Sunday, November 29, 2009

secret of the seventh son

Secret of the Seventh Son, the first novel by Glenn Cooper, was an interesting, fast paced and fun book to read. Cooper's writing is easy to read, mostly. Some of the vocabulary words that sprinkle and dot this book seemed unnecessary. In a fast paced thriller, I shouldn't have to stop to look something up a dozen times. Granted, there are segments of the book where whole tranches [see!] of the vocabulary are outside the everyday language of most readers, but that actually wasn't so bad, as most of those words had enough contextual clues to define them. Others just put the action on hold. Aliquot? Aliquot wasn't even in my dictionary. I mean sure, I know what it means now, and I'll keep it in mind for the next time I'm playing Scrabble--that's a bingo with a 'Q' in it, for crying out loud--but I don't expect to read it in a paperback novel unless its written by Umberto Eco.

So, lots of fuss about the language, but it wasn't bad, really. The characters were nicely drawn, even if we've met them before. And at the end of the book, there's a blurb about a follow up novel due out next summer. If it shows up, I'd read it. And the story arc was different, so that was fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

kitchen confidential - ii

This was one of the most entertaining non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Bourdain is brutal in his honesty, which I give him credit for. It must have been hard, but not too hard. Bourdain's personality comes through pretty clearly in this mostly autobiographical story of how he came into cooking professionally, how he got where he is now, and the many, many mistakes he made along the way. But its his personality that brightens, and darkens, this story.

I say that it mustn't have been too hard for Bourdain to make these confessions about what goes on in restaurant kitchens, while we sit in the dinning room, or about the choices he's made in his life, because I get the distinct impression that he doesn't care what you or I think. He's lived a different life than the rest of us, so who are we to judge, seems to be the message.

But after what he's been through, he's still not all hard edges and callus, there is a softer side that shines through as well, albeit, not that often. I said earlier that reading his stories was like hanging around at a party with an old friend telling war stories. I still think that. It think it would be great fun to hang out with him for a night, and maybe bar hop, in Hong Kong or somewhere, and listen to him talk about food, how its made, and why we love it so much. In the end, Kitchen Confidential is a love letter to food, from the old boyfriend whose been thrown out so many times, he can't remember, but he can't give her up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

sci fi covers

io9 has a great article for science fiction lovers: A History of 16 Science Fiction Classics, Told In Book Covers. The article covers 16 of the best know science fiction works from Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, which was made into the movie Blade Runner. The covers are great, and you can almost tell when they were printed given the style, the fonts, and the images used. There are quite a few foreign translation covers as well.

This cover: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, click on it to blow it up. Really.

Just looking through these reminds me of all the sci fi I read when I was younger, and all the stuff I meant to read and never got to. So whats on my reading list now thanks to this article? Well, the three I mentioned above, plus: Neuromancer by William Gibson and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I read five of the others, so that leaves six that I don't know about. Maybe I'll check out the covers and see if any of them sparks my interest.

Have fun!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

my dictionary

My dictionary. I have others (around the house, at work, online) but this dictionary is mine. The one I use when I read. When I'm reading, I keep it next to me. When I put my book away, its stacked up with my dictionary. I read every morning with my breakfast (if I eat alone, which is most work days) and I use the dictionary to prop up my book.

I use my dictionary constantly, I look up words all the time. Some books have me looking things up once per page. No time, you say? How can one enjoy the story, you may ask? In most cases, usage is enough to give the gist and then just keep on reading. No, no my friend, that's not reading. That cramming for a mid-term, or burning the midnight oil before your book club meets, and you can't stand the embarrassment of not having read another one.

If you absolutely don't have the time to stop; if you're in the middle of a cliffhanger, and the falchion is about to fall, or you're on the train and don't have a dictionary, make a mark in the margin, and look in up later. Some folks use a second bookmark to mark what they want to look up, or even a scrap of paper, to jot words and phrases down, to look into later. Don't let these words just go by. Each one is a new toy, a new tool, something you can use. They're just sitting there. According to the book I just read about English, we just use the same few thousand words, over and over again, while the English language consists of hundreds of thousands of words.

