Thursday, July 28, 2011

Clangour of the Gong

But she stopped.  There was a smell of burning.  Could they have burned the Boeuf en Daube overboil?  she wondered, pray heaven not!  when the great clangour of the gong announced solemnly, authoritatively, that all those scattered about, in attics, in bedrooms, on little perches of their own, reading, writing, putting the last smooth to their hair, or fastening dresses, must leave all that, and the little odds and end on their washing-tables and dressing-tables, and the novels on the bed-tables, and the diaries which were so private, and assemble in the dining-room for dinner.

-Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse

A more fleshly bit in To the Lighthouse, but when I was reading it last night, was completely struck by the beauty of it and kept reading it over and over.  Maybe I am just a fleshly person, but it's sometimes the simple things like getting ready or being in the privacy of your own room that I find the most beautiful.

Image: New York Public Library

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beyond the Sea

Beyond the Sea by Paul X. Johnson

I think I found a new obsession.  Just take a look at Mr. Johnson's work and try not to become obsessed.  Impossible!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In continuation with yesterday's post...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meet me in the stacks

Don't you love this picture of Carol Lombard and Clark Gable?  They seem so very much in love.  I went through a huge Carol Lombard phase this winter (blame Instant Netflix) and was so interested to find out about their relationship.  They were indeed very much in love, but only married for two years when she died in a plane crash.  Gable was inconsolable and devastated -according to wikipedia- and enlisted in the army,  dedicating himself to a suggestion she had made before her death. 
I think the fact that the two are flirting in a library makes it even more perfect.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

A couple weeks back I was perusing the New York Review Books- which seem to be in joyous amounts at Symposium Books in Providence- for Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar, a review I read at Stuck in a Book.  Regrettably it wasn't there, but I did find another on Simon's list, The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.  I'll give it a go, I thought, I dare say it is summer.

Now, I'll be honest, it took me about 75 pages to get into it, and at 170-odd pages that's almost halfway through, but now that I'm finished, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and actually fancy a reread.  A series of short stories (I hate the word vignette, although it's probably a more accurate word - maybe it's just how so many people seem to use it wrongly) about a grandmother and her granddaughter living on a island for the summer off of Finland.  All of the stories have an almost ethereal feel to them, like foggy memories put into writing, which I think is what I found divergent to what I have been reading lately.  It took me a while to get into it, but once I did I didn't want loose that distant feel.  She has a bit of a Virginia Woolf-style to the way she writes, in fact, when I was reading it I kept on thinking about Mrs. Dalloway.  Did anyone else find this or am I just imagining things?

With it, brought back vivid memories of my childhood growing up on the coastline in Rhode Island.  Playing in the woods until our legs were covered in scratches.  Digging for clams out on a sandbar during low tide.  Swimming off of docks that weren't ours, then hiding from the owners behind rocks, so we wouldn't get in trouble.  Then ending the night in absolute exhaustion, passing out, face in pillow.  Sophia and her grandmother's experiences were the same and Tove Jansson was telling us about her own childhood through them.  Our Finnish family friend (alliteration much?) often tells us how similar the New England coastline can be to that of Scandinavia, which I think is why I related so much to the descriptions of landscapes and their mindset.  I wonder if it is something about having to survive such brutal winters desperately waiting for a too short summer that makes us similar?

When a rich businessman builds a house on a nearby island, I could feel for them, watching their precious views being disrupted by the big, modern and ugly:

A business built a house on Blustergull Rock.  At first, no one mentioned it.  They had developed a habit, over the years, of not talking about painful things, in order to make them less painful.  But they were very much aware of the house.
People who live on islands are always letting their eyes glide along the horizon.  They see the lines and curves of the familiar skerries, and the channel markers that have always stood in the same spots, and they are strengthened in their calm awareness that the view is clear and everything is in its place.  Now the view was no longer clear.  It was broken by a big square house, a new and threatening landmark, a deep notch in the aspect of a horizon that had been their own for a very long time...

I was really moved by The Summer Book, not only for what I related to but also the emotional connection between the two leading ladies.  With gorgeous imagery, Jansson throws us back into her past and most importantly helps us to remember our own!  Gracious, I loved it.

