Monday, November 19, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
So....this weekend I was sick. Sick enough to stay inside and in my pj's, but not sick enough to be hanging over the toilet. Sick enough, in other words, to stay in bed and read! And so, without further ado, and because I'm still waiting on JAMES ARNOLD ...I give you Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.
This little volume is a simple, straightforward lesson on the man who was Shakespeare: Who was he (no one really knows), how did he spend his time (not much information there either), was he actually gay (he married and had kids, but read his sonnets closely. I'll give you a hint: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." That one? Addressed to a man. Great friendship or more? You decide, because the academics sure haven't), and the big question - did Shakespeare actually write Shakespeare?
Oh my. You want a GREAT term paper for you Shakespeare loving English teacher? Do a little research and you will find numerous accounts of people and groups of people who seem to have more of a claim to Shakespeare's work than the little known man himself.
I enjoyed the book.
It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me take down my Riverside Shakespeare. Okay, I didn't laugh (may have chuckled) and I didn't cry (at all), but Bryson did peak my curiosity. And that is what a good biographer does.
So...if you interested in Shakespeare, or just the amount of words he (or someone else) coined, give this book a try.
(And if James Arnold is the guy who serves you your next meal at Zoubi - please for the love of all things literary, tell him to email me...)
Thursday, November 1, 2007
It's a trip. A long one.
Often compared to the Iliad, and one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, Three Kingdoms is the classic work of Luo Guanzhong (c. 1330 -c. 1400). This novel, and the story of the Three Kingdoms, has influenced Chinese (and now American) culture much in the same way that Shakespeare has transformed the lives and times of Richard II and Richard III for Western audiences. Three Kingdoms has inspired manga, various TV series and video games.
Three Kingdoms is a complex tale with over 100 principal characters. Written in both plain and Classical Chinese, Luo Guanzhong's text was considered the standard text for 300 years, and the Moss Roberts unabridged translation encompasses two books at about 550 pages each. It tells the story of the end of the Han dynasty and its division into three battle hungry kingdoms. (This dates somewhere between a.d. 200-280.)
A Chinese friend suggested the Moss Roberts translation, and even though my eyes fell out of their sockets when I saw the long list of characters and about 93 pages of notations, I knew I had to read this book. I don't have much experience with Chinese literature, and have been working on rectifying this.
If you have any interest in Chinese history, literature, or just an epic story, here is what you should think when you hear the title Three Kingdoms: MUST READ.
Has anyone read Three Kingdoms? Would love to hear your thoughts...
Maybe it's because I work in a small town, family business, but I felt myself understanding the slow, plodding nature of Louie, and his ferocious love of place. Louie's school friend, Bobby, on the other hand, flees not only the town, but the country. In Europe he turns into a famous painter.
The town of Thomaston, NY, where Richard Russo plants his novel, is (like New Hope) populated with solid people who discover how versatile the human heart is, wonder if it is better to love or to be loved, wonder if it is better to aspire to something great or to embrace a comfortable life, and wonder what 'family' truly means.
After finishing this book you feel you know Russo's town of Thomaston as well as your own. You feel you could meet any of the characters at John and Peter's or any small town bar.
I couldn't help thinking of this book as a story of Richard Russo's own dueling personality. On one hand, we have the small town boy (like Russo) who loves his small town. On the other hand, we have the small town boy (like Russo) who leaves as soon as possible to become a famous artist.
Don't want to take my word for it? Here is a good review from the New Yorker Magazine.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I want to share some of my highly recommended favorites with you. I could pick a few books and review them. Yawn. No, no, no. Instead, I’ve decided to let the works speak for themselves. Yes!
This list is not exhaustive. (Good grief. Can you imagine? I’ve only chosen four.) For instance I do not list any of the Little House books (they are packed in my parent’s house somewhere) although I highly recommend them. And some of the books, you will notice, are not that old…as old as I am for instance…but they are good stories, and are YA books, so I included them.
The List:A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
"It was a dark and stormy night.
In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees, clouds scudded across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground.
The house shook.
Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.
She wasn’t usually afraid of weather. – It’s not just the weather, she thought – It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong.
School. School was all wrong. She’d been dropped down to the lowest section in her grade. That morning one of her teacher’s had said crossly, “Really, Meg, I don’t understand how a child with parents as brilliant as yours are supposed to be can be such a poor student...”
