I’ve noticed that I often bring up in conversation one or more of the fascinating books I’ve been reading lately, only to fail utterly at recalling titles or authors’ names. I’ll take this opportunity to at least make a handy reference available for anyone who cares to follow up on something I’ve said.
Just check my blog!
library shelf 2018 April
Culture & Geography
The Alps: a human history from Hannibal to Heidi and beyond by O’Shea, Stephen
Austria (juvenile non-fiction) by Sheehan, Sean
Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands (juvenile non-fiction) by Needham, Ed
Europe by Eurail 2018 by Ferguson-Kosinski, LaVerne
Germany (juvenile non-fiction) by Coddington, Andrew
Let’s Visit Liechtenstein by Carrick, Noel
Switzerland (juvenile non-fiction) by Rogers Seavey, Lura
The White Stallions: the story of the dancing horses of Lipizza by Van der Linde, Laurel
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century (Kindle book) by Graham, Peter
The Orient Express: the history of the Orient Express service from 1883 to 1950 by Burton, Anthony
Orient Express history book
Train car schematics
Pimsleur French I (audio CD)
Pimsleur German II (audio CD)
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass (Vintage International Kindle edition) by Dinesen, Isak
The Collected Plays of Neil Simon, Volumes I – IV by Simon, Neil
50 Best Plays of the American Theatre.selected by Barnes, Clive
The Glass Menagerie by Williams, Tennessee
Heidi by Spyri, Johanna (also film directed by Alain Gsponer)
New Zealand Stories: Mansfield Selections (Kindle book) by Mansfield, Katherine
The Star of Kazan by Ibbotson, Eva
Rumination on women authors sojourning in strange lands
Though my trip to New Zealand is in the past, I’ve continued to dwell there just a little by reading more of its authors’ works. Specifically, I’ve become enamored with Dame Ngaio Marsh’s Detective Alleyn mysteries, and with the short fiction of Katharine Mansfield.
Both were born in New Zealand, but also spent significant portions of their lives in Britain. I find their work tantalizing as it relates to both the work of women in a different, less egalitarian era, and also for the way it reflects the effects of colonization, sometimes explicitly, but always in the shadows.
The other, the outsider, by sex or by accident of birth. Hmm…
Reading about an infamous murder in Christchurch, New Zealand committed in part by a teenage girl who would grow up to write bestselling mystery novels under a new name, Anne Perry, belongs to this thread, too. She was born in England, but clearly her sojourn in the colony was consequential.
See Peter Jackson’s film, “Heavenly Creatures,” to get the story without cracking a book. Make it a double feature with sweet family film “Her Majesty” and see if you find them as weirdly complementary as I do. Girlhood, good & grim; Christchurch, paradise or perdition?
My mind hitches these works by this insider/outsider woman/writer kind of thinking to the copy of Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass that I’ve been reading, s-l-o-w-l-y, for the past couple of months.
It was a “take in small doses and mull it over” read for me; a not-every-night to-lull-me-to-sleep read, but a can’t-sleep carry-me-away type of thing. I was also compelled to research Dinesen online for biographical information from a less biased than herself source when I was done with her memoir.
Though flawed like the rest of us and a product of her age and station as a European aristocrat, she sure strung together some beautiful words. I’ve enjoyed many of her short stories, too. Recommended for those who like some literary with their fiction.
The Alps, the Orient Express, Vienna, and European micro states
It may be a surprise to see a stack of children’s non-fiction books on my library shelf. I could just attribute them to my boys, or the younger son in particular, but they’re really for my edification.
It’s true that I always hope my kids will pick up one of my enthusiasms and/or delve into a similar self-directed unit study of something else, but I find these slim volumes a handy way to grab a quick overview of a place I’ve never been.
This time, the big boy and I were thinking about European micro states, and particularly the several who use German as an official language. It ties in with his studies, and my attention got grabbed. I requested half the books in the library, and in we dove.
Yes, I’ve heard of Wikipedia, but I have a thing about big maps and full color photos on heavyweight gloss. If I don’t have to spread a map out on a table in front of me, it doesn’t delight half as much. Most of my adventures begin with the unfolding of a paper map. Opening a book and flipping through pages of pictures offers me the same kind of thrill.
The Europe by Eurail book made a nice start for trip planning, but that work really is better done online these days, even if you have Luddite tendencies… but only if you also have that all important large map showing major railway lines to help you get your bearings. Maybe you won’t need this if your grasp of European geography is stronger than mine, but I suspect a map will always be vital for me regardless of how well I’ve studied.
Find up to the minute train information and all the basic “how to’s” for rail riding neophytes
on the incredibly helpful and shockingly complete
site The Man in Seat 61
. Borrow Europe by Eurail
from your local library instead and save the $23 for a simpler, lighter weight folding map and a few more cups of espresso.
