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July 12, 2015

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

folded clockOn Monday evening, I became overwhelmed by an irrational compulsion to go out and purchase a copy of Heidi Julavits’ new book, The Folded Clock: A Diary. Like I really needed another book, but there was something about this one—I’d been reading about it at edge of evening over the past month or so—and I not only had a car (I was visiting my parents in Peterborough where the chain bookstore is open late) but I had no one sensible to talk me out of  an out-of-the-way jaunt to the bookstore past the children’s bedtime, so we went and I am so glad we did. It would be a shame if my totally irrational compulsion purchase turned to be disappointing, but it was amazing, mind-blowing. I read it once and then went through it again in my hammock yesterday, making notes, trying to figure the whole thing out. It doesn’t hurt that the cover designer is Leanne Shapton, though the only bad thing about that is that the cover got damaged in my bag and now I am a little bit devastated.

The Folded Clock is a diary, though it’s a most peculiar diary. Chronology is jettisoned in favour of an arrangement of time that is and isn’t wholly random. A year’s worth of entries, each one beginning with, “Today I…” The book’s inspiration, Julavits writes, coming from an experience she had revisiting the diaries of her young, writing that she’d always imagined was her foundation as a writer, and finding instead of a foundation that, “The actual diaries revealed me to possess the mind of a paranoid tax auditor.” Time itself, she notes, had changed, becoming sweeping, a simple day insubstantial. She’d also recently borne a serious illness, one that challenged her perceptions of time: “It was no longer linear; it did not cut through my day like a road. I did not see time ahead of me. I experienced time on top of me.”

the-folded-clock-a-diaryTime is a preoccupation of the entries in The Folded Clock, as evidenced by the title. Time itself not linear—many of the “Today I…” entries are actually about events decades-old, inspired by objects or experiences in the present day—and there is the issue of the construction of the book itself, which was deeply revised and shaped over another period of time divorced from the immediacy of the diary. Parenthood is another preoccupation connected to time—the impossibly tiny span of a childhood, which spins out of our control, and then conversely (but not really), the unbearable vastness of time in a child’s company: “how can this day not mostly involve my waiting for it to be over?”

The diary’s various settings become familiar—the writer’s apartment in New York City, the community in Maine where Julavits, her husband and their children spend their summers, the German villa where they’re living while her husband is on a fellowship, and various artist retreats to which she escapes throughout the year. There is nothing haphazard in the entries’ arrangement, so that we’re introduced to a concept or thing or incident and will be referenced later, our knowledge taken for granted. Less obviously, the entries seem contextualized from a future vantage point so that each one takes its reader somewhere—a mini-essay every one. There is cohesion to the entire project, though the patterns are difficult to discern. Which is the point, Julavits points out, in one of the several clues she offers throughout the book pertaining to its curious construction:

“What’s on the page appears to have busted out of my head and traveled down my arms and through my fingers and my keyboard and coalesced on the screen. But it didn’t happen like that; it never happens like that.”

The Folded Clock is a book about the puzzles and mysteries of an ordinary comfortable life. For me, one of those mysteries is the way that a book—an object wholly apart from my existence, until I bought it—can appear to be reading my mind, stealing my life. (I have this experience also when I am reading Rebecca Solnit.) Like Julavits’ whole chapter about Wasted: The Preppie Murder, by Linda Wolfe, and being three fucks away from Robert Chambers—not that I have ever been such a thing, but I have a thing about that book. Or about abortions as women’s work, about how the boyfriends are always informed but they’re never there—abortions are something that happen between friends. About the internet and desire, about conscious attempts to resist the google-ization of everything—which is interesting because there is at first glance something so bloggish about Julavits’ approach, and yet the construction of her entries is so counter to blogging’s immediacy. The Folded Clock is a bit of a throwback, a project decidedly analogue.

It works because the writing is wonderful: lines like, “Worrying about originality is like worrying about the best place to hang your wall phone.” Anecdotes that start with, “Once I stole the name of a fetus.” How could you not want to read the rest? And while her prose style isn’t Didion’s, Julavits has that writer’s ability to lay down a thread and appear to be following it, while she is in fact blazing an altogether different trail. Connections, symbioses, and coincidence—all interwoven, meaningful and nothing by the by. And always, unfailingly, interesting. The question of whether male writers ever consider female writers a threat. The nature of relationships. Some of these entries made me uncomfortable, sometimes because I couldn’t identify, and other times because I could. And any diary worth its salt should garner such a response.

