Thursday, July 01, 2010


Books on bedside tables

My working vacation last week was a joy. I painted my heart out and brought it home on canvas. During my last evening on the island I sat in a hammock chair on the big porch of one of the old island houses, atop a cliff facing the sea, and watched the full moon rise over the neighboring islands. No one else was on the island except the caretaker, staying in the house on the opposite side of the island from me. I felt like a ghost. A happy ghost haunting a beautiful place, well satisfied with the week's work, collecting a reward in golden moonlight.

During the week I did some reading in the evenings, by kerosene lantern light. Poetry books by Raymond Carver and Mary Oliver were on the beside table. Charles Hawthorne, too, Hawthorne on Painting. Those are books I've mentioned before, as the ones I take on most trips. They are thin and light and say pretty much everything that needs to be said. Or at least everything I most need to hear.

The morning after the full moon, I packed up and came home - nothing lasts forever, which is as it should be - and here I am again, business as usual, facing the pile of unread and half-read books waiting for me. On the bedside table at the moment:

A biography of Margaret Wise Brown, Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard S. Marcus (Quill 1999)

A History of the English Church and People, Bede (Penguin reprint)

Early Boston Booksellers 1642-1711, George Emery Littlefield (a 1969 Burt Franklin reprint of the 1900 Club of Odd Volumes first edition)

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot (Ecco reprint)

The Bakers' Big Book by Mary and Margaret Baker (Dodd, Mead 1941)

A New York Times book of Sunday crossword puzzles

A nearly-full moleskine journal

That about sums up what I'm most interested in: books, authors, words, food, painting, religion, poetry, stories. Not necessarily in that order.

In The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, de Groot explores the history and cuisine of a remote valley in the French Alps, La Grande Chartreuse. He tells us that the derivation of this place name word is "...a few huts which the Romans defined as catursiani. The word meant 'a little house where one is alone in an isolated and wild place.' The word has remained. It became chartreuse. The Roman settlement is today the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse." (p.9) My copy of this book is secondhand, naturellement, and the person who owned it before I did underlined this passage. Coming as I just have from being alone in a little house in an isolated and wild place, I read this while beaming with pleasure and sympathy. In the introduction de Groot talks of his "deepest sense of relief" upon being able to spend time in this remote and natural landscape (p.viii), and again I smiled with recognition.

Next on the horizon: summer. Painting outside and upstairs, delivering paintings to exhibits, weeding the garden, attempting to sell books, buying at friends-of-the-library book sales, saving pennies ahead for the winter fuel bills. Life seems very full, for such a quiet place. In immediate news, I have a show opening in Blue Hill tomorrow evening, July 2, 5-7 p.m., at Handworks Gallery. Twelve recent paintings. I am just at the stage today, the day before, of worrying if anyone will attend and if I will sell any paintings. (You know, the usual.) Although the latter is not much of a worry, thanks to a dear old friend on the west coast who already called the gallery and purchased two paintings, bless her.

The books on the bedside table help keep these worries at bay, also. They always have. What's on your bedside table, I wonder?

At this point, I have:

Blankets, by Craig Thompson
Border Liners by Peter Hoeg
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz
Nice list. Of course, I just started reading a book that wasn't even on the pile to begin with. I guess that's why the pile sits there day after day! What's a girl to do.
That happens to me most days. And oh, how the internet steals time meant for books.

Welcome back- sounds like a great week.

Happy Alchemy- Robertson Davies
Pomfret Towers- Angela Thirkell
The Songlines- Bruce Chatwin
The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
Tristram Shandy- Laurence Sterne

The last one has been sitting unread for quite awhile, but then, since nothing happens, there's nothing to forget when I pick it up again.

Too big for the bedside table: The Sandman- Neil Gaiman (Absolute Sandman edition)
J, I know - though I am getting better at turning off the computer and picking up the books, in the evenings. Frankly, once I've read two or three things online, I'm done. I'd rather be holding a book in my hands. Or a piece of homemade gingerbread. Or a paintbrush!

Dan, your list is such a fine list. Somewhere I have "The Oxford Companion to Food" and it is also too big for the bedside table. But oh so browsable.

I've never read "Tristram Shandy" but I have several copies of his "A Sentimental Journey..." and I want to read it. I fully intend to read it. Soon. Very very soon. Practically any day now.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?