From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
"Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like the discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City..."
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Chapter One: The Decanter of Tokay
Lyra and her daeman moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of the former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.
Lyra stopped beside the Master’s chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall.
'You’re not taking this seriously,” whispered her daemon. “Behave yourself...'”
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Chapter One: An Unexpected Party
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with paneled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it, first on one side and then on another..."
Monday, October 22, 2007
I am on page 239 of Richard Russo's new book the Bridge of Sighs. This is a 527 pager. Our beloved War and Peace (my Louise and Alymer Maude translation) comes in at 1250 (before the epilogues, notes, etc.). I mention that for the sake of comparison. The Bridge of Sighs is a long book, but it's not epic...so don't let the size keep you from purchasing this complex story.
Okay. Time for my confession.
Confession: The Bridge of Sighs is my first Richard Russo book (Good GOD!), but let me say that this will not be my last. (Next up: Straight Man.) I'm a sucker for small town America, and Russo tells that tale very well. The town in this book is the main character, and all the people get bit parts - but oh the people! And oh the parts they play!
I hope you enjoy this book. Tell me what you think, when you are though - but NOT YET. I'm still reading.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Today I give you a new edition of one of the best stories I have ever come across. Interested? Good. The author is Leo Tolstoy, and the book is War and Peace. WAIT! No! Do not turn me off. Give me a chance - like love, like peace….that kinda chance. Ready? Here is my pitch:
War and Peace is NOT the monster you think it is. Open it…go ahead…just read the first sentence. Good grief, here…
Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist – I really believe he is Antichrist – I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you – sit down and tell me all the news. It was July, 1805, and the speaker was well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer….
This story is a wild adventure, and from the first sentence you are thrown into the middle of one of the most fascinating times in history with the most fascinating people. AND NOW…we have a new translation! (We have two new translations, actually, but I’ll get to that later.)
The translation I quoted from above was the 1942 translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. The new translation available at Farley’s right now is the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This team is very sensitive to not only creating a good, readable English version, but also a version that keeps Tolstoy’s voice and cadence in place. Other Russians this team have tackled to rave reviews include Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol.
The second new translation is by Andrew Bromfield. Bromfield’s translation is not the epic that we now know. The manuscript that makes up the Broomfield translation was first published, by Tolstoy, in 1866 in a Russian literary magazine. This version is shorter and (I’ve been told) lacks the literary quality of the Pevear and Volokhonsky team (but check it out for yourself).
It has been ten years since I wondered through Tolstoy’s Russian landscape with his unforgettable characters. The first time I read this book it was July and hot. One reading afternoon as I was drawn farther and farther into Napoleon’s winter wars my body temperature actually dropped. It wasn’t until I started shivering and lost my concentration that I looked up and realized it was 90 some degrees; but I had goose bumps, for I had been in a Russian winter.
I am ready to go back. I hope you decide to give this tale a try!
Friday, October 12, 2007
“The teachers from my youth are gone, the parents old and mostly estranged. The man they told me about, though – he’s still around. I can’t shake him. I read Spinoza. I read Nietzsche. I read National Lampoon. Nothing helps. I live with Him every day, and behold, He is still angry, still vengeful, still – eternally – pissed off.”
Next Auslander's thought process goes something like this: ‘Not only is god pissed off, he’s coming after me.’
After his wife announces she is pregnant, for instance, the first thing he does is trash all 350 pages of his god stories, not wanting to tempt god into divine retribution during this moment of joy. “The stories I had been working on were about my life under the thumb of an abusive, belligerent god, a god who awoke millennia ago on the wrong side of the firmament and still hasn’t cheered up. Working title: God Walks Beside Me with a .45 in My Ribs.”
But he always comes back to his writing because he wants his still unborn son or daughter to know his side of the story, why he has chosen not to raise him or her as he was raised, or why (as his mother says) he has forsaken his people. If you read and enjoyed Daivd Sedaris, you will enjoy this book. (David Sedaris trying to explain an overflowing toilet to a french plumber in Me Talk Pretty One Day: “The toilet, she cry often.”)