Both Rick Steves Europe and Streetwise Europe were well under $10 on Amazon.
Though nothing I’m even considering planning approaches the Orient Express for grandeur and romance, I found the history book of the same name wildly inspirational. There may be a night in a modern NightJet sleeper car compartment in my future just because I read this.
Well, that, and because I love trains…
My favorite bits of this photograph- and fact- filled tome had to do with the preposterous pomposity of Kings Ferdinand and Boris of Bulgaria. Each exercised abused the royal authority by demanding the right to drive the train personally as it passed through his demesne. The latter crazy bastard actually killed someone through his recklessness and arrogance. How, though, does a railway company argue with a hereditary sovereign monarch?
Another trivial tidbit I liked: that most famous train became embroiled in European politics over and over again as it rolled across so many national boundaries during tumultuous decades.
The Germans seized the prize plums that were Orient Express carriages during WWI. Restaurant car #2419 served up helpings of crow when the French accepted German surrender therein at Compiègne in 1918, but Hitler made the French do the same in the same car in 1940. He ordered #2419 blown up when it became clear that he would lose his war lest he receive the same treatment.
Warmongering and atrocities aside, it seems clear today that the Germans also lacked a feeling for foreign tourist marketing when they changed the famous name of the luxurious Orient Express sleepers from “Wagon-Lits” to “Mitteleuropäischeschlafwagengesellschaft.” I speak a little German, and I can’t get my lips to form that mouthful of a compound noun. Eventually, even they saw sense and shortened the name of their stolen cars to “Mitropa.” Phew!
And, for the record, there is an “Orient Express”
service one can take from London to Venice today for ≅£3500 per passenger. A crop of murderous fellows in adjacent compartments not guaranteed.
Still thinking historically, the family friendly audiobook, The Star of Kazan, should inspire any reader/listener to wish to visit Vienna, Austria. Set around 1900, the young heroine and her friends do some international traveling by train, but certainly not enjoying a standard such as the Orient Express came to offer. I wasn’t tempted to visit the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to see the famous Lippitzaner stallions until I got into this story with my little guy.
And, when speaking now of Austria, how can one avoid pondering The Alps?.Though one could be forgiven for never having heard of the book by the same name. O’Shea’s cultural history/travel narrative is an easy to read, enjoyable road trip through a series of the storied mountain range’s high passes.
I haven’t finished sharing this journey with O’Shea yet, but here’s the best bit so far: Musée de l’horlogerie et du décolletage. I and my infinitesimal iota of French translated it just like he did, but, if you want to know what it means without reading his book, you’ll have to ask me in the comments!
If we’re in the Alps, how can we fail to recall the classic by Joanna Spyri, Heidi. While I didn’t re-read it this month and he’s a bit old for it, I made DS1 acquaint himself with the book. I can’t imagine a childhood without it. As a family, we watched a lovely modern (2015) film adaptation available to us in the USA in its native German. Don’t worry: there are English subtitles, and I think its offered dubbed as well.
It was awesome, though, for a chance to hear some spoken Swiss
German. Even a beginning level student of the language like me could recognize obvious differences between Swiss and Standard or Hoch
The live action film was a lot closer to the charming original narrative than the Hanna Barbera animated
version, “Heidi’s Song,” that came out when I was a little girl.
Preparing to host a theatrical reading at home
Now we’ll skip from the cinema to the theatre. I’ve spent a huge amount of time since I finished preparing and filing my taxes reading plays.
Why, you ask?
I’m planning to host a party or two.
While it’s not even unusual for me to jump up and grab a book from the shelves to entertain a guest with something I find fascinating, this time, I’m inviting them over on notice: we’re going to read a play. Yes, all of us. Together!
But which one? Approaching a script as an evening’s pastime for a group forces me to evaluate it differently. I’m sure it’s a wonderful mental exercise, but it has been time consuming.
I’ve attended a few of these events hosted by friends, but never with my husband. He’s mildly horrified, but a good sport. He doubts everyone will share my enthusiasm. Pooh-pooh! I think if there is wine, and perhaps cake, people won’t mind participating.
This started out as an idea for a home school assignment for DS1, and I’m working on that teen-oriented gathering, too. But, it quickly became apparent that I should also schedule a more mature work to read with my own favorite grown up friends. Why should the kids get to have all the fun?
I had a few friends over for a short notice “Ladies’ Lit” night just yesterday, and one person opted to bring an excerpt from Lysistrata to share. I loved it. Perhaps I also over-acted a bit more than the others. It has been far too long since I’ve gotten enough attention on the stage! I did receive a hostess gift of these beautiful flowers, granting me a moment of rêverie for my youth in the spotlight.
Even this mere taste was every bit as much fun as I thought it would be. Also, now, at least those lucky participants are forewarned as to what to expect next time I send an invitation.