In keeping with Great Gatsby week, here’s a Gatsby-inspired travel moment.
The Lingering Power of Poetry
Back in May of 2007, I went to Europe for a month to visit a few friends. Starting in Spain, I spent a week with Kate & André and then, randomly decided to spend 36 hours in Basel, Switzerland before heading to Germany to see Taryn.
As I mentioned before, I’ve got a crush on vintage Penguin books. Imagine my delight when I found The Sewing Muse, who embroiders cushions to look just like them. And now one of you lucky readers gets to win a Penguin cushion in honour of the upcoming film release of The Great Gatsby!
I am a visual person. As such I can be swayed by a good book design. I think that’s one reason it’s harder for me to embrace ebooks (though I do love that you can click on a word and go directly to its definition!) — they don’t have the visual allure of a hardback or paperback. A physical book can age, gain character, be affected by those it comes in contact with.
I am also a sucker for a good story (shocking, I know). Whether it’s finding out how important it was for Beatrix Potter to make her work available to the average person while still including quality colour illustrations or that Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, published the first ten Penguin books in 1935 out of his desire to make good fiction both affordable and convenient.
I’m intrigued by words that define a “between” moment and often need to remind myself that between-times can be beautiful. Like last week’s word, nascent, which describes something coming into existence — budding, but not yet in full bloom. Or one of my all-time favourite words – gloaming, which so aptly names that time after sunset and before dark.
Spring always seems like a good time to restart and try again. A time of new beginnings. It can be easy to think of time wasted and time lost, because we don’t know how much time we will be given. But it is the unknown that holds possibility and hope.
I’ve been rereading Anne Perry’s William Monk mysteries. I know they’re not on my reading list, nor are they connected to my bookclub (I’m supposed to be reading Adam Levin’s The Instructions currently), but when life is stressful, I don’t pick up a 1000-page book (Levin) or a Russian novel (Crime & Punishment, from my own list)* — I turn to one of my old favourites. Plus, these Victorian mysteries count as research for a project I’m working on.
Besides creating great characters set in well-detailed historical settings, Perry is good at selecting just the right word at the right time. Her writing isn’t necessarily “high-class” literature, but I often find myself noting a particular word she chose.
the patio bedecked with snow | Kansas City, KS 2013
the patio bedecked with snow | Kansas City, KS 2013
One of my jobs is to write SEO-enhanced product descriptions. So, amid the Blizzard of Oz while the snow piled up outside, I was cozied up inside pondering ways to describe summer patio furniture and lawn ornaments. Ha!
When working on these projects I often find myself stuck trying to think of different words with which to say the same thing over and over again. During one such moment, when trying to think of a fresh way to say “adorning” the word “bedeck” came to mind. I second-guessed myself: Is that even a word? What a silly looking word. But the squiggly red line didn’t appear [in Word] so it had to be “real”. I right-clicked to check its synonyms to ensure I was using it correctly.
Left: Photograph of Anaïs Nin as a teenager, circa 1920. | Right: Photograph of Nin, date unknown.
Today in 1903, Anaïs Nin was born in France to Hispanic/Cuban parents and was given the never-ending name — Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell. Whew. Though she was raised in France and spent time in both Spain and Cuba, she lived the majority of her life in the United States where she established herself as an author.
I haven’t read any of her journals or other works, but I always stumble across quotes of hers that I like. (I wonder if she wrote anything in her journals about the weight of carrying six different names.)
We read Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for book club this month. (Actually, I’m still reading it — 200 pages left to go!) One thing I’ve appreciated about the book is how Smith tosses out detailed descriptions of everyday things — a meal, an outfit — almost like a recipe for life in 1900s Brooklyn.
Unexpectedly, I found myself becoming a little enamoured with the Nolans’ approach to poverty. Being on a tight budget myself, I began wondering if I should try to incorporate some of their attempts at economy. I realize this sounds like I’m romanticizing the struggle of being poor; I am not by any means discounting the hardship of poverty. Rather, reading this reminded me of something Anne Shirley said: There are so many things in this room and all so splendid that there is no scope for imagination. That is one consolation when you are poor — there are so many more things you can imagine about. Oh, imagination.
The third and final (for now) edition of my used bookstores list includes British, Baltic and Swedish shops — one of which no longer exists, one that I’ve never been to, and two that are non-English language bookstores. So, I guess today’s list is partly a nostalgic wishlist of the not-yet and the never-more. Oh the drama of a good used bookstore. [Read posts #1 and #2.]