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Archive for August, 2010

Have you heard of The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais?  Despite positive reviews from both NPR and The New York Times, this incredibly descriptive book does not seem to be attracting the attention and wide-spread affection that I believe it deserves.  It is a beautiful, elegant fairy tale in a culinary setting: there are many obstacles to be overcome but also a fairy godmother to guide our hero along and to develop his gastronomic gift. 

From India to England to the French Alps and, finally, to Paris, the novel follows the life of Hassan Haji, who grows from a boy with an extraordinary sense for food into one of France’s finest chefs.  Born to a family of Muslim restaurateurs in Bombay/Mumbai, Hassan grows up in the kitchen, passionate about food from a very young age.  When his mother is killed, Hassan’s father packs up the family and move to Europe, living briefly in England before finally settling in Lumière, an idyllic town in the French Alps, where the family opens an Indian restaurant directly across the street from the livid Madame Mallory, with her French country inn and two-star restaurant.  For Hassan, it is Madame Mallory who changes his life for it is she who recognizes in him “that mysterious something that comes along in a chef once a generation…He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born.  He is an artist.  A great artist” (p. 93).      

The love and attention that Morais gives to the meals he describes almost brought me to tears several times.  My mouth was watering over the fish curries described at the beginning of the novel and I don’t even like fish!  All the descriptions are incredibly sensual, giving amazing impressions of colour, smell, and, above all, taste.  To read this book and not long for the meals described is unthinkable. 

I really can’t think of any other fictional book that is so respectful and passionate about food, that pays such close attention to the details, that understands the interplay of nostalgia and emotion that is tied up in any good meal.  The Harrods food hall scene stands out in particular: in two – not even two! – pages you, like Hassan and his father, are overwhelmed and awed by the sheer variety of what is on offer, by the bounty of so many nations, so many different culinary traditions.  The world, you are reminded just as they are learning, is a very big place where no one cuisine can dominate. 

Morais’ characters do have a tendency to speak in aphorisms, but as least they are sensible ones, my favourites being “…a gourmand is a gentleman with the talent and fortitude to continue eating even when he is not hungry” (P. 170 -171) and “…never forget a snob is a person utterly lacking in good taste” (p. 234).  The characters that make these remarks (Le Comte de Nancy and Madame Mallory) were perhaps my favourite characters in the entire novel, Le Comte acting as Hassan’s patron in Paris while Madame Mallory fills the pivotal role of fairy godmother, introducing Hassan to the art of French cooking, recognizing and fostering this young man with abilities she recognizes and respects as being far beyond her own.    

Indeed, I can give Morais no greater praise than to say that I now consider this one of the best and most descriptive books about food that I have read, alongside my favourites Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard and Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey.  To understand food and to be able to write about it so vividly and so charmingly makes the reader’s experience a pleasure – one that will not be soon forgotten.

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I should think that, by now, there are few among us who are not familiar with The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  From first hearing of it, it’s been the Persephone that I was most eager to read (despite it being an abridged edition).  As a child, I had mixed feelings towards FHB: I adored A Little Princess but nothing bored me more than The Secret Garden.  It seems that I have the same feelings towards her adult novels: I found The Making of a Marchioness to be tedious and unoriginal but now I find it difficult to describe how much I loved The Shuttle.

I could not put it down – I picked it up mid-afternoon and did not rest until I turned that last page hours later.  I, who am usually so disciplined about going to bed at a reasonable hour, read late into the night to see how it ended, sacrificing sleep for such satisfaction.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time this happened. 

The Shuttle considers the ‘dollar princesses’, wealthy American heiresses who married into the British nobility, giving the young ladies instant social standing and providing their husbands with much-needed funds.  At the beginning of FHB’s tale, young Rosalie Vanderpoel, eldest daughter of a New York millionaire, naively marries Sir Nigel Anstruthers, ignorant that, for him, the attraction of the match is her fortune, not herself.  But Bettina (Betty), Rosalie’s much younger sister, is immediately suspicious of her new brother-in-law.  When the family loses contact with Rosalie soon after her wedding, Betty knows that the cruelty she had glimpsed in Sir Nigel is being directed at her sister and so, as a child, she begins to plan her sister’s rescue and so most of the novel deals with a grown-up Betty carrying out that long-planned rescue.

