Recently I’ve written in praise of favorite blogs and bloggers. I can think of no better way to mark my nine hundredth posting on Books to the Ceiling than by doing more of the same.
A Commonplace Blog is written by D.G. Myers, a man of uncommonly rigorous intellect and great courage as well. Whether he is writing about books, Judaism, current affairs, philosophy, or any other topic, Professor Myers displays the same fluency and erudition. In particular, I owe him a debt of gratitude for his recommendation of The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis. He calls it “the perfect historical novel.” I agree.
Two blogs that take full and rich advantage of the visual component of blogging are In So Many Words and Letters from a Hill Farm. Yvette blogs at the first; Nan, at the second. In both cases, one feels the full force of their love of books, of life and general – and of grandchildren in particular!
Two blogs that I truly cherish are My Porch and The Argumentative Old Git. At My Porch, Thomas chronicles his love of books and the arts with flair and exuberance. Likewise his unabashed affection for his dog Lucy, as delightfully documented in a series of photos. Oh, and Thomas – thanks for writing in praise of Eric Ambler. I had the great good fortune to be reading A Coffin for Demetrios when I was in Paris in 1995.
As for the The Argumentative Old Git – well, he most certainly is not that! Concerning the name chosen for his blog, Himadri explains that “it’s best to be self-deprecating before someone else deprecates you.” So: sense of humor – check! Also deep erudition and love of books and music – in other words, the Things That Matter. I first found this blog when I was writing- -yet again – about reading – yet again – The Turn of the Screw. Himadri had written a wonderful post on Henry James’s infuriating, fascinating novel and on the terrific 1961 film, called The Innocents and starring Deborah Kerr. I then became aware that he’d also written about Wagner’s Parsifal. It seems we’d both seen the HD broadcast of the Met’s production of this opera in March of last year. Himadri described himself as “somewhat shaken by the experience.” I felt the same. I’ve seen this opera three times, and every time it perplexes me and moves me profoundly. About a week later, I wrote a post on The Turn of the Screw; in that post I wrote yet again about Parsifal. I linked to Himadri’s blog, and we had a most pleasing exchange in the Comments section of that post.
Anyway, Himadri is unfailingly gracious and learned; I recommend The Argumentative Old Git to all those who value literate discourse (which I fear is becoming increasingly rare).
Before leaving the subject of blogs, I’d like to mention that Martin Edwards of Do You Write Under Your Own Name recently shared the great news that he has written a book about the history of crime fiction. Called The Golden Age of Murder and focusing in particular on the Detection Club, it is to be published in May of next year by HarperCollins. You can pre-order this book on Amazon – I’ve already done it.
Finally, I’d like to conclude with some things of beauty:
Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Uvarov:
And finally…’Beauty too rich for use; For earth, too dear!’
Alessandra Ferri and Angel Corella
Recently, I embarked on a long overdue updating of my blog roll. And oh, what a perilous undertaking! These blogs are not only wonderful in their own right – beautifully written and in many cases beautiful looking too – but these book lovers are very persuasive as well.
Do I need more ideas on what to read? Well, let’s see. I am currently immersed in the following:
1. Edmund Pearson on Lizzie Borden, written in 1937. What a gem this is – one of the many recommendations I’ve gleaned from Harold Schechter in True Crime: An American Anthology. It’s available full text online. I love Pearson’s writing. (My endlessly resourceful husband placed this document on my Kindle app. I did not even know such a thing was possible!)
2. Sparta by Roxana Robinson. I’m reading this for a book club discussion. I had my doubts about this story of a young Iraqi War veteran’s return to his family and civilian life. But actually I think it’s quite wonderful.
3. I’m continuing to work my way through the Schechter anthology. There’s some terrific material included here, perhaps none more powerful, not to mention shocking, than A Memorable Murder (the Smuttynose Murder) by Celia Thaxter.
4. The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin by Robert J. Begiebing. This is reread, and as sometimes happens, I’m not as enthralled with it as I was the first time around. Still, I’m enjoying the depiction of Puritan life in New England. This novel was inspired by an actual crime, and so it fits in well with the background research I’m doing for the true crime course I’ll be teaching next spring.
5. The World of Christopher Marlowe by David Riggs. I’m not sure by what route this book found its way onto my Kindle app, but I’m very glad it did. It is just the change of pace I need right now. And here’s a funny thing. I was thinking to myself, when I first started reading it, that it did not fit in with my current true crime reading. And my very next thought was, oh, wait – Christopher Marlowe, the great reckoning in a little room…. I’ll be interested to see what this author has to say about the murder of the one contemporary of Shakespeare’s who might some day have rivaled the Bard himself for sheer literary genius.
This isn’t actually all, but it’s enough for now, I’d say. But oh, no, I had to go browsing in wonderful book blogs, like:
Booksplease. How could I have absented myself for so long from Margaret’s delightful site? Have a look for yourself. She has reminded me how much I like W.J. Burley’s Wycliffe mysteries; I’m getting ready to order Wycliffe and the Four Jacks as per her recommendation. And I plan to read Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare biography after I’ve finished the Marlowe book (pant, pant).
