It’s new knee time for me, so please give me a couple months off from this blog to recuperate. Joe is now eight weeks out from his own knee surgery, and is well enough to have taken Amtrak to NYC. Having taken care of him this summer, I saw how completely dependent I will be for about the first month, so I’ve been hoarding reading material by my temporary bed in the living room. Some of these books will improve my professional mind, and some will provide escapism.
Newly arrived from Amazon is The Color Revolution (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series) by Regina Lee Blaszczyk. The author traces the story of mid-19th century chemical innovations in colorfast dyes and the fashion industry’s subsequent adoption of the new technology. For example, the French Empress Eugenie and Britain’s Queen Victoria co-inspired the trend of wearing a particular shade of lilac. Naturally, all the aspirationist fashionistas needed to also wear that color, which you can see at https://www.nobility.org/2011/01/27/social-inequality-redounds-to-the-advantage-of-all/
As you can imagine, as soon as new dyes came out, immediately designers of apparel, accessories, kitchen appliances, cars, hotels, furniture, etc. embraced the use of any color but black. As an aside, I started this book last night, but my eyes could hardly squint enough to comprehend the small, unfriendly typeface. Fortunately Joe collects magnifying glasses, so I put one next to my book pile. Prediction: using the magnifier on that font will be a PITA.
Writing about fonts, it’s time to re-read Just my Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. He writes about the people who designed different typefaces, like these examples, all shown in their 12 point typeface.
However, the fonts in Introducing Postmodernism: A Graphic Guide by Richard Appignanesi gave me no trouble at all. This book is a surprisingly delightful comic book that explains postmodernism, which I didn’t really understand. According to him, the concept dates from the mid-nineteenth century. It means that there is no abstract reality, just our impressions of it. My practical mind had no idea what that last sentence meant – until I read this book the first time. the author illustrates this new theory with an example that a urinal could be considered a Fountain, as interpreted by Marcel Duchamp in 1917.
Or a sofa could include fantastic elements like this modern white sofa for a living room, as seen at http://trendzona.com/interior-and-furniture/furniture-design/10/art-furniture.html.
My personal reality prefers furniture combining form and function like Niermann Weeks’ Gabrielle Sofa. It sits well plus looks lovely in personalized upholstery.
I could sit in it while re-reading The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal. a descendant of once prominent banking family, the Ephrussis. In the 19th and early twentieth centuries, the wealth and status of this Jewish family rivaled that of the Rothschilds, with whom they intermarried. Their lives were storybook until World War I ate their assets, and in World War II many were exterminated by the Nazis. De Waal’s history of his family is told through the passage from heir to heir of collection of 264 Japanese netsukes, small carved buttons once used by Japanese gentlemen to close their purses. The author, who gets this photo credit, named his charming, moving book for the tiny carved hare shown at the bottom left.
De Waal’s great-great-something uncle Charles Ephrussi originally amassed the collection. Charles was a serious patron of the arts and high culture in the Paris of his day. The impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir was so grateful to M. Ephrussi that his 1880 painting Luncheon of the Boating Party shows Ephrussi in the background, wearing the black frock coat and top hat.
Moving way backwards in time, I also plan to re-read Madeline Miller’s the Song of Achilles: A Novel. Homer’s Illiad has been required reading in the Western canon for centuries, and schools forced me to read it in both high school and college, yet I just couldn’t get my head around the core story. I did understand that Achilles, depicted here in an ancient Greek pot, was a major player in the Trojan War.
But the complexity of the poetry always kept my focus while the story just slipped away. Madeline Miller, however, has told the story in prose, which my head could understand, and her words have their own beauty. thank you very much, Ms. Miller, and please keep writing books.
Finally, I get to escapism pure and simple with mysteries by the Canadian author Louise Penny.
In the modern-day Province of Quebec, her Chief inspector Armand Gamache always snuffles around until he and his team root out the evil-doer. Each book in this series has won umpteen awards and has captivated me. If only all people were as noble, kind, intelligent, loving, and perfect as M. Gamache. The Beautiful Mystery is her newest title, incorporating her love of mystery with her love of music. I must re-read this book to savor the impact of music. I must re-read this book to savor the impact of music within its pages and within my own life. The music she uses is Gregorian chant, a beautiful style of singing taught to me in Catholic grade school. We sang the music in solemn masses and in the masses for dead.
And of course Donna Leon always transports me to Venice in her series on the equally charming Commissario Guido Brunetti. She is better than any guidebook to that magical city. The last time I physically visited her city was during Carnavale, when the strangest creatures walked among us. Ms. Leon entertains me with her stories and reminds me of my many happy times in her city.
You can see that my mind has lots to occupy itself during my recuperation, but please do send me recommendations of other not-to-be-missed titles.
Thanks for reading my blog, wish me well, and welcome me back in a couple months!
How to find these authors: