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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Emily Brontë's diary, 1837

This diary paper was written by Emily Brontë on 26 June 1837.  The rough sketch shows two seated female figures, clearly labelled ‘Anne’ and ‘Emily’, at a large table. A number of sheets of paper, labelled ‘The papers’, are scattered over the table and next to Emily’s right elbow is ‘The Tin Box’. This, then, is an illustration of the diary papers and the box in which they were kept.
More: The British Library

A Literary Cocktail Party

Independent Bookstore Day falls on April 29. To celebrate, A Literary Cocktail Party, a limited edition book of cocktail recipes and stories from a selection of writers, will be sold for one day only, exclusively at 470 participating indie bookstores.

Below is Lauren Groff's vodka martini:
I love a Tito’s vodka martini, vermouth wafted swiftly over the surface of the drink, with many extra olives. On Fridays, after my little boys have their piano lessons, we all go out together to a restaurant called The Top a few blocks from our house in Gainesville, Florida. I order one of these, and as soon as I have it in my hand, my whole body relaxes into the weekend. It’s a pure cold burst of relief.
On her first time: I used to drink only beer—I was an intern at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown one summer—then only wine, after I spent a year in France, and then only bourbon after a fellowship year in Louisville, when Pappy VanWinkles was easy to find and cheap-ish. But with kids, I needed something stronger, especially if I was saving up my drinks for Friday nights. I ordered my first vodka martini at The Top shortly after my first son was born, out of post-partum despair, and never looked back. We walk home.
The recipe:
Tito’s vodka
a very cold martini glass, with a few drops of vermouth sprinkled in, then shaken out
6 big olives
Put vodka into a martini shaker with ice, shake for far longer than seems reasonable, pour into the glass, put olives in, drink half immediately, feel better about writing and life as you listen to your children fight in the opposite booth.
More here

Historic Book Odour Wheel

The “Historic Book Odour Wheel” created by Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič connects familiar descriptions of book smells (e.g. “charred wood” and “rotten socks”) to chemical compounds. A chocolate fragrance might alert a reader to decaying paper, for instance. “Creating an odour wheel for historic smells, where untrained noses could identify an aroma from the description and gain information about the chemical causing the odour, establishes a novel method of heritage documentation,” Bembibre and Strlič write.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Andy Warhol's Cats

In the 1950s, Andy Warhol lived with several dozen cats and his mother, Julia, in a New York apartment. In 1954, he privately published a limited edition artist's book of hand-colored lithographs called 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. That is indeed a typo in the book title but who cared when New York was about to be turned on its head by modern art?

More here 

A Journey Round my Room

In 1790, 27 year old soldier Xavier de Maistre was placed under house-arrest in Turin for fighting an illegal duel. Inspired by the works of Laurence Sterne, with their digressive and colloquial style, de Maistre decided to make the most of his sentence by recording an exploration of the room as a travel journal. Each tiny thing that he encounters sends de Maistre into rhapsodies, and mundane journeys become magnificent voyages...

More: The Public Domain Review

Monday, April 24, 2017

Literary Birds of the British Isles

Tom Gauld's   Literary Birds of the British Isles (for @guardianreview)

Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies

Jack Harris's list of Covent-Garden ladies is a business directory containing intimate details, including addresses, of the prostitutes who worked this area of London in 1773.

Read it online at the Wellcome Library 


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Of Cats And Men

Some of history’s greatest men have been cat lovers, and their cats have contributed to their genius and legacy. In his book Of Cats And Men Sam Kalda profiles thirty luminaries and visionaries who have one thing in common: a pure and enduring love of cats.

William S. Burroughs 
“In many ways, Burroughs connected with cats more than people…Burroughs was once asked by poet and fellow Beat Allen Ginsberg if he ever wanted to be loved. ‘It depends. By who or what,’ he said. ‘By my cats, certainly.’

Ernest Hemingway 
“While living in Key West, Hemingway was given a cat by a ship’s captain. Snow White was a six-toed feline, the first of Hemingway’s famous brood of polydactyl cats in Key West…As Papa Ernest not so famously said, ‘One cat just leads to another.’”


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Very Best Reading Propaganda

Literary Hub has posted a collection of 31 old posters that celebrate and promote literary causes and events.

Library Association Collection, c. 1921

Perhaps the most famous of the famous ALA READ posters, starring David Bowie, 1987

Keith Haring, 1985

More here

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How David Bowie, Kurt Cobain & Thom Yorke Write Songs With William Burroughs' Cut-Up Technique

William S. Burroughs explains his surrealist cut-up technique as a “montage technique” from painting applied to “words on a page.” Words and phrases are cut from newspapers and magazines and the fragments re-arranged at random.

"David Bowie and Kurt Cobain are perhaps the two most prominent adopters of Burroughs’ technique, the Beat writer’s influence on pop music stretches back to the Beatles, who included him on the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and extends through the work of artists like Joy Division, Iggy Pop, and, notably, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who supposedly drew cut-up phrases from a hat to write the lyrics for the band’s groundbreaking album Kid A."
More here

She Refused to Give Up: Vivian Gornick on Grace Paley’s Activism

Vietnam, nuclear weapons, civil rights for blacks, women, and gays—you name it, there was Grace, marching, leafleting, wise-cracking, instructing the novitiates on how to act when they were loaded, inert, into the paddy wagon.

I once said to her, “Grace, if you had one word of advice to give on doing politics, what would it be?”

She laughed and said, “That’s simple, darling. You sit down and you stay down.”

 More Here

Sunday, April 16, 2017

David Sedaris: The IHOP Years

The covers of two diaries from 1987, featuring (left) art work purchased at a thrift store
 and (right) art work by Sedaris.

David Sedaris has kept a diary for forty years, during which he has filled a hundred and fifty-three handmade notebooks. The following entries, which document Sedaris’s years in Chicago, have been taken from the forthcoming book “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977–2002),” which is out on May 30th from Little, Brown. I can hardly wait!

Read the entries here

Friday, April 14, 2017

On the Fifth Day - Jane Hirshfield

On the Fifth Day

the scientists who studied the rivers

were forbidden to speak

or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air

were told not to speak of the air,

and the ones who worked for the farmers

were silenced,

and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,

began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak

and were taken away.

The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

Now it was only the rivers

that spoke of the rivers,

and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees

continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,

and the rivers kept speaking,

of rivers, of boulders and air.

Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,

the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,

code writers, machinists, accountants,

lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,

of silence.