Archive for the 'book' Category


A literary dessert

Whenever my book group meets at my house, my in-house baker prepares a thematically appropriate dessert.

For last week’s discussion of The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, by Pico Iyer, he made this lemon-cranberry tart (with a hazelnut cookie crust) that’s the color of the Dalai Lama’s robes.



The Whale

Two friends and I are about to launch a “let’s read the classics we should have read a long time ago” project together. First up is Moby-Dick. Even though I dated a Melville scholar for a few years in grad school, I somehow managed not to read this (or any other Melville, for that matter).

It makes sense for us to read the same version of the text, so after some discussion we settled on the Norton Critical Edition (2nd ed.). I spent some time examining several other editions, too, and in light of that it’s pretty funny that Jan just happened upon this yesterday:




This was someone else’s book

We are a family of book lovers. Unfortunately, we don’t have the space to maintain an extensive personal library at home, so from time to time we have to get rid of some books by selling some, giving others to friends, and donating most to our local library.

During these book sorts, I occasionally come across a book that catches my eye, such as this.


The content looks interesting enough (how about those illustrations!). I often see handwritten inscriptions or owners’ names, but this book actually has a printed nameplate:


A bit of googling led to me to his obituary on the Princeton Alumni Weekly website. He was born in 1929and died in 1998.

In between, “he was an important figure in the revival of scholarly and popular interest in the British Romantic period (1780-1830). He published critical studies of Keats and Shelley.” The obituary ends with this statement: “We have lost a major preserver of English literature.”

I can see how this book ended up in his personal collection. But how did it end up my hands, I wonder? I don’t think I can ever know.


Life Update

Wishing: For a sundial like this one to put in my yard.

Laughing: About this video on YouTube, which features one joke from every MST3K episode. My recent discovery of this is well-timed: just a few weeks ago I met Joel at an MST3K event and got to shake his hand.


Reflecting: On the hidden costs of chocolate.

Being delighted: By the fact that not only was my daughter thrilled with the new socks I just finished knitting for her, but she was so pleased that she wore them right away. Even though it was 95 degrees outside. Now that’s gratifying!

Watching: Or trying to watch, at least, My Dinner with Andre. It’s famous and there are a gazillion cultural references to it, so I figured I ought to (finally!) watch the thing. I got about forty-five minutes into it and had to turn it off. I recognize that it was innovative for its time, and the premise could still make for a good movie today. But the conversation itself was so mind-numbingly dull that I just couldn’t bear it.

Reading: Nation, by Terry Pratchett. It took me a little while to get into this book–most likely because my subconscious kept expecting Discworld fare–but once that happened I was hooked. The premise is somewhat grim, and the overall tone is decidedly lacking in the humor of his other works. But his usual themes are present: questions about religion and rationality, criticisms of social class, clever wordsmithery.

I hate the ending, though. Long before it arrived its inevitability was apparent, and I found myself reading the last chapters while hoping Pratchett would enable the protagonists find a way to escape the destinies that seem to be laid out before them. No such luck, I’m afraid. The ending is bittersweet and leaves me feeling punched in the gut…but honestly, I can’t imagine how else the book could have ended without ruining it. So for all that I do hate the ending, at the same time I think it’s appropriate.


I heart Daniel Pinkwater

I’ve liked his stuff for years. His written-for-adults work isn’t bad, but his stuff for kids is fabulous! The picture books are surprisingly subversive (as far as young kids’ lit goes), and the novels for young adults are mind-bogglingly clever.

Just when I thought he couldn’t get any cooler, he does this. Yup, he’s publishing his latest book online (for free), before the print version is released.


Life update

Reflecting: On how the lottery of life placed me where I am today. How fortunate I am to have been born into a time and place where my basic needs are easily met and a wealth of opportunity lies before me. I do not have to worry about having clean water to drink, for example, nor must I scrounge for food or firewood every day. But millions of people do, and this site can give you a sense of what living conditions are like in other countries.

Watching: The HBO series Game of Thrones. For the most part, the casting is spot-on, though as a longtime fan of the book series I am already annoyed by some changes that have been made. I understand that when adapting a work of this scope and complexity for the screen, some changes must be made. But some changes just grate on me, especially as relating to character development.* One thing I love, though, is the title sequence. Very nicely done.

Laughing: At this image. And at another visual commentary on Stupid Ned Stark.

