Finlay, Victoria. Color: a Natural History of the Palette. Ballantine Books, 2002.
Reason read: April is fashion month and whenever I think of fashion, I think of color.
To research the history of color is brilliant like a box of sixty-four. Who, for example, has thought about from where ochre originated? According to Finlay, ochre is the first color(s) of paint. I did not know that and to be totally honest, nor have I ever thought about ochre in this way. [My only thoughts in ochre were to be confused about what shade of yellow, red, or brown it is supposed to be.] Did you ever wonder what the HB on a pencil meant? Hardness and blackness. How about the origin of the phrase, “cut through all this red tape”? Who knew? Apparently, Finlay. That’s who. She took the time to travel the globe looking for answers about color: Australia for ochre, England for black and brown, China for white, Chile for red, Italy for orange, India for yellow,…I wanted to make a map of all her travels. On the heels of reading Travels in a Thin Country I couldn’t stop comparing Sara Wheeler’s adventure to that of Victoria Finlay.
There is a fair amount of humor in Color. To see what I mean, find the section where Finlay describes the interesting practice of boiling cow urine after the bovine have been fed a steady diet of mango leaves for two weeks straight.
As another aside, I got a little excited when I saw Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s name in the index. My Natalie connection is that she put Lawrence’s daughter’s poem, “If No One Every Marries Me” to music. I need to thank Finlay for bringing the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner to my attention. ‘Waves Breaking Against Wind’ is a painting I identify with in a strong way.
Author fact: At the time of publication, Finlay was living in Hong Kong (according to the dust jacket).
Book trivia: Color includes a section of photographs…in color! I guess black and white wouldn’t necessarily work for a book about color…
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Color for a textile designer.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 116). In the index Color is incorrectly listed on page 1216.
Martin Russell. Picasso’s War: the Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World. Dutton, 2002.
Reason read: the bombing of Guernica happened on April 26th, 1937. Read in honor and memory of the lives lost that day.
On May 11th, 1937, only two weeks after the insurgent Nazi Condor Legion bombed Guernica, Spain, Pablo Picasso commenced painting his famous masterpiece. While Picasso’s War celebrates Picasso’s work of art, “Guernica,” it also paints a biography of Picasso, the passionately flawed man. Picasso who couldn’t stay faithful to one woman; Picasso who saved everything ever given to him. As an aside, these two details make me believe I would have never gotten along with him. As a painter, his art was as polarizing as cilantro. In 1981 the famous painting still had to be protected from terrorists with armed guards.
Coincidentally, Martin was standing in from of “Guernica” on September 11th, 2001.
As an aside, I love books that make me want to explore more. I looked up Picasso’s cartoons “Dream and Lie of Franco” because of Russell’s book.
The biggest surprise for me was learning of Herbert Southworth, an unsung hero of the Guernica saga. He had a clerical job at the Library of Congress and he was convinced he could get to the bottom of who actually bombed Guernica. Despite denials, he needed to convince the American public of Franco’s threat to Democracy.
Author fact: Martin also wrote Beethoven’s Hair which was a bestseller. I am only reading Picasso’s War for the reading Challenge.
Book trivia: I wanted photography in Martin’s book. If nothing else, just a picture of Picasso’s famous Guernica for reference.
Playlist: Beatles and Joan Baez.
Nancy said: Pearl said Picasso’s War was “wonderfully readable” (Book Lust To Go p 90).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Guernica” (p 89).
Scanlin, Tommye McClure. The Nature of Things: Essays of a Tapestry Weaver. Dahlonega, Georgia: University of North Georgia Press, 2020.
Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
I chose this book because I want more art and, by default, more artists in my life. I know absolutely nothing of weaving, how to or otherwise, so I suspect I read this differently than say, someone who makes his or her living by weaving tapestries. I read this simply as an admirer of a beautiful textile.
Scanlin calls her book a collection of essays, but I prefer to think of it as a memoir: the emergence of an extremely talented artist. Told mostly through the lens of photography and illustrations, Nature of Things explodes with color and creativity. Remove the visuals and the early narrative would probably not survive.
The final part of the book moves away from memoir and becomes a primer for learning the basics of weaving, complete with a glossary, clear diagrams, and a list of resources.
As an aside, I was surprised by how much I had in common with Scanlin. what inspired her in Nature of Things are the very same things that catch my attention: trees, crows, rocks, shadows, flowers, feathers, ferns, even the fine winding tendrils of vines.
