Book Marks

bookmarksNEW2This Saturday, April 30th, is Independent Book Store Day. Needless to say, I’ll be spending some time at my favorite Indie book shop, Boswell Book Company.

Too broke to travel the world? Well, travel through the power of books!

The perfect shoe for book lovers!!!

More goodies for book lovers!!!

And here are the perfect dishes for book lovers!!!

Author Ann Patchett on the care and feeding of an Independent Book Store.

Songs inspired by literature.

All 20-something ladies should read Sylvia Plath. P.S. I just knew I was going to get along with a former co-worker when I noticed she had Mad Girl’s Love Song written on her leather jacket.

How one community is being enhanced through the library.

One of my favorite country singers, Robbie Fulks, and his take on literature.







Retro Review: The Poetry of Dorothy Parker


“I was just a little Jewish girl trying to be cute.”—Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker was probably one of the sharpest, wittiest women of the 20th century. She wrote everything from screenplays to short stories to literary criticism for Enough Ropepublications like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Life, and the New Yorker.  But as April draws to a close, I want to concentrate on Dorothy Parker’s poetry.

Parker sold her first poem to Vanity Fair in 1914. Even after she honed her writing talents on other projects, she never stopped writing poems. She published several tomes of her poetry, and I was fortunate to find a couple books featuring her poems at my local library, Enough Rope and The Collected Poetry of Dorothy Parker. Even though most of these poems were written nearly a century ago, they still hold up today and are relatable to modern audiences. Collected poetry DP

Like so many ladies, Parker was often bewildered when it came to romance and relationships. And she summed up this bewilderment in this brief and perfectly stated poem:

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you’re his
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

Only a few short lines, but says so much. Unfortunate Coincidence is both timeless and timely. In fact, while reading Parker’s poetry I couldn’t help think how well she would have done on social media, using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to post her poems to a global audience.

Among her other love-based poetry, I also love the following pieces of perfectly posed pithy poems:

General Review of the Sex Situation

Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman’s moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

Pictures in the Smoke
Oh, gallant was the first love, and glittering and fine;
The second love was water, in a clear white cup;
The love was his, and the fourth was mine;
And after that, I always get them mixed up.


They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They’ll try to make your different;
And once they have you, safe and sound,
They’ll want to change you all around.
Your moods and woods they put a cure on;
They’d make of you another person.
They cannot let you go your gait;
They influence and educate.
They’d alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.

And the following poem reminds me of past suitors who always treated my writing as a “cute little hobby.” Somehow my feelings are more artfully stated in Parker’s poem Fighting Words than a profane response like, “Fuck you.”

Fighting Words
Say my love is easy had
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I’m too often sad—
Still behold me at your side.

Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue,—
Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!

And then there are a lady’s platonic relationships, and she had a poem aimed at “frenemies” long before Carrie Bradshaw and Co. came up with the concept.

The Leal

The friends I made have slipped and strayed,
And who’s the one that cares?
A trifling lot and best forgot—
And that’s my tale and, and theirs.

Then if my friendships break and bend,
There’s little need to cry T
he while I know that every foe
Is faithful till I die.

And what about America’s preoccupation with self-reflection and self-help? Why, yes. Parker wrote a poem those things, too.

Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and foe.

Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

But eventually the concepts of love, friendship, the power of written verses, and a maddening fixation with oneself grows tiresome. What else is there? Why, fashion, of course! And Parker knew the charms fabulous frock.

The Satin Dress

Needle, needle, dip and dart,
Thrusting up and down,
Where’s the man could ease a heart
Like a satin gown?

See the stitches curve and crawl
Round the cunning seams—
Patterns thin and sweet and small
As a lady’s dreams.

Wantons go in bright brocade;
Brides in organdie;
Gingham’s for the plighted maid;
Satin’s for the free!

Wool’s to line a miser’s chest;
Crepe’s to calm the old;
Velvet hides an empty breast
Satin’s for the bold!

Lawn is for a bishop’s yoke;
Linen’s for a nun;
Satin is for wiser folk—
Would the dress were done!

Satin glows in candlelight—
Satin’s for the proud!
They will say who watch at night,
“What a fine shroud!”

Sadly, Parker’s finely-honed wit and vast writing talent thinly veiled her struggles with depression, drinking, divorce, not to mention career woes and a lack of self-esteem, which made her very dismissive of both her talents and accomplishments. Yet, somehow she was able to find a humor in the gallows, and commented suicidal thoughts in one of her most notable poems, Résumé.

