My mother used to subscribe to Victoria Magazine, and would pass me the issues once she was done with them. They were always filled with such stunning...moreMy mother used to subscribe to Victoria Magazine, and would pass me the issues once she was done with them. They were always filled with such stunning, softly-lit photographs of gardens and teacups and antique things from an era that really cared about making things beautiful, that each issue seemed like a mini-vacation. This book, by the editors of Victoria Magazine, is just like that. It's a little light on content--just a page or two at a time between photos--so anyone really looking for depth may be disappointed, although I did learn a few things about the early tea trade and made a note of a wonderful place I want to visit the next time I'm in Boston (Tealuxe). But the photographs...from a simple shot of an almost-empty teacup ready to have its leaves read to a grand view of the most amazing, ornate bridal shower spread I've ever seen, they're every bit as soothing and delightful as the beverage they illustrate. (less)
There can be great beauty in the worn and faded. Anyone looking for proof of that might well find it in the pages of this gorgeous book, by famed arch...moreThere can be great beauty in the worn and faded. Anyone looking for proof of that might well find it in the pages of this gorgeous book, by famed architecture photographer Brian Vanden Brink. It's a collection of photos of abandoned buildings, many of them in Maine where Vanden Brink lives, and all so beautifully shot and lit that you can almost see the years of history and the lives that played out inside them contained in their walls.
From the introduction by Howard Mansfield:
"What Brian Vanden Brink finds in ruins is a kind of melancholy. Free of clutter, free of us, a house gains stillness. It is a kind of stillness that we find on old country roads. It's the skull under the skin, the skeleton, the death inside us. It's the clock ticking our days away. We lack a good word for this kind of going away, this decay in which something else is present. Ghost or ruin doesn't convey it. The Japanese call this feeling mono no aware, defined as the bittersweet sadness of things as they are, or a sensitivity to the fleeting beauty of the world.
In the Land of the Next Big Thing, ruins are like preserves of mono no aware. A ruin invites us to enter; it is ours alone to inhabit. We can be the ghost of the future come to visit, to render a judgment if we care. Prowling an abandoned house we can spy on ourselves and imagine what our house will be like when we are gone. It's like placing a call to an empty apartment. Though we know better, we can't help imagining that we are hearing the phone itself ring in that empty room."
Why don't I ever get the really plummy assignments like this? I was olive drab with envy from the first page, which may have biased me a bit. The auth...moreWhy don't I ever get the really plummy assignments like this? I was olive drab with envy from the first page, which may have biased me a bit. The author was hired by the owners of Heathrow to be a 'writer in residence' at the glorious new Terminal 5--essentially to hang out at the airport for a week, observing people, listening to their conversations and exploring what happens behind the scenes. The result is an erudite, thoughtful, highly philosophical take on travel and writing and what it all means:
"Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way--towards a busy street or terminal--before they run out of their burrows."
“At arrivals, there were forms of welcome of which princes would have been jealous, and which would have rendered inadequate the celebrations laid on at Venice’s quaysides for the explorers of the Eastern silk routes.”
“Out of the millions of people we live among, most of whom we habitually ignore and are ignored by in turn, there are always a few who hold hostage our capacity for happiness, whom we could recognize by their smell alone and whom we would rather die than be without.”
Lovely stuff, to be sure. But I couldn't help but wonder what some other writers (like me, for instance?) would have made of the assignment. (less)
This gorgeous thing is pornography for book lovers. I actually said as much to the starchy New England librarian when I checked it out, and, after bei...moreThis gorgeous thing is pornography for book lovers. I actually said as much to the starchy New England librarian when I checked it out, and, after being somewhat taken aback, she agreed. The very finest in home library voyeurism, it consists of glossy color photos of the personal libraries of collectors, designers, writers, artists, and grand houses, mostly in France, and every one fabulous. My very favorite was the "Library of Babel" of Jose Alvarez (founder of the Editions du Regard publishing house), which spans two floors and includes an Anselm Kiefer sculpture bang in the middle of the room. If I had the money, I'd build mine just like that.
My only complaint? Not enough close up shots to be able to examine the titles on the shelves. That's half the fun. (less)
Heinrich Jost, a Sergeant in the German Army stationed near Warsaw was a curious sort, and on his 43rd birthday on September 19th, 1941 he went to the...moreHeinrich Jost, a Sergeant in the German Army stationed near Warsaw was a curious sort, and on his 43rd birthday on September 19th, 1941 he went to the Warsaw Ghetto with his camera. The result, locked in his desk for over 40 years, is a very comprehensive look at life and death inside the Ghetto.(less)
Loved this. Each page has a letter and a noir-ish, suggestive word framed in an old silent movie title card ("L is for Lascivious", "M is for Menacing...moreLoved this. Each page has a letter and a noir-ish, suggestive word framed in an old silent movie title card ("L is for Lascivious", "M is for Menacing"), and opposite is a photo aptly illustrating the word, many of them profoundly creepy and strange, all beautifully shot.(less)