Note: According to the back cover of Nature of Things, it has been on sale for well over a month now. I received my copy on October 29th, 2020.
Bantock, Nick. Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002.
Reason: What a wicked game to play to make me feel this way. – Chris Isaac.
You all know the star couple of the early 1990s, Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem, but do you know Matthew Sedon and his lovely paramour, Isabella de Reims? Matthew and Isabella are caught in that can’t-connect world Griffin and Sabine know all too well. Separated by continents, absence is making the heart turn passionate. Matthew struggles to keep his mind on archaeology dig in Egypt while Isabella attempts to study in France. Both encounter evil signs of nemesis Viktor Frolatti who seems bound and determined to keep them apart.
As always, Bantock’s art is stunning. Bold colors, violent insinuations, and passionate designs decorate every postcard, letter, envelope and stamp exchanged. As always, the voyeuristic thrill of opening someone’s mail cannot be ignored.
Bantock, Nick. Gryphon: in which the extraordinary correspondence of Griffin and Sabine is rediscovered. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.
Reason read: I have flung myself so far down the rabbit hole I can’t find my way home. Maybe I’ve lost sight of what home means. I don’t know. After revisiting Griffin & Sabine and Sabine’s Notebook I realized I couldn’t stop with The Golden Mean. I couldn’t stop. At all. I couldn’t stop. For nothing. I guess you could say it was all for nothing.
In Gryphon we move on from Griffin and Sabine to Matthew and Isabella, another pair of star-crossed lovers. Don’t worry, G & S are still there, just in a murkier role. Sabine needs help from archaeologist Matthew, but the meaning behind her request is all smoke and mirrors. As with all the other books in the series, the art is amazing, even if the story has gotten a little too cloaked in mystery.
Best line in a letter, “I’ve tried to escape from the realm of your skin, by concentrating on your voice, but that only leads to your mouth and then I’m back where I started” (Matthew to Isabella).
International Centre for the Picture Book in Society, ed. Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Studio, 2019.
Reason read: This was an Early Review from LibraryThing that I didn’t receive. I was curious about it so after publication I borrowed it from the local public library.
Coming from a place of spoiled privilege, I need more books like Migrations in my life, despite its deceiving simplicity. Growing up, my parents were not wealthy, but they provided. I always had a roof over my head, a safe and comfortable place to call home. It is hard to think of what life would be like without a secure or reliable place to live. The reality is we live in a world where thousands and thousands of people are displaced every single day.
With it’s beautiful hand painted art, illustrators of children’s books from all over the world took part in contributing postcards to the project. The layout of Migrations reminded me so much of Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine.
Bantock, Nick. The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003.
Reason read: Friday, I’m in love. – the Cure.
Back to Griffin & Sabine. It always comes back to Griffin Moss & Sabine Strohem. Except not. This time, it is Matthew and Isabella. Matthew Sedon and Isabella de Reims are madly, hopelessly, truly in love. Except, like Griffin and Sabine before them, they cannot reach each other. He, in Alexandria, Egypt. She, in Paris, France. The archaeologist and the student worlds apart. Unable to connect, their romance depends on the guidance of the only other couple to experience such a divide. Through similar letters and postcards, Matthew & Isabella explore worlds beyond their imagination. Will they ever meet?
Book trivia: this was supposed to be the final book in the Griffin and Sabine saga. It is not.
Bantock, Nick. The Museum at Purgatory. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
Reason read: I am on another one of my cat kicks. Meh. Can’t be helped. Can’t be stopped. I’m just going with it.
Meet Non, Curator of the Museum at Purgatory. First, pay attention to his name. Non, the absence of anything and everything. He facilitates the acquisition of collections in that place between heaven and hell. Wait for it. Non is dead, too. He curates the collections of other dead artists, archaeologists, and collectors while they all figure out where they are ultimately going to end up, Heaven or Hell.
If you are familiar with Bantock’s work, you know his books are always filled with explosive art and imaginative words that only fuel curiosity to cult-like proportions. I am a fan of everything, and I mean everything, he does.
Favorite rooms: It’s a tie between the Gazio Room, with it’s shrines and navigational boxes, and the Delancet Room, full of lost post. As an ardent letter writer, I think Delancet has the slight edge over Gazio. Just saying.
Book trivia: I love the dedication for The Museum at Purgatory.
Field, Joanna. On Not Being Able to Paint. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1957.
Reason read: Field was born in the month of February. Her birthday is one day before mine. Read in her memory.
