Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Pym’
March 26, 2013 | by Happy Menocal
1 A.M. Go to bed with Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals, a book about the work habits of famous artists, writers, philosophers, musicians, etc. Resolve to have a regimented, productive day tomorrow. All these people seem to subsist on coffee and alcohol and amphetamines. I feel like a toddler with my juice and crackers and noodles.
7:45 A.M. Begin work on a little ad that’s due today for Stubbs & Wootton—fancy slippers made in Spain. It’s for a promotion they’re doing during the Ides of March. Someone at the company started the e-mail chain for the ad with the subject line “Eyes of March,” and I kinda want to do the visual about that. Decide instead to just paint Caesar, wearing the slippers, looking warily over his shoulder. I google “man sitting on column” because I want Caesar to be sitting on a crumbled stump of a column, and find this devil dog.
My husband and I puzzle over where our two thousand terrible black umbrellas have gone, as now it’s raining and we have only one. He doesn’t bring it up this morning, but most times when we’re on the subject John likes to note that the pebbled plastic hook on the common street umbrella reminds him of that embalming tool they used in ancient Egypt to take your brain out through your nose. Read More »
January 6, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
I’ve been dreaming of hosting a cozy winter dinner party based on a famous meal from literature. What famous feasts are the most completely described? I’d like to be able to re-create the menu, the atmosphere, and the attire, if possible.
There are probably a few people in the world more interested in this question than I—but, I’d reckon, a very few. As long as we’re being frank here, you may as well know that I belong to a literary potluck society in which we do monthly themed dinners. (We have yet to venture into the realm of costume.)
Laurie Colwin once wrote a whole essay on books containing good food; she singled out the early novels of Iris Murdoch, the Barbara Pym canon, and Anna Karenina. Inasmuch as I own and have used the Barbara Pym Cookbook, I can’t really agree that any of these vivid descriptions would make for very satisfying dinner parties (or, in the case of czarist Russia, a very relaxing one for the cook).
Here are a few other ideas to get you started: The Master and Margarita (for more manageable Russian cuisine—and think of the costume opportunities!). If you fancy something Dickensian, see any of the gluttonous Joe’s numerous meals in The Pickwick Papers. If you really want to take the guesswork out of it, Heartburn comes complete with recipes. Proust is a no-brainer—if Proust can ever be called a no-brainer. If your interest runs to tea, root out Enid Blyton. And at the end of the day, does any book in the world have better food than Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy?
If you don’t feel like going the fictional route, there is always the food memoir. Nowadays, you’re spoiled for choice. Or (ration-bound Pym aside) consider the subgenre of cookbooks authored by enthusiastic writers: two whose quality is rivaled by their own idiosyncrasies are Roald Dahl's Cookbook and The Tasha Tudor Cookbook.
Whatever you decide, please drop a line and let me know—the group and I are always looking for ideas.
What do you think about movie adaptations of books? Are there any instances where you think the film actually improved on a particular story, or do you find that adaptations for the most part don’t do justice to the original text?
Of course there are terrific adaptations. The Godfather, after all, made a thriller into a baroque masterpiece. We could list successful adaptations all day—I hope you will, in comments—but just a few that I like: The 39 Steps, The Dead, Persuasion, The Remains of the Day, High Fidelity, The Leopard, and, most recently, the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which manages to cover a lot of ground with enviable economy.
I recently moved into a crumbling three-bedroom in Bushwick, with peeling hand-painted green wallpaper in the cramped and poorly lit stairwell. The front door’s peephole, the tin cover of which unmoors itself at night and clatters to the ground, overlooks a dismal and gloomy green landing, where I can easily envision a seedy groping or muffled strangling taking place. My own room is separated from the living room by an old-fashioned sliding parlor door about the size and weight of a Prius. The bathroom window opens into a murky blue chute, which smells like laundry and cigarettes and exhales a strange warmth. What books should I read here?
Reading’s the easy part—sounds like your pad is made for it. What you should watch, and posthaste, is Roman Polanski’s The Tenant.
On the other hand, maybe you shouldn’t.
