Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Robert Frost's Home Vandalized

A few weeks ago, some local teenagers decided to hold a raucous party in a Vermont farmhouse previously owned by poet Robert Frost. They did considerable damage, but stopped short of burning the place down. The New York Times columnist Dan Barry has written a lovely meditation about the incident titled A Violation of Both the Law and the Spirit. It's accompanied by an audio slide show that's narrated by a local college professor and filled with beautiful photos of Frost's home, nestled in the snowy woods he made famous.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feeling Witty Today?

Drawing by Mick Stevens

Then don't delay! Enter the New Yorker's Cartoon Caption contest. Here's the scoop:
Each week, we [The New Yorker] provide a cartoon in need of a caption [see drawing above]. You, the reader, submit your caption, we choose three finalists, and you vote for your favorite. Finalists for this week's cartoon will appear online Monday, February 4th, and in the February 11th & 18th issue of The New Yorker. Any U.S. resident age eighteen or older can enter.
There's a new contest every week. So if this drawing doesn't inspire you, maybe next week's will. Or, if you're wit-deficient like me but appreciate it in others, you can vote for your favorite captions and have some laughs browsing past winners.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

NYTimes: Great Adaptations

Linda found another thought-provoking article in the New York Times.
Great Adaptations
By: Sophie Gee
Instead of dumbing down the classics, mass-market popularizations sometimes make them even better.

The History of Sweeney Todd

Did you know that the Sweeney Todd tale may date back to the 1700's? Or that the first actor to portray him on film was named Tod Slaughter? (How's that for typecasting?)

The Guardian newspaper investigates the origins of Sweeney Todd and attempts to resolve the mystery: Did he really exist or is he simply a manifestation of man's darkest impulses? A fun and fascinating read.
On a Knife Edge
As Tim Burton's new film version of Sweeney Todd is released, Louise Welsh looks back at the Victorian 'blood and thunder books' in which the demon barber first captured the public's imagination. (Link to article)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Destination Bookstores of the World

The Guardian newspaper has posted its list of the 10 Best Bookshops in the World. The excellent blog Bookdaddy questions whether the honor is based more on decor than on the quality of the bookstock. But given the splendid beauty of some of these bookstores, who cares? I probably couldn't read the language anyway. I think it would be fun to compare the book covers and displays to what I'm used to seeing in the USA. I also think that soaking in the aesthetics of a beautiful, but less touristed space would be pleasant detour from the usual traps.

Pictured above is the Livraria Lello in Porto. With that glossy red staircase, it looks like a set from the movie Pan's Labrynth. Very surreal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Destination Bookstores

Linda forwarded me this Seattle Times article of distinctive, unique bookstores in various cities throughout the U.S.

Take a literary tour of unique U.S. bookstores
"When is a bookstore worth a tourist's time? When it's more than just a place to buy books.A destination bookstore can make you feel like you're part of the community, whether you're grooving on the laid-back vibe at Powell's in Portland, or tuning into the Beltway buzz at Washington's Politics and Prose." (Link to article.)

Pictured is the Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle. It looks like the perfect spot for book browsing and latte sipping.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Redroom: MySpace for the literary set

Redroom is an ambitious new social website for writers. According to a January 8 article in SFGate.com, called Literary Web site Redroom a new chapter for authors, book lovers:
"It features 150 authors (with 400 more to come), ranging from Amy Tan and Salman Rushdie to Edinburgh Castle Pub owner Alan Black; Graham Leggatt, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, who moonlights as a sci-fi writer; and local mystery writer Cara Black."
Authors, both fledgling and famous, are given their own webpage and blog, where they can post their book tour schedules, promotional materials, reviews, reading list, influences, etc. as well as share their thoughts & have online conversations with readers. The site is targeted to both the public and members of the book industry.

So check out Amy Tan's blog or seek out your favorite author's webpage or blog. I think it's a great idea, and the site seems well-designed and easy to navigate. I hope it will become a popular online destination for booklovers like you and me since it looks like a potentially great resource.

Friday, January 4, 2008

NYTimes: "A Year of Books Worth Curling Up With"

Linda forwarded me a fun New York Times article, revealing what books their critics consider to be their favorite reads of the year. According to the article, these books "meet criteria that any reader will recognize. These are the books that are disappointing only because they have to end. They’re the ones we [NYTimes critics] mention to friends. They’re the ones worth taking on vacation, and they are well executed, whatever their genre or subject matter." (Link to article.)

Maybe you'll find a title or two here that you'd like to nominate for Readers Roundtable summer reading list....

Book Discussion: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Just a reminder that we'll be meeting tomorrow, Saturday Jan 5, at 2 p.m. to discuss the book Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I'll be interested to see what you all think about the book. (I'm still racing to get through the last 100 pages. This is a long one!)

Meanwhile, if you want to see what the critics say, Metacritic.com has a good collection of reviews.

Penguin Books also has a nice reading guide for the book, including an interview with the author Marisha Pessl as well as a set of discussion questions.

Looking forward to seeing you. And don't forget: We'll be selecting the summer books, so if there are any books you'd like to nominate, please speak up!