I was talking to my brother--he uses a dictionary when he reads too--and he told me he gave a gift to his god-daughter. A dictionary. Her dictionary. And then he told me, it wasn't just a dictionary, it was a forever dictionary. If it ever wears out, goes out of date, or is no longer useful or broad enough, he will replace it. Always. She will always have a dictionary.

I can't think of a better gift.

Friday, November 20, 2009

quartos archive

Love old books, incunabula or otherwise? A whole collection of early Shakespeare works--hard bound and beautiful--are now all available for perusal online. You can read about the volume itself, read the text in HTML or XML, or you can look at wonderful, high-resolution photographic images of the actual volume, page-by-page.

This image is from another site. Hamlet; 1st quarto 1603; C.34.k.1; Provenance: Halliwell-Phillipps

Each of these 32 editions is a pre-1642 Shakespearean quarto of Hamlet. Hamlet was chosen as the inaugural play for the Shakespeare Quartos Archive project, but they have plans to add more in the future. A quarto is a book printing technique: a large piece of paper is printed with four pages on one side, and four pages on the other, and then folded twice to make 4 double-sided leaves of a book.

These volumes aren't incunabular, they're too late, but boy are they handsome. The pictures are really high quality. If you're planning to take a look, you're going to need a fat connection.

Mmm juicy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

putterham branch

Check it out! If I'm reading this right, this is a bookmark is from 1971. I went to the Putterham Branch of the Brookline Public Library today to take a look around, and meet the representatives from the city. This was the first step in a potential new project. The city wants to put a new roof on the building, and they have some grant money to put photovoltaic panels on the roof as part of the project.

I counted 11 other potential designers, builders, or other interested parties. The building looks like late '60s architecture, and they're just finishing renovating the HVAC system. The building was mostly closed, the bookstacks were gone, the circulation desk was gone, and there were bunch of boxes and some other items draped with plastic. On the floor in a pile of sweepings was this bookmark.

The paper has a leather embossing that reminds me of elementary school in the 70s. The corner was ton away at some point in the past, and it faded along the right edge, as if it was sticking out of a book or something, and more exposed there. As always, if you click on the image, you'll get a closer look.

Looks like the standard issue, donated library bookmark hasn't changed much in nearly 40 years.

Monday, November 16, 2009

kitchen confidential - i

Kitchen Confidential is written by Anthony Bourdain, now host of the Travel Channel Show, No Reservations. I've never seen that show, but I did see him a few times in his Food Network show called A Cook's Tour, which is also the name of a book published in 2001. I gather he wrote that book while on the tour filming the TV show.

This the first book I've read by Bourdain, but he's written a few. Amazon lists 9 titles. Bourdain's writing style is infectious and fun. He talks to his readers like we're all standing next to him at a barbecue, and he's telling war stories. His advise is the kind you'd give a friend, the kind of friend who can take a joke, absorb the criticism and see the value and humor borne by years of experience. You know what they say about the heat in the kitchen.

My first job was in a mid-sized, family owed restaurant in my hometown. My second job was cooking for worldwide burger chain, whose logo wasn't for Mmm good. My third job was at the Hilltop Steak House, when Frank Giuffrida was still the owner. All three of these jobs were eye-opening experiences, and while I can't pretend to know what its like to cook for a profession, I do know that Bourdain tells it like it is in the kitchen.

In the intro, he tells us that this book is for the cooks, and so he hasn't provided definitions for terms like chiffonaded parsley, boudin noir and soufflé blah blah blah, that dot his stories, but it doesn't detract from the pleasure of reading them. I have this feeling, that if I could understand all these terms (I looked a bunch of them up, and got nowhere with my dictionary) I'd learn a lot about cooking, but as he says: tant pis, man.

I'm about a third of the way through this one, and I'm thinking about what else of his to read. And I've GOT to get my brother and his wife to read this, if they haven't already.

