[Book Nerd Links] Mann, Rhys, Joyce, Proust, and Plath

[Book Nerd Links] Four Links for the New Week

I’m Sensing a Trend

This post originally appeared on my birthday in 2012. I liked it so much I thought I’d use it again this year.

A Small Press Life: Books. Art. Writing. Life. Tea.

I’m lucky enough to share a birthday with one of my favourite actors (John Gilbert), one of my favourite writers (Marcel Proust) and the possessor of one of the most brilliant (recorded) minds in history (Nikola Tesla). What else do they have in common? Hmmm, let’s see.

I’ve found that frivolous observations are best made on serious days. I’m off to celebrate with the husband at the newest contemporary Indian restaurant/bar in town. Toodles.

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Daily Diversion #81: The Crud Strikes Again

“Illness is the most heeded of doctors: to goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey.”-Marcel Proust

I’ve been down since Thursday with what my husband calls The Crud, a hazy combination of the ‘flu, a bad cold, and general malaise. The bottom of my favourite tea canister is visible, the bag of cherry lozenges empty; work is piled high by the bed, and I am cranky. Sleep and reading have been my twin graces. I am almost ready to crawl back into the murmur and hum of the wider world. Almost. Right after I finish one more chapter each of four books and drain the amber liquid from my tea-cup.

Concrete beauty in the midst of delirium.

Concrete beauty in the midst of delirium.

Concrete beauty in the midst of delirium.

Concrete beauty in the midst of delirium.

Baking Madeleines for Proust

I baked my first cake from scratch when I was nine years old: a simple cocoa cake, round, one-layer. I decorated it by throwing a handful of confectioners’ sugar on top, the powder landing sparse and uneven in spots, heavy like a snowdrift in others. It was beautiful, and tasted like spongy hot chocolate. From that moment on, standing triumphantly in my aunt Lauree’s small kitchen, I had a new hobby.

I found my sole domestic comfort early, unless brewing a perfect pot of tea counts. To this day, I would rather write and read than do anything else. Baking is my only life-long hobby, the one non-verbal art I have never ignored or repudiated altogether. My favourite time to bake is in winter, when the cold starts pushing through the walls of even the most solid structure. I meet Jack Frost head-on, with a hot oven and a swirl of sugar and spices at the ready.

I’m in the habit of reading as I bake. Consuming a few sentences of Hardy or Plath or Trollope whilst blending cake batter or folding in nuts and sultanas is appropriately meditative for this most serene of the creative arts. The uncontrollable frenzy of the holidays officially starts in America on Thursday. The next month will be a kaleidoscopic whirl of shopping, parties, and working with all of my settings broken, but one: overdrive. A few hours spent baking cookies, bars, brownies, and pies will preserve my nerves and restore my balance close to something I can call normal.

I am dedicating today, the 18th of November, this lovely calm before the holiday storm, to Proust and his madeleines. I was born on Marcel Proust’s birthday, 10th July. Today marks the 90th anniversary of his death. He was 51 years old, and left some of the most lyrical, evocative, and intensely beautiful writing in literature. All of that, and an unbreakable association with French tea-cakes called madeleines? Delicious.

Madeleines require very few ingredients, are easy and quick to make, and can be adapted to fit your whimsies. As they are shaped like shells, they require a special but inexpensive tray, but if you are ambitious you could try shaping them by hand!


  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • the zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients (minus milk + a decorative pumpkin). Ingredients (minus milk + a decorative pumpkin). Continue reading

Shopping for the Bookworm: Marcel Proust Edition

“For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say “I’m going to sleep.” And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between Francois I and Charles V.”-Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust at lemonbooks

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust at lemonbooks-$14.00

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”-Marcel Proust

Proust Quote Scrabble Tile Pendant by Gratitude Jewelry

Proust Quote Scrabble Tile Pendant by Gratitude Jewelry-$9.95

“…presently my aunt would dip a little madeleine in the boiling infusion, whose taste of dead leaves or faded blossom she so relished, and hand me a piece when it was sufficiently soft.”-Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way Continue reading