I loved this weird wonderful beautiful book, a book that was also easy to read in little bits—important when I was caring for my children without a break last week. A book I knew I needed before I needed it, and there is something otherworldly about the whole thing. Or perhaps I mean the opposite, that the book—with its preoccupation with objects and thingness and remarkable beauty as a thing itself—is eerily all too wordly—but then its not, it’s so rarefied, no matter how much it seems to have busted out of a head, out of the earth.

But still, it’s the kind of object one wants to go around clutching. Last week I wrote down directions to my friend’s house on a yellow post-it note that I promptly lost, mysteriously—which is another of Julavits’ preoccupations, the way that an object can dematerialize. When I found the post-it note again yesterday between the end pages and the back cover, I was not at all surprised. And I left it there. I will discover it again the next time I read the book, and of course I will remember.

July 9, 2015

Lavender

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On our way back to Toronto today, we stopped at Lavanne Lavender in Campbellcroft, whose signs I’d been noting on the highway for years now. They regretted that their lavender fields weren’t quite an amazing as they should be—a nasty combination of drought and frost this spring—so admission fees were waived, but we had a great time all the same. I’m kind of their target audience, and so I went through their shop like a lavender fiend in a lavender shop. I got lotion, shortbread, honey, and a jar of Herbes de Provence—all homemade. The children had fun running up and down between the lavender plants, and we walked the labyrinth even if it wasn’t very bloomy. And then we had lunch at their pop-up cafe, which is running Thursday-Sunday all summer long. The lavender-inspired menu included a mango lavender gazpacho, lavender flavoured chicken and lamb brochettes, melon salad with lavender honey, and a lavender custard tart that blew my mind. It was delicious, and a really lovely setting. Definitely one of the most interesting pit-stops we’ve taken lately.

July 7, 2015

No Rain

IMG_20150624_081645I ran into someone last week who remarked upon photos of my family on Facebook which give the mostly-correct impression that we are good at spending our days. Though it’s not always the whole story, and I let her know about the weekend previous, when it rained for two days, all our plans got flooded, and I cried because the soup I made tasted just like dirt. She asked me why I don’t take pictures of that, or blog about it, and that’s a good question, but the answer is mostly, why bother? It was bad enough living through it once, so why on earth would I want to re-experience it by writing it down?

IMG_20150629_162615Whereas the last few days, summer proper, have been glorious. No rain. We had a very good week last week, adjusting well to school’s out. I love not having to schlep anyone out the door in the morning, and the day continues on apace. Harriet watches movies through Iris’s nap while I get some work done, and I begin the rest of my work once the kids go to bed, though the problem with this is that they’re going to bed later and later. But alas. I am also in love with our teenage babysitter, whose alarm at Iris eating dirt the other day was totally adorable.

IMG_20150704_123110On Friday, we spent a morning at the park with friends, perfect weather, shaded by trees so we didn’t even have to apply sunscreen. The children played and got dirty while their mothers talked about books and writing, and life seemed very much in balance. On Saturday we had a busy day of Fringe Festival and then the book launch for Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony at Little Island comics, which was fantastic. And that night we hung out on our friends’ amazing rooftop patio celebrating the 4th of July in the company of excellent Americans (3 out of 4 of whom were under 6). We went home before we’d drank too much so Sunday wouldn’t be a disaster.

IMG_20150705_100242And it wasn’t! The #SummerofRavines continued with an exploration of the St Clair Ravine, which was amazing, up through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and along the Beltline Trail to Oriole Park, which has a fantastic playground so the children were delighted. My secret plan is to trick them into liking nature rambles, and so far so good. We were even home again for nap, which is my definition of a proper kind of day. I spent Iris’s nap in the hammock revelling in wifi, putting the finishing touches on 49thShelf’s 2015 Fall Fiction Preview, which you can read here.

IMG_20150629_195833And now I have decamped for a few days visiting my parents in Peterborough, which is the first time I’ve ever done such a thing solo, so dependent am I upon my husband (who needs to stay home and go to work). This is the longest time we’ve been apart since 2003, which is kind of ridiculous, but I like our life this way. But on the other hand, it’s nice to know how much I’m capable on my own and also to have the experience of missing each other. It’s novel. The good news is that nobody threw up in the car, and also that we have a car, which means when I needed an emergency bookstore visit tonight to pick up a copy of The Folded Clock: A Diary, by Heidi Julavits, I was able to do so with alacrity.

