, they mostly laughed and rolled their eyes. Maybe Manny should have tried that . . .

* The address of the stadium appears to be Royal Brougham Way, which sounds like something from a Georgette Heyer.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I keep meaning to try Alan Furst's espionage novels, and am disappointed I missed seeing him in Boston earlier this month.

Despite a power failure yesterday (which prevented me from vacuuming my apartment for tonight's guests and forced me to my parents' to power my laptop and try to finish a memo due today - naturally when I emailed about 1 am to say I was nearly done I was told that it was no longer urgent and I should work on something else for tomorrow - do you hear the gnashing of teeth?), I managed to make quiche and blueberry torte (from Elegant but Easy). I even have a Beverly Gray wrapped up for my friend Marlene's birthday, which was yesterday. She will be very surprised as is not the type to be sentimental about children's books (more's the pity) - this is the one thing from her childhood she has ever mentioned reading.
Recently Marlene, her husband, and our college classmate Art went to dinner in Concord, and I insisted on our seeking out the house from The Diamond in the Window. Many years ago Jane Langton had drawn me a map of where the house is that inspired the story. Somehow I had managed to hold onto this fragment of paper all this time but must say that when we examined it all we could figure out was that the house was on Walden Street. We drove slowly and carefully, scanning both sides of the street, without success, and I was annoyed not to have written to Jane Langton before our visit, although I had checked her website. So can you believe this - the next day I found the actual address on Wikipedia! Concord is not far away but it is rare that I go there unless bringing tourists so a return visit will have to wait.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Apocalyptic fiction

I find this trend (mini-trend?) toward apocalyptic YA novels a bit odd but any time Newsweek decides to write about children's books it should be encouraged. Coincidentally, I decided it was finally time for me to read Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It, and began reading last night. I have read many, but not all of her books, and among my favorites are Starring Peter and Leigh, The Year Without Michael, and Most Precious Blood (which I got to read in manuscript form when I was at Bantam, I believe). Those may be more my style but several friends whose taste is similar to mine really liked Life as We Knew It. Moreover, I admire authors like SBP who don't simply write the same book again and again. On the other hand, she has written some real potboilers such as her books about the March girls.

1) Note that apocalyptic is not easy to spell!

2) I remember now that I didn't care for the acclaimed How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, which also falls into this genre, but that was partly because the heroine's relationship with her cousin seemed kind of creepy and incestuous. The author's deliberate lack of punctuation was annoying but I think I just found the book boring once the heroine left New York.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Please help me identify this china pattern!

We think this china belonged to my great aunt Lillian, for whom I am named. There is no identification on the china itself, but we are very curious about whether it is part of a pattern and whether we should try to complete the set. I took several photos but it is such a pale pink most of them didn't turn out. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Reading

Nancy Pearl, who is a charming and energetic librarian-turned-book personality, discussed the horror of being stuck on a plane without a book on NPR the other day and provided Summer 2008 reading recommendations. I thought they would all be recent fiction or nonfiction, so was delighted to see An Infamous Army (and also Sunshine by Robin McKinley - I can see its rank shot right up on Amazon). Pearl is also a fan of Betsy-Tacy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stuck Song Syndrome

The Boston Globe asks, Can science explain why ABBA is so catchy?
It only takes a single exposure, and in an instant, your whole day can change. The infection is rapid and feels potentially unending. One minute you're minding your own business and the next you find that you can't stop thinking, humming, or singing "Dancing Queen."

NPR says such insistent repeating melodies often occur during the summer and provides some of its favorites.

Stuck song syndrome annoyed, frustrated, and irritated women significantly more than men. And earworm attacks were more frequent -- and lasted longer -- for musicians and music lovers. Slightly neurotic people also seemed to suffer more.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Judge tells verbose lawyer to make it snappy

TACOMA, Wash.—A federal judge in Tacoma has told a lawyer he needs to make it snappy.
Judge Ronald Leighton balked at a 465-page lawsuit that made its way onto his desk. He invoked a rarely used rule that requires a "short and plain statement" of allegations.
The title of the racketeering lawsuit filed by attorney Dean Browning Webb was eight pages long.
The judge issued his order in a limerick:

"Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a).
His Complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please rewrite and refile today."

I am sure the judge I clerked for last year was amused by this: he is also a fan of short and snappy but despite being devoted to literature is unlikely to issue an order in verse.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Adoption

I feel as if I have often been compelled to adopt a book, whether because it was one I loved so much I had to introduce it to as many people as possible (Betsy-Tacy, The Blue Sword, Sabrina, Angels and Men) or the occasional situation when a book insisted on accompanying me home (Confusion by Cupid, memorably, in Charleston, South Carolina).

However, the American Antiquarian Society, which is headquartered in Worcester and where my brother spent one summer doing research on his (alas unfinished) doctoral dissertation on French-Canadian immigrants to New England, has a more structured (some would say authorized) program where generous donors can adopt a valuable book in its collection. While Gary Francione might want me to adopt the early vegetarian cookbook, I was more intrigued by The history of Primrose Prettyface; who by her sweetness of temper, and love of learning, was raised from being the daughter of a poor cottager to great riches, and the dignity of lady of the manor. London: 1818. If only I had $1100 to spare!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Luckiest Girl

I knew when my classmate Nick Kristof wrote a NYT piece called The Luckiest Girl that he was not talking about my favorite book by Beverly Cleary.  Although he is from Yamhill like Beverly Cleary . . .

However, I think Shelly herself would be moved by not only by his story of Beatrice and her accomplishments but the chilling description of all the things that could have gone wrong, preventing her from reaching this goal. And perhaps she ate a donut hole or two once she reached Massachusetts and Connecticut!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Songs that make you cry

I had completely forgotten about Lobo! Don't say, "And with good reason!" He had quite a following in the 70s and is apparently still touring. The website says "Fans of" so clearly there are more than just yours truly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Austen's own Darcy

A portrait of the man with whom Jane Austen allegedly had a romantic relationship is for sale but I am amused that the article describes Darcy "the brooding landowner who, after a series of misunderstandings, seduces the spirited Elizabeth Bennet." Maybe he didn't read the same book I did!