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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A New Leaf

Last week my friend Patricia and I went for an evening walk in the Union Bay Natural Area, which is an area along the shore of Lake Washington a bit north of Husky Stadium behind the UW playing fields.  It's a wonderful place to walk without many other people around.  The area is a former landfill that has been/is being restored to a more natural state with rustling grassland, big trees, wetlands, and is full of wildlife, especially waterfowl: ducks, geese, eagles, osprey, and herons.  We saw a blue heron catch and swallow a fish, which bulged in its throat as it went down.  We also saw a beaver swimming in the lake, many rabbits,  and a large gathering of crows having a party.

We took a short jog off the main trail to get closer to the water's edge and this is what we saw:


Photos by Patricia Spencer.







Two leaves were floating on the green surface of the shallows and they appeared to have writing on them....  I found a stick and was able to use it to pull these found poems out of the water.  They both had the same love poem written on them in tiny black printing.

"Your body undulates in generous curves"

In the language of books, a leaf "refers to the smallest, standard physical unit of paper in a printed piece; in the case of books and pamphlets, usually with a printed page on each side of a leaf; a broadside is printed on a single side of a single leaf."  (ABAA Glossary of book terms.)
Heart-shaped miniature broadsides.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Found in Books

It's been a while since I've posted photos of some of the ephemera found in books, and the envelope holding such objects has grown fat.  

Included this time are the usual bookmarks (from bookstores and torn from handy sheets of paper), gift tags, drawings, tickets, and personal notes.  In one card someone writes, "Now that I know from the medical examiner's report the severity of her AVM condition, I wonder if M--- knew or at least had a premonition of fatality.  Just after her first MRI she intensified her study of Buddhism which focuses on preparing in this life for one's next life."

Remember phone bills?  Spanking, cirque & sensuality, oh my!

Bookmarks from shops, The Ten Commandments (from St. Jude's Ranch for Children), and Legend of the Raven are just a few of the ways people keep their place between pages.

Cards from card catalogs... as rare as phone bills now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reading and Eating

Today for lunch we had tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches (with sharp cheddar and horseradish), curried tempeh salad, and Pink Lady apple slices.  And red wine.  The day started out cool and gray, but by lunchtime the sun had come out and we were able to sit on the balcony.

Here is Kam sitting in the sun outside the bookstore door.

What we're reading.

My new books [aquired from Pistil, of course] include Boswell’s Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, In the Shadow of Vesuvius, about the artistic repercussions of the excavation of Pompeii’s ruins in the 18th century, and a collection of the complete song lyrics of John Dryden. All appealed because of their arcane qualities.  The Dryden is so arcane that although it was published in 1932, the pages had not yet been cut.

Today I started another Rachel Cusk novel, Transit.   When I find a writer I like, I usually go on a binge, reading all their books one after the other.  This one I ordered online from a megalister and it turned out to be an ex-library book, but I don't care since I just want to read it.   I started it at the bus stop today, but could only read a few pages before the bus arrived because reading in transit gives me a headache.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lunch on the Balcony

Today for Pistil Lunch we had saag paneer, brown rice, cucumber and scallion raita, and salad (arugula, romaine lettuce, yellow carrots, green onions, golden beets, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds).  A colorful lunch!  Amy, Sean, and Kam were present and it was a very warm day, so we ate on the balcony and tried to identify the bird songs we heard.  We have a robin's nest under the side balcony this year.

What we're reading:

I am reading Ancient Man by Hendrick Willem Van Loon, a popular writer of the 1930s, and the Chrysalis of Romance by Inez G. Howard, a book from the 1920s about the origin of north American customs.

I'm reading a novel by Sara Baume called A Line Made by Walking.   The narrator is a mid-twenties woman artist who is experiencing depression and has gone to stay by herself in her dead grandmother's house in the country.  Every couple of pages the protagonist "tests" herself by naming and describing a piece of modern art related to whatever theme she happens to be thinking of (for example, television, "wrongness", beds, etc.).

Sean says he just started a new book and will write next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What We're Reading - May 17

I am reading a monograph on Lyonel Feininger, the German painter, fifty of whose early canvases were trapped behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th century. I am also reading Voltaire‘s fable The Princess of Babylon. As a diversion, I just began Lucia in London, by E. F. Benson.

At lunch today at Amy and Sean’s place, the discussion ranged from real estate adventures in Snohomish County to Marcel Proust, a favorite of fellow guest, Kam.  My bookish allusion was to Philip Levine’s collection What Work Is (Knopf 1991; winner of the National Book Award), wherein may be found Levine’s “Among Children,” a new favorite poem.  Forty-four lines of unrhymed verse tending to measure out to five accented syllables per line, the poem plays on Yeats’ “Among School Children,” written when the Irish poet visited a Catholic school for girls in 1926, the one that ends with the ecstatic image of a dancing chestnut tree where “Labour is blossoming.”  Levine’s children, are “the children of Flint,” whose fathers “work at the spark plug factory or truck /bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs/ to the widows of the suburbs.”  Written at least 23 years before the water crisis in Flint, the poem seems prescient.  Unlike Yeats, the 60-yo smiling “public man” whose encounter with the students brings to life dreams of his lover as a child and thoughts about Plato, Levine’s visit to the classroom stirs up earlier memories of a visit to these children as newborns “burning with joy” as infants in a Catholic hospital.  He wants to sit with them now and read aloud the Book of Job and whisper to them “all I know, all I will never know.”
--Sue Perry


