Tuesday, March 22, 2011

something to think about

I have just finished (and enjoyed) Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the landing. While looking through her bookshelves in search of Howard's End, Hill discovers a wealth of books unread or look since read but needing to be enjoyed again. She decides to spend one year reading only the books she already owns, no buying new books for a year (can you imagine? I don't think I could do it.).

On finishing her book, I headed to my bookshelves to see what I had that was untouched by reading eyes. I still have books from a trip to England in 2000 and a trip to New York in 2004 but I had fewer unread books than I expected. The titles include:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

A stranger to command by Sherwood Smith (a post-surgery gift from MRC, a devoted reader and cohort in crime at my library)

The great tree of Avalon by T.A. Barron (New York trip)

The Sally Lockhart trilogy by Philip Pullman

Children of the wheel by Pamela Scobie (England trip)

The rose revived by Katie Fforde (England trip)

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (started but never finished and highly recommended by Floating Lush and Cleery from my library)

The welcoming home by Michaela Mahady (a Minnesota architect and daughter of one of my favorite library patrons of the past)

When I go on vacation later in the year, I will choose some of these titles to carry with me. Some will be wonderful and some won't, some will retain their place on my shelves and some will go to the book sale at my library. Which books are on your shelves, unread and unheeded?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

if only dreams came true

One of my more hopeful dreams in life is to own a Tiffany window. I love the color and the elegance of his stained glass. Unless I win the lottery, I fear this dream will not be fulfilled. Sigh.

One Sunday, listening to NPR on the way to church, I heard an interview about a novel about Mr. Tiffany. Amazingly, I remembered the title of the book and managed to request it when I got to work the following day. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland is the story of Clara Driscoll, the woman in charge of the women's department (yes, in New York in the 1890s--Mr. Tiffany thought women had a better eye for color and a more delicate touch with the many small pieces in any stained glass project) at Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio (not to be confused with Tiffany jewelry, the company owned by Tiffany Senior). Clara was the force behind the popular and amazingly beautiful Tiffany lamps (okay, if I can't have a window, a lamp would be a lovely replacement!).

While some of the story was a little over the top, the detailed descriptions of New York in the 1890s and early 1900s were amazing--the city was booming and growing and starting to be the highly energetic city it is now. The descriptions of the artistry and hard work involved in making stained glass were fascinating--Tiffany patented many forms of glass (rippled, striated, opalescent and more) and changed the face of the decorative arts in America. The city, the Tiffany company and all of the vast array of characters--the people living in Clara's boarding house, the girls of various ethnic and social backgrounds who were a part of the design department, Clara's artistic friends and more--are so charming and interesting--I finished the book last night and I already miss them!

I've spent some time researching Clara Driscoll on the internet, trying to find picture of the windows and lamps mentioned in the book. She was not given credit for her work--all designs were credited to Mr. Tiffany--but do look up dragonfly lamps and wisteria lamps and the underwater scene lamp and appreciate her talent. And read the book!