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.
 

   

 

 

 

 

 

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Retro Review: The Poetry of Dorothy Parker

Dorothy-Parker_1504166c 

“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.

Men

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.

Inventory
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.

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,

Robert 
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!!!!