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Dorothy Parker died nearly forgotten in 1967, but became legendary and an icon to anybody who appreciates salty good humor with mad writing skills. She is a true icon and inspiration to ladies of letters, including this one. Of Parker’s work The Nation described it as “caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity”. Dorothy Parker, you were so much more than a “little Jewish girl trying to be cute.” You are a heroine to every girl and women who bravely picked up pen and paper and put thoughts into words.

Book Marks: Earth Day Special

earth_day_logo_notext_categoryThe best children books to inspire your kids celebrate and save the planet.

Notable environmental books that helped launch the green movement.

Thirty-six books on how to be green and stay green this Earth Day and beyond courtesy of Good Reads.

It is only appropriate one of my favorite fellow crafters, Danny Seo, was born on Earth Day. Happy Birthday! And check out his magazine, Naturally, byDanny Seo.

How writers were the on the forefront of saving the environment.


Retro Review: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns (Introduction by Emily Gould)

961247_1_12916-woolworths.png_standardPublished in 1950 Barbara Comyn’s slim novel, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, has been re-discovered for a modern audience. Emily Gould’s name may sound familiar to some of my readers. She wrote the novel Friendship, which I reviewed in 2014. Gould wrote the introduction to Comyn’s novel, and offers some interesting insight to not only Our Spoons Came From Woolworth’s but Barbara Comyn’s life as well. Here is my review. Enjoy!

Sophia Fairclough is 21, and struggling artist in 1930s pre-war London. She meets, Charles, another young artist while on the train and they hastily marry, thinking they will live a somewhat glamorous life of bohemians while making money painting. However, like the United States, Great Britain is also in the grips of the Depression. And Sophia and Charles; bohemian glamorous life is one of extreme poverty and struggle. Charles refuses to get a proper job, thinking it will make him a “sell-out,” so it is up to the more practical Sophia to get a job working as a figure model for art classes. Still the few pounds and pence Sophia makes in no way stretches far enough to take care of her and her husband and their household expenses.

Things become even more problematic when Sophia becomes pregnant with their son, Sandro. Sophia’s quite naïve when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth (she is completely clueless that she is in labor when her water breaks), and even more clueless when it comes to the complexity of raising a child. Still, her fierce love of Sandro inspires her to work her hardest to support and raise him, even if he doesn’t have the basic necessities modern parents take for granted.

Now, despite having not only a wife and a young child, Charles refuses to get a proper job. So it is still up to Sophia to bring in the money. Even on his best days, Charles sees Sandro as a burden and as a distraction. An ideal, father, he is not. And to be honest, Charles is not an ideal person. In the modern sense, he is merely a hipster douchebro.

Sophia eventually has an affair with an older man, a local art critic. This affair is a pleasant distraction from the bleakness of her marriage and her daily life. She soon falls pregnant again. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens with that pregnancy.

Though naïve, uneducated and a bit passive, Sophia knows in her heart she (and Sandro) deserve much better. She makes a decision, that may make or break her, but in a time where women, especially poor women, had so few options, Sophia knows has to both survive and thrive. And she through sheer tenacity, a strong work ethic, and a certain weathered optimism, does both.

Did I like Our Spoons Came From Woolworths? Yes, I did. Now I usually detest authors who tell rather than show. But at times, this slim volume, came across like a very personal diary and gathering of the day-to-day details of her life. What she lacks in money, she sure makes up in pluck. And you can’t help but root for her. Sophia sees bright shiny yellow in a world of gritty, grimy grayness of her surroundings.

The narrative of this book is written in a clearly-stated chatty style. It is not pretentious or filled-with navel-gazing self-indulgence that seems to affect moneyed ladies and their high class problems (Eat, Pray, Love—I’m looking in your direction). It is Sophia’s life in particular difficult part in her young years, and never is she mawkish or sentimental. As for lovers of period-based literature, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths will probably appeal to people whose idea of British melodrama is more Call the Midwife than Downton Abbey or Mr. Selfridge.

Brag Book

bragI sent a link of my review of Robert Kelsey’s book The Outside Edge and he loved it. Here is the e-mail he sent me:

Hi Jennifer,

This is an amazing review and I’m really pleased you like the book – thank you so much! Of the four books I’ve written I’ve found this one the strangest in terms of people’s reactions. It’s not resonated with reviewers that well (insiders I assume) and not sold as widely as the others. Yet it’s generated more responses like yours than any of the previous books. Many people have been put off by the premise – and the fact a white, heterosexual, middle-class, male could be an outsider (without seeing that that’s the point – it’s not about vertical divides such as gender/race). Yet those that have found resonance have found a deep affinity with their own (often contradictory and confused) feelings. So we are perhaps a more select group than I realised – although we’re most definitely “select”.  

