Sean Penn will be at The Philadelphia Free Library at 12 noon on March 29 to talk about his novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. I grabbed two tickets today.
Not everyone has Virginia Woolf's command of the perfect sentence, but it's his commitment to a vision of human equality that makes me feel that I should do more each day.
Colin Dexter wrote the Inspector Morse novels which were made into the TV series of 33 episodes between 1987 and 2000 - it was required viewing in Britain on a Sunday evening in the late '80s when the country was under Thatcher's jackboot. Until last Thursday I had not read one of the novels. Last Bus to Woodstock is the first in the series and my comment is that it reads like a third novel rather than a first; it's accomplished from the first sentence. This is rare in crime writers; most take a book or two to establish their detective, the landscape they hunt in, the personality traits that identify them - but Morse appears fully formed in chapter one as an irritable, real ale drinking, love lost, middle aged man with a fondness for The Times crossword and Wagner. If you can work out who the killer is before the last chapter come to the library, let me know, and pick up a really nice tote bag.
We have had two days of wonderful donations of kids books - yesterday Angella Meanix dropped by with a bunch of goodies and today Sasha Pillai did the same.
Very excitingly Angella has volunteered to run the library on Fridays - we are so lucky! Angella is an illustrative and fine artist - look here angellameanix.co for her gorgeous gallery. This - She Was The Sun - is just one of a remarkable series of works that examine and interpret birds and specifically the phenomenon of beaks.
This photographic journal arrived at the library yesterday - a super addition to the section on local history as it's by our good friend Dev.
Before I opened this book I would have unthinkingly considered myself a fair observer of my surroundings and yet I was shown landscapes, buildings and events that stopped me - Chester County is beautiful and Dev has captured a unique part of its heart.
We couldn't leave The New Yorker off the table - it too will be available at the library.
As will Hobnobs. The homemade oatmeal or sandwich cookie is a munch of joy but milk chocolate Hobnobs are cookies with a purpose - to keep a good old fashioned library happy around 3pm on a rainy afternoon.
The London Review of Books will be available at the library.
It's worth looking at on an early March morning with a cup of strong Yorkshire tea at your elbow and an oatmeal cookie crumbling in your fingers. A proper cup of Yorkshire tea means seeping the leaves for as long as it takes to walk from Cochranville to Baltimore - approximately - and then adding milk and sugar. It should strengthen the spirit and give a kick to the morning - perfect for a fresh run at Steinbeck or Dickens.
When I mentioned Alistair MacLean in a post a couple of days ago it made me wonder whether I actually still owned a copy of one of his novels - after a bit of a search I found this, Puppet on a Chain, which I think came from the used book store in West Chester, PA. It was published in 1969 and continued MacLean's astonishing record of bestsellers - he is little read now and his name is virtually unknown to anyone born after, say, 1980, but during the height of his fame he virtually cornered the market in best-ever thriller titles, such as 'South by Java Head', 'When Eight Bells Toll' and 'The Way to Dusty Death'. Great stuff. I've included a photo of page one simply for the line "Please fasten your seat belts and extinguish your cigarettes". For those interested in book jacket design this one was done by Norman Weaver, a British artist and photographer, who fascinatingly was briefly employed during World War II as General Eisenhower's personal map maker. The novel was made into a movie in 1971 and was promoted with the poster below - a classic of it's type.
Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE, was once described as a cross between "Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene". His long life, 1915 to 2011, is too rich for me to attempt a summary (the awards in front and behind his name give a hint of it's range) though soldier, author and scholar cover the broad bases. It's difficult to think of a travel writer from the second half of the 20th century who was not influenced by the accessibility and warmth of his writing. His first book, The Traveller's Tree, published in 1950, is the story of his post-war travels in the Caribbean - more well known now are the three books about his journey at the age of 18 from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul in 1933/34 - A Time Of Gifts (published 1977), Between The Wood And The Water (1986), and The Broken Road (2013). If you subtract his birth date from the date of his first most widely known work you'll see there is a precedent for all who want to put their travels onto paper - start now and write, there is always someone who wants to read.
As I was unpacking some boxes today I found A Time To Keep Silence, which, the book tells me, is about his inner, spiritual journey - I have yet to read it but it will go into the lending library along with The Violins Of Saint-Jacques, his only novel. We will try to get a set of Fermor's books because I know the ones I have read are inspirational - especially for the armchair wanderer.
James and Emily