Friday, 21 March 2014

To re-read or not?

My Book Club recently read and discussed J D Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. The story takes place over one weekend, after the narrator, Holden Caulfield has been asked to leave his private boarding school. Holden basically runs away to New York, stays in a somewaht seedy hotel and sets out to behave like a grown up, smoking and drinking heavily through the weekend. He refuses to go his home, an apartment in Manhattan where his parents and younger sister live. He makes vague plans to run away out west and get a job on a ranch, but when his young sister tries to go with him, he backs away from the idea. His relationship with his parents is complicated, made more so by the death of an older brother, Allie, which happens before the story begins. and to whom Holden was very close.He is also very close to his sister Phoebe, even though she only ten to his sixteen years old.
 Several of us had read before, some several decades ago. Re-reading a book after such a long time does put an entirely different light on it, as there is a whole life's experience to bring to the book which naturally changes one's perspective. One of the group could remember the excitement she felt on first reading it aged 18; now recently retired her feelings about the book were very different. I had read it about 4 or 5 years ago, so my emotions were not so different, but this time I appreciated the craft in the writing, the exposition of Holden Caulfield's emotions and actions so much more. One of the group queried its status as a classic novel, as it appears regularly on reading lists for GCSE and A level exams. I think because it is such a detailed description of a young man's mix of emotions about being or becoming an adult , or grown-up, that it has immediate appeal for the same age group, and also because the quality of the writing is so good are among the reasons that it is still being read some 60 years after it was published.
  I do't often re-read books, but I'm glad I did with this one, as it is well worth a second read. Most classic become so because they are worth reading  again and again, as each time we add something to our reading, a deeper exploration of character, narrative and plot, which adds to our sum of knowledge of self and of others.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

I picked up Nigel Slater's latest book Eat on a quick visit to the library and have enjoyed dipping in to it. I've had a copy of Real Fast Food on my bookshelves for a long time, and use it from time to time for inspiration. I find the lack of illustration almost more inspiring than the lavishly illustrated cookbooks of today, which have carefully composed colour photographs of many recipes.My serving dishes and crockery are not the same as those photographed, and I find the pictures a little distracting - but then I usually prefer the original book to a film based on it, as the latter never matches up to the scenes in my imagination. However I enjoy Nigel Slater's writing and find his recipes usually easy to follow as well as inspiring. One thing I enjoyed about this book is the simplicity of the recipes: most are pared down to the basics, with exact quantities given only when necessary.
Another recent read was Jenny Eclair's Life, Death and Vanilla Slices, which was an enjoyable mix of laughter and tears. I've heard Jenny Eclair on radio and television, and read an occasional article by her, but have only just caught up with her novels. As this is her third, I'll look out for her others. Life, Death and Vanilla Slices follows Anne Armitage as she leaves her comfortable London life to be with her mother, who is in a coma after she was knocked down while crossing a road near her home. The story gives both Joan's and Anne's memories of their lives, Joan's reminiscences are from the depths of her coma, while Anne's are looking back on her life, while also trying to make sense of her mother's life in the Northern town which Anne had moved away from, creating a successful life in London, married to a doctor  and the mother of two spoiled teenage boys. An interesting take on the mid-life crisis scenario.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Great sewing

I watched the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee with a mixture of interest and some scepticism. The latter partly because I've been sewing all my life, although mostly out of a desire not to spend too much money on certain items. I made dolls clothes as a child, progressing to clothes as a teenager, encouraged by my mother who also made many of her dresses. I even made my own wedding dress when I married over 30
years ago. I've also made several sets of curtains, cushion covers and bedspreads for my homes. So when I saw the Great British Sewing Bee book in my local library, I picked it up for a thorough perusal at home.
It's certainly a useful book to have on the shelf for anyone who sews, although the actual technique section , at the beginning of the book,  is fairly short. However the projects are quite ambitious in range and several would probably suit someone who had some sewing experience at least. The illustrations and instructions are both very clear and there are helpful tips throughout.
So when Series Two the GBSB was announced and then appeared on the television, I couldn't resist watching. This series seems to be a bit more ambitious in its scope of fabrics and projects for the competitors, so I'll probably continue watching. Personally I wouldn't now wish to sew against the clock as the sewers have to do in the GBSB, but its interesting to see the different choices they make as to fabrics, patterns and so on.
Two recent makes by me are a top in a knit fabric from the pattern on the left, and a plain black skirt from the one on the right. Both were easy makes and I've worn both items several times.

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