November ’12 was…

I don’t know what makes me feel this way, but November arrived and left before I knew it.  It felt like it was one of those elusive party-goers who pops in for a quick hello and is gone before anyone else knows. Something I would do. We had a fit of snow to add insult to New Jersey/New York injury. My neighborhood survived just fine but mother nature had it in for my old stomping grounds in the worst way.

My routine of reading during my lunch break hasn’t changed. I’ve come to look forward to camping out in the stacks, listening to students pass my study carrel. It gives me perspective. This month I seemed to read nothing but really short, easy to read books.

  • Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series I started last month. I think I read this over a weekend.
  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 2 by Giorgio Vasari ~ a continuation of the series I started last month.
  • Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing ~ in honor of national adoption month. This was cute. I was able to read it in one day.
  • Camus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Camus being born in the month of November. I took my time with this but still managed to finish it in two weeks.
  • Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff ~ in honor of national Alzheimer’s month. Read over a weekend, I was glued to the words because almost a year ago I lost my uncle to dementia. This really hit home.
  • Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa. Or so they say. Another quick, weekend read.
  • Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a landscape Painter in the Balkansby Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being the best time to get to Albania (which I never thought of doing). This took me three weeks to get through.
  • The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan ~ in honor of Dylan Thomas living in Wales. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Read in four days.
  • The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa (yeah, yeah I read two books for the same reason). This was really short. I was  able to read it over four lunch breaks.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones ~ in honor of Jones’s birth month. Another short (but difficult) read. Read this in one day.
  • The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr ~ in honor of November being Fantasy convention month. Read this over two lunch breaks. Really cute.

For audio books I listened to:

  • Churchill, a Life by Martin Gilbert ~ in honor of Churchill being born in the month of November. A few trips to the eastern part of the state allowed me to finish this sooner than I thought.
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers ~ for the fun of it. This was hard to listen to simply because of the heavy dialogue.
  • Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande ~ in honor of National Health Month. This was only six cds long so it was a great way to finish out the month.

What else was November about? I got to see a pretty exciting Patriots game thanks to my husband. I also got to stay home alone and read for an entire Sunday thanks to another Patriots game. Staying local for Thanksgiving definitely allowed for more reading time, too.

Edward Lear in Albania

Lear, Edward. Edward Lear in Albania: journals of a landscape painter in the Balkans. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008.

Edward Lear is such a great writer in addition to being an artist. I thoroughly enjoyed his journey through the Balkans. Each chapter begins with an outline, as if Lear didn’t want to forget a single thing. His entries are so descriptive and vibrant it’s hard to imagine that he would forgot a single detail.
At every stop along the journey Lear would take a hike to a picturesque location so that he might draw the landscape. He attracted plenty of attention and was sometimes accused of evoking the devil with his art. (It was a sign of evil to draw.) He was constantly getting himself into trouble. For example, one time he drew portraits of two brothers. Simply by mistake he had drawn one brother’s portrait larger than the other. He ended up offending them both. Like any good artist he was continually worried about losing the light and would often set out at daybreak to capture the landscape. While his art is amazing so is his journal. He manages to illustrate not only the landscape but the cultures of the community as well. Every chapter is filled with Lear’s good humor as well. For example, face washing in public was seen as “a species of water-worship” as Lear put it.
At the end of November Lear aborted his travels in the Balkans to accompany a friend around Cairo, Mount Sinai and Palestine. He returned to the Balkans to “complete his tour of Albania in April.

Best lines ever: “Yet it is a great charm of Turkish character that they never stare of wonder at anything…I am satisfied that if you chose to take your tea while suspended by your feet from the ceiling, not a word would be said, or a sign of amazement betrayed” (p 10), “The certainty of night rest is not among the good things of Akhidha; in the small cell I inhabit, a constant clawing and squalling of cats on one side of my pillow, and quacking of dicks on the other, is not favourable to sleep” (p 33),

Confession: right off the bat I was hit by confusion. In Book Lust To Go Nancy Pearl says she thought this Edward Lear was the nonsensical poet and “…It took me a minute to realize that there must have been two Edward Lears, and this was the one I was unfamiliar with” (p 13). What she meant to say was there were two sides to Edward Lear and she was unfamiliar with the painter side of Edward Lear because, according to the preface of Edward Lear in Albania, written by Vivian Noakes, the Edward Lear who wrote nonsensical poetry was also the Edward Lear who was an accomplished ornithological illustrator and Albanian landscape painter.

Reason read: November is a decent time to visit Albania, if you can.

Author fact: Edward Lear captured the imagination of Natalie Merchant and she set some of his lesser known works to music.

Book trivia: Not many libraries in my area have this book. My copy traveled from Bates College.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Albania” (p 13).

November ’12 is…

November is Thanksgiving. My mom’s birthday. A wedding somewhere out there. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Soon it will be time to crank up the woodstove. November is also a football game (Go Pats!) and maybe some music. It promises to be a good month for books, too. I have a couple of really short ones to buzz through:

  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vol 2. by Giorgio Vasari ~ continuing the series started in October in honor of art month. As with Vol.1 I won’t read any bio that has a mistake in it.
  • I’m excited about this volume because Da Vinci is in it.

  • The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series started in October to honor the Amsterdam marathon. This should be a really quick read.
  • Camus: a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Albert Camus’s birth month
  • Edward Lear in Albania: journals of a landscape painter by Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Albania.
  • I guess so.

  • Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~in honor of November being a good time to take a safari in Africa. Truth be told, this won’t inspire me to travel anywhere near the dark continent.
  • I can tell already.

For audio – I’m plan to listen to Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill, a Life and Dorothy Sayer’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.

For the Early Review program on LibraryThing I will finish Clay by Melissa Harrison. I have to admit I’m not wild about the story. I love the way Harrison describes the landscape around her but not a fan of her character development.

What else about November? Can I say I will be thrilled, thrilled to not have to listen to Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren bash each other over the head anymore? As a woman I have never felt more “targeted” than in this particular election. That would go for Obama and Romney as well. Grrrr.