A Year in Books/Day 225: Egon Schiele

  • Title: Egon Schiele
  • Author: Sandra Forty
  • Year Published: 2012 (TAJ Books International)
  • Year Purchased: New Year’s Day 2013
  • Source: Half Price Books
  • About: Another day, another review of a small book with generous appeal. Sandra Forty’s seven pages of text get the party started. With such limited space, she tells the Austrian painter’s story well and with much-needed concision. There’s no room for depth, but she does what needs to be done and does it admirably. The star of the book is, of course, Schiele’s art. There are eighty-two chronologically arranged plates, each one contributing to the riveting aesthetic harmony of one of the most astonishing artistic outputs of the 20th century. The reproductions may be tiny, but they are stunning.
  • Motivation: Egon Schiele is one of my favourite artists. I find inspiration from hundreds of sources: kooky, disparate, and not all word related. Art, photography, silent cinema, and fashion history all serve me well when, throwing off the shadows from my mind, I head out into the wider world in search of creative focus.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 4: “Furthermore, he subverted the usual approach to portraiture and instead explored unusual angles, asking his models to twist and turn into unconventional attitudes and stare back at the observer with baleful, unblinking eyes.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10+++
    Egon Schiele, Self-portrait, 1912

    Egon Schiele, Self-portrait, 1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    To learn more about the artist, and to see great examples of his work, head on over to the Egon Schiele Artsy page.

A Few Words About My Project 366

You may have noticed that I slacked off on 2012’s Project 366. Earlier today, I posted entry #224. Never fear, I’ll power through until the series is finished. Or will I? Yes, and then some. After #366 is up, the series will continue under  a different title. With 1000+ books (and rapidly growing) I have enough material to keep this baby rolling for years.

Remember this? Yeah, it is even bigger now.

Remember this? Yeah, it is even bigger now.

A Year in Books/Day 224: Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life

  • Title: Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life
  • Author: Jennifer Worick
  • Year Published: 2001 (A Running Press Miniature Edition)
  • Year Purchased: December 2012
  • Source: Fred Flare
  • About: Nancy Drew’s best quotes, sorted into eight self-help type categories: Survival Strategies; Dating: A Primer; Sleuthing 101; The Delicate Art of Etiquette; Wilderness Tips; On Being a Lady; Powers of Observation; Accoutrements. Whatever your feelings about the Nancy Drew series are, you’ll think these out-of-context quotes are hilarious. If you don’t, well, that’s a bigger mystery than anything the girl detective ever solved.
  • Motivation: Tiny books practically scream, “I’m a stocking stuffer.” I bought two copies of this book for just that reason, plus a third to keep.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Pages 103 and 94: “Never lose your girlish glee when your dad buys you a ticket to Hong Kong.”/”If a bleeding, screaming man runs from shore and starts swimming frantically toward your boat, you should probably help him out. He might be escaping from cruel employers.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10

    Wacky advice that fits in the palm of your (husband's) hand.

    Wacky advice that fits in the palm of your (husband’s) hand. Instagram.

A Year in Books/Day 223: Swanson on Swanson

  • Title: Swanson on Swanson
  • Author: Gloria Swanson
  • Year Published: 1980/This Edition: 1981 (Random House/Pocket Books)
  • Year Purchased: Mid-1990s
  • Source: Antique Barn, Ohio State Fair
  • About: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”-George Bernard Shaw. Every Hollywood memoir should come with the preceding GBS quote as a disclaimer. That, or the generic perception is reality. Either will do. With that out of the way, we could get down to the important business of enjoying good Tinseltown autobiographies for what they are: damn fun entertainment. Underneath the ego and the stage-managed pathos, these one-person exercises in reputation preservation usually contain heaping amounts of self-deprecation, humor, and memorable industry anecdotes, with the self-subjects somehow, through a strange, magical process, coming across as down-to-earth and larger than life; normal and privileged; lucky and talented; flawed and beautiful. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 222: Queen of the Wits A Life of Laetitia Pilkington

  • Title: Queen of the Wits A Life of Laetitia Pilkington
  • Author: Norma Clarke
  • Year Published: 2008 (Faber and Faber Limited)
  • Year Purchased: September, 2012
  • Source: My mom bought it for me in Ireland.
  • About: If emotions could flash across time, whether born of sympathy or distaste, then Laetitia Pilkington would be knocked over by waves of righteous indignation sent her way from 21st century readers of Norma Clarke’s compelling biography. It would be all too easy to write off what happened to the 18th century writer and wit as just another example of the appalling, often violent double standard facing women of the time. It’s not that simple. She was a pet favourite of Jonathan Swift, a precocious young writer, budding intellectual, wife, mother, and beloved daughter. Whether she had an affair or not (and it is hard to tell if her explanation was pure cheek or plain truth) doesn’t matter within the context of her place and time; the fact that her ill-tempered husband, a curate with literary ambitions, was allowed to carry on dalliances without punishment or even censure, whilst she was publicly castigated as a whore, is the central theme of what became an extended nightmare for his wife. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 221: Bill Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors

  • Title: Bill Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors
  • Author: Bill Bryson
  • Year Published: 1991/This Edition: 2009 (Anchor Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2012
  • Source: The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio
  • About: Any book written by Bill Bryson is worth the cover price. In fact, I’d pay double the cover price for most of his books, including this one. The only fault I can find is with myself, and why I didn’t buy Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors sooner. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 220: The Secret (No, Not That One)

