Gatsby

May 10, 2013

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Today is the release of the latest cinematic version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Are you Gatsby-ed out already?  Are you thinking of re-reading the book? Or going to read it for the first time perhaps? It’s not a long endeavour (fewer than 200 pages) so I’m considering a refresher. The movie appears to be an extravaganza – influencing trends in fashion and design for almost a year now and promising to launch what marketers claim we’ll remember as the “Summer of Gatsby”.

A few Fitzgerald/Gatsby inspired books are appearing on the shelves too – the biggest among them probably Z – a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. So maybe I’ll set aside Gatsby and take on Zelda instead. It’s a fictionalized memoir, focusing on Zelda’s search for self during the roaring 20’s.  I read an article today recounting how she and F. Scott hunched on all fours on a stranger’s doorstep in New York City, barking to be let into the party. When the door was finally opened to them, Zelda marched in and up the stairs to have a bath. Hmmm … if that’s any indication, this could be a rather lively read. Click on the cover for a summary if you’re intrigued.

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And if you’ve done all of your reading already and are thinking of heading to the movies, here’s a trailer of what’s in store:

Bits and Bobs

March 27, 2013

Over the past three (three !?!) years of maintaining Bedside Table Books, I have collected an assortment of images, quotes, and whatnot that seem to defy categorization and yet at the same time, seem destined to be shared with thee. So today, we have Bits and Bobs  – a wee assortment of Booky things.

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“She drinks pints of coffee and writes little observations and ideas for stories with her best fountain pen on the linen-white pages of expensive notebooks. Sometimes, when it’s going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery.”

—   David Nicholls (One Day)

I am not afraid of storms ... by Louisa May Alcott

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2013

Disney Paperman still

Goodness, I’ve been neglectful of late … Thinking of you all today though and thought I’d share this sweet little love story. It’s not particularly “bookish” I suppose, but paper is involved! Just click on the image to be taken to the show.

Back soon to talk about books … 🙂

 

My Ideal Bookshelf

January 17, 2013

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I love the artwork of Jane Mount and have shared it here previously. (Visit this blog entry to refresh your memory.) Now Ms. Mount has taken her beautiful bookshelf brushwork to a new venue: a book!

My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount and Thessaly LaForce

This coffee table book offers the visual delight of Jane’s paintings of the personal shelves of 100 writers, musicians, designers and other “creatives” along with their equally colourful notes and thoughts collected by Thessaly La Force.

“The paintings are accompanied by first-person commentary drawn from interviews with editor Thessaly La Force, which touch on everything from the choice of books to becoming a writer to surprising sources of inspiration. This exquisite collection provides rare insight into the creative process and artistic development of today’s most intriguing writers, innovators, and visionaries.”

This is a wonderful collection –  interesting and beautiful while also satisfying a particular curiosity we have about the books one chooses to read, and their influence on our personal journeys.

Enjoy!

When your travel plans are no more exotic than a journey to the grocery store and back, why not page your way to Paris? There are shelves and shelves of Parisian accounts; it is a city that inspires creativity and romance in almost all of its visitors.  Its charms and lasting impressions prompt wonderful records as those who’ve experienced its grasp are motivated to share. Here is a petite selection of non-fiction titles, some recently rolled out, and others which are becoming classics.

    

   

Le Road Trip is delightful. Long time readers know I love a little watercolour with my words – this has gorgeous painterly illustrations and wisdom to boot. Just click on any of the book covers to be taken to their full description. A bientot!

   

A zest for adventure, deep loyalty and devotion, a charming naïveté, a genuine desire to help others, self-deprecating humour … all qualities Paddington Bear (affectionately known as “Paddy” in our household) displays with his own brand of loveable flair. It surprised me to learn that our earnest and sticky-pawed friend has been around since writer Michael Bond first introduced him to us in 1958 Paddington is a treasure with whom we’ve grown up and been able to enjoy again with our children and perhaps even grandchildren. Twelve chapter books were published between 1958 and 2008 with many incarnations of each issued in picture book formats as well.  In 2012, old Paddy Bear couldn’t resist the excitement of Olympic Fever and has come out of hibernation to hit the track running.

