Sunday, June 22, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation, part deux

Just in case you think I spent all that time foolishly reading books, I didn't. I spent it in Canaan Valley, WV. It just happened to rain a couple of the days I was there....

Despite the rain -- and a rather nasty hail storm -- we had a lovely visit to the town of Thomas where we went to the Mountain Made Artisans' Gallery and had a very good lunch at The Purple Fiddle. It may be worth it to note here that the actual town seems to be clinging for life with all it's might to the mountain side and while you may well pass through town without giving it a second glance, the people we met were all very welcoming, the food was good and I didn't really see any of the usual tacky souvenirs found in so many parts of the world.

The first it didn't rain, we visited Blackwater Falls:

The next day, my brother and I took our father up to Fairmont, where he had lived for most of his childhood. Our first stop was the former Fairmont Municipal Pool (aka the 12th St. Pool) which now belongs to the county and has been lovingly restored. My grandfather was the engineer on this project so it was nice to see that aside from some materials which needed replacing (i.e. rusty iron plumbing) it was still in very good shape.

If my dad can find it, I'll post a picture of what it looked like when it first opened in 1937.

Other places have not fared so well. The elementary school my dad went to, Butcher School, was closed many years ago and because of the usual zoning restrictions was never used for much more than storage. The brick walls are still fairly sturdy but the insides have rotted through and through and the parking lot is littered with broken beer bottles.

The high school, on the other hand, is looking very well:

The last day of our trip, we headed out of West Virginia early and had a great drive down Rt. 33 to Harrisonburg, VA where we stopped at The Virginia Quilt Museum. Now, I know Virginia should be called the "History State" and we are wont to go on about the good ol' days and you can't walk 10 paces without stumbling into a battlefield, but gosh darn it, I really enjoyed the quilt museum. Obviously I would have been in 7th heaven had they been featuring crazy quilts instead of Quaker quilts but I still enjoyed seeing what they did have. They do have Eliza Crim's crazy quilt on permanent display -- in fact, most of the quilts in the Civil War room are fascinating to look at. The most striking difference between quilts then and quilts now aside from the mechanization of their making, is the size of the blanket stitch used on appliqué. That's just something you have to see in person.

Back to work tomorrow... Not looking forward to it.

What I did on my summer vacation

OK.... so I read a few things that weren't on my "list". Big deal. I was on vacation. Plenty of time for the more serious stuff later.

Starting with Alice Kimberly's 'The Ghost and the Dead Deb' I quickly followed that with 'The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library' . Also in the line-up were Jasper Fforde's 'Well of Lost Plots' and 'Something Rotten'. Apparently not a moment too soon as the 5th book in this series is due out in July. Lastly, I read Boris Akunin's 'Special Assignments'.

All of these books were very satisfying and pretty much ran the gamut of detective fiction. Alice Kimberly's books feature film noire-like flashbacks to the 40's, Jasper Fforde sucessfully combines the genres of classic literature, science, comic and detective fiction and even manages to throw in a touch of romance. I enjoy Boris Akunin's writing as much for the setting (late 19th century Moscow) as I do for Fandorin's character - a bit like Holmes but definitely more worldly.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I wish I had a pencil thin moustache....

Finished 'The Laying on of Hands' by Alan Bennett and 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Sparks. It's only 6pm on Sunday evening and I've no Netflix for tonight. Do I start another book on my list or go for one of the mysteries I bought this afternoon from Creatures and Crooks? I've gotten hooked on Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series recently -- how can you go wrong with a small town bookshop and a ghostly gumshoe?

I'm thinking mystery. I'm in that sort of mood.

As for the books I finished reading, I quite enjoyed the story "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet". In some ways it was like my fave Alan Bennett story 'The Clothes They Stood Up In'. I notice that was not on the Big List of Books but it's definitely one of the best bits of storytelling I've read in a long time. I also liked the title story "The Laying on of Hands". It's rare these days that an author can so successfully satirize a religious person without satirizing their religion.

I'm glad I've now read 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'. While I couldn't really bring myself to like any of the characters, I did like the way Muriel Spark developed their characters, revealing just a touch more in each subsequent chapter.

Stay cool -- stay inside and read.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

10% Solution

So there's this challenge going on called the "1% Challenge" which looks quite intriguing. I usually read at a pace greater than 10 books in 10 months but then that's generally a steady diet of whodunnits and humourous prose (yes sir, I did spell that correctly...). Anywho, I've read the list and come up with a selection from the master list of 1001 books as well as a couple of my own. I realize the master list is strictly limited to novels but I like to break up the monotony with a couple of short story collections. Here goes:

1) 'The Laying on of Hands' - Alan Bennett
2) 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' - Muriel Spark
3) 'Absalom, Absalom!' - William Faulkner
4) 'Queen of the South' - Arturo Pérez-Reverte
5) 'The Poisonwood Bible' - Barbara Kingsolver
6) 'A Town Like Alice' - Nevil Shute
7) 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' - Gabiel Garcia Márquez
8) 'The Golden Lads' - Daphne du Maurier
9) 'Crime and Punishment' - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
10) 'The Tale of Genji' - Murasaki Shikibu

However, I understand there is a new Paddington book coming out so I might have to squeeze that in over something on my list.

Keep your sandwiches safe and your cocoa hot... it's going to be a good summer for reading.