Thanks again and warmest regards,

ps: quick question – as you ‘re in the States, how did you come across the book? I wasn’t aware of a US release. 

The lovely Mr. Kelsey also provided a link to my review via the book’s Facebook page. Yay, me!!!!

Reading to Reels: Desk Set (Special Libraries Week Post)

Librarians of all kinds aren’t just found in public libraries; they are also found in schools, universities, corporations and other organizations. This post is in honor of reference librarians-the human versions of Google. Enjoy!

Human beings being replaced by high tech is something many American workers worry about, and it’s not a recent phenomenon as Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn show us in the 1957 comedy Desk Set.

Desk Set takes place at the Federal Broadcasting Company, a fictional television network. Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of FBC’s huge reference library. Bunny can recite facts faster than you can say, “Google it!” She and her brainy staff, played by Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randall, are kept quite busy with staffers calling up looking for the 411 on a multitude of topics, both the mundane and the serious.

However, there seems to be trouble on the horizon. The network is in talks to merge with another company, but at the moment it seems to be on the down low. FBC brings in an efficiency expert named Richard Sumner played by Spencer Tracy. Richard has also invented a computer system called EMERAC, an “electronic brain” that is supposed to help the workers with the merger. However, many of the workers think these computers will replace them, and they wonder when they’ll get fired.

Richard and Bunny soon meet when he comes into her department taking measurements for the computers. Richard begins to question Bunny, wondering if she can answer as quickly as a computer. One smart cookie, Bunny has no problem answering the questions and proves to quite the foil to Richard’s efficiency expertise.

Instead of being turned off by Bunny’s brains, Richard is actually quite charmed. And despite her hesitation, Bunny can’t help but be drawn towards Richard. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike (Gig Young), for seven years with no promise of marriage in sight. Hey, Bunny isn’t getting any younger. Bunny and Richard spar and flirt the way only Hepburn and Tracy can.

Towards the end of the film, a giant computer is placed in Bunny’s department to help everyone field questions more efficiently. However, despite the “advanced” technology, the computer is no match for Bunny and her fearless staff. The computer has a near “meltdown” but Bunny and her crew proves to be up to the task. And another computer messes up and mistakenly fires everyone via pink slips placed in their paychecks.

Desk Set is the eighth film Hepburn and Tracy did together (their final film was Who’s Coming to Dinner?), and it’s effortlessly charming. Based on William Marchant’s play with a script by Phoebe and Harry Ephron (yep, the late Nora’s parents), Desk Set is directed with a light touch by Walter Lang. Sure, there are parts that look dated. I had to laugh when I saw the huge computer that took up half of Bunny’s department, and how the answers were spit out on old-school perforated paper.

But despite being made in 1957, Desk Set’s premise looks quite modern.These days, everyone seems to be addicted their tablets, smart phones Googling, Tweeting and updating their Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages. But there is truly no replacing our human brains and our need to connect with one another without the use of technology. Desk Set shows this in a fun and entertaining way.

Book Review: The Outside Edge-How Outsiders Can Succeed in a World Made by Insiders by Robert Kelsey

9780857085757.pdfTrue story. A few years ago a friend and I were dining at a delightful local bistro. After we finished we noticed the bistro had set up several tables where people were reading palms, tarot cards and people’s auras. I decided, just for kicks, to have my aura read. What could it hurt?

To read my aura, I had to give the aura-reader a possession of mine so I handed over my amber ring…and waited. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “It seems you’ve had a lot of difficulty in your life starting as a child. But it wasn’t your fault. You were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I started to cry, and I don’t mean a few tears fell down my cheeks. I mean the full-on ugly cry, my face crinkled up, copious amount of tears fell out of my eyes, and my nose began to run. I was so embarrassed. Both my friend and the aura reader looked at me, both flummoxed and very concerned. The aura reader asked me if I wanted to go on, and I said, “Yes,” as I dried my tears.

The aura reader went on telling me I had difficulty in my childhood (which has continued into my adulthood) because I was always an outsider. No matter where I was, I just didn’t fit in.

So you can imagine my joy in finding Robert Kelsey’s book The Outside Edge: How Outsiders Can Succeed in a World Made by Insiders.

A native of England, Kelsey is the author of several best-selling self-help books. He has worked in various industries including journalism and finance, but always as an outsider. In the very class-conscious Great Britain, Kelsey grew up in the wrong class. He never had the right educational credentials. And though he’s been very successful, he’s never felt like “one of the boys.” Yet, somehow he’s let his outside status work for him, not against him. And now he’s letting other outsiders, true rebels, misfits and just those of us who feel out of sorts how to find value in ourselves and ultimately our idea of success.