January 6, 2012 | by The Paris Review
“Perhaps there can be too much making of cups of tea ... Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look. ‘Do we need tea?’ she echoed. ‘But Miss Lathbury ... ’ She sounded puzzled and distressed and I began to realize that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind.” Barbara Pym specialized in just such tiny landslides. Thanks to Sadie, over Christmas I read her 1952 novel Excellent Women, about the romantic tribulations of a self-professed spinster in postwar London. You can practically taste the PG Tips. —Lorin Stein
I spent most of the holidays battling a cold and so sought out purely pleasurable reading in Jeff Smith’s comic fantasy epic, Bone. I love feeling so submerged in a book that you can’t possibly tear yourself away; everything else is forgotten. —Nicole Rudick
I recently received this collection of Russian criminal tattoos as a gift. Knowing how to decipher these intricately coded designs could come in handy to anyone who feels they may, at some point, end up incarcerated indefinitely in the former Soviet Union. —Emma del Valle
Zola Jesus finally lets someone remix her music, and it’s David Lynch, remaking “In Your Nature.” —Natalie Jacoby
All the lonely winter souls should brave the cold and venture to Film Forum for the Robert Bresson retrospective. No other director so clearly captures humanity’s elegiac graces. As Jonathan Rosenbaum laments, “In spite of its importance, his work may have difficulty surviving, because most of it doesn’t ‘translate’ to video.” Starts today in glorious 35mm! —Josh Anderson
The comments section of the New York Times’ review of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a study in human nature (or something). For every actual review, there’s someone panning it on principle because they love the Alec Guinness version or the Le Carré novel and have no intention of seeing a remake (1 star); people who haven’t seen it but think it looks good (5 stars); and one guy who fell asleep ten minutes in (1 star). I, for one, recommend it highly: even if you’re a staunch devotee of the 1979 miniseries, you’ll find a lot to love. (And it’s worth it for the Julio Iglesias rendition of “La Mer” alone. Why is this not available for download anywhere?) —Sadie Stein
December 23, 2011 | by The Paris Review
“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now. —Lorin Stein
What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein
It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole RudickRead More »
November 14, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
4:00 A.M. I can’t sleep. Because I just moved from Brooklyn into Manhattan, my books aren’t unpacked, and so my reading options are limited. The only books I have handy are on decorating—although it’s usually a pretty theoretical study in my case. The pattern of the boards on the floor of this new apartment reminds me of floors I saw in Kraków when I visited there with my father, and I’ve decided rather grandly to do a sort of prewar Eastern European motif. (Again, this is probably theoretical. ) Wonder vaguely where one would find a tiled stove in New York.
I read a few chapters of the inimitable Dorothy Draper’s Decorating Is Fun!, which is filled with gems like “It is just as disastrous to have the wrong accessories in your room as it is to wear sport shoes with an evening dress,” as well as the somewhat less helpful “I don’t believe anything can do as much for a room as a glowing fire in an attractive fireplace. Men and dogs love an open fire—they show good sense. It is the heart of any room and should be kindled on the slightest provocation.” (That said, I’m guessing Alexa Chung or someone is wearing sports shoes with an evening dress as we speak, and probably causing a sensation. Imagine a world with rules and dicta. The mind boggles.)
5:30 A.M. Finally manage to drift off for a few hours, until a handyman unexpectedly knocks at the door at 7:45 to wash the windows. It occurs to me that this is just the sort of dubious ruse a murderer or thief might use to gain entrance to someone’s apartment; let him in anyway.
3:53 P.M. I get some sad family news. Internet is in and out here, but in a good moment, I find my favorite Barbara Pym quote: “The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things ... the trivial pleasure like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.”
4:45 P.M. My old boyfriend e-mails me about a recent fight he got into at a dinner party, over collective nouns. “I was quite put out, let me tell you,” he says. Read More »
August 26, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
I would like to know how to find jobs writing, as someone very new to the field. I am unsure where to start looking. Some ads just look like scams to me.
We received two queries on starting out as a writer this week, as it happens—maybe it’s the time of year? I always think of “back-to-school” as a much more logical starting point for new ventures than January 1, personally. But to answer your question, to the extent that that is possible in a few short paragraphs? First of all, the necessary warnings. Making your living as a writer is hard. Obvious, maybe, but it bears repeating. My parents—and for that matter, my grandfather—wrote for a living, and stable isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when discussing my childhood. I often think that if I had any other marketable skills, I’d do something else. And keep in mind that many of the great writers in history have done so while holding down day jobs. I’m sure the structure of regular employment—not to mention the financial security—is a real help to many.
But if you are serious about writing professionally, in any capacity, the best advice anyone can give you is to write, and as much as possible. Which is not to say you should go for any “gig” advertised on Craigslist; you’re right to be wary. People have different views on blogs. In my case, I found keeping a personal blog to be useful both in developing a voice and in forcing myself to be accountable to a readership, even if that readership was just my grandmother. I’d add the caveat, though, that you want to be careful what you put out there—this writing, as much as anything in your clips file, will define you both professionally and personally. For the pitch, think of interesting takes on things that genuinely engage you. Don’t be shy. Familiarize yourself with publications and Web sites and get to know their tones. Not everyone can pay much; that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile clip. Ask questions. Go to readings. Talk to everyone you meet. Keep in mind that there’s no shame in striking out—and you will—and that no rejection feels as bad as the knowledge that you haven’t tried.
What are some of your favorite author twitters?
I think we can all agree that the best writers don’t always make the best twitterers, and vice versa, but there are a few who have mastered both genres. (Is Twitter a genre? I’m afraid it might be.) Polymath Wil Wheaton—as one might expect from someone who exercises such economy of characters in the spelling of his own first name—is a Twitter star for a reason. Ditto the ever-entertaining Stephen Fry. Maud Newton is necessary reading for the reader. And Shakespeare (@WillShake) isn’t half-stepping, either.
Who is your literary style icon?
Fictionally speaking, I’ve definitely gone through phases where certain characters exerted undue influence. I’m no particular lover of Hemingway, but who wouldn’t be seduced by this description of Lady Brett Ashley: “She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that. She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with that wool jersey.” Oh, and she also sports a fedora. (Not recommended for an undersized sixteen-year-old, in case the younger me is reading this.) If we’re talking literary figures beyond the page, the list gets even longer: Carson McCullers, Barbara Pym, and my personal inspiration for the years 2003 to 2005, Sylvia Beach.
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