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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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lunch and Books

On Wednesdays, we have "Pistil lunch" for whomever happens to be working that day and sometimes guests.  After a rainy spring, we've had a gloriously sunny week here in Seattle.  Consequently, our lunch moved today from the round table in front of the gas fireplace to the red Formica table in the nook off the kitchen, which has a door opening onto our sunny balcony.  Our meal was only slightly marred by the yappy little white dog in the yard across the alley...

Today it was just Kam and Amy and we had fried rice (with carrots, celery, onions, peppers, shitake mushrooms, garlic, cabbage, and tofu, garnished with green onions, cilantro, and black sesame seeds) and homemade kimchi on the side.  We drank red wine, and had chocolate for dessert.

What we're reading:

I am in the middle of  Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, a novel by Francine Prose that I picked up from the free shelf at a coffee shop.  It is narrated by various characters (photographers, writers, dancers) associated with the Chameleon Club where cross-dressers of all genders create surrealistic performances on the eve of fascism.  I've also just finished a novel by Rachel Cusk, Saving Agnes, the third novel I've read by this wonderful writer.  And I also just read a back issue of Granta from 2016 on the theme of Ireland.

Just finished Designed by Travilla, compendium of Marilyn Monroe‘s most famous on-screen dresses designed by Bill Travilla. For balance I am reading Samuel Beckett’s monograph on Proust. One furnishes a guilty pleasure, the other a sort of pleasurable guiltiness.

I am reading White Slaves of Maquinna John R. Jewitt's Narrative of Capture and Confinement at Nootka. Trade paperback, 186 pp. Illustrated with black and white photos and drawings. The book was originally published under another (similar) title in 1815. It recounts the author's capture with another crew member from an American trading ship playing the waters of the Northwest coast and his adventures over the next few years living with the tribe that enslaved him. He is a metalworker and so has real value to the tribe, and he tells them his shipmate is his father. He slowly learns their language and becomes acclimated to their ways, eventually marrying, though it is short-lived. It's quite an interesting tale, full of detail as the author kept a journal through his stay. American Indians are either worshiped or reviled in such stories. In this one, though the author considers them "savages" he is also quite fair-minded and reveals a people who are both noble and ingenious and full of superstition and bad temper, just like most humans. Interesting! 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Etsy Shop Spring Sale

20% off your order of $20 or more 

on orders placed through our Etsy shop
now through March 29.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Elegant Endpapers


  • Aka:
  • FFEP or ffep
  • front free endpaper
A common abbreviation for Front Free EndPaper. Generally, it is the first page of a book and is part of a single sheet that also spans across the inside of the front board (called the front pastedown) via a fold along the gutter with the purpose of connecting the boards to the stitched textblock.

As a result of this purpose, the paper quality of the ffep is generally of a heavier weight than those used for the pages of the book, and is often decorative.


Monday, January 22, 2018

A Coupon for You

Here is a coupon code good for $5 off any order of $30 or more placed on our website:  brillig9679

We have recently added a good number of art exhibition catalogs to our inventory, as well as a number of vintage children's books.

My favorite recent children's book added to our shop is The Snail Who Ran  written and illustrated with beautiful black and white illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop. The story of a snail, a mouse, and an eft who are granted wishes by a fairy in the night.

Color frontispiece of this wonderful 1934 children's book.