Monday, September 29, 2003

So one of the reasons I read Under the Tuscan Sun was because I thought I remembered Odious's mother saying that she had quite enjoyed it, and I've always found her to have excellent taste in books. But to my surprise, when at lunch the other day I mentioned having read it, she wrinkled her nose and said that really if I was interested in that genre there were thousands of better books. She told me of several others, and promised to send them along, but I am not yet persuaded against Frances Mayes.
Yet another booksale last weekend has added a new pile of books to our overloaded house, as well as a stack of LPs--old Gilbert and Sullivan, opera, and jazz. Of course, we don't actually own a turntable, but you know...

It was a really great booksale, with a better selection of children's books than I've ever seen at such a venue. I went a little crazy, mostly buying picture books for the daycare where I work, but also pouncing on such personal treasures as one of my all-time favorites, The Maggie B., by Irene Haas. It's a wonderful story of a little girl who wishes one night for a ship of her own, and in the morning she awakes in the cabin of the Maggie B., along with a goat, a toucan, chickens, and her brother James (who was a dear baby). Together they have a perfect day, catching fish for their dinner, singing sea chanties, and weathering a brief storm. The illustrations are warm and cosy, and it's just the sort of ship I would have if I could.

I also found several books by E. Nesbit--The Book of Dragons, The Story of the Treasure-Seekers, and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Reading the last brought back fond memories of my childhood, when over and over again I would check out from the library a red hardback edition of all the Five Children stories. What a terrific trilogy that is! I can't wait to find a copy of The Story of the Amulet so that I'll own them all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

So the other thing I found inspiring about Under the Tuscan Sun was, unsurprisingly, the aspect of building/renovating a house to suit one's ideal. (This is another reason why I will not see the movie--how on earth could such a thing convert to film?) Every two months, when I receive the latest issue of Mother Earth News, it provides further inspiration for future plans of building the perfect house. This is a common topic of conversation between Odious and me, as we have long wanted to build an energy-efficient, environmentally-sound house using many different ideas culled from Mother. Frances Mayes gave me even more ideas, though some I know will not be feasible in places of the world other than Italy, and I will have to incorporate her descriptions of terraced gardens and stone patios into my vision.

However, I don't think we would ever put ourselves through some of the nightmares that Mayes and her husband had to endure, caused in part by unfortunate choices in contractors. Seemingly simple renovations (restoring the original finish on chestnut beams, putting in new doorways, etc) turned into massive projects with months of clean-up that, despite the final satisfaction, don't quite sound worth it to me. Thus our plan to build a new house to our specifications (although Odious warns he will need to be allowed more than one try--I can just see a property somewhere in the West, littered with deserted environmentally-not-so-sound houses). On the other hand, the incredible discoveries the Mayeses made make their trouble almost worthwhile.

While stripping the paint in the dining room, they uncover an old fresco--a country scene that, while not a Giotto, is wonderfully charming. Later on, workmen dig through three layers of stone floor before unearthing the original, centuries-old, foundation; and every gardening venture reveals more Etruscan artifacts and wall-markings. This would indeed be amazing beyond belief, but having to endure smoking toilets (a misdirected water heating system), having to camp out in one room for months while the rest of the house is in utter turmoil, and dealing with disappearing workmen who leave behind all too apparent piles of rubbish, sounds like more than I could handle. Fortunately for us, however, it makes a delightful read!

Monday, September 22, 2003

This new site meter is very interesting--it's a little disturbing to find that people are not only visiting my blog, but also linking to it! So I guess now I should write something, although I'm feeling a little discombobulated having just endured a brief scare that I'd lost my wallet. Turned out I'd already taken it out of my purse about five minutes before. Hmph.

Reading Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (and no, I'm not going to see the movie--please, Diane Lane?!?) has been very inspiring in several different ways. I always seem to get in the mood to cook just when I have no time and a completely different schedule from Odious, and this book only made things worse. Her recipes for baked peppers with ricotta and basil, folded peach tart with mascarpone, and even, I am ashamed to admit, rabbit with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, have caused me to add a copy to my Barnes and Noble shopping cart. Of course it won't be the same without fresh ingredients purchased from an Italian market, but we can't all live in Tuscany, I guess.

I have more to say about this book, but will continue tomorrow as it is nearing my bedtime.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

So yesterday was Odious's birthday. His delight in the gift I gave him was a great vindication (ah, there's the word I've been trying to think of for a week now) of our upcoming marriage--I guess I know him pretty well. One of his favorite books has long been G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, which I have to say has never overly impressed me. It's not easy to find anymore, being fairly unknown, and to our great dismay his treasured copy was recently redecorated by my dear rabbit (almost his only flaw is his taste for books!). I felt guilty enough about it that it weighed on my mind for some time, and finally I decided to visit Alibris in search of a better copy for a birthday gift. What a terrific site that is! I much prefer it to, which delivered the wrong edition of the Chronicles of Narnia to my door a while ago--but I digress. To my delight I found that an annotated version had been recently published; a new, discounted copy was readily available and delivered within a week. As an added bonus, the annotator is Martin Gardner, whose notes on Alice in Wonderland have long been a staple of our library. Anyway, Odious was so pleased that he claimed it was the best gift he'd received since his first bike--I feel that that deserves a little self-congratulation.
Well, having installed a site meter for this page, I now feel compelled to post things with some regularity, and that, of course, means reading something of substance. Also, I suppose, bringing my brain to think about what I'm reading. Odious asked me the other day what topic I've been thinking about lately, and I was ashamed to say nothing, which is unfortunately true. I keep myself awake at night thinking about things like how to address the envelopes for the wedding invitations, and what to include on the wedding registry--it's very sad, and becoming obsessive. However, I think I'm doing well with not talking about it constantly with my friends, so I will try to do the same here.

I'm in the middle of a couple of books that will be worth discussing when I finish them, but until then I'd like to recommend Nick Bantock's The Forgetting Room. I'd read the Griffin and Sabine trilogy years ago, and loved it far more for the guilty pleasure of reading someone else's mail than for the story itself, although the artwork is fascinating. Then I came across one of the continuations to the trilogy during a recent library visit, and found that Bantock had written several other unrelated books. The Forgetting Room is a simple story, which is a little disappointing since it is set up as a quirky mystery, but the process he goes through of creating a painting is interesting and curious, and the evocation of a Spanish village is particularly good.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Yikes. It's been a while. But in my defense, a lot has happened lately. I am now the proud owner of a lovely diamond engagement ring! Oh yes, and also a fiance. Because of this I have to keep reminding myself that the rest of my life is still going on, and wedding planning is not all-consuming.

Another reason I haven't blogged is because I haven't been able to motivate myself to read anything challenging or thought-provoking. I have read some more excellent fantasy novels, in particular Nina Kiriki Hoffman's latest, A Fistful of Sky. Oh, and our computer has been doing weird things, including not connecting to the Internet. So I have to grab a few minutes here and there at library computers, which does little for my concentration. Anyway, I will be blogging more when I am able to do so.