It’s the character of Betty Vanderpoel that makes this novel so delightful and so memorable.  Betty is perfect.  Not in an obnoxious, insipid way, but in the sense that you can’t help admiring her, wishing there were more people like her in the world.  Indeed, there is an implication that if there were more women like Betty in the world to marry Englishmen, then the nation’s problems would be solved.  She has enthusiasm, intelligence, and a well-ordered mind.  I’m not sure I know how to praise someone more highly.  FHB describes her in equally glowing terms: 

She had genius, but it was not specialized.  It was not genius which expressed itself through any one art.  It was a genius for life, for living herself, for aiding others to live, for vivifying mere existence.  She herself was, however, aware only of an eagerness of temperament, a passion for seeing, doing, and gaining knowledge.  Everything interested her, everybody was suggestive and more or less enlightening. (p. 75-76)

Betty reminded me greatly of Polly from An Old-Fashioned Girl.  But with her money and connections and in a new century, Betty’s options are very different compared to those of her literary forbearers.  For all those people who insist that the talents of intelligent, wealthy women were wasted by not being employed outside of the home, I give Betty as the example that this is simply not true.  The considered management of an estate, the responsibility for those it supports, these are not light tasks and for Betty they are challenges, but ones her training and character make her well-suited to take on.  Betty is a born manager, but managers are needed outside of businesses, they are needed in homes and communities where they will not see remuneration for their efforts.  The respect and admiration she receives was particularly pleasing: male onlookers didn’t seem shocked that it was a woman managing the estate projects, just surprised that they’d finally be tackled and with such efficiency and taste!

When you have such an outstanding heroine, it is only natural that she must have a hero to equal her.  FHB casts the impoverished Lord Mount Dunstan in this role, first introduced during a shipboard crisis, allowing him and Betty to acknowledge one another as like souls in their ability to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs” (indeed, it occurs to me that Kipling’s ‘If’ would be the perfect poem for this extraordinary duo). 

Do you remember muscular Christianity?  Tom Brown et al? FHB repeatedly correlates the admirable physical appearance of leads with their moral superiority, never more so than when the following remark about them is made at a ball:

He is a magnificently built man, you know, and she is a magnificently built girl.  Everybody should look like that.  My impression would be that Adam and Eve did, but for the fact that neither of them had any particular character. (P. 327)

The very Victorian/Edwardian theme of health as a symbol of purity of spirit and moral character is let loose here: both Betty and Mount Dunstan are extraordinary for their physical appearance and, therefore, it follows that they are the most charitable, sensible, ethical characters.  And, of course, they have spirit and energy, traits viewed here as very American and contrasted against the decrepit (both morally and physically) Sir Nigel. 

The book had been going so well until it descended into cheap melodrama near the end, with Betty seeming losing all sense.  I shan’t go into detail, suffice to say that I found Betty’s behaviour extremely unconsidered and out of character.  We’re told over and over again how intelligent and rational Betty is and then she gets herself into this ridiculous situation!  After enjoying the book so much, I was sadly disappointed with FHB for descending to such cheap clichés, unworthy or her heroine or, frankly, of her usually subtle villain.

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Library Lust – redux

A-Cero Architects

Do you see this room?  Do you understand why after seeing this today I couldn’t wait to share it, despite having done a Library Lust post only a few hours ago?  Is it not gorgeous and modern and wonderful, with an incredibly stylish rolling ladder?  Yes, I wouldn’t mind a sofa or a few chairs to sit in but, aside from that, it’s a fabulous room.  When I first glimpsed it, I caught my breath and immediately thought “I want it” – if that’s not the definition of library lust, I don’t know what is!

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Library Lust

 

I’m not entirely sure what draws me to this room.  I prefer light bookcases to dark, structured furniture to overstuffed, and, more than anything, I dislike square shelves.  By those preferences, I should hate this room.  But I don’t.  It seems so inviting and I’d be willing to let go of my prejudices just for the chance to browse those shelves.

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Friday Potpourri

via bookshelves.tumblr

Now, in case it hasn’t been made perfectly clear already, I like my dead tree books.  With their fragile pages, varying qualities of binding glue, and occasionally blurry ink, they are my constant companions.  Wherever I go, my books go with me.  From experience, I know that I can squeeze them into incredibly small spaces in my bag that shouldn’t physically be able to hold a toothpick.  No one is going to steal them, no one is going to get distracted by how new and shiny they are, or, worse, try and talk to me in public places about them when all I want to do is get on with my reading.  So, this week, I bring to you articles on e-books and e-readers (naturally):

A recent NPR article (“Books Have Many Futures”) isn’t entirely dismissive of print books, it has enough quotes from other sources (“books have been an increasingly inconvenient luxury”) to set my teeth on edge.

