Plane reading

So grateful that I bought a book at the Geneva airport today, as I had all kinds of reading-related complications–magazines buried deep in my carry-on, which was crammed into an inaccessible overhead bin, couldn’t fit my paper copy of the Luminaries in any pocket, etc., etc.

I loved Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and I’d been wanting to read her latest, the National Book Award-winning M Train. And, indeed, there it was, in Payot, a paperback at the gobsmacking/completely normal Swiss price of 29,50 CHF. Snapped it up.

And I am so glad I did. Smith is an evocative, poetic, imaginative writer. She has read everything, and I do mean everything. 

I found myself making notes, scribbling lists, wanting to read everything she’s read.

Highly recommended. It even helped me cope with my cancelled flight and my spontaneous and expensive night at the Newark airport!

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Super Sunday


Today it was beautiful, sunny, and hot, after a very cool start in the morning.

I went to the Morges Literary Festival, just up the lake, where I’ve always meant to go but hadn’t yet made it. Urged on by one of my first friends in the area, Catherine, who writes the excellent blog Living in Nyon. 

We went to a great talk by the novelist Esther Freud, the great-granddaughter of The Man Himself, and the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud. I bought her latest novel, which is about Charles Rennie Macintosh, whom I’ve always been interested in.


Especially after seeing the Glasgow School of Art.


Then to a very good lunch at a lakeside restaurant in the hot sun, and afterward to another talk, this, by a Haitian-American writer whose book is God Loves Haiti, and a Dutch writer who has written a couple of books I’d like to read, Ararat, and one not yet available in English, about this event, which apparently remains a bit of a mystery.

A very stimulating day, filled with light and friends.

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One hot bookish summer

Today I had to wear a jacket to the market. Autumn is in the air! And it could not have come sooner for me. We have, for the first time in the nearly 7 years I have lived here, had a serious summer. The kind with several, long heatwaves. As you know from my FB updates, it was way too hot for me, especially the two weeks I spent on the Costa Brava and in Provence.

One good thing about the long, hot summer, though, was that it was also a summer of reading. Somewhere in this house there is a notebook where I wrote down all the books I read, but, quelle surprise, right now I cannot find the notebook. So I will try to recreate the list from memory.


Here’s the list.

Random notes: Burial Rites is a first novel, about the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland. So evocative and deeply felt.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North was one of the most harrowing books I have read in ages. A novel about the experience of an Australian POW doing slave labor building the Burmese railway. An astonishing achievement.

Hold Still, by Sally Mann, the famous photographer of the Shenandoah Valley, gets my vote for book of the year. About family and art and hard times and the creative life and so many more things. As a fellow Southerner, I saw it all coming, like being hit head-on by the Southern Crescent, back in the day. Highly, highly recommended.

Because I am a Bloomsbury completist, for better or for worse, I read everything by anyone who was even remotely connected to that complex and complicated group. Vanessa Nicolson is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West, the sometime lover of Virginia Woolf; I once met Vita’s son Nigel, so that is my 6 degrees of separation connection. A sad story of her life and the death of one of her daughters.

I have always collected the works of Freya Stark, the great explorer of the Middle East, but never has one of her books so completely captivated me as the first volume of her autobiography, Traveller’s Prelude. She is simply a magnificent writer and had an extraordinary life. I have just ordered all 8 volumes of her letters and am looking forward to a hard winter of deep snow and sitting by the fire reading them.

At some little village near Lorgues, I stumbled across a junk shop–less brocante and more random tchotchkes. It was a blistering hot day and the shop was sweltering, but when I came to a back room full of English books–good English books, provided by a real reader–I persevered, despite the sweat pouring off me. It was there that I found several of the books on this list. I finally read Slipstream, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s autobiography, and the memoirs of the one of the several men to whom she was married, Kingsley Amis. Lives of literary achievement and tumultuous relationships and affairs and whatnot. Enjoyed them both, though unconvinced I would have liked either one of them.

What are YOU reading?


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Rocks and pots

Dana brought me this beautiful little piece of pottery (along with a couple of smaller ones) from Ireland. I just love them. And I’ve always loved rocks. Hoping to go on a pebble tour in the UK this year!


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A few lines of poetry for the day

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Cheerfully making mistakes

Learning what can, and what cannot! be done with gouache.


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Today’s painting

Experiments with gouache.


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More photos of Provence

Provence August 2014Provence August 2014

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“Home” in Provence

Photos of the fabulous Chateau de Mappe, where friend Alice and I were for a few glorious days this summer.

Chateau de MappeChateau de Mappe

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Sketchbooking away

I am taking an online sketchbooking class from the fabulously talented Mary Ann Moss. Now bound and determined to post about this, including the widget-thingy (um, soon; gotta read the instructions). Trying to get up to speed on WordPress!

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