I’m now reading Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan, which feels summery to me because I read Goon Squad at the cottage a couple of years ago. It’s reminiscent of the later book, but a bit off-putting too, so I’ll be reading the Julavits alongside it. And yes, I get holiday book nostalgia a lot. I read Elizabeth McCracken’s amazing Thunderstruck last summer the day we came home from our cottage (I remember walking home from the subway reading the book once I’d dropped off our rental car) and now I’m yearning to read another of her books when we go away in a few weeks. I’ve got The Giant’s House and Niagara Falls All Over Again on order, one of which I’ll be reading along with rereads of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and something by Laurie Colwin because I’ve been thinking a lot about funny, smart novel by women writers—the kind of book I want to write. So I’ll be reading for pleasure and also for inspiration.

July 5, 2015

I Take You, by Eliza Kennedy

i-take-youA few years ago, I wrote a blog post about the trouble with comic heroines, their forever blunders, self-deprecation and “one-downmanship”, and about how female characters are not often permitted access to what novelist Kate Christensen refers “an august tradition of hard-drinking, self-destructive, hilarious anti-heroes” ala Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim. Christensen was talking here about the protagonist of her first novel, In the Drink, a character who ended up being pegged as a not-quite-Bridget-Jones (without the sweetness)—it was the late ’90s after all. But nearly 20 years later, readers still don’t quite know what to do with a female counterpart to a character like Amis’s Lucky Jim—a character who messes up, isn’t necessarily loveable, and who doesn’t care if you don’t like it. A character like Lily Wilder, the hard-drinking, crazy-for-sex heroine of Eliza Kennedy’s debut novel, I Take You.

But I loved her. I did. Within the first few pages it is clear that Lily drinks too much, swears religiously, and has no compunction about casual sex as long as the sex is excellent, and it was all so refreshing. That she was a bit silly, but not stupid. That she was empowered, interesting, and nobody’s victim. Which is not to say that she hasn’t herself in quite a pickle as the novel begins: Lily is engaged to Mr. Wonderful—it’s been a whirlwind—and she’s pretty sure she even loves him, but she still can’t kick her habit of picking up men in bars and in elevators, and, well, everywhere. Lily wants to marry Will, because he’s a smart choice and Lily is wise enough to be in the habit of making these. But she doesn’t seem ready to become domesticated—and now the wedding is just days away.

The thing about Lily Wilder is that she’s happy. In fact, she insists upon her happiness, her value, which is rare with comic heroines. She is not a problem to be solved, and she doesn’t want to be fixed. She just wants to have it both ways—but how?

The story is set in Key West, Lily’s hometown, where she runs into a childhood friend with whom she has a complicated past. Her father, a dashing Lothario, is in town for the wedding, and so are all his ex-wives, plus Lily’s friends, and Will’s too—she accidentally sleeps with one of the groomsmen. So things aren’t at all straightforward even beyond the state of the forthcoming union, plus Lily has to do some work while she’s on her vacation, coaching a client for an upcoming deposition—her law firm is defending an oil company whose drilling explosion has caused massive devastation throughout the Gulf.

Madcap shenanigans ensue, with lots of smart writing, funny dialogue, and plenty of explicit sex—the prose is as shy as Lily is. The novel suffers from two problems, which seem somewhat incongruous—the first is that the political ramifications of the plots are heavily underlined in expository dialogue. I get that this is a huge revolution, a heroine who loves sex and is unabashed about it, that there is a massive double standard at work in which men get to be awesome for sleeping around but women get to be sluts. Though perhaps these underlinings would be helpful to a reader who is a little less unaware than I am. My second criticism is that the ending was a bit too neat, though the neatness was satisfying, but my eyebrows were just a little but raised.

But never mind, because I devoured this book in 24 hours, stayed up late reading, enjoyed myself immensely, and laughed out loud more than once. It’s a book that promised to be funny, and it really really was (although funny is subjective—Goodreads reviewers seem to disagree with me on this point, although it’s possible that they’re all idiots). It’s a book that surprised me, didn’t underestimate my intelligence, and dared to be different from almost every book I’ve ever read. A book that underlines also that women are complex, interesting people, and their comic heroines deserve to be just the same. And this one is.

