Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Desk Dispatches

In my last post, I gave a glimpse of my "new" desk, which is really just my restyled dining table. In theory, it has always served the dual purpose of table and desk, but it was pushed against the wall and only rarely used as a desk, generally for onerous chores like doing my taxes. After seeing some inspiring desks on instagram, I decided to give mine a simple makeover. I rotated it 90 degrees to face the windows, pulled up a comfortable armchair and a little bench where I can rest my feet, and replaced some stray place mats with a goose-neck lamp and some other pretty accessories. Now it's become a cozy spot that I enjoy sitting at almost every day, and it can still be called into action as a dining table when guests come over.

If you're wondering whether these photos were staged, the answer is, yes, a bit. A helter-skelter pile of books has by now found its way back onto the desktop. But of course I always have tea and a plate of macarons at the ready.

Have you rearranged anything in your home lately?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Fancies

I've never been big on listening to podcasts, but over the past few weeks I've been starting to enjoy them. One that I've discovered is The American Edit, which focuses on various designers, businesses, and entrepreneurs who are trying to build new made-in-America brands. It's very tied into the "slow" anything movement, the reviving interest in where clothes and products come from and how they are produced, and the focus on quality over quantity. On a completely different note, there's also Song Exploder, which features interviews with bands breaking down one of their songs note by note. There's something strangely thrilling to me about hearing, say, a piano melody that I had never noticed before isolated from a song and hearing about what went into recording it. And continuing with the musical theme, I've also been enjoying exploring the archives of the BBC's Desert Island Discs, which asks famous figures to choose eight songs, one book, and one luxury item to bring with them onto a desert island. Although I'm not sure if this one is technically considered a podcast, it does comprise nine decades worth of archived episodes (I'd particularly recommend the Barbara Pym episode, and the Tom Hanks episode is unsurprisingly delightful).

A view of my newly rearranged desk (more on that soon).

Please do let me know if you have any favorite podcasts--I'm eager for recommendations! In the meantime, here are a few recommendations of my own.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is so often associated with the East Coast or Paris, but his Midwestern roots run deep.

Awful Library Books highlights some of the funniest, strangest, and most outdated books that get weeded out of libraries.

London's biggest bookstore basically sounds like it's the size of a mall.

And this might just be the best tribute to Shakespeare you'll ever see--highly worth watching!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Master

Although the title of The Master by Colm Toibin refers to the novel's subject, Henry James, it could easily refer to Toibin himself and the way that he is apparently a master of characterization and narrative voice--at least, that's my opinion of him after reading both this and his lovely novel Brooklyn. The tone of each novel is so different that it would be easy to believe that they were written by two different authors. In Brooklyn, he draws a nuanced and intimate portrait of a young Irish girl on her own for the first time. In The Master, he focuses a similar lens on a middle aged Henry James, but uses a completely different writing style that mimics James's own style, with long sentences that slowly reveal the most minute occurrences and thoughts.

There is no strong plot line running throughout The Master. Instead, each chapter focuses on a different episode in James's life, and in particular the different, often unconventional, relationships he had with family, friends, and potential lovers. The threads that do connect each segment of the novel add up to create a picture of a self-contained, highly observant, witty, and often lonely writer. The fact that the writing style does take a similar tone as James's work does mean that the pace can feel like it's dragging a bit. Just like many of  James's novels, I found The Master to be a slow start. Once I got beyond the first third, though, I was completely drawn into it. The portrait of James's life was so interesting that I'm sure it will inspire me to read more of his novels in the future, despite the fact that those are reading experiences that I sometimes regret


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