- Title: Twilight at Monticello The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson
- Author: Alan Pell Crawford
- Year Published: 2008 (Random House)
- Year Purchased: 2010
- Source: Book-of-the-Month Club
- About: A microscopically close telling of the third President of the United States’ final years.
- Motivation: Honestly? This was automatically sent to me after I forgot to mail in the silly little book club card declining the honor. I kept it and finally decided to read it a few months later.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 196: “Jefferson had envisioned his “academical village” as a beacon of Enlightenment learning in the New World. By late 1820, however, he had come to regard the University of Virginia as an outpost of strict construction, fighting a rearguard action to determine how the U.S. Constitution was to be interpreted and applied. These may or may not have been mutually exclusive educational functions. But if they could not be reconciled, it was clear to Jefferson which should take precedence.”
- Happiness Scale: 9
Tag Archives: Review
A Year in Books/Day 18: A Simple Story
- Title: A Simple Story
- Author: Elizabeth Inchbald
- Year Published: 1791/this edition 1988 (Oxford University Press)
- Year Purchased: 2006
- Source: A now-defunct Buffalo, New York bookstore
- About: An audacious yet thoughtful novel by a truly trailblazing female writer, ‘A Simple Story’ should be read by anyone claiming an interest in women’s history or fine literature.
- Motivation: See above. Elizabeth Inchbald, a woman writing at a time when that was hardly a blessing, needs to be rediscovered. I squealed when I saw this book sitting in the stall. This edition also boasts a lovely Vigee Le Brun reproduction on the front cover.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 1: “It is said, a book should be read with the same spirit with which it has been written. In that case, fatal must be the reception of this-for the writer frankly avows, that during the time she has been writing it, she has suffered every quality and degree of weariness and lassitude, into which no other employment could have betrayed her.”
Happiness Scale: 9
A Year in Books/Day 17: King of Comedy
- Title: King of Comedy
- Author: Mack Sennett with Cameron Shipp
- Year Published: 1954/This Edition: 1990 (Mercury House)
- Year Purchased: 1994/1995
- Source: Walden Books
- About: This autobiography of one of the progenitors of film-and the creator of The Keystone Kops and
Sennett Bathing Beauties-needs to be taken with a generous grain of salt. Fortunately, even a well-scrubbed telling of the heady early days of Hollywood-where Sennett oversaw Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand at the start of their careers-remains considerably more entertaining than fiction.
- Motivation: Mabel Normand, Mabel Normand, Mabel Normand! Oh, and a genuine-behind-the-scenes peek at movie-making when it was still being invented and defined.
- Times Read: 3
- Random Excerpt/Page 138: “We became scientists in custard. A man named Greenburg, who ran a small restaurant-bakery near the studio, became a pie-throwing entrepreneur. Our consumption was so enormous that this man got rich. After several experiments he invented a special Throwing Pie, just right in heft and consistency, filled with paste and inedible. He lost most of his eating customers when he began to sell them throwing custards by mistake.”
- Happiness: 9 for atmosphere/6 for veracity
A Year in Books/Day 16: Secrets of the Flesh
- Title: Secrets of the Flesh A Life of Colette
- Author: Judith Thurman
- Year Published: 1999 (The Ballantine Publishing Company)
- Year Purchased: 2005/2006
- Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
- About: This perceptive, well researched biography of the great French writer and sensualist is the one to top.
- Motivation: Colette was intelligent, talented, witty, complex , contradictory, fluid and far ahead of her time. Perhaps best of all, she was never boring.
- Times Read: 2
- Random Excerpt/Page 215: “Colette herself thought it “worth remarking” that the intimate friends of her years as a vagabond, “the true and faithful ones,” were all “luckless and irremediably sad.” She considered that it might be “the solidarity of unhappiness that unites us” but decided that it wasn’t. She “attracted and retained the depressives, the solitaires,” she reasoned, because they were simply fellow misfits, unencumbered by families or convention, and “dedicated to a life of seclusion or wandering, as I am.”
- Happiness Scale: 9 1/2
A Year in Books/Day 15: Monarchs of the Nile
- Title: Monarchs of the Nile
- Author: Aidan Dodson
- Year Published: 1995/Revised Edition 2000 (The American University in Cairo Press)
- Year Purchased: 2002/2003
- Source: History Book Club
- About: A sequential history of Egyptian rulers.