On Not Being Able to Paint is divided into five sections, the first four all relating to Free Drawing. The fifth and final section is focused on painting. Words like “psychic creativity” and “moral education” are thrown around, which makes me think I’m in for the psychobabble
ride reading of my life. I wasn’t disappointed. There is a fair amount of deep psychology in On not Being Able to Paint. Even though the slim volume is less than 200 pages, it took me forever to read. In the end, I questioned if the obstacles which prevent one from painting are not the exact same “blocks” writers sometimes complain of experiencing when unable to write. Sure enough, Field is connecting free drawings with the self conscious.
As an aside, the first edition of On Not Being Able to Paint was written for educators. The second edition (my version) includes an appendix and Anna Freud’s foreword. I appreciated that Field was able to recognize that emotional drawing is not completely devoid of influence and that she shouldn’t be so fixated on depicting beauty for beauty’s sake.
Confessional: I was a bit disappointed by Field’s “art.” The illustrations were childlike and well, for lack of a better word, weird. As Field explains, and I said earlier, they are “free drawings” that helped her connect to the self conscious. I hope she was successful.
Quote to quote, “And the result was a sense of false certainty, a compulsive and deceptive sanity, a tyrannical victory of the common sense view which always sees objects as objects, but at cost of something else that was seeking recognition, something more to do with imaginative than with common sense reality” (p 76). Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Whatever that means!
Author fact: Joanna Field was the pen name of Marion Milner.
Book trivia: Illustrations are by Joanna Field, aka Marion Milner. Forward by Anna Freud.
Nancy said: Pearl said On Not Being Able to Paint was a later favorite of hers.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the cheating chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33).
Happe, Amanda. Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied: a Book for Anyone Wondering if Life is Giving You Magical Gifts or Just Messing with You. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2018.
Reason read: this is the March selection from the Early Review program of LibraryThing.
At first glance, you think Deeply Grateful should only take you ten minutes to read. At second glance, you reconsider. Maybe thirty minutes in order to give the illustrations a proper scrutiny. But. But! Once you get into Deeply Grateful and really read it (like reeeallllly read it) you realize you want to say to hell with time. It is simple and complex all at once. Yes, the illustrations are a little repetitious. You’ll see a lot of straight lines that look like rays of sunlight and curly lines that resemble snakes. Then there are the ribbons and pipes and boxes. Circles and science projects. Never mind all that. It’s really all about the words. Some will have you thinking more. Some will have you wishing you thought less. Even way, Deeply Grateful makes you think.
Author fact: Happe runs Three of Wands, “an independent creative practice.”
Book trivia: Deeply Grateful is Amanda Happe’s first book.
What to say about April? I ran my fastest 10k while ill (go figure). I met two new runners and may have convinced someone to at least try. I don’t know where this acceptance to run with others is coming from. To share a conversation I had with someone: I asked where she runs. She replied she doesn’t have my pace, “nowhere near it” were her exact words. I answered I don’t have that pace all the time either. Me & my pace visit from time to time but we don’t make it a thing. She laughed and I saw myself ten years ago talking to someone who face-times with friends while running. I worried about her relationship with pace. But, this blog is turning into a thing different from reading.
So, without further ado, here are the finished books:
- Diplomatic Lover by Elsie Lee – read in one day
- Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez – read in two days
- Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard – read in four days (this book annoyed me and I kept having to put it down)
- Lost Upland: stories of the Dordogne Region by W.S. Merwin – confessional: DNF (bored, bored, bored)
- Coming into the Country by John McPhee
- Henry James: the Untried Years by Leon Edel
- Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark – this was cheeky!
- “F” is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (I’m calling this a continuation even though I read “A” a long time ago.)
- Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons (AB + print so I could finish on time – today!)
- Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves – another quick read (finished in four days)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul
Yaguchi, Taro and Masao Donahue. Origami 365. New York: Race Point, 2014.
Reason read: interesting to learn more about Origami
If you are looking for a comprehensive but short book on Origami, Taro Yaguchi’s Origami 365 is a great place to start. The contents of Origami 365 seem a little more “adult” in that Yaguchi includes a brief history of Origami, the popularity of the art of paper folding today and even the types of paper one could use for different projects. Probably the most interesting aspect to Origami 365 is the Kyu System, a progression of skill levels while mastering certain techniques. You learn a series of fold techniques (like book, blintz and waterbomb) before moving onto actual objects. It is worth it to learn every fold so that one can create turtles, peacocks and frogs to name a few.
Sanderson, Jennifer and Jessica Moon. Paper Gifts. Minnesota: Arcturus Publishing, 2015.