  • Title: The Secret The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron
  • Author: Ashley Hay
  • Year Published: 2000/This Edition: 2001 (Aurum Press Ltd)
  • Year Purchased: 2002/2003
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: This is way more interesting than the “self-help” book by Rhonda Byrne. It’s also real. We all know that Lord Byron (and his buddies) had some hellacious and salacious adventures. Carousing, hell-catting, what-have-you. They were a lot of things, but boring wasn’t one of them. With all of that knowledge in the back of our heads, you’d think that any biography focusing on his personal life couldn’t offer up an intriguing perspective. You’d be wrong, and thank goodness for that. History has certainly seen its share of romantic mismatches and marital disasters. The union between Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke deserves a fairly high position on any informal ranking. Lest you worry that The Secret is trashy tabloid-esque fodder with a historical spin, fear not! Hay has written a fine exploration, taken from the couple’s journals and correspondence, that gives her subjects a respectful, though not heavy, seriousness.
  • Motivation: We always hear of Byron and his conquests, yet few words are devoted to the women he loved; and most of those are given over to his sister, not his wife. An entire book dedicated to the odd, brief relationship he had with the out-flanked Miss Milbanke? Oh, yes please.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 38: “At the same time, she became convinced that Byron was about to announce his engagement to someone else-to the young lady, in fact, whom he had told he wanted to see no more of Annabella’s poems. All the light, all the spark, went out of her and out of her effervescent summer: she told her aunt of this imminent announcement so definitely that Lady Melbourne took the idea to Byron as a fact, not a rumour, and he was at a loss to explain its origins or its vehemence.”
  • Happiness Scale: 8 1/2
    Portrait of Annabella Byron (nee Anne Isabella...

    Portrait of Annabella Byron (nee Anne Isabella Milbanke) (1792-1860) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



A Year in Books/Day 219: American Moderns

  • Title: American Moderns Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century
  • Author: Christine Stansell
  • Year Published: 2000 (Metropolitan Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2000
  • Source: History Book Club
  • About: American Moderns is one of my favourite non-fiction books. It was published on the edge of our own new century, and chronicles the birth and growing pains of the one then ending. The narrative focuses on the considerable contributions of the various bohemian elements that came to brilliant prominence in the promising light of this new era. Feminism, labor activism, and radical intellectualism, all action-oriented, fused together to form a progressive platform that, for the first time in America, allowed for a broad, increasingly inclusive, though still problematic, alternative to traditional and oppressive modes of being. These movements were peopled with characters worthy of grand, gritty fiction, including: Louise Bryant, Emma Goldman, John Reed, Hutchins Hapgood, Neith Boyce, Margaret Sanger, Randolph Bourne, Margaret Anderson, Max Eastman, Crystal Eastman, and Susan Glaspell. The resilience of the women is particularly striking. Stansell’s clear voice and excellent scholarship couldn’t be put to better use than they are here, in the complicated telling of this compelling, fractious, and momentous period of history.
  • Motivation: I was thirteen or fourteen when I became interested in the history of activism and feminism. The only things that have changed since then are my knowledge and level of personal involvement in these areas. I also love the literature and pop culture of the earliest years of the twentieth century.
  • Times Read: 3 or 4
  • Random Excerpt/Page 28: “As women lingered at the edges of these urbane circles, they added a sense of themselves as heroines in a new story to bohemia’s increasing store of plots. Just as bohemian identity was intimately intertwined with its representation in print, so was being a New Woman: what one read shaped how one lived.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10+++
    Crystal Eastman was a noted anti-militarist, w...

    Crystal Eastman was a noted anti-militarist, who helped found the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



A Year in Books/Day 218: Max Factor’s Hollywood Glamour

  • Title: Max Factor’s Hollywood Glamour
  • Author: Fred E. Basten (with Robert Salvatore & Paul A. Kaufman)
  • Year Published: 1995 (W. Quay Hays)
  • Year Purchased: 2003/2004
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: Max Factor isn’t just a name on wands of mascara and tubes of lipstick found in the beauty aisle at your local grocery store. The Max Factor cosmetics line wasn’t invented and branded by impersonal, slick-suited admen in a glossy boardroom. He was a pioneer who not only shaped and defined the aesthetics of classic cinema (from glamour girls to tough guys and everything in between) but he brought make-up to the masses in a way that was, and is, distinctly modern. His genius for invention and marketing, as well as his humble beginnings in Central Europe, make his story a neat parallel to those of the movie moguls who were his contemporaries. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 217: The New York Public Library Desk Reference

  • Title: The New York Public Library Desk Reference Fourth Edition
  • Year Published: This Edition-2002 (A Stonesong Press Book)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: Writers Digest Book Club
  • About: This is my go-to reference book. It is the perfect companion for when you don’t feel like searching the internet, with the added bonus of being undeniably factual. None of the entries were written by drunken or vindictive idiots trying to mess with us (as far as we know). At nearly a thousand pages, it does the word comprehensive justice. As with all good research materials, it’s fun to read, too. Really. I also love flipping through it for no reason, and randomly landing on facts or figures that have nothing to do with my life, writing career, interests or hobbies. Just like when I was let loose with an almanac as a 3-year-old. What bliss!
  • Motivation: My lifelong obsession with reference books had nothing to do with it, nothing at all.
  • Times Read: Used as reference resource only.
  • Random Excerpt/Page 331: “myth of Er A parable at the end of Plato’s Republic about the fate of souls after bodily death; according to Plato, the soul must choose wisdom in the afterlife to guarantee a good life in its next cycle of incarnation.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10+