Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reading Women

reading woman.jpg
I'm so lucky. I am a cataloger in a public library, and I get to handle every book that comes in. Children's books, reference books, fiction, poetry - everything comes through my hands. This compensates for a lot of the daily angst (oh yes, there is angst in a library!).

I just cataloged a new art book, Reading Women by Stefan Bollman. Every reading woman will see herself in paintings by Vermeer, Manet, Vuillard, or Alma-Tededma, or photographs, such as "Alice Liddell" by Julia Cameron (below).

alice liddell
I also found a review by the Guardian Unlimited - actually, not a review in the sense of criticism. It's a collection of short essays, each by a renowned writer who has focused on one of the images.

A. S. Byatt, for example, responds to "In the Library" by Edouard Vuillard, seeing a story in the setting of two children and a distant, perhaps disapproving young woman in the doorway of an ornate library.

Jeanette Winterson writes about a photograph of Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold, saying "She doesn't have to pose, we don't even need to see her face, what comes off the photo is absolute concentration, and nothing is sexier than absolute concentration."

Other Guardian essayists include Alison Lurie, Hilary Mantel, and P.D. James. If I owned a copy of this book, I would keep the article folded in its pages to remind myself to distill my visual pleasure into my own medium - language.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Early reading meme

I found this at Heather's site, The Library Ladder. (It was written by Kate, of Kate's Book Blog.)

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
Family legend has it that I read at age 3, and that no one taught me. Family legend also has it that my mother read at age 2 1/2, and she could read upside down, from a newspaper. Family dynamic has it that everyone in the family is a genius, but some have more extravagant ways of proving it.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
I owned many books. The first one I remember was a Little Golden Book about ballet. All of the little girls in the book were tiny blonde goddesses. I studied ballet for years, but I never achieved goddesshood, or blondeness. Fortunately, I learned the difference between fiction and non-fiction very early. As for books I borrowed from the library, The Little Lame Prince, which I borrowed so many times from the school library that I still remember where it was shelved!

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?
Jane Eyre. My parents took me to the big Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in New York because my mother wanted to buy art books. I wandered over to the fiction section and happened upon Jane Eyre. Reader, I bought it.
I should also mention another book I bought when I was very young: Franny and Zooey. I bought it in the local 5 & 10 cent store. The clerk was reluctant to sell it to me because she thought it was pornographic, and that I was too young to read it. I'm sure she hadn't read it. I've read it so many times since then that I can recite passages from it. I've never outgrown the notion that I am Franny's astral twin, nor the gratitude that my mother never tried to put me on a show like "It's a Wise Child." (How did she miss that one?)

4. Were you a re-reader as a child?
Yes. I still am a re-reader. As a child, I re-read Little Women (a gift from my paternal grandfather) and Jane Eyre (see above).

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
Again, Jane Eyre. I identified with her loneliness and the way she had to repress her passions.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Andersen's fairy tales, especially "The Emperor's Nightingale,""The Snow Queen" and "The Little Mermaid." I wasn't particularly interested in fairy tales when I was a child, but I became obsessed with them as I got older. Now, I see many things in everyday life as expressions of myth and tale and archetype, and I long to learn more.

Thanks, Heather, for passing on this meme - anyone may consider herself tagged. Please let me know if you do the meme so I can come over for a visit!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Travel to the Republic of Tea!