- Motivation: History geek in the house here. As a child, I loved reading about Egypt. I decided to rekindle the spark with this book.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 88: “His son buried him in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the walls of the burial chamber adorned as if a huge papyrus had been unrolled against them. Within, Tuthmosis III was laid to rest in a magnificent quartzite sarcophagus, perhaps the finest of its kind ever made: it was so admired that a thousand years later an Egyptian nobleman named Hapymen would have its decoration copied onto his own coffer, now in the British Museum.”
- Happiness Scale: 7
A Year in Books/Day 8: At Home A Short History of Private Life
Title: At Home A Short History of Private Life
- Author: Bill Bryson
- Year Published: 2010 (Doubleday)
- Year Purchased: 2010
- Source: History Book Club
- About: In the author’s words, he set out to “write a history of the world without leaving home”. He accomplished this by equating the rooms in a typical Victorian home with their worldly counterparts (i.e. the bedroom=sex, the bathroom=hygiene).
- Motivation: I love Bill Bryson. ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ and ‘Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words’ are well-worn personal favorites. I am also a sucker for Victorian history; anything with a sociological aspect easily catches my fancy.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 181: “Not everyone got the hang of tea immediately. The poet Robert Southey related the story of a lady in the country who received a pound of tea as a gift from a city friend when it was still a novelty. Uncertain how to engage with it, she boiled it up in a pot, spread the leaves on toast with butter and salt, and served it to her friends, who nibbled it gamely and declared it interesting but not quite to their taste. Elsewhere, however, it raced ahead, in tandem with sugar.”
- Happiness Scale: 10
A Year in Books/Day 4: Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary
- Title: Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary A Child’s Dictionary of the English Language Revised Edition
- Author: E.L. Thorndike
- Year Published: 1942 (a revision of the original 1935 edition/published by E.L. Thorndike)
- Year Purchased: This copy was purchased new in 1942 for my 10-year-old Grandmother.
- Source: This book was handed down to me by Grandma when I was 5.
- About:The dictionary was compiled by E.L. Thorndike and 2 very impressive advisory committees, whose lists included Sir William Craigie (the third editor of the Oxford English Dictionary).
- Motivation: I started reading dictionaries (quickly followed by any reference book within the grasp of my thin fingers) shortly before starting school. I have read entire volumes during otherwise boring road trips. I still prefer the tactile, almost sensuous quality of well-worn reference pages over the most comprehensive on-line compendium. Someone should coin a phrase for that special quality one feels when meandering through a dictionary; how the heart races when the eyes skip, so quickly, from word to word, roaming over territory new and old. E.L. Thorndike’s great work for schoolchildren made that possible for me.
- Times Read: Countless.
- Random Excerpt/Page vi: “To make a dictionary that comes near to this ideal requires not only adequate knowledge of the English language, but also expert scientific knowledge of children’s minds, and their needs in reading, hearing, and using words. It also requires ingenuity and thoughtfulness for every detail of every word.”
- Happiness Scale: Off the charts.
Sticking to My Guns: From Mission Statement to Manifesto
Welcome to the re-branding, the re-launch, the re-awakening of A Small Press Life. The greatest change is that we are now hosted by WordPress. I’ve been largely absent from this site for a year. I have been off chasing my other Small Press Life pursuits, including my mini ‘zine empire. While away, my dedication to the Indie writing and publishing lifestyle has only grown and solidified: I truly cannot imagine going about my time on earth any other way. I am lucky enough to now be able to proclaim that, yes, this small press thing is actually what I do. All of the time. For a living. There has always been generous space in my heart for this little blog; now there is calendar space to match. This means that I can devote an appropriate chunk of my life to disseminating my odd little small press passion in as many forums as I see fit. I intend for this space to benefit greatly.
The original Mission Statement of a Small Press Life stands. In fact, I think that it is pretty damn eloquent. However, there are a few practical things that I would like to add:
*There will be multiple posts a day, by a small but growing list of contributors, Monday through Friday
*The content will be well-rounded, with all of our original themes carried over, expanded on, and added to; much of it will eventually be reader-driven
*We encourage guest contributions!!
*We will eventually be adding fiction, interviews and original art into the mix
A Small Press Life is about fostering a sense of community for all of the Indie Creatives out there. What we do is fairly solitary. While I firmly believe that most of us prefer it that way, we cannot create our work in a vacuum. We have to occasionally come up for air. Finding camaraderie, support, advice or a few minutes’ diversion is often all we need to regenerate our psyche and get back to work with renewed attention. Living a Small Press Life is as much about reaching out as reaching in. There are too few places where this is possible. I hope that this blog becomes one of them.