Our neighborhood doughboy has been in residence, across the street from our flat, since 1920. My husband and I salute him on our evening walks. In 2010, we posed for engagement photos standing on his base. He moves me to recite the poetry of his contemporaries, allies and enemies alike. He’s a wonderful audience of one. I haven’t been so smitten with a statue since Montreal, circa 2004. That’s another story, and one you shan’t be told.
- Title: Tinisima A Novel
- Author: Elena Poniatowska
- Year Published: 1992/This Edition: 1998 (Penguin Books)
- Year Purchased: 2004
- Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
- About: Although she is now one of my favourite photographers, the image that introduced me to Tina Modotti was not by, but rather of, this magnetic and enigmatic woman. It was, of course, an Edward Weston.
I enjoy his work, but feel a resolute kinship with the art of the woman whose talent he encouraged. Tinisima, in translation from the original Spanish, is a fictionalized account of her turbulent, sacrificial, frustrating, many-faceted life. In a way, it is a more fitting tribute to its mysterious subject than any well-researched biography.
- Motivation: Having read Patricia Albers’ excellent biography Shadows, Fire, Snow a couple of years earlier, I was interested to see how a fictional account of Modotti’s life would play out.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 171: “Eight picture in one day! She always mulled over each shot, even visited the scene and studied the light at different times of day before shooting; she waited for the exact moment, the click ringing out in the sacred silence. Now he is telling her to press the shutter without thinking about the results, like the unconscious blink of an eye. That is journalism.”
- Happiness Scale: 8 1/2
“I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring comes from within.”-Eudora Welty
- Title: Paddington Marches On
- Author: Michael Bond, with drawings by Peggy Fortnum
- Year Published: 1964 (Houghton Mifflin)
- Year Purchased: 1978
- Source: According to the inscription in my mother’s hand, this entered my collection on Christmas Day (courtesy of Mommy + Daddy).
- About: I’m sure you know all about Paddington Bear. If you don’t, I have no idea what is wrong with you. He is one of the most visible children’s fictional characters of the last 50+ years. I loved his fetching coat and hat ensemble, and related to his greedy love of marmalade sandwiches. My favourite part from this book was always Paddington and the Cold Snap. I read it so many times that I knew it by heart. (If pressed, I could probably recite a line or two even now.) I still think he’s a pretty charming fellow. I hope my hypothetical future kids do, too.
- Motivation: Judging by the surviving books from my early childhood, I really loved bears. Or my family thought I did, which as a tiny tot amounted to the same thing. I still own volumes of Little Bear, Pooh Bear, and, of course, Paddington Bear.
- Times Read: Likely hundreds of times in the first year alone. This was one of the first ‘real’ (i.e. chapter) books I was given, and I couldn’t get enough of the fact that it contains far more text than illustrations.
- Random Excerpt/Page 9: “All the same, Paddington wasn’t the sort of bear to waste a good opportunity and a moment or so later he closed the door behind him and made his way down the side of the house as quickly as he could in order to investigate the matter. Apart from the prospect of playing snowballs he was particularly anxious to test his new Wellingtons which had been standing in his bedroom waiting for just such a moment ever since Mrs. Brown had given them to him at Christmas.”
- Happiness Scale: 9
Eudora Welty discussing A Worn Path with Beth Henley (1994).
My mom was in town this weekend. I didn’t write anything, but I exchanged ideas with the clouds hanging over the river.
Hardier souls in running shoes were doing drills up and down the stairs. We sat, staring off into the distance or talking. The clouds were almost close enough to pluck from the sky.
We walked for miles, and met some very strange creatures…
Clouds hovering over the Princess Diana Tiara on Queen City Tower.
One sunburn and several lovely memories later, I’m ready to hit the keyboard again.
- Title: Legends of the Silent Screen A Collection of U.S. Postage Stamps
- Authors: Charles Champlin and Linda Klinger (for the United States Postal Service)
- Year Published: 1994 (U.S. Postal Service)
- Year Purchased: 1994
- Source: This was a gift from my mom, received after some pleading on my part.
- About: In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service released a set of stamps commemorating ten of the silent screen’s greatest stars (which was, itself, part of a larger series dedicated to entertainers). This book was published as a companion piece, but is good enough to stand on its own merits. The detailed individual biographies are underpinned by amazing photographs and a time-line of the first 100 years of American film history. It’s a handsome volume, and the Al Hirschfeld caricatures commissioned for the stamps render the subjects instantly recognizable. The stars covered in this volume are: Rudolph Valentino; Clara Bow; Charlie Chaplin; Lon Chaney; John Gilbert; ZaSu Pitts; Theda Bara; the Keystone Cops; Harold Lloyd; and Buster Keaton.
- Motivation: I was already totally captivated with silent films, even at a relatively young age.
- Times Read: A few
- Random Excerpt/Page 39: “Film historians note that (Theda) Bara’s producer actually cast her in quite a few sympathetic-not evil-roles, knowing that after her vamp image had been accepted, the public would continue to read treachery into all her characters, regardless of their motivations.”
- Happiness Scale: 10
DAY DREAMS/ There were two trees I loved as a child. They lived less than an acre apart, but never met. This made me sad, as I was certain they would get along if the chance ever came. I tried making introductions, but whenever I broached the subject they were too busy doing secretive tree things that I did not understand.
The Front Yard Tree thrived on the imaginations of little girls. Continue reading
- Title: Inside the Victorian Home A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England
- Author: Judith Flanders
- Year Published: 2003 (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Year Purchased: 2004/2005
- Source: History Book Club
- About: I am lustfully curious about matters of domestic history. No, not marital details. I mean the inner workings of domesticity-cooking, shopping, consumerism, the running of households, servants, the cost of goods, wages. It may be a strange occupation, but then I have never claimed nor aspired to normalcy. Inside the Victorian Home is not the only book on the subject I own (although it was the first I bought). It breaks down and explicates on all of the above subjects (as well as social and political history), as filtered through rooms of a house: bedroom, drawing room, morning room, etc., before throwing us out on the street, as it were, in the last chapter. So many things can be learned-insights gained-from how we lived, perhaps even more than what we say or record for posterity. It is a gem of its kind, and one that I turn to for clarification on such matters.
- Motivation: History + England + Domestic History= a book I could not resist.
- Times Read: 2
- Random Excerpt/Page 28: “If the family’s status was on display in the choice of the house, then it followed that location and public rooms were more important than comfort and convenience, and certainly more important than the private, family spaces.”
- Happiness Scale: 9+
- Title: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be
- Author: Paul Arden
- Year Published: First Edition:2003/This Edition: 2007 (Phaidon)
- Year Purchased: Unknown
- Source: My mom, who gave me a bunch of books to either keep or sell. (According to the sticker on the inside back flap, she bought the book at Anthropologie.)
- About: Another corporate motivational book, this one by an ad man from the UK. He was highly successful, and so was this common-sense little volume. It is as easy to digest as your favourite ad campaign, and almost as memorable (the chapter on Victoria Beckham not withstanding). Continue reading