Side note:  Images are mine taken of a lovely tidal pool I've gone to forever.  It's one of the few places undiscovered (mostly) by tourists and where one can spend the day in the crystal clear water without a soul around you.  It fills up so much you have to dive down to touch the bottom - then empties until it's only ankle deep...something that has never ceased to amaze me.  I won't tell you here where it is, but if you come for a visit, it will be first on my grand tour.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Io Non Ho Paura

This past weekend I watched the Italian film by director Gabriele Salvatores, Io Non Ho Paura or I'm not Scared.  I actually started reading the book by Niccolo Ammaniti when I was in Italy, but left it in my apartment in the confusion of moving.  It's won endless awards and been translated in many languages for good reason.  Ammaniti wrote the screenplay which I think made this book transition into film perfect.  It will fill you with suspense and also melt your heart, which is why I won't tell you any of the plot line...I'll leave it for you to find out.  But with all that and the cinematography, scenery, amazing acting and soundtrack, I think this is one of my new favorite Italian films, right next to Nights of Cabiria.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Grist 1936, Continued

Now back to scheduled programming...last we met we were discussing the lives of Ernestine and F. Justin.*

Let us now take a look at one of the University's many sororities.  Although there was no instant messaging, Facebook and texting, lasting friendships were easier to keep and maintain; and with Delta Zeta we have no exception.  Especially in Miss James and Miss Fitzpatrick's (center row, two farthest to the left) case.  Nadine James and Margaret Fitzpatrick both grew up in tenement houses in Providence and Boston.  Each with several siblings under them, the wish to move away was inevitable.  They both decided to go to University in the country -close and yet far enough from home- even though a career wasn't what they had in mind.  They became fast friends and were married around the same time, naturally being each other's maid-of-honor.  When the time came to buy a house, Nadine's husband found a nice place in Wakefield.  Nadine noticed a 'for sale' sign next door and quickly told Margaret.  Although it was above their budget Margaret and her husband put a down payment on the large Victorian on Elm Street.  Both girls had girls of their own, who shared their mothers friendship.  When Nadine's husband died, Margaret and her husband invited Nadine over for dinner every night, never without walking her home. 

I love the classy gals over at the Portia Club. 

"The Portia Club sponsered women's debating activities very successfully during the year.  The extensive schedule included frequent trips and home debates."

Look at those fur coats and that style.  Tweed was definitely the must have, non? This was the Great Depression, mind you.  I have a feeling that these ten girls went on to be great successes in life, as what happens with most people who belong to a Debate Team.

Lest we forget the token 'Chariots of Fire' track team shot.  The yearbook was full of them, and it should be noted that Childs was viewed as a prospect for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Unfortunately he lost his place to local Narragansett Indian, Tarzan Brown.

*All material has been fictionalized.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A day filled with leisure

I haven't forgotten about sharing some more of the yearbook, I just feel I must edit the photographs a bit more so they look appealing and presentable.  In fact, I'm happy that so many have responded favorably and share their views on imagining histories for the unknown!  As I say so often, it's always exciting finding kindred spirits!

As for this photograph...I can't actually remember where I found it.  Was it Retronaut?  I do remember it's a shot of (I believe) Portabello Rd, London in the late 60's.  Lately I've been wishing I could move to London.  It's just another to add to my list I suppose...but for the time being I can imagine living there, spending my weekend with my dalmation -how fitting!- shopping for perishables, knick knacks and rare tea varietals.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Grist 1936

Not to long ago I was perusing my favorite free bookshop, the neighborhood dump, and among all the Mary Higgins Clark and John Grisham I stumbled upon a pile of Depression-era yearbooks from Rhode Island State College.  That's what is so great about the dump:  My fellow dump divers usually lean towards the less interesting and leave me with a great selection of a leather-bound 1896 version of Tennyson's poems, or a first edition 'The Dark Island' by Vita Sackville-West. 

Anywho...back to the yearbook.  Inside lay hundreds of specimens of life of the young buck or doe graduating in the class of 1936.  What happened to them afterwards?  Are they still alive?  I can't help but make up stories about all of them!

Here we have Ernestine Elizabeth Greene.  Isn't she striking?  I feel like done up in a more Pre-Code attire and a permanent wave, she could be the next Norma Shearer.  But alas!  she studied Science and my guess is she was married before graduation and the only time she used her Science education was when her five kids were working on their homework.  I actually hope this didn't happen.

Many of the women majored in Home Economics, which is such a change from today!

Next up: F. Justin McCarthy.  Majoring in Physical Education.  He seems the quiet-type doesn't he?  He's another one with such an interesting look (and wardrobe).  What did he go on to do with his life?  Did he go back home to Maine and become a gym teacher? (Down East Dilettante: was he your gym teacher?)  Any guesses?