Detectives Beyond Borders. What fun! And edifying, too. There’s a thoughtful post about historical fiction, a review of Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and the Bad – already on my to-read list, though the sample I downloaded was rather scary. Blogger Peter Rozovsky is getting ready to attend Bouchercon 2014 in California.. Lucky you, Mr. Rozovsky. I went in 2008 when it was just down the road in Baltimore and loved it. And thanks for the recommendation of Kevin Starr’s work. I too am fascinated by the history of California.
Do You Write Under Your Own Name. A long time favorite this one. Martin Edwards writes lively reviews of books, television shows, and films, plus all manner of information about crime fiction scene in the UK. He’s the author of the Lake District series of mysteries, which I highly recommend. One of my favorite features on Martin’s blog is Forgotten Books. This is where I’ve gotten lots of good ideas for reading in the classics.
Last June, when I went to New York to see the ballet, I wrote about the striking changes at Lincoln Center. In today’s Washington Post, in a piece entitled Stepping Up, Philip Kennicott addresses the subject in more detail. He also makes a point of how much Washington’s Kennedy Center could use a similar makeover. More than anything, the Kennedy Center needs to be connected to the rest of the city. As things stand now, driving there is a harrowing experience. There’s no subway stop close by, either. It’s a frustrating state of affairs, because the offerings at the Center are top notch, especially with regard to ballet and the symphony. We’ve decided to go in April, so that we can hear Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony perform Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. I’m eager to hear this glorious music live, but I’m trying not to think about negotiating that tangle of roads!
This year, Christoph Eschenbach became the music director of the National Symphony:
One of my favorite blogs in D.G. Myers’s Commonplace Blog. I especially like a post entitled “Hanukkah,” in which Dr. Myers explains what the expression “Happy Holidays” means to him as an Orthodox Jew. Considering its somewhat dyspeptic opening remarks, the piece concludes with an affirmation that really moved me, and that I agree with wholheartedly.
Rich Cohen’s provocative and fascinating piece of film criticism, “It’s a Wonderful Life”: The most terrifying movie ever,” appeared, somewhat Grinch-like, in the Christmas Eve edition of Salon Magazine. I think he is really on to something here. This movie is frightening in much the same “A Christmas Carol” is frightening. Yes, you get the happy ending, but the dark subtext is still lurking beneath the surface gaiety. Mostly, it is such a relief that things turned out well in the end, as they so easily might not have.
I’ve been enjoying Margaret’s blog Booksplease for quite some time now. She’s a terrific reader whose reviews and comments are invariably worth reading. And she takes such lovely pictures of the English countryside, once again covered in snow!
. Ron and We knew we would love the Glen Gould film; what we didn’t expect was how moved we were by the Humphrey biography. Some of the images from the sixties were hard to watch. And we learned a great deal about Hubert Humphrey that we did not know, that was worth knowing. He was not a perfect man, but it seems to me that in many ways, he was a great man. It is worth recalling the words of Walter Mondale’s eulogy:
Above all, Hubert was a man with a good heart. And on this sad day it would be good for us to recall Shakespeare’s words:
A good leg will fall. A straight back will stoop. A black beard will turn white. A curled pate will grow bald. A fair face will wither. A full eye will wax hollow. But a good heart is the sun and the moon. Or rather the sun and not the moon, for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps its course truly.
He taught us all how to hope and how to live, how to win and how to lose, he taught us how to live, and finally, he taught us how to die.
As for Glenn Gould, the film gives us a strange, eccentric individual who was also a supremely gifted musician. There’s some priceless footage of the pianist here, and interviews with those that knew him do much to shed light on this complex and secretive man.
As a way of passing time while recovering from a surgical procedure, Ben Davis has started a blog. There are currently two entries on A Davis is A Davis Does, both involving medical matters. Don’t worry – along with being slightly scary, they are actually quite entertaining. (Actually the second entry is rather more than slightly scary. It’s entitled “It pays to read the label” – advice which I, his mother, fervently hope he takes to heart!)
[Click here for Part One of this post.]
Thanks to Bish’s Beat for spotlighting my review of Peter Turnbull’s Turning Point. (More cute grandkids here, too!)
And speaking of Peter Turnbull – which I do, at every opportunity – another link to the above review was provided by Donna at Big Beat from Badsville. I was delighted to discover this blog, which focuses with energy and enthusiasm on Scottish crime fiction.
Shelf Love: I deeply appreciate the sentiments expressed by Teresa concerning a passion for reading. Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – I share them wholeheartedly. If you scroll further down the lovely Sunday Salon post, you’ll find “Notes from the Reading Life.” Under “Books To Remember,” Teresa cites my review of Zeitoun.
Teresa has also linked to Jonathan Veitch’s convocation address at Occidental College. It is well worth reading.
Once again- thanks to the bloggers who have recently linked to Books to the Ceiling. As I’ve mentioned before, writing this blog has proved to be much harder and more challenging than I had originally anticipated, so it is very rewarding to receive praise and recognition, especially from those who are themselves gifted and perceptive writers.
