Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Summer Reading

What's everyone reading this summer? As usual, I've committed to reading a classic during these warm months, namely In Search of Lost Time. Unfortunately, I brought it to the lake over the 4th of July weekend, and even though I know it returned safely to our home, I can't find it anywhere. So I am, in fact, in search of In Search of Lost Time. Maybe it's just as well because the more pages I consumed, the more it sounded like Proust was completely insane. But in a good way.

I secretly love Sarah Dunant's historical novels, and I've read two of them in as many months: In the Company of the Courtesan and Sacred Hearts. This is the intro to the latter, and I have to ask...wait, I'll ask after you read it:
By the second half of the sixteenth century, the price of wedding dowries had risen so sharply within Catholic Europe that most noble families could not afford to marry off more than one daughter. The remaining young women were dispatched—for a much lesser price—to convents. Historians estimate that in the great towns and city-states of Italy, up to half of all noblewomen became nuns. Not all of them went willingly...This story take place in the northern Italian city of Ferrara in 1570, in the convent of Santa Caterina.
Come on! How could you not want to read that?! I couldn't resist. Read the whole thing in like 48 hours.

As an aside...I'm kind of disturbed by the fact that I've pieced together bits of European history based on shows like Rome and The Tudors, films like Elizabeth and...A Knight's Tale (I'm kidding! Kind of!), and historical novels. Alas, what's to be done? Nothing. I shall live with the guilt.

Speaking of books, Vida is at a publishing camp for the next two weeks (hat tip to my pal J.). It's run by the formidable Klise sisters, a powerhouse author/illustrator team. So she gets to spend half the day writing, and the other half illustrating with a bunch of different materials. I'm as ecstatic for her as she is for herself, and I'm also super jealous. You've read that New York Times article, have you not, about French insurance companies footing the bill for spa visits? Well, we should have that in this country, but they should pay for grown-up camp. Yeah.

I have a copy of Ilustrado, but have so far been unable to crack the spine. Why is that? What am I waiting for? Well, if I can't find In Search of Lost Time in the next 24 hours, Ilustrado it is...

Oh, wait! I forgot that while at Kepler's the other day with the girls, I picked up this gorgeous edition of Keri Hulme's The Bone People, with cover art by tattoo artist Pepa Heller:

It's one of those books that I always meant to read, so I think it will come first. Then Ilustrado.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

All By Myself. Don't Wanna Be. All By...

I'm all by myself.

It's weird. The SU and Risa are in San Diego for the Cal-State/Junior Olympic Games, where Risa will be swinging her bat and playing first base for her softball team. Vida is on day 4 of sleepaway camp (Risa was there, too, but we had to pull her out early for the San Diego jaunt), and Lea is at an overnight at her camp, as well. I will spare you an overwrought description of the dramatic maternal emotions I've cycled through in regards to all this sleeping-away business. Suffice it to say it's been a bittersweet week.

For two days now, my friends have been asking what I'm going to do tonight. "What are you gonna do? You'll be ALL BY YOURSELF." I felt compelled to plan something. Salsa dance class, anyone? A massage and/or facial? A movie? But then I came home from taking the SU and Ri to the airport, and the housekeepers had just finished their work, and the house is all clean, and my books beckon, and my moleskines send out their siren call, and the pillows on the couch in the den have been plumped up and then punched down perfectly in the center, and well, at heart I am a homebody. So I'm just gonna keep my body home.

As I type, I'm caramelizing onions. I'm doing this because I figure that if I get hungry later, they will provide a tasty base for whatever I eat. I think I will also fry some garlic. Is my life not fascinating? Am I not now FASCINATING you with the details of my FASCINATING life?

Speaking of fantastical (yes, I know, the word I was using was fascinating; stop quibbling), I'm reading a book by the late Italian children's author Gianni Rodari. It's titled The Grammar of Fantasy: An Introduction to the Art of Inventing Stories. It's amazing in that it outlines a sort of curriculum for the imagination of children. I'm fuzzy on the details, but it seems that the work in this book is part of the famed Reggio Emilia teaching method. Here is what Rodari has to say in his introduction:
I hope that this small book can be useful for all those people who believe it is necessary for the imagination to have a place in education; for all those who trust in the creativity of children; and for all those who know the liberating value of the word. 'Every possible use of words should be made available to every single person'—this seems to me to be a good motto with a democratic sound. Not because everyone should be an artist but because no one should be a slave.
*dramatic pause in which you realize the import of Rodari's message*

I'm here to say that the book doesn't just work wonders for children. Your Nesting Ground Mistress was so generally inspired by the ideas that she has begun to write a new story. Oh bless-ed happenstance...