Thursday, April 24, 2008

The return of book week, #3: Isn't she lovely?

We've got plenty of public services that don't work in this city. Take our neighborhood post office, for one. I've never seen such an abysmal operation: lines out the door, a total lack of concern on the part of the management and employees for the frustrated would-be customers waiting, and if you need to pick up a package on premises you'd swear there was no organizational system whatsoever behind those unstaffed bullet-proof windows.

Or witness our inability to pass the congestion traffic proposal for midtown last week; apparently some in our city don't appreciate efficiency, no matter how practical or effective it might be.

On the other hand, have I told you how much I love the New York Public Library? Now there's a system that works; with just a library card and a web connection, you can reserve a book from anywhere in the system and have it delivered to your local branch, easy-peasy. It's simple to check the status of your holds and to estimate the arrival of any item on your wait list based on the number of people in queue ahead of you. And renewing the items you've taken home is no trouble at all, provided no one is waiting behind you. It's all so orderly and pleasant and sensible and dreamy.

My dear friend and former student, Barbara, recently brought me a copy of Jane's wonderful book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, from England. Every evening (or, really, early morning) before bed I've been taking a few minutes to soak up Jane's writing. Much like her blog, these beautifully composed observations on home life (not scrubbing and dusting, mind you, but creating, contemplating and appreciating) are enormously inspiring. Jane writes about art, baking, color, knitting, books, and a wide variety of topics. I love the well-thought-out nature of her writing. Each piece is beautifully composed in the same manner as her blog posts. It's an over-used metaphor, but Jane's pieces are like little gems. Or maybe tasty fairy-cakes would be a better description.

Anyway, every night while reading I make a mental note to get myself over to my friendly and efficient online library and reserve myself some of the films and books Jane references. Last night I finally got around to it; I reserved some old favorites as well some I've never heard of or have always meant to read or see. It's been a while since I last read Jane Eyre or watched Amelie. It was through Jane's blog that I first discovered Elizabeth Taylor (the writer, not the actor), and I've never read Dorothy Canfield Fisher or Elizabeth Gaskell. It's going to be a pleasure.

And speaking of pleasures, the book contains mostly Jane's own photography, which is always loaded with color and inspiration. Perhaps not the sort of visual stimuli one needs shortly before bedtime, but it's certainly a lovely book.

I'm thrilled that the book is going to be released here in the states by Stewart, Tabori and Chang later this year. Jane, I hope you'll still refer to them as fairy-cakes when the book is "translated" for us Americans? We may not be able to comprehend London congestion traffic plans, but I certainly hope we're able to sink our teeth into a proper English pastry, complete with it's appetising name.


  1. I well remember going to the library with my mom every two weeks and loading up on all the books we were allowed. It was always a thrill.

  2. The local library where I grew up had a funny smell, weird fluorescent lights and grumpy people behind the counter, all of which combined to give me a headache every time we went there. Yet I still loved it. I'm glad Mom made such an event of going to the library, especially in the summertime.

    Verification Word of the Day: "bmaft." Sounds like a nautical term, somehow.

  3. I remember reading about this book, but I don't think it had been published yet. Thank you for reminding me, it looks beautiful.

    I have been wanting to watch Amelie again, but it would be easier to find fairies than a film with subtitles in my little 2000 people town. hehe Will have to go hunt down my own copy.

    My favourite library was at Concordia University in Montreal. It wasn't huge, and my major wasn't well stocked, but I could get my hands on anything. They had the same great request and tracking systems as your fav, so nice to be able to do that from home. Inter-library loans, a huge online journal subscription, and photocopies of journal articles we didn't subscribe to. It looks like I miss school.

  4. Your library system sounds so civilised. I wish we could do all that reserving and renewing online.

    I rarely hear of anyone else who has read Elizabeth Taylor. I love her short stories best of all and my favourite has to be The Devastating Boys. Have you read it? So moving and the feeling of it has stayed with me these 20 plus years, though the book was lent out and never came back!

  5. Are you sure you live in NYC? I think you described both my post office and the library system here!
    One advantage we have in our postal system - they have outlets in some of the supermarkets and those are open 7 days a week 10 to 7!
    Same people as in my post office but WAY NICER!!!! Go figure, lol.

  6. muffin3:08 PM

    I just love this brook by Jane brocket. In fact its from her book that I got the link to the 'disdressed' blog so double whammy! I take Jane's book in small bites just because I want it to last for ever. I have the 2nd one on pre-order with Amazon.

  7. Bullet-proof windows? Really? **shudder** However, the lines at the post office are ridiculous and the parking - I won't even mention the parking. I've become a big fan of the USPS website!

    Your write-up makes me want that book!