Friday, May 23, 2008

Accordions for peace


This speaks for itself, really.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I love books. (I know, you are all thinking, "Tell us something we don't know!") Only fellow book lovers can understand, though, that sometimes it's more than the words in the pages, or even the pictures on the cover. Sometimes it's the texture of the paper, the way the edges of the pages are cut, or the weight of the cover as much as the thoughts printed thereon. Some of my favourite recollections of books include their physical presence; for instance, the paperback edition of Our Uncle Charlie by Elizabeth Lane, with the glossy coating peeling off the bent corners and the crease down the centre where I'd rolled it up to carry around in my bag, evokes almost as many happy thoughts as the stories of the Murphy Boys and the fire in the shed and the barefoot kids crawling all over the gig as the family drove to church on Sunday. Or the inscription on the yellowed pages inside our blue buckram-covered copy of Three Little Maids by Ethel Turner that reminded me that my mother had once been a little girl excitedly reading the tale of Phyllida and Weenie. Or there is the tattered paperback edition of The Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley with illustrations that had been carefully hand-coloured by my artistic older cousins, using one of those little tins with the square cakes of watercolour paint. More recently, the Dude has discovered a series of teen boy adventure books that come with stiff cloth covers, an elastic band to hold them closed, and several gatefold inserts with maps and pictures and other clues to the mystery on them.
I know I am not alone in this love of books and reading, as evidenced by the existence of the booklover's magazine, Slightly Foxed. A free issue is available online for your perusal. Check out the article "Nuffin Like a Puffin" for a beautiful insight into the development of reading habits in childhood. I want to subscribe, but I'm afraid I'd spend too long reading the magazine about reading and not enough time reading the books!
Anyway, now I'm off to tackle Ulysses again, and it's a brick of a book with pages that feel like newsprint, reminiscent of the paper that wraps the soap in Leopold Bloom's pocket.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beautiful beche-la-mers

Go see 'em at National Geographic dot com. Gorgeous!

David Doubilet/National Geographic

Friday, May 09, 2008

Too much author

During the American Civil War, a female sergeant disguised her sex until, to the horror of her commander, she "was delivered of a baby... in violation of all military law and of the army regulations."

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, in Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History.

Okay, the poor guy was probably a bit shocked that one of his 'men' delivered a baby, but are you really telling me that it was written into the mid-nineteenth century army regulations that 'Thou shalt not give birth to a baby'? Why would they have bothered, if they weren't expecting to have women in the army at all? I feel that Ms Ulrich has used that ellipsis for nefarious purposes, to make the poor man look (more) stupid.

On another tack, the whole premise of this book is built on the fact that the eponymous line from the author's PhD thesis has been quoted–and misquoted–on coffee mugs, bumper stickers and T-shirts ad infinitum, often with spurious links to the original sentiment. To make sure that it doesn't happen again, Ulrich has very kindly italicised certain sentences in her text to let the reader know what she considers suitable for reproduction.

This is quite annoying, because it takes away that delightful feeling of discovery that comes when one finds such a quotable gem. And, contrariwise, it makes you not want to quote that sentence at all, and quote other bits of lesser wisdom and more spurious provenance.

Disclaimer: I own a "Well-behaved women" T-shirt, and am otherwise enjoying the book very much.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What's happening?

Trampled underfoot, saturated and scuffed, this piece of formerly glossy paper drifted under my front gate this morning. I just love the texture of the abraded surface and the way it has made the colours bleed into each other. It reminds me of the oil painting of my grandmother's stepfather that hung, crumbling and cracking, in the hallway of her home for most of my life.