Reason read: interesting in learning more about the Japanese art of folding paper.
This was originally designed for children in grades 4-6 but as someone new to Origami, I found it very useful in its simplicity. You essentially learn how to fold six different “gifts” such as a treat holder or bookmark. While I didn’t actually make any of the gifts, I could tell the directions were very straightforward and easy to follow. The color photographs and glossary were a big help.
If I had tried to fold anything, it would have been the gift box.
Prose, Francine. The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired. New York: Harper Collins, 2002.
Reason read: John Lennon married his muse, Yoko Ono, on March 20th, 1969.
Francine Prose covers the lives of nine muses; the women who inspired creativity and passion in their artists. Prose’s introduction sums up the impetus behind the book saying, “The desire to explore the mystery of inspiration, to determine who or what is the “moving cause” of art, resembles the impulse to find out a magician’s secrets” (page 2). Prose begins Lives of the Muses with Hester Thrale. Despite being a married woman, her influence on Dr. Samuel Johnson was profound. Prose then moves on to such well known muses as Alice Liddell, Gala Dali, Lee Miller and of course, Yoko Ono. She also includes lesser known muses (to me, at least) such as Elizabeth Siddal, Lou Andreas Salome and Suzanne Farrell. The residual appreciation I gleaned from reading Lives of the Muses was an education in Rossetti and Miller’s art. I couldn’t read another word without looking up such pieces as Awakening Conscience, Found, Remington Silent and Night and Day, respectively. Attaching the visual to the imagination was a bonus, especially when it came to Dali’s over-the-top creativity and strangeness. The only aspect of Lives of the Muses I found detracting was the myriad of speculative opinions Prose insisted on voicing.
Best lines, “Madmen are all sensual in the lower stages of distemper. But when they are very ill, pleasure is too weak for them, and they seek pain” (p 37) and “The violation of Lizzie Siddal’s grave was only the coarsest and most explicit manifestations of the necrophilia that had tainted her relationship with Rossetti from the start” (p 103).
Convergence: Robert Pyle wrote a book about Bigfoot. Prose wrote a book called Bigfoot Dreams.
As an aside, I did not know that Samuel Johnson obsessively counted his own footsteps. I find myself keeping track, too. Other notes: Natalie Merchant chose a poem by Christina Rossetti for Leave Your Sleep. Christina was Gabriel’s sister.
Author fact: Prose is a year older than my mom and was born in Brooklyn.
Book trivia: Lives of the Muses includes some great photographs.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “People You Outta Meet” (p 185). I definitely would have liked to have met Lee Miller.
When I look back on January 2013 I have a sense of relief. All things considered this month was better than the last. In the grand scheme of things January treated me kind. No major meltdowns. No minor catastrophes to speak of. I started training for Just ‘Cause in the quiet way. Four to five miles a day and I didn’t stress about the numbers. If I didn’t make five or even four I didn’t have a hissy fit or beat myself or moi up. I cut me & myself some slack; gave us a break. I know that as the months wear on this won’t always be the case, but for now it was nice to go easy on me, myself & moi. The running was a different matter. Just as relaxed a schedule but not so easy going on. The run is a little over six weeks away and I’ve done next to nil in order to train. New Guinea has been awesome in that I’m working on speed intervals on level five. Let me repeat that. Level five. Nothing to write home about. I used to operate at level nine. Enough said. On with the books! I am pretty proud of the list.
- Lives of the Painters, Architects and Sculptors by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of National Art Month way back in October. This finally completes the series!
- Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ in honor of Female Domination Day in Greece.
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray ~ in honor of January being the first month I read something from the first chapter of a Lust book. I admit I didn’t finish this one.
- Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham ~ in honor of Maugham’s birth month. I also didn’t finish this one.
- Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ Happy new year. Read something to make me happy.
- Idle Days in Patagonia by W. H. Hudson ~ in honor of January being the best time to visit Patagonia.
- The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ~ in honor of Lewis birth and death month.
- Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson ~ in honor of the month all Creatures Great and Small aired.
- Tatiana by Dorothy Jones ~ in honor of January being the month Alaska became a state.
On audio I listened to:
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month.
- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith ~ in honor of Female Mystery Month
- City of Thieves by David Benioff ~ last minute add-on. This was addicting!
For the Early Review program with LibraryThing:
- Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws (started in Dec)
- Her by Christa Parravani
- Leave Your Sleep the poetry book for children by Natalie Merchant