In Foreskin’s Lament, Shalom Auslander traces his fitful path through community, religion, and tradition from boyhood to adulthood with a sense of humor and an unbelievable neurotic sensibility. Enjoy!
Listen to the NPR interview with Shalom Auslander.
On October 13th, Ms. Plott will be signing the famous, reissued ghost books that we can't get enough of:
Ghosts In The Valley
More Ghosts in the Valley
Ghost to Ghost Across the Land
A psychic investigator and an expert in the field of the paranormal and local author, Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey was cast into the national spotlight when her book, The Bermuda Triangle, hit the # 1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List. Mrs. Jeffrey's other published works include over ten books devoted to the subject of the supernatural.
Ms. Plott, daughter of Mrs. Jeffrey, will be signing both before and after the New Hope Ghost Tour.
Ghost Tours meet at 8:00 across the street from Farley's Bookshop.
More info here: Ghost Tours of New Hope
"Mrs. Jeffrey's ghost stories sparkle with such authenticity that you tend to overlook the creative, sincere talent of an author who continues to practice the most etheraeal of all lost arts - storytelling."
- Philadelphia Magazine
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Instead I brewed some tea, grabbed this cook book and headed to my pillow propped, afghan covered bed. It is fall, and I'm thinking about pie.
Actually, if you ask my friends they will tell you I think about pie a lot anyway. Summer, fall, winter, spring...pie baking and pie eating is the cheeriest, yummiest, way to pass your time.
Of course, when I talk about pie, I'm not talking about one of those flimsy, pasty, glue-like concoctions that the super market has on display. Nor am I talking about something you buy in the frozen food department.
A good pie, a pie measured and cut and baked from flour to golden crust finish is a work of art. As anyone who has baked a pie can tell you, it can be a hit or miss process. One day you may turn out the perfect golden, fruit bleeding, flakiest pie that ever hit a human mouth, and the next may have you (heaven forbid) claiming that frozen pie isn't all 'that bad.'
Let me introduce you to Patty Pinner. Raised in the small town of Saginaw, Michigan, Patty grew up in a community of homemakers and pie bakers. In her book Sweety Pies, she has not only collected (and photographed) an amazing collection of pie recipes, she has also included wisdom from the bakers. Each mouthwatering recipe from Mama's Fresh Raspberry Pie to Bernice Brock's Old-Fashioned Grits Pie and Almeta McCray's Tangerine Meringue Pie comes with a story...a bit of lore...from the baker herself. These stories are down-home-meets-1950's, and I guarantee they will make you laugh (and cringe if you don't have a sense of humor, I suppose).
Regardless, in this book you will find lots of good pie information, as well as a few pies even my pie loving self has never heard of before. For instance - grits pie, navy bean custard pie, lemon chess pie, grated carrot pie, and an entire section of various meringue pies.
Sweety Pies is a fun book full of great stories, educational pie baking ideas, and grand looking recipies. If you are thinking about baking the Thanksgiving Pie this year, this book is a place to start. Shall we put one on hold for you?
Monday, October 8, 2007
I love the colors and the typical Farley's clutter in this picture, and I think it is a great visual for what this blog will cover - great reads, notes from behind the scenes of bookselling, and pretty much whatever else I want to chat about.
For all three of you who were reading the other blogs Farley's had, you will still find information about children's books, fiction, and nonfiction on this new blog, so worry not! We admit, it was hard to keep up THREE blogs. We hope to keep this ONE more updated.
So. Two books to mention today. First, What You Have Left by Will Allison. Will Allison worked as the executive editor of Story and editor at large of Zoetrope: All Story. What You Have Left is his first novel.
What You Have Left is about the hard and fast world of South Carolina car racing, odd jobs, love, lust, alcohol, family history, an old dairy farm, and everything in between. Once you start this book you will be ruled by it until you reach the last page. Cooking? Ehhh...saltines are dinner. Cleaning? Overrated. Sleep? Who needs it. Will Alison's writing is so clear and packed - I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!
The second book I want to mention is part of a trilogy. If you haven't read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy yet, now is the time. In December New Line Cinema is releasing the movie based on the first book in the trilogy - The Golden Compass. Like the books of Harry Potter, His Dark Materials is marketed to young adults, but claims a much wider audience. If you liked the world of Harry Potter, you will love Philip Pullman's series. Read it before you see it.