The United States of America is my favorite republic, and the republic of India is a close second, but there's a third republic that is dear to my heart, albeit in a different way: The Republic of Tea. The Republic of Tea is a Novato, California-based company that produces consistently tasty, quality tea. Many flavored varieties are available. They also turn out a cracking good plain British Breakfast tea - - and that's quite an endorsement from this Irish Breakfast tea lover.
A great deal of thought (and market research) went into producing these teas, from their pretty canisters to the teas to the little, round teabags that contain of the some varieties. Many of the flavors have little slogans under their tea names. For example, the British Breakfast tea has the slogan, "the perfect cuppa." It is a very good plain tea, and I recommend it for those times when you are looking for a good, heart- and body-warming cuppa. It is wonderful for making tea toddies, and it stands up nicely to cream or sugar, but it won't tax you with exotic tastes. It just takes care of you, the tea lover who needs and wants a dependable cuppa, an arm around the shoulder, a pick-me-up.
I am wild for the Wild Blueberry tea (fair trade certified). The label itself is pretty, as, indeed, are all the labels from this company. The tea is delightful! I love blueberries, and I love this marriage of fine black tea with natural blueberry flavors and blueberries. It was (till I ran out - - oops!) my preferred cuppa, my "go-to" tea. Not only did it comfort my frequent stomach distresses, but it just plain tastes delicious. All tea acts as a restorative for me, but this one does that even more so. It stands alone or with sweetening. It is my current favorite.
Another tea worth the time to brew is Blackberry Sage, the "tea for wisdom." I tried drinking it by the gallon, but I'll be darned if I feel any wiser! This is a fine black tea blended with natural blackberry flavor and sage. I like sipping this tea while I write or read. It's a rich blend of bold black tea, a little fruitiness and a touch of the Middle East with its sage notes.
The Vanilla Almond, "sweeten the mind tea," would make a wonderful after-dinner tea or dessert tea. It goes very well with plain, lightly-sweet cookies for afternoon tea. It can sweeten a dismal morning, too, such as one of those mornings when you simply must go to work to keep body and soul together even though you would far rather stay home and curl up to read one of the books you found here on TeaReads.
"Tea for the Queen of Hearts" is the last of my Republic of Tea favorites. It is Rose Petal Tea, sold only for about a month, annually, to coincide with Valentine's Day. If ever I give a Valentine tea, I will certainly serve Rose Petal Tea in a red pot. I simply love the taste of flowers, so was drawn to sample this tea like a bee is drawn to, well, flowers. It is a very pretty loose tea, with visible rose buds and petals among the fine black tea leaves. If you make it, I suggest using a large mug instead of a teacup so you can watch "the agony of the leaves" and roses as it steeps. The first time I tried this tea I was overcome with romantic warmth - - little hearts fairly danced circles round my head. It is perfect for a romantic afternoon or evening in, and it tastes just as good when you have tea solo.
To arrange your own trip to The Republic of Tea, phone 1-800-298-4TEA, or visit
Bon voyage!
(Moon Rani)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Unnatural Death

Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner is my latest indulgence in true-crime reading. I picked up this book so quickly that I failed to notice its copyright is 1989. Although there is a 2005 foreword that updates some of the information in the book, the book itself is unchanged. Thus, some of the information presented herein is either outdated or now known to be in error.
The book is a compilation of case histories from Medical Examiner Michael M. Baden, M.D., with co-author, Judith Adler Hennessee. Some of the autopsies Dr. Baden conducted, consulted on or reviewed were of famous people, people as disparate as President Kennedy and John Belushi. He offers information gained through his work, then shows how it proves - - or disproves - - popular beliefs of celebrity deaths. He also writes of other deaths, those of people who were unknown beyond their immediate circles of friends and relations. Included in this book are tales of how Dr. Baden's refusal to play politics affected his career. Until I read this book, it never occurred to me that politics played any role at all in the world of medical examination.
I wish there were another edition of this book, an updated one. That's a drawback in my recommendation. However, I commend both authors for using plain and clear language that conveys information in a way that is easily understood by those of us who have no knowledge of autopsies and medical examining.
Instant gratification may be one reason I enjoyed reading this book. The deceased's physical state was described, and I paused to think about what would cause this or that condition, if it pointed to a certain type of death, what other explanations might be correct, and so on. Then - - presto! - - I had the answers right in my hand, waiting to be read. Another benefit is that the book provides the opportunity to learn and to become a little more informed. I love that.
Written by Moon Rani

Sara Teasdale

Something about the Plath poem makes me think of this, by Sara Teasdale:

There will come soft rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire.

