Since childhood I have always been the happy, happy recipient of BOOKS at Christmas.
This year was no different and I am eager to read each one.
• HAVISHAM (Ronald Frame) - an intriguing prequel to Great Expectations, this novel tells us the early history of the tragic Miss Havisham.... the elderly, jilted spinster who roamed the corridors of her dark mansion wearing a threadbear wedding gown, surrounded by the remnants of a crumbling wedding feast that never took place. Who among Dicken's readers hasn't wondered what brought this frail bitter woman to this point? This book promises to answer her life's riddles and illuminate her sadness.
• THE PRIVATE WORLD OF TASHA TUDOR (Tasha Tudor/Richard Brow) - I have been a huge fan of this remarkable woman for over 40 years. Her way of life, her artistry, and her craftsmanship are captured beautifully in this gorgeous book, full of inspiring text and endearing photographs.
• THE MISSING INK: The Lost Art of Handwriting (Philip Hensher) - hand-writing can be a totem of personality, a glance into a person's moods and tastes, a way to capture who they are. When a letter or note is written, a little piece of one's spirit is left on the page. The acoutrements in writing by hand can be thrilling: fountain pens, pots of ink, sealing wax, luxe stationery or whimsical notecards. Writing to another person by hand is truly a gift of self, and sadly it is becoming a rarity in this printed electronic world. With email, Facebook, texting and faxes the preferred method for communication, there are people whose penmanship we have never glimpsed, and may never see. This book addresses this loss... the extinction of knowing how another person writes, and the beauty and art of penmanship and communicating by hand.
• 100 POEMS (Rudyard Kipling) - my aunt adored the works of Kipling and I inherited one of her volumes of his poems. During her lifetime she visited not only his American home in Vermont, but also his home in England. I had read Kim many years earlier before I ever read his poetry. But a recent PBS drama highlighting the terrible loss of his only son in The Great War urged me look at his work with a renewed interest. And now I have this beautiful new volume to join the other one. It includes many previously unpublished—in fact unknown!—poems by Kipling, gathered with a loving hand by editor Thomas Pinney.
• TREME: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans (Lolis Eric Elie) - for anyone who loves NOLA, and who also has enjoyed TREME on HBO, this cookbook is a remarkable tribute to the post-Katrina city and a genuine souvenir of the series that honors it. It's filled with mouth-watering recipes, beautifully evocative photographs, quirky reflections on the city by it's fictional inhabitants, and a genuinely loving text by writer, journalist, and food historian Lolis Elie, who serves as story editor for TREME.
• EMMA BROWN (Clare Boylan) - Miss Boylan has taken 20 pages of an unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Brontë and completed it more than a century later. It concerns the travails of a mysterious child named Matilda, whose wealthy pedigree is not what it seems. In the words of the publisher: When everything about the girl’s wealthy background turns out to be a fiction, it falls to a local gentleman and a childless widow to begin a quest for her past and identity... from the drawing rooms of country society to London’s seamiest alleys. With all the intelligence and pathos of the novel’s originator, Boylan develops Brontë’s sketch of a girl without a past into a stunning portrait of Victorian society with a shameful secret at its heart.
• SINGING SCHOOL: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters (Robert Pinsky) - rather than setting forth axioms and protocol, Mr. Pinsky lets the poetry lover find his or her way by sinking happily into works by the likes of Dickinson, Southwell, Keats, Herbert, and Nashe, to name but a few of the poets in this lovely book. The flyleaf promises that "... this anthology respects poetry’s mysteries in two senses of the word: techniques of craft and strokes of the inexplicable."
Bless the hands that give books! Amen.