I Take You is fantastic.

July 2, 2015

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

We’re all besotted, each of the four of us, who are aged from 2-36, but we’re confident that even those beyond our expansive age-range could find much to love in Kate Beaton’s debut picture book, The Princess and the Pony.

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Because it’s got everything! Princesses, yes, and ponies, and farting, and burly Vikings married to powerful Amazons (and they hang celebratory bunting in their house). Knights and battles, and more farting, dodgeballs, spitballs, hairballs and squareballs (those were new). “In a kingdom of warriors, the smallest warrior was Princess Pinecone. And she was very excited for her birthday.” Is the beginning of a picture book that gets kids exactly right.

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Not being a kid, the things I notice are a little bit different. Like that Princess Pinecone is mixed-race and that her mother looks like a Black Wonder Woman. I love the book’s acknowledgement that sometimes adults don’t get things right and that life can be disappointing. I love Princess Pinecone’s persistence, her optimism, her courage. I love that this is the least-gendered book called The Princess and the Pony ever.

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The Princess and the Pony is a book that shows us that appearances can be deceiving, that power comes in many different forms, that most of us have a cuddly side, and that farts are the only thing we can ever really count on. But most importantly, it is ridiculously fun to read. Kate Beaton has followed up her runaway smash hit, Hark a Vagrant, with a book that’s only nominally for a different audience. Everybody’s going to like this one too.

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We’re looking forward to seeing Kate Beaton at The Princess and the Pony Launch Party on Saturday! Details here. 

July 2, 2015

Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart

beyond the paleEmily Urquhart’s Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of Hidden Genes, is an interesting companion to Eula Biss’s On Immunity, both books inhabiting a fascinating creative space bridging science and lore, and underlining the expansiveness and importance of issues and ideas raised by motherhood. Both books also show the ways in which the experience of motherhood has a trajectory rich with unexpected directions, taking a mother to places she is rarely forecasting, not least of all at that pivotal, complicated, loaded moment when she sees her new baby for the first time.

For Urquhart, that moment was especially loaded. Her daughter was born in St. John’s Newfoundland on Boxing Day 2010 with a crown of snow white hair. From all around the hospital, people came to see the baby with the unusual hair, and it all seemed quite natural to Urquhart, a scholar of folklore in which wondrous children are often born on ominous days and people come from all around to see. It soon becomes clear, however, that matters are more complicated, when doctors determine that Baby Sadie has albinism. While initially, this diagnosis is upsetting, being not what Urquhart had envisioned for her child—Sadie has vision problems, her skin is extremely sensitive to sun damage, Urquhart imagines the social difficulties Sadie will encounter in looking different from her peers—she and her husband embark upon their own journey toward understanding their daughter’s genetic condition and loving her difference (for it is a part of the person they love, after all). It’s a journey that takes them to North American Albinism conferences, to Tanzania to learn about organizations dedicated to assist children with albinism whose lives are threatened by witch doctors who use their body parts for “medicine,” and them back into Urquhart’s own family tree to learn the history of her daughter’s particular genetic makeup.

It’s a journey that Urquhart spends much of the time finding her way on, seeking answers to her questions, examining her feelings and perspectives, feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed, unsure and ill-at-ease. Which makes her an unusual commander of a literary ship, so used to are we of being guided by a voice that is large and confident. On one hand, this undermines the book a little bit—the depth and refinement of Urquhart’s thought is understated. And yet this quality distinguishes the book as well, that Urquhart shows her work, her process—here is a different kind of non-fiction, one reflecting a truer experience of one embarking out into the unknown. Like Maria Mutch’s mesmerizing Know the NightBeyond the Pale is a parenting memoir that takes its reader deeper into the world.

July 1, 2015

A Little Lesson

Every time you make a garden, some asshole is going to come along and try to wreck it.

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Which is only a reason to garden harder. Bring on the pollinators.

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We continue to insist that the world is a beautiful place.

June 30, 2015

Summer Plans

IMG_0489There was a while this weekend when summer plans weren’t looking good. On Saturday I made a soup that featured the uncanny flavour of actual dirt, which was devastating. And it rained and rained all day, and even the next day, so our plans to go for a hike were ruined. All melodrama heaped on by the fact I was premenstrual. We decided to go to the board game cafe instead of the hike, but when we got there, there was a sign on the door explaining that they were closed due to flooding. We ended up going out for schnitzel instead, which was kind of consoling, but the weekend was mostly disappointing all around, and the children reached a state of maximum solid gold 100 karat bonkers. By Sunday evening, Stuart had stopped telling me that he was jealous that I was the one who got to stay home with them all summer.

