"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Presents for myself: holiday book haul

Since graduating from my MA in September, I've applied for quite a few jobs and landed one. It's part-time and not highly lucrative. But it also happens to be one of my dream jobs, and the one thing it does subsidize is my serious book-buying habit. You guessed it: I'm working in a bookstore! And at the staff holiday shopping night last week, in addition to getting gifts for some bookish friends and family, I made myself an early present and bought these four beauties.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is obviously a good bet because it's author's name is unpronounceable. Just kidding. (Although have you noticed how many highly regarded authors cause people embarrassments at dinner parties when they try to pronounce them out loud? J.M. Coetzee is my personal favorite in this category. Oh, and let's not forget the publishing house that's joined the trend: Knopf. I had to say their name out loud at work this week and had a split second of sheer panic after it came out of my mouth, wondering whether I'd said it wrong.)

Actually, this is a book that's been recommended to me by all my just-out-of-college friends - apparently it's very relatable for us new grads. I also really appreciated Eugenides' writing in his more famous novel, The Virgin Suicides, although I don't love that book the way thousands of young women on the internet seem to...
But I have higher hopes for this one, and the first few sentences seem to confirm what my friends promised: a book about people reading books. Which is definitely right up my alley.

Next up is something I'm REALLY looking forward to. This book sat next to my desk for a month while I was writing my dissertation. It belonged to my housemate, and at that point I was dedicating all my time to my work, so I was doubly incapable of giving into temptation and flipping open the gorgeous little cover.

Now, though, I'm ready to sink into The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. A year before this book appeared next to me, tantalizingly out of reach, I was writing my undergraduate thesis on film adaptations of fairy tales, and I've been really interested in reading more written adaptations ever since. This book, as far as I know, isn't a direct reworking of any specific tale, but an entirely new tale written in a fable-like style. I can't wait.

And it just looks so luscious, with these gorgeous chapter head illustrations. It reminds me a bit of the illustrations in Harry Potter, but more outrageous and fanciful.

The best part is, this is a series, so I have at least two more books to look forward to. I haven't really researched yet whether there are more to come. Another thing I've noticed during my first month at work is that children's books are usually less expensive than adult books - but they can be as or more beautiful as objects.

In that vein, I finally now own a copy of The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. I've been Tan's books - and this one in particular - since last summer, when I almost saw him speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I believe he's a filmmaker as well as an artist, and this book certainly has a filmic sensibility. There are no words, even within the illustrations. Instead, where there would be words on signs or pieces of paper in the story, there are strange symbols, a bit like a new set of hieroglyphics. This aligns perfectly with the story since, as far as I can tell from flipping through it, it's a story of a man immigrating to a foreign country where he doesn't speak the language.

I absolutely cannot wait to find a quiet moment and sit down with this book. It's just so damn gorgeous.

Finally, to fill out my eclectic little bundle, I got myself a copy of Melymbrosia, by one of my all-time favorites, Virginia Woolf. I'd never heard of this particular novel before I spotted it on the sale table. As I learned from a bit of googling, this is because it's an original version of a novel that Woolf later published as The Voyage Out after her friends urged her to tone down the politics and edginess of her first version. I haven't read The Voyage Out, but I suppose it's only right to start with the original.

In any case, it's always a pleasure to read Woolf. I forget how brilliant she was until I sink back into her writing and find myself wowed and humbled and inspired all over again. I guess to call myself a real devotee I should have already read all her work, but I'm a person who likes savoring things, and it's lovely to think I have many more of her books to discover for the first time.

I will in all likelihood be posting reviews of these books here as I read them. Meanwhile, I'm working my way (very slowly but with great pleasure) through The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton. Seriously, it's an amazing read, but I feel like it deserves and demands my full attention, so I've been trying to find nice quiet hours to read it, and that's quite difficult now that I actually have a job! I truly realize now how blessed I was this past year to have my full-time job be to read, study, discuss, and write about books.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sweater Weather Tag!

I saw this tag on Kayley's Closet and thought I'd do it myself to get into the fall/winter/holiday spirit!

Favorite candle scent?
I'm not a big candle person because I'm afraid of fire :/
BUT I do love the way candles smell, and if I had to pick a favorite scent, it would probably be something spicy and autumnal. I especially love things that smell like cinnamon.

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
I somehow got through college and grad school without being converted to coffee, so not the first. Black tea (along with bread) is one of my basic life's essentials, but I truly am a hot chocolate fanatic. I judge cafes and restaurants based on how good their hot chocolate is - and the best way to get in my good graces is to serve spiced hot chocolate. Yummmmm.

What's the best fall memory you have?
Hm, hard to pick a favorite. One favorite memory from last fall in England was going to see the fireworks in the park on Guy Fawkes night. It wasn't just fireworks (although they were spectacular) - there were also food stands and games and rides and a giant bonfire. I'd never really been to a 'country fair' kind of thing, so it was really fun to wander around, try and fail at the games, and soak up some much needed warmth from the fire (despite above-mentioned fear of flames).

Which make-up trend do you prefer: dark lips or winged eyeliner?
I'm not sure why winged eyeliner is specific to fall.... But in any case, I'd say, for myself, dark lips. I've always been more of a smoky eye girl.

Best fragrance for fall?
Not a perfume person. Maybe cinnamon?

Favorite Thanksgiving food?
Stuffing. Stuffing, stuffing, stuffing.

What is autumn weather like where you live?
Much warmer than where I lived last year! Now that I'm back in the bay area, I'm enjoying clear, sunny days, most of which have been really warm as well. It's only this week that the temperature dropped about ten degrees. Now it really feels like fall, and I'm eagerly pulling out my scarves and my knitting needles.

Most worn sweater?
A pale grey pull-over that goes with basically everything. Then I like to dress it up with colorful scarves.

Must-have nail polish this fall?
My favorites for fall and winter are dark reds and greens. I have one stupendously deep and sparkly green from Butter London that's just perfect for holiday parties.

Football games or jumping in leaf piles?
Leaf piles. Obviously.

Skinny jeans or leggings?
I just got my first pair of leggings/jeggings. They are super comfortable, it must be admitted. But I also love jeans, because you can depend on them for almost everything you do.

Combat boots or Uggs?
Er, neither? Tall brown leather boots are more my thing.

Is pumpkin spice worth the hype?
Probably, yes.

Favorite fall TV show?
Hm, haven't really been watching much TV because I've been trying to read more.

What song really gets you into the fall spirit?
Timshel by Mumford and Sons, I think. It captures something calm and quiet that I love about cold months - something far from the busy-busy of holiday shopping or parties, but which is so lovely to find in between the busier moments.