An article in the NYT noted how e-readers were erasing “any negative notions or stigmas associated with reading alone” by making their readers more approachable.  I’m the kind of reader who would tell someone where to get off if they were rude enough to interrupt my reading to talk not about my reading material but the format in which I was reading it.  I must be honest, I was also rather upset at the accusation that e-reader-users are making reading “cool”.   

To calm me down and put everything in perspective, there comes from The Atlantic this interesting piece: 10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books

Finally, though it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above, NPR shares Tom Rachman’s guilty reading pleasure: obituaries.  Tom!  My kindred soul!  One of my favourite chapters in his recent novel The Imperfectionists was the one centered on the newspaper’s obituary columnist, having long been a devotee of The Economist obituary section myself (there are few things in the world so perfect as this book).  Rachman, however, appears to favour The Daily Telegraph’s obituaries, with which I am unfamiliar.  Clearly, I will have to look into this.

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A Random Bookish Interlude

This seems to be a popular meme right now and, not feeling up to writing the review I had planned to, I thought this would be a fun diversion.  I always love to read other people’s answers and it was quite interesting to think about my answers to these questions. 

 

1. Favorite childhood book?
The World of Christopher Robin by A.A. Milne

2. What are you reading right now?
Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Far more than I should have as a responsible reader. 

4. Bad book habit?
Not sure.  Sometimes I have to shelve them two rows deep due to space restrictions and this pains my soul.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Again, too many to list individually.  A nice mix of fiction and non-fiction, I think.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Absolutely not.  I loathe them.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Several, to suit my many different moods.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not my reading habits, no.  My reading choices certainly have as I’ve been inspired by recommendations from other readers.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I really disliked The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Either Mrs Tim of the Regiment or The Rehearsal.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I’m not entirely sure what my comfort zone is these days…

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
See above.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Oh yes, it’s where I get some of my best reading done.  On a busy day it might be the only time I get to read, so I treasure my bus rides.  Buses, trains, airplanes, boats, cars…all perfect reading locations.

14. Favorite place to read?
A nook in the library at Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex.  I’ve been looking for an adequate replacement ever since I left…

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Only to those who can be trusted to treat them very, very well. 

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
NO!  You must not do that to a book.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
See above.

18. Not even with text books?
This is what Post-Its are for.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English.  My French and German hold up better against the classics than modern fiction with colloquialisms I can’t understand. 

20. What makes you love a book?
I fall in love quite easily with my reading material.  If it fills some need, for entertainment or education, and does it in a way that holds my interest and encourages me to think about the characters or ideas long after I’ve put it down, then I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I enjoyed it or if I know a friend is interested in the topic.

22. Favorite genre?
I like variety in my reading, so I try not to stick to any one genre.  If I had to choose, I’d say that I prefer Memoirs.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

24. Favorite biography?
The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Joan Aiken Hodge

Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Sisters by Mary S. Lovell

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Not as such.  I once had to read several for a school project on psychology.

26. Favorite cookbook?
From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes From the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Why We Act Like Canadians by Pierre Berton

28. Favorite reading snack?
No favourite.  I’m not wild about having food near my books, certainly not anything that might stain.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Barbara Pym.  I want to like her since everyone else seems to, but I’ve never been hugely impressed and then I just feel like a failure.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don’t often read non-blogger reviews of the books I read.  When I do, I’d say I agree about 50% of the time. 

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Generally, if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t finish it and therefore won’t review it.  If I do finish it and still dislike it, then I have no problem in saying so.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Czech.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Germinal by Emile Zola.  Not precisely intimidating, but something I was hesitant to start and probably would not have read if it hadn’t been for a University course. 

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything but Proust?  But I’m not sure nervous is the right word – I’m just not particularly interested.

35. Favorite Poet?
Kipling.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Around 10.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Very often.  Usually around 50% of what I check out is returned unread, for a variety of reasons.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
So many wonderful options…I’ll have to go with Professor Moriarty, introduced in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem.”  Always best to go with an evil genius, I think.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything by P.G. Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
5 years, from birth until school-age.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Wuthering Heights  by Emily Bronte

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Nothing.  Seriously.  I can (and have) read through earthquakes – after that, I can’t imagine what I would find distracting.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, based on the novel by Muriel Spark.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Mansfield Park (1999), based on the novel by Jane Austen

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
$200 while Christmas shopping.  I really don’t buy that many books for myself.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never. 

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If I’m not interested in the characters or the story or if the writing is proving sub-par.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Oh yes. 