I'll leave you with that today, but tomorrow (I hope this isn't a bore for you) we'll discuss the scandalous lives of Sororities, Varsity Sports and secretive Art Professors.  All products of my imagination!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Phaedra is my name

Erwin Blumenfeld, 1944

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vol de Nuit

This illustration, by Belgian François Schuiten, left me all agog yesterday when I stumbled upon it.  I love how it teeters betweens everyones dream of flying and the nightmare of falling endlessly.  Although Schuiten is of our time, his work is so Art Deco, especially with the feel of how they imagined the future.  I'm absolutely in love and can't wait to find out more about him.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blissful Week-end

Have a blissful week-end, dear ones.  I hope it looks something like this...I know mine will (well at least my Sunday). 
I've had this saved for years, pity I haven't shared it sooner. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Storage for the Villa

These gorgeous light fixtures are regrettably sold already at Heir Antiques, but they'd work right in with my Syrie Maugham-inspired living room.  Gracious, I'd take anything from Heir Antiques.  How they find the most amazing things in the Universe is beyond my knowledge, but I can remember a freezing night walking past their store in Providence, and just gazing in with my nose on the window, practically having to de-ice myself off.  If anyone has any extra wampum around, please send hither!  It's a matter of life and death.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Uncommon Reader

Most of you have read 'The Uncommon Reader' by Alan Bennett years ago, but not I.  Last weekend Nick at Pile of Leaves recommended it to me and being an efficient book-recommendation-reader, went out and got it and read it on the beach Monday.  A lovely sunburn can prove how much I loved it, and my poor sister now feels completely neglected as I ignored her entirely the whole day.  If you haven't read it yet, please do, it will awaken (or reawaken) your love of reading to a nearly youthful extent!

I cannot say enough about how much loved this book!  Thank you Nick!!

Photo:  The Queen's College, Oxford by Martin Beek

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Illyrian Spring

The story of Lady Grace Kilmichael and Nicholas Humphies meeting and travelling down and around the Dalmation coast (modern day Croatia) has been gushed profusely about by Book Snob...and well deservedly.  Ann Bridge wrote such beautiful and discriptive prose in 'Illyrian Spring' I was near dropping everything to board a luxury liner in Venice en route to Dalmatia. 

Which is how Lady Kilmichael and Nicholas met.  Lady Kilmichael, later in life (late 30's?...not that late!) found her self with a successful career as an artist, which as she believed got under the skin of her husband.  To escape the disapproval of what she feels is everyone in her family, she boards a train to Venice to take a trip by liner to Ragusa (Italian for Dubrovnik).  As I read of the apprehension and excitement of her trip, my heart honestly fluttered with this was in one of the first 10 pages, I think Ms. Bridge has conquered a feat of emotions!  While in Venice, Grace and Nicholas meet while sketching and he finds it his duty to help her while she struggles on a complex pattern.  Little does he know she is the Great Grace Stanway.  They separate later without sharing names, not knowing they will meet again.

But meet again they do!  On board the liner to Dubrovnik, no less.  There we find out that Nicholas is a student of architecture, but desperately would like to be a painter.  Grace, without revealing her fame, says she will take him under her wing in hopes that he can independantly support himself as a young artist.  The rest I leave to you, dear readers.  Their journey on the Adriatic coastline is one that should not be missed.

This book is a rare beauty, and by rare I mean their was one in the entire state library system, it did't even have a call number and was in storage.  Rachel continues to bring it into our awareness, and I've quickly joined her cause.  Let's rally together and get it republished!

I'll leave you with one example of Ann Bridge's descriptive prose -and proof she is just as much an artist as Grace- where after leaving Ragusa, Grace finds a small town, with a small house in which she asks to stay and paint...

The last house stood right on the fondamento, withing a few feet of the water.  A dark-haired woman, whom they took to be the Signora Orlando, responded to their knock, and, readily promising coffee, led them round to a garden at the side of the house, where little tables stood on the raked gravel, under trellises of roses and vines supported by small stone pillars.  Oleanders and pomegranates stood in groups about the garden; the flower beds were fragrant with stocks and brilliant with snap dragons; further away from the house, grass paths ran between pergolas of ramblers; a high hedge enclosed the whole.  Somewhere close by nightingales were singing; loud, sweet, and fervent as the sunshine, their song filled the air like a clear light made audible.

And, drinking her coffee, again Grace thought - what a divine place to stay!  If the Signora had a room or two, and would agree, what could be more perfect? great are all these 1920's and 30's posters for Croatia?  I feel like Grace would have been looking at them as she booked her passage!