Friday, October 29, 2010

Song for a Lark

Next up on my reading list is Willa Cather's Song for a Lark. I have been doing a little background research and found a couple of great sources of info on Cather. The Willa Cather Archive has many (if not all) of her works available online, with textual analysis on many of them. 

HL Mencken reviewed, and loved, Willa Cather--though I am still trying to find where his review of Song of the Lark is located. 

Evidently, this piece appeared first in the Chicago News and was reprinted in the Baltimore Sun on June 29, 1921 (a month or so after Sinclair Lewis's praise of Cather).

Blithe Mencken he sat on his Baltimore stoop,
Singing "Willa, git Willa! git Willa!"
The red-headed Lewis joined in with a whoop,
Singing, "Willa, read Willa! read Willa!"
They woke every bird from the Bronx to the Loop
Singing "Willa, git Willa! git Willa!"
So we, willy nilly, got Willa and read
And Willa proved all that the booster birds said.

Penguin Books published this list of Reading Guide Questions for Song of the Lark:
  1. What is Cather's message about beginnings and separations? How do these facets shape the life of an individual? Is Thea's separation from her family and primary environment necessary for promoting her growth as an individual or was she simply destined to be different? Does Cather imply by the later lives of the Moonstone people that severing ties is a positive or negative experience?
  2. Some critics have characterized Thea as indulgent and self-centered. Is this a fair assessment of the character?
  3. Compare the marriages of Dr. Archie and Fred Ottenburg. Is there a common thread between these two men? In what way are they both strivers?
  4. What is the significance of Aunt Tillie in the novel? Why did Cather include this character?
  5. Why is romance so difficult for Thea? Is Cather at all critical about the artist's renouncing of romantic love? What price is paid for Thea's success? Does Thea nurse any regrets?
  6. Does the town's treatment of the "tramp" reflect on their morality or their fear? What does the tramp's spiteful act say about the inherent nature of man?
  7. When Thea refuses Fred's monetary assistance with her trip to Germany, she is obviously hurt by his revelation. She elects to borrow money from Dr. Archie because taking money from Fred would make her feel like she was being "kept." Is this her true motivation or is it an act of retribution against Fred for misleading her?
  8. Discuss the complexities of Dr. Archie's love for Thea. Why does it never blossom to romance when she is old enough and Dr. Archie is free? Does Thea perceive him as too much of a father figure for this ever to occur?
  9. Towards the end of the novel Spanish Johnny reappears, moved to tears by Thea's success. As she leaves the theater he sees her but does not step forward or call to her. He seems to keep his "place." What does this convey about the climate of the country at that time and the characters' own feelings on race, class and propriety?

Textual Note:
Incidentally, there are two very different versions of "Song of the Lark" available. Most editions reprint the 1915 text, since it is in the public domain. This earlier version is far more detailed and, some have argued, overwritten; her British publisher complained that she "told everything about everyone." For the 1932 Autograph Edition, Cather revised the book substantially, cutting it by seven thousand words and streamlining the overall text. Descriptive passages were pared; Thea's and Fred Ottenburg's roles were altered; and style, opinion, and matters of taste were polished and modernized. This version is still under copyright restriction, and I believe it is available only in the Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin) edition. The original version is regarded by many readers and scholars as better (and certainly truer to Cather's original intent); this is the book that Mencken praised for its "sharp bits of observation, sly touches of humor, [and] gestures of that gentle pity which is the fruit of understanding."

84 Charring Cross Road Secret Santa!

I am really excited to be participating in this year's Persephone Books Secret Santa, as hosted by Paperback Reader. It's not too late to sign up! For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Persephone Books, they reprint neglected 20th C. books, mostly by women. Top on my list to read are Few Eggs and No OrangesHouse-Bound (preface by Penelope Fitzgerald), The Winds of Heaven (preface by AS Byatt), A London Child of the 1870s, (preface by Adam Gopnik) & Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book pairings, Pt. 3

As a follow-up: I read a biography and autobiography, both of literary merit. I chose The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, by Terry Teachout and a choice of one of H.L. Mencken's Days books: Happy Days, Newspaper Days, or Heathen Days. I chose Happy Days.

It was a good exercise, and both were good reads. Teachout's biography was very nicely limited in scope, and thoughtfully written. He makes the point that Mencken was actually a Victorian, and as such could not survive Modernism. The biography also helped place Mencken in history for me (cultural literacy is always a plus!), specially with regard to the evolution debate that is so polarized to this day.

The Days books were a great read, giving a full sense of Mencken's style and wit. Happy Days was light, nicely anecdotal, and really an interesting history of the city of Baltimore.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ancient Industries

...looking through their shop makes me want just about everything in it! I love the enamel ware and the scrubby brushes. They have an excellent blog too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cox Farms

Cox Farms is so much fun! I went with G for the first time 3 years ago, and have gone each fall ever since. I love how much there is to do, and how low-tech it all is. Good old fashioned fun. Their fall festival is still open for those of you who have not gotten a chance to go yet--do!
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Window shopping on my Mac

There are so many fun buyer clubs these days... One Kings Lane, Zulily, Guilt, The Mini Social, etc. etc. I have fun looking at all of the crazy things available these days. I rarely succumb to temptation. Yesterday I did however--and got this Elephantito (my absolute favorite in little girl clothes right now) suit for G's Christmas outfit. She's going to rock it with her gold sequin shoes.

ps. If you want to join any of those sites, email me and I'll invite you!

Blog Updated

Spoon has recently been updated a little bit. 

I am trying to make some sort of sense of the randomness that is found here... So I have begun to put labels on the posts. All the past posts have been updated to fit into the following categories:

- home and local
- art
- books and comments
- kids
- food
- things
- places
- pop-culture

All of the blogs fit into those categories to some degree. So I hope that will make it easier to find things that you may be looking for, or to browse past posts that you may have missed, but are in a category of interest.

Starting with October I am going to post a photo collage round-up of what we've been up to at the end of each month.

J and I are also starting a new blog called 12. It's about our 12 one month long resolutions for 2011. Check back in January for the start of our challenges.

I hope this makes Spoon more enjoyable for you!

Top Cookbooks Part 2

Here's a quick link to the Observer's follow up to the top 50 Cookbooks, the top 10 list.

Here's the top ten most used cookbooks in my kitchen (in no particular order):

1. Donna Hay, Off the Shelf
2. Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Dinners
3. Jenni Fleetwood and Catherine Atkinson, Best-Ever Slow Cooker One-Pot & Casserole Cookbook (the updated version of the One-Pot, Slow-Pot Cooking)
4. Julia Child, The Way to Cook
5. Julia Child, Baking with Julia
6. Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins, Silver Palate Cookbook
7. Beatrice Ojakangas, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
8. Gretchen Quie, The Governor's Table
9. (Does this count?!)
10. The Wegmans monthly magazine

What is on your most used/favorite/best cookbook list?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Hilda Grahnat, a wonderful photographer and blogger living in Sweeden, was invited to participate in a project called 10.10. They asked 10 photographers in 10 places around the world to take 10 photographs on 10/10/10. Here's the link.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fairfax Fall Festival--fun and a find

This year G enjoyed the rides (including her first ferris wheel!) and I found this great handmade, felted brooch to wear on the awesome coat that J gave me for Christmas last year--I was too hugely pregnant to wear it though, so I am looking forward to sporting this as it gets colder.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stribbling 2010

To Autumn

John Keats (1820)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sweet Paul

I just discovered this gorgeous new(ish) online magazine: Sweet Paul.