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep.  But I usually only buy a book after I’ve read it and know that it’s something I’ll want to have in my personal library.  Most of my reading material comes through the library.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
I’m not terribly interested in crime novels or thrillers.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The Immigrant by Manju Kapur.  So much wasted potential.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Vanessa and Virgina by Susan Sellers

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Isa & May by Margaret Forster

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Anything by P.G. Wodehouse and Georgette Heyer (like my preferred vacation reading)

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Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and myself that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

 

Marg has the Mr Linky this week

 

The return of the blurry library loot photo!  I find something strangely satisfying about stacking all my books up and then taking bad pictures.  It’s possible that I need more/better hobbies.  But it’s been an odd sort of week and this return to routine is comforting, in it’s own blurry way.  Only four books today, though there are several currently enroute to my library branch that I’m very excited about – but more about them next week!  Onto this week’s haul:

Going Home by Harriet Evans
I’ve been feeling the need for some light reading lately and this hold came in just in time to sate that desire.  Evans’ books are always entertaining, peopled by eccentric people I would hope never to meet in real life, making it easier to handle heroines who are insufferably dense.  Good fun. 

Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon
Again, in the light reading vein.  Mysteries are not my thing but I am very fond of the television adaptations of the Brunetti mysteries so I thought I’d finally try one of the books.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
A memoir of a white girl’s childhood growing up in southern and central Africa in the 1970s and 1980s

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Every review I’ve seen for this has compared it to Sense and Sensibility.  After that, was there any chance that I wasn’t going to read it?  It’s also a sort of recent historical fiction, set in California during the dot-com boom of the nineties.

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I’m not sure how rational or coherent I can be when discussing Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan.  Simply put, I loved it.  I was a fan of MacMillan’s beforehand (she is one of my favourite Canadian writers) and I’ve always been fascinated by British India, so when the two are combined…well, it makes for a truly excellent reading experience.  This was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down but which, at the same time, I didn’t ever want to finish.  My father, who was rather bored at the time I was reading this and was therefore a perfect victim for long, rambling conversations, was treated to daily recaps of what I had learned, down to the smallest detail and together we mused over the inconvenience of cobras dwelling in ones ceilings.  When you have a book you’re so excited about it’s wonderful to be able to gush about it to someone.  Blogging is all well and good, but nothing beats a conversation.

MacMillan has arranged the book perfectly.  Each chapter deals with a particular theme (“Voyage Out”, “Women in Danger”, “On Holiday”, to name a few) but she is also telling a history, mostly working chronologically though each section makes allusions to events throughout the history of the Raj.  MacMillan writes clearly and engagingly, as those familiar with Paris 1919 or Nixon in China will know, drawing on interviews, memoirs, and letters to paint a vivid picture of the life these women lived so far from Home.  MacMillan truly writes accessible history: you don’t need any great background knowledge in order to enjoy Women of the Raj.  Events of historical importance, such as the 1857 mutiny, are explained simply and briefly, giving the reader the necessary context but not bogging him/her down with superfluous details.  As much as I appreciated what MacMillan was doing for her readers with these explanations, I did at times become frustrated, wishing that space hadn’t been taken up discussing ballroom etiquette (such as how many dances a girl could have with one man without causing too much talk) but I also recognize that much of my reading covers this period, both in India and Europe, and my knowledge base is therefore greater than the average reader’s when it comes to such details.

India during the time of the Raj had much stricter social rules governing the small ex-pat community compared with England (‘Home’) during the same period.  Rules are always meant to create order in any civilization but in a country where you’re vastly outnumbered by those you rule and are not just civil servants, soldiers, and businessmen but representatives of Empire, such rules are doubly important.  The first and foremost obligation of the British in India was “loyalty to the community.”  It was a responsibility most took very seriously, believing “that the fate of their rule in India – the Raj – rested on the solidarity and will of that tiny elite” (p. 8).  ‘Going native’ was to be avoided at all costs and so the exiles did their best to keep their homes, their institutions, and themselves as British as possible:

Their wanderings made the British all the more conscious of the need to stick together…Sociability was part of belonging to the ruling race.  The British felt that any weakening of the team spirit would lead to a weakening of the Raj itself, and so they clung to each other with determination. (P. 45)

But, try as they may to keep the spirit of Home alive in this foreign environment, the Raj was always an “incomplete society” (p. 46).  It was, with a few exceptions, a solidly middle-class society: men went to India to make their fortunes.  The poor had no means of getting to India and would have found no suitable employment in the exile community once landed.  While at Home they might act as servants, native labour was so cheap in India that it was possible, and indeed, given the conditions, necessary, to keep double the number of servants one might have had at Home.  The wealthy upper classes had no need of the small fortunes that could be made in the Indian Civil Service (in the ex-pat’s rigid society rankings, those holding the top posts in the ICS were considered the elite) or as plantation owners.  A second son might be posted out to India briefly with his regiment but, for the most part, the exile community was staunchly middle class and middle class morality reigned supreme.  As Lord Lytton remarked during a visit in the late 1870s, “I wish I could report that our Empire is as well defended as our piety” (p. 197).  