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly.

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

A newly-discovered poem by Sylvia Plath !

What riches!

A newly-discovered poem by Sylvia Plath has been published by
Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts. Written when she was an undergraduate at Smith College, it "germinated from Plath's creative response to The Great Gatsby..." -

(And yes, of course, this is Daisy:"blase princesses indict/tilts at terror as downright absurd.")

ackbird has decided to publish it "to recognize and celebrate the disciplined hard work she put into her early writing." Click to read the whole poem, and to see two early typescripts.

Ennui -

Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
designing futures where nothing will occur...

I am so delighted that I don't even want to think yet! I just want to bask for awhile and reread "The Beast in the Jungle," which informs yet another allusive line ("The beast in Jamesian grove will never jump..."). Who can read that story and not shudder?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Arianna Huffington, On Becoming Fearless

I'm reading this book because I want to be Arianna when I grow up, and because I can not believe that she ever was fearful.

Right now, I'm reading the chapter about the body.
How many times do we read that the key to taking control over parts of our lives is to change the negative self-talk to positive? And yet, affirmations have never worked for me, so I loved reading Arianna's take. "It was only when I began observing the critical voices inside me rather than giving in to them that I could start to take control over them. Instead of being drained by the negative self-talk, I found myself amused by it the way you are by a naughty child... We may not be able to tune them out entirely, but we don't have to let them run the show."

It never occurred to me to be amused by these voices - what a concept!

Arianna intersperses her text with excellent quotes, and by short essays by other strong women, including Nora Ephron, Sherry Lansing, and Diane Keaton. My favorite quote so far is by Maureen Dowd, whom I also want to be when I grow up: "It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut."

To be continued...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An old love affair renewed

My recent cold and subsequent upswing in tea consumption depleted my honey supply (see "Comfort Tea"). I stocked up on a reasonably-priced, Floridian honey available at grocery stores. I looked, without success, for Tupelo honey, my favorite Then an old love caught my eye - - orange blossom honey. What a treat it has been to stir this lovely, flavorful honey into my cuppas this week! I forgot just how tasty it is. Now I would have to say that Tupelo has a challenger for first place on my list. Next time I go honey-shopping, I'll try a new one: blueberry blossom honey. It sounds so good that it just might provoke a three-way tie.
(written by Moon Rani)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Winter Reading Challenge

book challenge

Have you seen this? I've joined. My books will be:

Slammerkin - Emma Donoghue
Short History of Myth - Karen Armstrong
Rereadings - Anne Fadiman
Life Studies - Susan Vreeland
On Becoming Fearless - Arianna Huffington

Check out The Incredible Growing List for inspiration -

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Comfort tea

I've been down with a filthy cold for a week, now. I'll spare you the unpleasant details, but I will tell you how I find comfort when cold viruses lay me low. During the day, whether at work or home, I make piping cups of Sweet Ginger Peach tea, laced with honey [].
At night, I make tea toddies. Once I'm sure I'm home for the night, I boil a cup of water. While the kettle's on, I scald my mug, then add a teabag. In a pinch, I once used Lipton decaffeinated. I plunk a cinnamon stick into the mug, and, perhaps, a small grating of nutmeg or a tiny hint of clove (one whole clove or a whisper of ground). After I splash in a couple of tablespoons of rum (or whisky or whiskey) and a generous squeezing of fresh lemon juice (or lime juice, if that's all I have), the water has come to a boil, and I pour it in, too. A drizzle of honey, mixed in well, goes in last. Then I get into a comfortable chair or a warm bed, and wait four or five minutes for the toddy to blend before I drink. Although the boiling water takes the mule-kick out of the alcohol, it can still be potent, and I can be sensitive, so I make sure I'm safe before imbibing. I don't want to get lightheaded and risk falling, you see.
Tea toddies don't rid me of my cold, but they provide warm soothing comfort. When I'm sick in bed, I'll take soothing comfort in a cup any day.
(written by Moon Rani)