A Dolphin Layered in Gold

I read #89 of the Modern Library’s list of top 100 novels: Loving by Henry Green.

Courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an upstairs-downstairs story set in an Irish country house during World War II. The story is almost completely composed of dialogue. I had trouble getting into it at first, especially because the downstairs characters have quite the British accents.

Like all good upstairs-downstairs stories, there’s infidelity, troublemaking, camaraderie, and theft (of both hearts and money). What I really enjoyed about Green’s writing is the exquisite details he would slip in now and then—making me pause and marvel.

Here are a few favorite lines:

“She pushed the ashtray with one long lacquered oyster nail across the black slab of polished marble supported by a dolphin layered in gold.”

” He seemed to appraise the dark eyes she sported which were warm and yet caught the light like plums dipped in cold water.”

“Raunce went on looking sideways past her at the red eye of a deer’s stuffed head.”

If you still miss Downton Abbey as I do, this book will bring temporary reprieve…

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Still Golden 75 Years Later

I was a reading machine when I was young, thanks to my mother, who instilled in me a love of reading at an early age. I read many Little Golden Books, and to this day, when I see certain Little Golden Books (LGB), my heart just about explodes from joy overload. Here’s one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when I found out about a bookstore tour in celebration of the Books’ 75th anniversary this year, I had to attend. LGB editorial director Diane Muldrow and children’s book historian Leonard Marcus gave a great overview of the Books’ history, answered questions, and passed around a number of the books.

Leonard signed copies of his book about LGB history, Golden Legacy, after the talk. I enjoyed chatting with him and Diane as he signed my copy. I told them that my mom has kept some of her LGBs and I have a number of mine as well.

As someone who loves books and used to work in publishing, I marvel at what a success story these books have become. They were created to make books more accessible to families during World War II (starting out at 25 cents each), and the content and illustrations continue to be thoughtful, engaging, and stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just hope and pray that people are still buying children these books and reading them together. LGB, may you survive another 75 years!

Make Trouble

John Waters is one of those artists whom I love without even having seen most of his work. I just know that I love him. Now that I’ve seen him in person, I feel a stronger urge to study his oeuvre beyond my viewing of Hairspray in 1988.

A couple of months ago, he was visiting my local bookstore to promote the publication of his new book Make Trouble, which is essentially the speech that he gave at the 2015 Rhode Island School of Design commencement. I had read the speech online and did it make me chuckle!

During the interview, he was witty, charming, blunt, and seemingly down to earth. I didn’t have time to have a book signed that night, but I truly hope I get to meet “the prince of puke” someday.

John Waters

John Waters (right) being interviewed by Chris Castellani.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel as a Political Act

Rick Steves is my spirit guide when it comes to traveling. He encourages people to travel off the beaten path, mingle with locals, and travel thoughtfully. If you haven’t heard of him, he has his own travel company and guidebook series and also has a PBS TV show and radio show. He is out there, spreading his important message of travel as a political act.

I’m the kind of traveler who rarely takes time to relax when I’m traveling. I love the idea of it, but I always end up hitting as many museums and cultural sites as possible, taking public transportation vs. taxis, and walking around as much as I can. So I can relate to Rick’s travel philosophy.

He sometimes does speaking tours, and my friends are I were lucky enough to attend his talk in Boston this spring. I think the talk was slated to run an hour or an hour and a half, and he spoke for almost three hours! Talk about getting our money’s worth.

He spoke about his travel background and gave tips on traveling in Europe and how to pack for trips. At the end of the talk, he announced how he would be handling the book signing afterward. I was impressed by how innovative it was. Instead of him sitting at a table while a long single-file line grows, he stood in the middle of the venue’s lobby and attendees formed a circle around him. Then he just moved around in a circle, signing as he turned. This method didn’t leave much time for chat, which might disappoint people. But it sure was efficient.

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Europe, visit the Rick Steves website and/or pick up one of his guidebooks. You’ll thank me for it.

A Night of Stars

Boston is the perfect place for lifelong learners. With dozens of colleges in the area, one could probably attend a free lecture, performance, or event of some kind every night.

I finally made it to Harvard’s free monthly Observatory Night. This night usually entails a lecture and then a look-see through a telescope on the roof.

Harvard Observatory Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Abby and I attended a couple of months ago. I chose this particular Observatory Night because the speaker would be talking more about history than science. Nothing against science…I just comprehend history better!

A science writer named Dava Sobel spoke about her recent book, The Glass Universe. She gave a broad overview of a number of women who were hired at the Observatory in the 1800s as human computers to translate the observations of male researchers to paper. But once photography started being used to document the stars, many of the women started making their own observations, discovering stars and designing classification systems.

After the lecture, we received the sad news that there would be no observation on the roof that night due to snow/ice. There were volunteers offering tours of the building and of a room that holds half a million glass plates (or at least a few million of the half a million?), but we would have had to wait for hours (literally) because so many people had signed up before us.

So we went on our way, vowing to return during nicer weather.

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