It may impress you to know that Michael Bond, now 86 years old, has written prolifically beyond the realm of Paddington. He is responsible as well for the equally charming Gastronome Sleuth, Monsieur Pamplemousse and mischievous guinea pig Olga da Polga. In all, Bond has written more than 150 books and shows no sign of slowing down. In a recent BBC interview he indicated Paddington may have a few more “jams” ahead of him to be recounted in a new book or books.

I simply cannot do justice to the extent of Paddington’s endeavours – he is one busy, busy bear! He has served as a diplomat (was the first offering to the French by the British when the Chunnel connected for the first time), has flown with Richard Branson on speed record seeking missions, been honoured by the Queen with Mr. Bond, Michael Bond, and has seen his image manifested on everything from PJs ( Marks and Spencer’s best-selling ever!) and bed sheets, to tea bags and wall paper. He will always be my favourite “teddy” bear – I cherish mine while my boys have their own. For an entertaining peek into the world of all things Paddington take a few minutes to visit his website here.

And now for even more breaking news: Paddington is going to the movies! We will have to wait until 2014 but meanwhile according to The Guardian:

Harry Potter producer David Heyman is behind the film, described as “a modern take” on Michael Bond’s best-selling books which have sold more than 35 million copies.

He said: “Paddington Bear is a universally loved character, treasured for his optimism, his sense of fair play and his perfect manners, and of course for his unintentional talent for comic chaos.

“Michael Bond’s books offer such wit and wonder, and I am so delighted at this chance to bring Paddington to the big screen.”

We didn’t see Paddington among other literary characters at the Opening Ceremonies but if Twitter tweeters have their way, Paddington might be invited to the closing ceremonies. They believe Aunt Lucy would be pleased!

Great quotes are often drawn from commencement addresses; the occasion of graduation itself inspires heartfelt and thoughtful sentiment and wisdom. Every year there are a few outstanding messages but this year, one really stood out: David McCullough Jr., an English teacher (and son of writer David McCullough), spoke to the graduates of Wellesley High School in Massachusetts on June 1st and struck a resounding chord. Not one, but many quotes will likely endure from this honest lesson. An excerpt of the text is here for you to enjoy. A video of the entire address appears below.

“You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. … And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.”

Ahhhh Bookshelves

March 12, 2012

When it comes to furniture shopping I think I’d be content to buy but only bookshelves … apparently I’m not alone. Here is a poem by Robert Service and a quote from Anna Quindlen and a few images of lovely shelves to admire …

 Book Lover

I keep collecting books I know
I’ll never, never read;
My wife and daughter tell me so,
And yet I never heed.
“Please make me,” says some wistful tome,
“A wee bit of yourself.”
And so I take my treasure home,
And tuck it in a shelf.

And now my very shelves complain;
They jam and over-spill.
They say: “Why don’t you ease our strain?”
“some day,” I say, “I will.”
So book by book they plead and sigh;
I pick and dip and scan;
Then put them back, distrest that I
Am such a busy man.

Now, there’s my Boswell and my Sterne,
my Gibbon and Defoe;
To savour Swift I’ll never learn,
Montaigne I may not know.
On Bacon I will never sup,
For Shakespeare I’ve no time;
Because I’m busy making up
These jingly bits of rhyme.

Chekov is caviare to me,
While Stendhal makes me snore;
Poor Proust is not my cup of tea,
And Balzac is a bore.
I have their books, I love their names,
And yet alas! they head,
With Lawrence, Joyce and Henry James,
My Roster of Unread.

I think it would be very well
If I commit a crime,
And get put in a prison cell
And not allowed to rhyme;
Yet given all these worthy books
According to my need,
I now caress with loving looks,
But never, never read.

Robert William Service
“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” – Anna Quindlen

Love Stories

February 14, 2012

Love, your books. Or is that “Love your books!” ?

Happy Valentine’s Day

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