Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Tis The Season for Reading

Now that it is the beginning of November and we are in a bit of a lull before the big holidays begin, I am enjoying this peaceful time to catch up with a lot of reading.  Staying at home is a real treat when there are lots of good books to read.

The first books I will crack open are the art catalogues that accompanied three art exhibitions I was lucky enough to see. "Beyond Bloomsbury" is an exhibition on the designs of the Omega Workshops that was held at the Courtauld Gallery in London in 2009.  When I was in London last month I was able to make an appointment to go behind the scenes and see many of the Omega designs that were in that exhibition.  It was very exciting!  You can read about it here.

I also saw the exquisitely beautiful "Degas and the Ballet" exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.  It was a stunning exhibition that combined some of the artist's best paintings and sculptures with developments that were occurring at the same time in photography and moving images.  Most of us think of Degas as the painter of dancers. In fact, Degas once claimed that the his ballet scenes were a pretext for depicting movement.  This exhibition at the Royal Academy explores Degas' fascination with movement.

And finally, at the D'Orsay Museum in Paris I saw another beautiful art exhibition called "The Cult of Beauty," which was about the English art movement known as "The Aesthetic Movement."  This movement is also known as the "Pre-Raphaelite" movement, or "art for art's sake."  The exhibition covered the years1860-1900 and featured artists such as James Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Morris.  This art movement was revolutionary in nature.  The artists were rebelling aesthetically against what had gone before in English design and their new theories about art had a huge impact on both interior and fine arts in England.  The exhibition included home decor and furnishings as well as paintings.   Oscar Wilde was a proponent of the movement and the exhibition included photographs of and writings by Wilde.  

With all the controversy swirling around the topic of who wrote the plays and sonnets commonly thought to be written by William Shakespeare, I thought I might go back and look into some of the biographies I have on the Bard.

I have always believed that Shakespeare wrote the plays, but I am interested in understanding what the anti-Shakespearean scholars believe.  I will probably go see the new film "Anonymous" which argues that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford and not Shakespeare was the author of the works, so I can hear the other side.  In the meantime,  I may spend the next couple of days doing a little research of my own! 

Of course this new cookbook by Sophie Dahl looks very cozy and nothing is more relaxing than cracking open a new cookbook.  The photos in this one are gorgeous. 

I bought this new edition of one of my favorite books "The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth Von Armin at Hatchards in London and I just might have to reread this one.  That will lead to my watching the movie again, a treat for a chilly November evening.  I love this story of four sad and lonely English women who travel to a small medieval castle in Italy and find happiness and love in the sun-drenched Italian countryside.

But my most important goal is to finish this book.  I am two thirds of the way through "Of Human Bondage" by W. Somerset Maugham and I know I will finish it in the next couple of days.  I have heard several writers say that this book had the greatest impact on their lives and their decision to become a writer.  So far the life of the hero Philip Carey is immensely sad, and I am hoping he will find some happiness by the book's end.  But I do have my doubts.

Happy reading!



  1. Oh I've never seen that Sophie Dahl book before! Looks cozy!

  2. I love the Enchanted April book and would also recommend one of my favourites A Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh.

    It's a wonderful time to sit with a book and savour a cup of tea.
    Pure luxury!

  3. Hi Sunday...Love your photos! Now..I am confused, have you been to Europe already or are you due to go soon? We have many of the same books...and have seen the same exhibits. Don't you just love Hatchard's! It is the sort of store you could happily spend hours in and I imagine you did....

    Thanks also for your suggestion on Excellent Women. I have added it to the Book Club list.

    Best wishes Sunday!

    Jeanne xx

  4. Hi Jeanne, yes I was in London at the end of September. In fact we went to Hatchards and the Royal Academy because of one of your blogpost. We also went to Buckingham Palace and toured it because of your suggestion. You were so helpful, thank you! You will love "Excellent Women," it is one of my favorite books. I am very excited about your new Book Club.
    xx Sunday

  5. David and I walked out of "Anonymous" after 15 minutes, because it was so irritating. Although like you, I've always believed Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, hoped the movie would be fun?
    Love that the Pre-Raphaelites believed in "art for art's sake." As a painter, it's a big comfort, particularly during these times when the purpose of art is so in flux.
    Love the way you have your trip linger on......

  6. Oh what have the time to read...smiles

  7. Oh my goodness, so many interesting books to add to my growing stacks. I love when other bloggers share their book finds.

    If I did not comment, your trip looked amazing, and lots of fun! I am so looking forward to my next trip to Europe.

    Have a wonderful night, and thank you for coming to comment on the Farrow and Ball book, it is beautiful.

  8. Your photo is so inviting!! I adore Somerset Maugham but must admit that Of Human Bondage is not my favorite!! Owe you an email about our little trip to Maine!!

  9. Hostess, thank you so much for the book recommendation. I haven't read "A Gift from the Sea," and I will try to find it today.

    Kathy, "Anonymous" has not been getting many favorable reviews in the newspapers so I'm not surprised you were disappointed. I still may see it and wonder if I will have the same reaction.
    The "art for art's sake" movement is so interesting! I think you would love reading about it. It really did shake up the art world, especially in the area of home design.

    Stacey, I know what you mean about "Of Human Bondage." It's such a bleak book in so many ways. But I do love the writing and I am so curious to see how it ends. The hero seems to keep on making the same mistakes and I wonder if he'll learn from them finally and experience some happiness.
    Yes, please tell me how it went for you and your daughter in Maine!

  10. Enchanted April, a favorite!

  11. I'm tempted by that Degas book, I love ballet and am always interested in its history. Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans is also on my wishlist.

  12. I happened to see the Cult of Beauty exhibit when it was at the Victoria and Albert in London, back in June! It reminded me some of the things I learned when I took a Pre-Raphaelite art history course at Bates --it was so interesting to see some of those learnings come "to life!"

    Thanks for such a lovely post, Sunday. Enchanted April does seem like a chilly November treat -- I might just find a way to work it into my weekend plans!

  13. Ooh, I'm happy to see that Sophie Dahl has a new cookbook. I loved her last one. So pretty.

    The Shakespeare controversy is interesting. I recently read an excellent article by NY Times Theatre Critic, Ben Brantley, in which he talked about this. His general point was that he didn't particularly care who wrote the work. "The play's the thing", he said. I suppose I feel the same. Though I do think Edward de Vere was far too much of a megalomaniac to have ever allowed someone else to get the credit for his work.