Friday Field Notes 081514

HowThingsWork7You can buy pieces such as this via Holy Stokes’ Etsy site

I’ll be the first to admit, book art tends to make me twitchy. It always seems a bit melancholy to take a knife to a book, even if it’s not your cup of tea. This week, however, I happened upon this post by CBC books, and suddenly I’m compelled to rethink my stance.  It features the book art of Julia Strand. She takes abandoned books–those no longer valued for their content–and, using the like of exacto knives, tweezers, and glue, makes intricate works of art. Since she incorporates the illustrations, framed by the cover, the book remains quite intact.

You might say she breathes new life to old books.

And I’m smitten.

Other than that, it was a quiet week on the bookish news front. I think perhaps everyone was either attending The Edinburgh International Book Festival, or they were just too sad with the week’s news. Completely understandable, both. Nonetheless, here are a couple things that caught my eye . . .

George R.R. Martin loves ‘writing about bastards.’ True story.

Podcast from the Edinburgh international book festival on the women behind literary greats.

Since it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve mentioned it, here’s an Orwellian turn in the whole hullabaloo between Amazon and Hatchett.

A little town in north-eastern India is quite proud of George Orwell (his picture hangs right next to that of Shakespeare). It’s Orwell’s place of birth, you see; and the family home is being made into a museum.


Happy Birthday to Alex Haley


Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. To us, of course, he’s known as Alex Haley, the author of Roots. In honor of his big, a few words from the man of the hour . . .

‘I look at my books the way parents look at their children. The fact that one becomes more successful than the others doesn’t make me love the less successful one any less.’
In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it.’‘Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people.’
‘When you start about family, about lineage and ancestry, you are talking about every person on earth.’
‘My fondest hope is that ‘Roots’ may start black, white, brown, red, yellow people digging back for their own roots. Man, that would make me feel 90 feet tall.’
‘In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.’
‘Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.’
‘Racism is taught in our society, it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics.’
‘Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.’
In the Field

Friday Field Notes 080814

Medieval slang?

I’ll admit it. I’m not the biggest fan of internet abbreviations. That’s one of the reasons I hate to text — I feel compelled to spell out every little thing, with proper punctuation. Naturally. In the words of my boss (just this week, as a matter of fact): ‘oh, you’re one of those.’

I am laughing out loud.

Nonetheless, Cameron Hunt McNabb has a new take on the topic. In a nutshell, abbreviation shenanigans date back to the middle ages.

In other bookish news . . .

Soon you’ll be able to hear Benedict Cumberbatch reading William Golding’s, The Spire. The audiobook will be published September 7. It will be a good day.

Right this minute, you can hear (and see) N.D. Wilson chatting about Boys of Blur. Always fun to hear the story behind the story, non?

Speaking of children’s books, George R.R. Martin has announced a re-release of his 1980 children’s story, The Ice Dragon (look for it in October).

Shelf Awareness is giving away a book every day in August!

Remember when we announced the stories and characters of Sherlock Holmes, those written before 1923, are now in the public domain? Well, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has now been ordered to pay more than $30,000 in legal fees to Leslie Klinger, the author who successfully challenged the estate’s copyright.

Finally, a brilliant take on rejection, by author and teacher Marie-Helene Bertino (her 2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas came out this week).


Second chances

Northanger Abbey was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read. Or more to the point, that old, mass market paperback with a yellowed cover and yellowed pages to match was the first Jane Austen novel I ever picked up.

I made it all of ten pages, before abandoning hope.

That, I figured, was that. No more Jane Austen for me. But time wore on, and friends wore me down. Finally, I agreed to read Pride and Prejudice; it was love at first page.  I went on to read all of Austen’s novels—all except Northanger Abbey.

So imagine my dismay when my book club announced the book of July was none other than Northanger Abbey . . .

Reluctantly, I picked up a new copy; specifically, a Penguin clothbound classic so, if nothing else, I’d have a lovely cover on which to gaze.

Then I started reading.

You know, strangest thing, it wasn’t at all as I remembered it (i.e. dull).  As a matter of fact, it was nothing of the sort.

I thought it charming and witty; and found it especially amusing when she offers the following aside:

‘Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel-writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding; joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if you accidentally takes up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another—we are an injured body.’

And let’s not forget the fact that it’s basically a parody of gothic novels—something of which I can wholeheartedly get on board.

Needless to say, if you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read Northanger Abbey. The story seems especially fitting for a chilly autumnal evening, when the sky is grey, and you’re in need of good, old fashioned entertainment.

Oh, and if you’ve got a book long abandoned, you might want to give it another try. After all, books, as in life, just might surprise you, if only given a second chance . . .

Bookish sorts

Winter Sunday on a Summer Monday

Asa Bundy Sheffey was born in Detroit, Michigan, on August 4, 1913.

We know him as the poet Robert Hayden.

An easy life, his was not. His parents passed him off to foster parents, from birth. They raised him in a low-income neighborhood, with a mocking name (Paradise Valley), in a home loud and violent. Given the boy’s small stature and his bottlecap glasses, school life was much the same.  He retreated into the pages of books — but while they gave him moments of reprieve, they could not save him from bouts of severe depression.

So in honor of Robert Hayden’s day of birth, here’s a reading of his poem ‘Those Winter Sundays.’ The words are cold and melancholy, sure; but they reflect the life into which he was born — the life that gave him the heart of a poet . . .