I just finished reading a novel called A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson.  The novel takes place in Copenhagen in the eighties and nineties and is told from the first person point of view of a young boy and later young man who spent the first part of his life on the run with his loving but outside-the-law father.  I really liked the first part of the book from the child's point of view.  It's told in a slow, matter-of-fact tone of the daily rhythm of a child's unconventional life by an observant boy who adores his father and, like the reader, doesn't understand why he isn't going to school or participating in other normal social relationships.   The second part of the book narrated when the boy has grown up and is working in a letter sorting office and drinking excessively lost the fairy tale charm of the first part of the book for me.


I just got through with The Power by Naomi Alderman.  I don't often read full novels, preferring nonfiction generally, but this had been described as great by someone I trust so I thought I'd give it a shot.  Also Margaret Atwood is listed all over the covers lavishing praise upon the soul of the author, and I generally like her writing as well as her view of Sci Fi as not a genre that does not live up to be qualified as "literature." 

The premise is that a biological change takes place among women in current time but the book is being written by a fictitious author 5000 years into the future, writing a historical novel.  The change is that young women come to be able to shock with their bodies, just like an eel can at sea.  The book follows four subjects through what eventually becomes a new world war leading to an apocalypse and an eventual rebuilding of society with traditional  male and female roles reversed.  This structure seems the cleverest part. The body of the book is sort of action packed adventure to the point of the outbreak of war, involving London drug gangs, a convent full of somewhat silly gospel and ritual run by "Mother Eve" and an itinerant young male reporter studiously gallivanting around the globe reporting on the flip-flop of Saudi cultural dominance and the resulting armed men's movement battling the founding of a new state that is run by a power-mad woman.  One heroine has her "skien" -- the source of her unusually well developed power -- surgically removed against her will in a terrible betrayal by her own family. The gist being women are not fundamentally any different than men and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The ending provides the punchline in which there are a series of letters between the fictitious author and his editor, in which the author is kowtowing and his superior finally suggests that he consider publishing under the name of a woman, considering the controversial nature of the subject matter: that men could have at some point in the distant past actually have been the dominant cultural force: such folly; sort an an inane hypothesis, really.

The book kept me reading, and was amusing enough, but the tropes of standard fiction constitute the main portion, so I'd say it was cute enough for a quick read. 
-- Sean

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Spring Lunch

Last week we did not have Pistil Lunch because Sean and I were on a little trip to Portland,OR and then to the ocean on the Long Beach peninsula for one night.  Kam held down the fort and took care of the bookstore while we were gone.

Today's lunch was attended by Amy, Sean, Troy, Kam, and Sue Perry, a friend and painter.  When we operated our brick and mortar retail store we always had art shows in our book shop, and Sue was the first artist whose work we displayed when we opened in 1993.  Recently she has been working on a series of Seattle paintings that have shown the changes to our neighborhood.  The painting below shows the street at the end of our alley a couple of years ago -- a house had been knocked down to make room for some ugly box-like condos.  The church in the painting has since been knocked down for the same reason.
Man Carrying Thing (oil on canvas, 32" x 48") Sue Perry
 For lunch today we had Salad Nicoise, baguette and goat cheese, and cider.  The Salade Nicoise was deconstructed  with the different ingredients served in separate dishes so we could each put what we liked onto our plates.

Kam's plate.

What we're reading.... to be continued in the next entry.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Food for Thought

Today at lunch Kam and I were joined by local artist Jon Strongbow who came by to pick up a book he ordered.  Kam and Jon have only met each other a couple of times, but they must be fashion soul mates as this photo taken outside our front gate attests:

The day was bright and sunny and we were able to sit on the balcony.  For lunch today we had a salad with romaine lettuce, red cabbage, yellow carrots, cherry tomatoes, and toasted pumpkin seeds; served with this we had roasted golden beets, grilled onions and sweet peppers, olives, pepperoncini, hummus, Bulgarian feta cheese, and pita bread.  Kam and I split a can of dry cider, and for dessert we had a bit of dark chocolate with cinnamon, cayenne, and cherries, spicy!

What we're reading:

My sister loaned me a graphic novel she loved:  Stiches:  A Memoir by David Small.  It's the dark story of the author's 1950's childhood in an unhappy and uncommunicative family and his experience of having what he thought was a minor operation that was really to treat thyroid cancer he was not told about, and which he got after being exposed to radiation to treat sinus issues by his doctor father.  The drawings are haunting and beautiful.

This week I am reading Edmund White’s collection of essays called Our Paris. Also a book on the home life of William Morris. And the Journal of Eugene DelacroixOur Paris is like a more serious David Sedaris, and Delacroix is something of a harbinger of Proust.

"I am reading a trilogy by a guy named Barry Hughart and it’s pretty awesome.  The first one is called Bridge of Birds and it’s basically about Chinese history and Chinese mythology and he extrapolates from that. the story is about a China that never existed but should’ve existed and it’s really beautiful. The dialogue is hilarious; of course it’s bloody like a mythology story, but there’s magic in it in a tragic kind of Chinese way."
--Jon Strongbow