The other day, lacking something to read, I picked up a book at the Paris Review offices: Eleanor Perenyi’s More Was Lost, published in 1946 and recently reissued by New York Review Classics. Perenyi is probably best known today for her 1981 gardening memoir Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden. It’s considered a classic of its genre, but, having never had any particular interest in gardening, I’d never read her. Read More
The British call it Brick Lit: that genre of travel literature in which a sophisticatedly jaded man, woman, or couple falls in love with a crumbling farmhouse in some exotic, rural locale and in the comic struggle to restore said farmhouse, and via encounters with the native populace, gleans profound lessons about life, love, and local color. —Jonathan Miles, Garden and Gun
By any standard, Judy Corbett’s 2005 memoir, Castles in the Air, falls under the Brick Lit rubric. And its subtitle—“The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion”—may not inspire confidence in its novelty. And yet, I recommend it without reservation.
I came across the book in a British catalog when I was an editorial assistant and put in an order for this title and several others. I’ve never cared much about renovation stories—This Old House always left me cross-eyed with boredom—but it looked fun. It was, but it was much more than that. Read More
- Dracula’s castle is for sale. It dates to the twelfth century, it sits on a hill in Romania, and it costs eighty million dollars, purportedly. It is probably not air-conditioned.
- Remembering Nellie Bly, a journalist from the late nineteenth century: “Her name was, at one time, on the tip of every literate and tabloid-loving person’s tongue. Her work changed public policy, her outfits influenced fashion trends, and her adventures inspired board games.”
- Achieving Godzilla’s roar: “They tried to use recordings of animal sounds to get the beast’s distinctive shriek; Godzilla is more than a mere animal, though, and nothing quite captured the shriek they wanted to achieve … So they coated a leather glove in tar resin and then rubbed it along the string of a double bass.”
- Say it’s the fifties and you’re hanging out in Nevada, photographing the mushroom clouds from atom-bomb test sites. How do you make sure your photos end up in the newspapers, rather than some other schmuck’s? Simple: put a ballet dancer in the foreground.
- “Who destroys books? Cities, churches, dictators and fanatics. Their fingers itch to build a pyre and strike the match … And I, too, have committed murder in my library. I have killed my books.”