More soon!

PS: Between the three, eat at the Hilltop.

Friday, November 13, 2009

damp squid

Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare is written by Jeremy Butterfield, editor of the Oxford A-Z of English Usage. Butterfield writes in a scholarly, but natural style that is easy to read, and its clear that he knows the subject. The book is set up in a series of chapters that could probably stand alone as essays on the oddities of English, and how it evolves, contrary to those who would lock the language in a state of dormancy, if they could.

Butterfield bases his reasoning and his conclusions on research. He argues that usage guides and dictionaries can only guide writers and speakers of English, but never restrain them from using language as they see fit to express themselves. There are a numbers of processes by which the language evolves,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

steven schuyler bookmark

This bookmark is a gift from a friend who heard that I collect these funny little things. Its an advertising marker from Steven Schuyler Bookseller, in North Reading, Massachusetts. According to Dr. Schuyler's website, he specializes in materials for design/building professionals and in "things German".

Given that designing building is what I do, maybe I should go and check out this guy's shop. They also carry maps, prints, art and letters. And ephemera! Bookmarks are ephemera, but I don't think that the kind of thing they mean.

If I go and check it out, I'll let you know how it is. If you've been, write me a comment.

What the heck, even if you haven't been, write me a comment anyway, and I'll write back.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

gardner museum

This bookmark is from a friend who is a member of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and along with the monthly mailer comes a beautiful bookmark, with the month's happenings recorded on the reverse. The image on the obverse was done, according to the credits on the reverse, by Gardner Museum Artists-in-Residence Heather Ackroyd & Dan Harvey, St. John the Baptist, negative 2003 (detail).

I received three of these monthly bookmarks. Its nearly enough to make me join up. That, and the wonderful collection they have at the Gardner, not to mention the building itself. Its just a fun place to go, and if your name is Isabella, I think you get in for free. And they have a special event every third Thursday of the month.

This bookmark is this month's (November), the other two are from October and September, and each offers an intriguing slice of artwork from the Gardner. They're so pretty, that I'll probably post them all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the lost symbol - ii

So I finished The Lost Symbol, and at the end, there were some surprises, but others I nailed earlier on in the book. Its a fast read, even though there is lots of new vocabulary, Brown works the definitions into the dialog pretty well in most cases. When he can't, there is a fair amount of mind reading going on, which seems a little lame.

Dan Brown hasn't gone far afield for this story, either its setting, or its subject matter. There were a lot of interesting facts, and given the book I just read, it was fun to hear about some of the same things, from a completely different perspective.

So it was fun. Not the greatest book, but you know, better than television. I guess I'd have to put this one third in the Dan Brown line up for Langdon Stories, but not by much. It wasn't as good as Angels and Demons, but nearly as good as The DaVinci Code. If you've read and enjoyed the others, I'd recommend reading this one too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the lost symbol - i

I'm about half way through Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol. I read The DaVinci Code when it was all the rage, and I later read Angels and Demons. I came out of the two earlier books feeling like a lot of other folks I've spoken to about it: Angels and Demons was a better book, but I can see the popular allure of The DaVinci Code.

Both earlier books include a romp through Europe's history, art and architecture, with a conspiracy theorist's eye on the secret societies that helped to make Europe what it is today, unbeknownst to us. They both followed much the same same story arc

Sunday, November 1, 2009


The die cut Elvis bookmark, courtesy of my daughter. If you look real close, someone has penciled in "Sexy Beast" just above the name on the bottom. I wonder who that was? Elvis can still do to the ladies after all these years. Go Elvis.

Good news for the pocketbook on the home front. My daughter went to the library today and renewed her library card. She paid an old fine, for some books she borrowed, and we returned late, years ago. She hasn't been back since. She likes to own her books, she has explained numerous times. That's sweet. Maybe you should get a job honey, and own all kinds of things. In the meantime, the library is the best solution for a book hound like her. GO LIBRARY!