Fortunately when Monday arrived, it delivered the sun. We went to the park and built castles, moats and fortifying walls, which Iris wrecked and we tried not to get annoyed about. And then the girls practiced climbing, drawing on their inner-monkeys, all the while satisfying my agenda which was basically to get these children as exhausted as possible. Fresh air and physical exercise! Scurry up the play structure. Faster, faster, go! Which might turn out to be the theme of the summer entire, except for the afternoons when Iris naps, Harriet watches movies, and I get my work done. Everything slows right down at nap, and the challenge then is to strike a balance between the two. Between go and stop, between fun and relaxation, between doing stuff and doing nothing.

IMG_20150624_191728This summer, as with all summers, I become busier than usual just as my time disappears to the children being home and weekend getaways. And so the days are full, full, full, and I need to stop adding to the fullness by baking strawberry pies at 10pm because I end up staying up too late and the pie turns out looking like a bloodbath (even though it was very delicious). This summer is going to have to be about the store-bought pies, and hotdogs for supper, no more dirt soups and choosing my priorities. Which include meeting my deadlines, doing well at my work, not ignoring my children to the point of neglect, and hanging out with my husband (which is hard to do when the prime time of one’s workday begins at 9pm). To help with this, I’ve hired a babysitter one morning a week, and look forward to that solid block of three hours to work, which will feel positively luxurious as it goes by so fast.

But it won’t go by as fast as the summer itself will seem to, which is the lesson I learned last year. I really do like being home with my kids, providing I get ample time to do my own thing during our days, and I feel really lucky that my home and professional lives merge so seamlessly. When the children (both of them! I know!) head off to school in September, I will miss them dreadfully…even as I begin to delight working in the daytime and the possibility of evenings of leisure (a stretch, perhaps).

So in the meantime, we’ll be visiting the library, reading books together, hanging out with friends, going to visit my parents, frequenting local cafes, Harriet will be doing a few daycamps, Iris will be taking long naps (I hope!), and I will be doing my darnedest to tire them out so that bedtime occurs before 9pm. We’ll be spending a week away at a cottage, a long weekend camping, and we’re looking forward to fun weekend adventures in the city too. Plus spitting watermelon seeds, wading in local pools, forgetting to put on sunscreen, and gathering our freckles while we may.

June 28, 2015

How You Were Born by Kate Cayley

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When I was away last weekend, Kate Cayley’s story collection, How You Were Born, was an ideal literary companion. Slimish, perfectly packaged, each story its own realized vision. Its effect more muted and subtle than Rhonda Douglas’s Welcome to the Circus, another short story collection I’ve loved lately, but still—so very good. Which is important when one is away from home and hoping for reading as excellent as one’s surroundings—the kind of thing you mustn’t get wrong. When our mini-break was over, I could underline its success by the fact that I’d managed to nearly get a whole book read, and I am glad that it was this one.

Kate Cayley is a playwright, poet, prize-winning YA author, and now, with How You Were Born, recipient of the Trillium Book Award. The day the book took the prize, I received my copy in the mail from All Lit Up, which technically means that I liked this book before it was so extraordinary lauded (and therefore am cool and a tastemaker), but one might have expected as much from Cayley. Though it’s worth noting that How You Were Born beat out novels by Margaret Atwood and Thomas King for the prize. Perhaps they should put that on a sticker and slap it on the cover.

It has been interesting to read these stories, many of which are about Queer family life, sandwiched between Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Adult Onset, which tell of the same. In Cayley’s first story, “Resemblance,” two women and their daughter travel to visit the mother of the girl’s biological father, who is recently deceased. The ending is quiet, ambiguous and uncomfortable as these people consider the weight and meaning of their connections. “The Summer the Neighbours Were Nazis” is spun from the most marvellous beginning: “My brother Richard was odd. By the time he was twelve my mother yearned for a diagnosis, but he was just odd.” A brother and sister spend their days high up in the backyard birch tree observing their eccentric neighbours, and the sister comes in sight of her own mother’s struggles and powerlessness: “My mother…was more like Richard than she knew.”