But there was something else missing from India, as from the rich and the poor.  It was not just a middle class but also a middle aged society:

It had few old people because its members came to India to work and retired back to Britain.  It had young children but those in their teens were usually off in schools at Home.  The result, in the words of an old civil servant, was ‘a hard, practical, rather uniform society, uninspired by the imagination of youth nor softened by the sentiment of old age. (P. 46)

It’s difficult to imagine how surreal that must have been.  I posted a passage last week that discussed how families were separated when the children returned Home to school, with mothers having to decide between staying with their husbands in India or returning to England with their children.  Either way, for most of the Raj period, it meant a separation of at least a year.  For the children, even when accompanied by their mothers, the removal to England was a traumatic event:

For the children, being sent away was the greatest shock of their early lives.  It was one from which some of them never really recovered; is it surprising that they found it so difficult to trust anyone ever again?  They went from a world that was rich in colour and emotions to one that was cold and cramped.  In India, they were spoiled and made much of; in Victorian and Edwardian England, they were thrust into a society where children were seen and not heard.  They went to schools where India was to be driven out of their systems and Britain drummed in.  Unless their mothers stayed to supervise the process, it was hard for the children not to feel abandoned.  Sometimes they reacted by hating their parents, sometimes India; to this day, there are men and women who blame that country for separating them from their parents. (P. 140)

There were some absolutely fascinating comments on the master-servant relationships and of the preference/ranking of Indians according to religious affiliations in the chapter devoted to housekeeping.  English-language skills were not necessarily preferred; indeed, most memsahibs would rather learned enough of the local language to communicate on household matters rather than have servants who could eavesdrop and spread family secrets.  Hindus considered the British to be untouchables, which made for some rather creative solutions when mistresses had to tend to sick Hindu servants. 

I loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough.  For those like me who are already fascinated by the region and the era, it’s delightful but I think it would be equally valuable for those who view the Raj from a wary distance.  There’s been a lot of over-simplification of colonial activities and influence and it has become easy to condemn the sahibs and memsahibs without knowing much of what they actually did or how they interacted with the natives.  Or, as MacMillan concludes:

Today they tend to be remembered as dim, comic figures or vicious harridans who poisoned relations between the Indians and the British.  Neither memory does them justice.  They were living women, with worries, happinesses, and sorrows like anyone else.  Their world has gone now with its insular little community and its glory reflected from the Raj.  They probably would not have worried much about how posterity regards them.  They had a duty to do and they did it to the best of their abilities.  Most of all, they simply got on with living.  (P. 236)

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Library Lust

credit: loftlife (tumblr)

I am the least likely candidate for loft living.  I like walls and nooks and small, cozy rooms – completely the opposite of the open-concept loft style.  But…that bookshelf is a beautiful thing.  Any floor to ceiling bookshelf is certain to find favour with me but when the ceilings are this high?  It’s awe-inspiring.  And the idea of having to use a ladder to access one’s book has great appeal.

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Friday Potpourri

credit: BBC News

This week’s potpourri has absolutely nothing to do with books.  Instead, I chose to focus on something that makes me happy: people wearing costumes and being absolutely, ridiculously wonderful.  The start to a very happy weekend indeed.

 

The Chap Olympiad first came to my notice in July when The Guardian posted some rather fabulous photographs.  How not to love an event that includes such Monty-Python-esque competitions as: Bicycle Jousting, Cucumber Sandwich Discus, Hop-Skip-And-Jump-Carrying-A-Gin-and-Tonic and Slap the Bounder?  I have a particular passion for men in pith helmets and was feeling the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean more keenly than usual after this discovery.  And now, to taunt me one can only assume, my own Globe and Mail has published a bemused article on The Chap ‘movement’, admiring the subversive undertones of the ethos and pondering the “slippery slope between extreme conservatism and the cutting edge of modishness – if you like, the much-shortened passage from nerd to hipster extremist that contemporary culture seems to shruggingly accept”.

Much of my life seems to be spent wishing that I were a) somewhere more interesting than Calgary (this should come as a shock to no one) and b) wishing I could find a slightly more eclectic group of peers (this has much to do with point a).  This week, I was reminded once more that the only place to consistently find a concentrated group of true eccentrics seems to be London.

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