In recent weeks, a number of bloggers have graciously linked to posts on Books to the Ceiling. I would like to return the compliment.
First, many thanks to Kerrie of Mysteries in Paradise. Kerrie nominated my blog for a Splash Award! Kerrie’s blog is a great source for reviews and other interesting news concerning crime fiction, to which, in her own words, she is “seriously addicted.” (Oh dear – some of us know that feeling all too well!)
A critic and literary historian at Texas A&M University, D.G. Myers writes the wonderfully erudite Commonplace Blog. He has done me the honor of placing Books to the Ceiling on his blogroll. In addition, in a post dated July 9, Myers included a link to my review of The Little Stranger. (Shana Tovah to you, too, Professor. One has sung the apple-and-honey song many times…)
I’ve been reading and enjoying Booksplease for quite a while now. Margaret’s reviews and comments are always worth reading, and she writes beautifully. In a post dated July 14, she mentions that she checked Peter Robinson’s A Strange Affair out of her local library as per my recommendation.
I love Nan’s blog, Letters from a Hill Farm! Of course you do, you may well retort – she likes all the same authors you do! Yep – she does – a woman of rare discernment, I’d say. Nan’s blog also features lots of recipes (often for just the kind of delicacies I can no longer eat, alas) and great photos and video clips. It is a very enjoyable place to hang out.
Earlier this month, Nan posted a review of An April Shroud, the fourth entry in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel & Pascoe series. I like the way she describes herself as being “powerless” over this extraordinary series of crime novels; I feel the same way about them. When I realized that this is the book in which Ellie and Peter get married, I got online and ordered it immediately. I came to this series with Bones and Silence, the 1990 title that won the Gold Dagger. By then, the series had already been running for twenty years. I wasn’t sure if I could read the older novels with the same degree of enjoyment that I’ve experienced with the later ones, but I read A Ruling Passion (1973) two years ago and loved it. Now – on to An April Shroud. Bless the good folks at Felony & Mayhem for reprinting these titles. At the conclusion of her review of An April Shroud, Nan linked to my recent post on this fine small press.
Justin of Justin’s Ramble describes himself as “the merry nerd of Nottingham,” but he strikes me as a person of wide-ranging interests. I enjoy his bright, discursive prose style, and he has certainly got VERY CUTE GRANDCHILDREN. (I get the biggest kick out of all these besotted grandparents – long may they dote!) Justin has paid me the compliment of including this blog on his list of “Fab sites.”
One other thing about Justin: here’s his picture: . Is it just me, or is there a slight resemblance to Ian McEwan…?
I have more bloggers to thank, but I’ve run out of juice for now, so – more to come!
I warmly recommend the following sites:
First – the case of the burgeoning blogroll…
Art and Faith features some fantastic Russian paintings, like the one below:
Mystery Fanfare is Janet Rudolph’s blog. Janet is the founder of Mystery Readers International. The unset alarm clock (love that name!) is the blog of a book loving retired librarian. And finally, a mutual love of the novels of Reginald Hill led me to “Payal Dhar, Wordsmith” and the delightful Writeside.net.
Second – yet another book list, and it’s big, really big…
Yes, just as all of us fanatical readers were recovering from the onslaught of “Best of 2008” lists, here comes the Guardian Online with 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I appreciate the use of the word “must” rather than “should.” Even so: give me strength, give me time!
The first entry posted on Books to the Ceiling is dated March 26, 2007. When I began this undertaking – little suspecting the challenges with which it would present me! – one of the many aspects of the blogging process that I struggled with was the last-in-first-out model. And so, Dear Readers, that first entry is entitled “Best of 2006 – Part Two.” Where, you may reasonably ask, is Part One? Well, it ended up being posted several days later, on April 1, 2007, to be exact.
Those two “Best of” posts show how new I was to the process. There was the above noted difficulty which resulted in Part Two of a post preceding Part One. And there’s an obvious – glaring to me at this point, a year later – absence of visuals. Blogging is a classic example of learning by doing, though. I’ve now reached a level of comfort with the software that allows me to focus on content. There’s more I could learn, I know – but I’ve been too busy writing, uploading, and linking to take the time to delve deeper into WordPress’s many features.
I’d like to celebrate my first year of blogging by spending more time on some of the other terrific blogs I’ve come to know and enjoy. I’ m going to start at the top of my blogroll and work my way down. And it will be my pleasure to point you to posts that I think you’d enjoy reading.
Books to the Ceiling is much more labor intensive than I thought it would be. Writing, which I’ve been doing in erratic spurts since childhood and which my mother did beautifully, is proving to be much harder than I thought it would be. At times, I feel that I am struggling to keep the element of enjoyment foremost. Nevertheless – I persevere! And I really have to thank, first and foremost, my husband Ron, whose unfailing support, both technical and general, has been indispensable. (I’m always teasing him about being “the wind beneath my wings,” at which time he rolls his eyes heavenward!) My friends have also been enthusiastic and generous; this is especially true of Lisa B. from the Central Library. Thanks, Lisa!