In “Stain,” a man attending a wedding weekend meets up with a woman he’d briefly encountered years ago in 2001 at the anti-capitalist protests in Quebec City. In “Midway, Midgets and Giants, Photograph 1914,” a two-feet-seven-inch tall circus performer reads of the legendary romance between Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, their wedding presided over by PT Barnum, and scans the crowds looking for her true love in the stands. And then a different turn altogether with “Fetch,” in which a man who supposes that his double has moved in next door, a harbinger of death, and responds as rationally as you might expect. “Acrobat” has a similar tone to “The Summer the Neighbours Were Nazis”, about a lonely girl who is new in town and partakes in an informal acrobatic circus, and learns something fundamental truth about herself in the story’s final moment.

In “Long Term Care,” things get complicated when an elderly father is moved into an assisted living unit, and his daughter fears that he is imagining himself back in Buchenwald, where he was traumatized in his youth. The blind protagonist of “Blind Poet” has a fleeting affair with an artist, the story tied up on classical allusion. “Young Hennerly” is a story and also the title of a creepy song sung to a folklorist collecting stories of residents of the mountains of West Virginia who finds the borders between life and myth begin to blur. In the Alice Munrovian “Boys,” a man finds himself responsible for his cousin who has always been a bit different, and whose own behaviour with young boys skirts the line between innocent and otherwise. And in the title story, a woman tells her child, about the sides and allegiances of motherhood, and of daring the “gamble” of bringing a child into the world.

June 26, 2015

My Favourite Things and Ah-ha to Zig-Zag by Maira Kalman

In 15 years of blogging, I am not sure there’s a post I’m more proud of than the one I wrote last fall about my accidental discovery of the artist Maira Kalman (and of how that led to cake). Coming to Maira Kalman was a curious experience rich with signs and wonders, like the United Pickle label on the back of The Principals of Uncertainty, and the title of the book at all because I would have purchased any volume called such a thing. Not to mention that hers are picture books for grown-ups, which I so completely delight in, and so I was thrilled to receive for my birthday yesterday a copy of her book, My Favourite Things.

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“Isn’t that the only way to CURATE A LIFE? To live among things that make you GASP with delight?” Kalman writes, which is just one of the many points at which this book had me nodding and gesturing emphatically. And yes, GASPing with delight.

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My Favourite Things is as random as its title suggests, art and writing about various objects. Part 1 is “There Was a Simple and Grader Life,” which explores Kalman’s family history through items including a grey suit belonging to her father, a grater for making potato pancakes, and her aunt’s bathtub in which fish would swim “waiting to become Friday Night dinner.” Part 3 is called “Coda: or some other things the author collects and/or likes” (including “bathtubs, buttons and books”) and the middle section of the book was born from Kalman’s experience curating an exhibit of her favourite items from The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

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My children were excited to realize that they recognized many parts of the second section of my new book, because I’d bought them a copy of Kalman’s children’s book Ah-hA to Zig-Zag last December.

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It was a book they had some trouble with at first because Kalman’s zaniness is a bit lost on the childhood mind which is so often looking for things to make sense and for books to have stories. But Kalman’s unorthodox A-Z (which, like My Favourite Things, is also a tour though objects from her exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt ) grew on them, and they can appreciate its strangeness now that it’s familiar (and they like the image of the cutest dog on earth, as well as the picture of the toilet in the middle of the alphabet—”Now might be a good time to go to the bathroom. No worries. We will wait for you. Not a problem.”—as a bathroom visit is essential to any museum experience [although it’s curious that she never makes it to the cafe.])

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(As a notorious imperfectionist, I am also partial to O.)

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Not only do Kalman’s books celebrate the marvellousness of things, the books themselves are marvellous things in their own right. They’re things that (literally) speak to you (Ah-hA! There you are. Are you ready to read the Alphabet?…), and unless I’m particularly singular (unlikely) you too will find that Kalman’s curated collections will speak to you in other ways too, connecting with your experience in an uncanny manner, making you suspect that Kalman’s been eavesdropping on your soul.

The only trouble with the overlap between Ah-Ha! and My Favourite Things is that my youngest daughter keeps getting frustrated by being unable to find the toilet in the latter, though that is just another example of how these beautiful puzzling books are so wholly engaging. Having a few of them lying around the house is not a bad to curate a life after all.

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