Looking up: At the sky and wishing the East Coast didn’t have so much light pollution. To get a really good view of the night sky, I’ll have to content myself with this interactive 360-degree image. The official description (“The Photopic Sky Survey is a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 exposures”) doesn’t quite do it justice. It is pretty amazing. For more information on this project, head directly to the Photopic Sky Survey main page.

Eating: Lots of lettuce and arugula from our garden. The peas have just started to appear (Sylvia sampled the first one straight off the vine today), so i expect we’ll be eating lots of those soon enough.

Reading: Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert. It starts with a seven-year-old girl being sent, alone, to a leper colony in the 1890s. Her parting from her parents and family—knowing that she’d never seen most of them again—is heart-rending. She makes a life for herself on Moloka’i, though, and even finds happiness. In spite of the topic, this isn’t really a “heavy” read, and the narrative is compelling enough that I raced through it pretty quickly.

Thinking: About the Pledge of Allegiance and how, for the most part, it is uncritically taught and learned.[youtube][/youtube]



Why, for example, are Cersei and (especially) Jaime portrayed so sympathetically here? Why, for crying out loud, didn’t the actor playing Tywin shave his head? Tywin’s baldness is an essential part of his character! Grrrr. For info on a few of the (many) other changes HBO has made, look here.


Life update

Reading: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth. A compelling narrative, well-drawn characters, and good writing. I liked this book very much, though reading it made me feel a bit paranoid: I saw in it echoes of the current neocon-driven discourse. Roth writes about Jews, but in many parts if you substitute “Muslims” you see glimpses of the prejudice and fear in our own society today.

Also reading: The Dark Is Rising sequence, by Susan Cooper. Actually, I’m listening to these: the three of us are listening to the audio books together (great for long car rides, and for evenings spent playing with Legos in the den after dinner). We’ve gotten through three of the five books, and Sylvia loves them. So much, in fact, that we started having “Wouldn’t it be nice to take a trip to Cornwall soon?” discussions before we realized that such a trip isn’t in our budget right now. Soon, I hope.

Mucking about with: Google Body.

Knitting: It’s been quite some time (months and months!) since I did a knitting update. Over the winter months I completed several small projects:

  • three sets of baby legwarmers (made from Baby Cashmerino) for three different new babies
  • five (!!!) Seven Circles scarves/necklaces (also from Baby Cashmerino); all but one were gifts for friends*
  • one pair of socks for a child (this isn’t quite finished but will be within a few days, I think); these were supposed to be for Sylvia but are turning out to be too small for her, so they’ll be a gift for someone else

I also knit a February Lady Sweater for myself. I cast on in January, but I did happen to knit most of it in February. Since I finished it, I’ve worn it at least three days each week—I really love it.

BONUS: All of this knitting was done with stash yarn. WOOT! Up next on my plate: a February Lady (Kid?) Sweater for Sylvia. I think I’ll just take the grown-up pattern and knit the smallest size in sportweight (instead of worsted). That ought to fit her, I think. Unfortunately, I don’t have suitable yarn for this (she wants blue, and I’m thinking of something that’s mostly cotton), so I’ll actually have to buy some for this project.

Watching: The Secret of Kells. One of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a long time.

* And one of those friends was the person who gave me some of that yarn about four years ago. She gave me three balls of Baby Cashmerino in a deep red color, and that turned out to be just the right amount to make one scarf for her and an identical one for myself.


Happy news indeed

Ever since my eyes and ears were polluted with Rush Limbaugh’s attempts to speak “Chinese,” I’ve been needing a good unicorn chaser.

And here it is: Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music has just appeared (today!) as a New York Review Children’s Collection book.

Pinkwater is one of my favorite authors. I think every kid—and adult—should read his stuff.


You’ve been robbed

By changes to the copyright law, that is.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University Law School published an article on how changes in 1978 to the U.S. copyright law have affected us all. For the worse.

Works published or produced in 1954 that would have gone into the public domain on January 1, 2011, will now remain under copyright until 2050. This includes books, movies, musical compositions, and some scientific articles. The article also argues that up to 85% of the works produced in 1982 would also have entered the public domain a few days ago (assuming their copyrights weren’t renewed).

Most of this stuff falls in the category “orphan works”—that is, their copyright owners can’t be found. So these things get used less frequently because no one know who they belong to (and no one wants to get sued for illegal use). Sounds like a bureaucratic mess.


It’s a book


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