Though we live in a culture that claims to celebrate outsiders and other assorted misfits, the truth is those who are considered outsiders are merely pretenders (or as I would have called them in high school “posers”). These people “play” the role of the outsider, the rebel or misfit because they have the cushion of family money and/or connections. In other words, I’m looking in your direction Lena Dunham.
Most true outsiders don’t have a whole lot of family money and connections to fall back on. They often have unique ideas, opinions and concepts that are met with contempt not with open minds.

However, all is not lost for outsiders. For instance, look at how well the ultimate outsider, Senator Bernie Sanders, is doing against the ultimate insider, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Who would have thought this rumpled haired Democratic Socialist from Vermont, a Brooklyn-born secular Jew like Senator Sanders would be such a formidable opponent to someone like Hillary Clinton?

But so many outsiders don’t reach the success like Senator Sanders has.
As someone who has felt like an outsider my entire life, I can safely say that most outsiders feel completely alienated from the insider world of the “cool kids’ table.” They resent the “cool kids’ table” while at the same time have a longing to have a seat at the same table. And not only do they want a seat, they want to be successful. However, they don’t want to compromise their values, ethics, ideas or opinions to get a seat and shine.

Furthermore, many outsiders feel a great deal of torment and humiliation over their outsider status, as if they are so much less worthy than the insiders. And they often have a lack of proper self-esteem and don’t value all they can offer the world. And ultimately, the outsider status just makes so many of us resentful, depressed and just really pissed off at the unfairness of it all.

However, all is not lost for us genuine outsiders. We can achieve some amount of success and we can do it on our own terms, not on the terms of the insiders.
And this is why I found Kelsey’s Outside Edge such a knowledgeable and inspiring read.

In this book, Kelsey encourages outsiders to embrace our “outsiderness” to give us the leverage to succeed in life, both professionally and personally. We should embrace those qualities that we think make us less and see how they make us more. We should look at the insiders and say to ourselves, “Nope, I’m not like that at all, and it’s okay. In fact, it’s pretty damn fantastic.”

For instance, for the longest time I saw my introversion and more reserved nature as a burden instead of an asset. Let’s face it; in our world of D-list celebs, reality show cretins, and people who have nothing to say and say it all the time, I should embrace the following:

Instead of being known, I should promote my knowledge.
Instead of being a “brand,” note that I am a human being.
Instead of marketing myself, I should focus of providing a quality product or service.

Perhaps, all of these things will help this outsider looking in, with the tools to succeed but succeed on my own terms. Be the change I want to see in the workplace where show ponies may get the attention, but it is work horses like myself who get things done and with a unique insight and a creative spirit.

But first I need to do a little homework and soul searching. Kelsey’s book tells us to identify just what makes me feel like an outsider, being more accepting of my outsider status and look for meaning in everyday life, focus on being more creative and focus on some tangible skills and goals while still staying true to my morals and values. And most importantly avoid negativity as much as possible when it comes to relating to others and especially myself.

Granted a lot of this is easier said and done. But now that I have written it down, I now realize I can do this. Why? Because I’ve done this in the past.

Take my little place in the Internet, this very blog. I started this blog because I have a serious love of books and wanted to share this love with others by writing reviews. I also did this to heal some latent wounds I felt as a professional writer. Instead of using every social media to make myself well-known, I chose to expose my knowledge of books via The Book Self. I never tried to brand myself. And I’ve also done my best to provide quality content over a mad rush to market myself.

And in my own little way; I have been successful. Steadily I have gained followers and likes. I have worked with a PR professional to gain access to other books and have reviewed them. And many authors of the books I’ve reviewed have thanked me profusely for my reviews by leaving comments, sending me lovely emails, and posting links to my reviews via their websites, blogs and social media. Hmm, I think I’ve been pretty successful in that regard; and I’ve done it on my own terms.

The Outside Edge ends with Kelsey offering outsiders some wise counsel, including finding meaning, participate and serve your apprenticeship

I really enjoyed reading The Outside Edge, and I learned a lot from its pages. I just wish this book would have come out earlier like in my teens or twenties; it probably would have saved me a lot of angst and tear-stained pillows. And while reading it, I also mused that it might be easier to be an outsider as a man than as a woman. It seems there is more of a romanticism to the male outsider. He can be the lone wolf or the quirky genius. Women are still supposed to live fully on the inside or else face some serious repercussions. And no the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” or “Bad Girl With Issues” are not outsiders; they are tired pop culture tropes.

Still, I am very grateful for Robert Kelsey and his book The Outside Edge. I think it is great addition for anyone who has felt like an outsider