Saturday, December 22, 2012


The poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on 10th December 1830, in Massachusetts. She used to live in total isolation from the world but she continued to read and send letters and poems to her friends. Upon her death, nearly 1,800 poems were discovered in 40 handbound volumes, which make her a very prolific writer. My favorite poem, and probably yours as well is HOPE.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.
Click here for a beautiful reading of the poem on Paganini's music. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Reading Challenges - January 2013

2012 has been the year of great Reading Challenges and because I managed to read fantastic books and discover incredible authors, I will take part in a few (let's say eight or nine) such reading challenges.
For January 2013 I am planning to read Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) for the Orange in January Challenge and because I realized it has more than 650 pages, that will also be for Birgit's Tea and books Challenge; Kafka on the shore (Haruki Murakami) and A Quiet Life (Kenzaburo Oe) for Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge and Tony's January in Japan; Diego and Frida (Le Clezio) for Birgit's This isn't Fiction Challenge, for which I decided to upgrade my challenge to ten books instead of five. Anything else may and will be included on the list :)
Happy Reading in the New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Should I Read Next?

Let's imagine that we do not have those piles of books under the "I will read those next month or next summer" headings and we have just finished a book we enjoyed without knowing what to read next (I really doubt that could happen soon) but let's just pretend... How could we find something similar to what we have read, imagining that we would like to read a different author, and not the one whose book we finished... Clever people thought about this and this wonderful site was created, WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?, which can recommend you different books based on your reading(s). You can also create lists, share them or even buy those books from Amazon. Is there anything else missing? let me know :)

P.S. Unlike The Book Seer which cannot offer any recommendations and tells me that I should stop reading books (loool), What Should I Read Next? actually works :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Soni - Six Word Sum Up

 Once every few months I come across a book written by a Romanian author which really, and I mean really amazes me. I wish this had been translated into English so maybe you could grasp the reason why I am so thrilled about Andrei Ruse's "Soni". The book was written in 2008 and in September 2012 the third edition appeared, with a few changes (for the better) in the story line, a better publishing house and even more publicity around it, moving from being a controversial book (due to its sex scenes and the use of drugs) to one meant to change your perspective on life.
"Soni" is a book about a 26 year old girl who finds out she has stomach cancer. Needless to say that she goes through all these stages of fear, rage and bad decisions in order to get to the "other side". Which other side? I won't spoil it for you so you'll have to read the book... but be prepared for everything good and bad in-between the covers.

"On our first day at school we should be told that we are going to die. Then, the alphabet."

Cancer Is Not the Final Frontier. 

Now back to "Dealer for a day" :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's talk about ...

Incredibly witty Alain de Botton openly and philosophically talks about sex. I can't wait to get my hands on his latest book :)

Alain de Botton on How to Think More About Sex from The School of Life on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange 2012

Here I am, signing up for my first card exchange, hosted by Leeswammes’ Blog and Stiletto Storytime and I am quite excited about it, mainly because I have discovered  this year great people behind the blogs I read and follow, so it will be nice to exchange winter cards with them (or one of them). I am looking forward to discovering my "partner in crime" :)
Find out more by visiting the blogs mentioned above, and if you have a book blog then you may join in the fun...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's all about Ali!

It's all about Ali! by biaa on Storybird Don't mind the biaa thing, it is just a cover-up :) 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fear and Trembling - Six Word Sum Up

 This is probably the first time I have been disappointed by a French writer, especially after I found her first book, "Hygiene and the Assassin" incredibly well written and shocking and that fact truly raised my expectations for her other books. Yet, "Fear and Trembling" did nothing except to annoy me up to its last page. Written in 1999, seven years after Nothomb's literary debut, this short novel is supposed to be about her less than positive cultural experience in Japan. But it is not. In fact, all I could grasp was this masochistic side the main character showed towards any Japanese person she encountered. There was too much humility from the main character's part to be able to somehow sympathize with her.

Life reduced to happily scrubbing toilets.

P.S. The book received le Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française in 1999, so you may give it a try, maybe you will find the story amusing.  
P.P.S. The woman on the cover is Amelie... 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Daylight Gate - Six Word Sum Up

This is the first time I haven't been blown away by a Jeanette Winterson book and I even know the reason to my "un-amazement": it is neither the subject - hunting down the Pendle witches, which can be quite thrilling, nor the idea of Jeanette experimenting with a horror novella for the first and last time, in her words... It is, in fact, the change in her writing style, which I simply used to adore. I kept on reading the short novel, waiting for a glimpse of her style, but it felt like I was reading a book by an ordinary writer who had nothing to do with the mesmerizing way in which Jeanette usually writes. And when I came to the line "Do you remember?", which also appears in the story "Goldrush Girl" I even smiled, but that was it... the falcon has flown away never to return (read the story to understand the meaning). I really hope her next literary piece will be a return to her famous, non-conformist style, with or without Shakespeare being mentioned :) For those who love horror stories, the book is a must.

Are all clever women powerful witches?

"She heard wings. She held out her arm. It was her bird. He scarred her arm where she had no glove but she did not care because she loved him and she knew that love leaves a wound that leaves a scar."

To read more about the book, click here. 
Read for the LGBT reading event, hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romania, let's read!

 Someone has finally noticed that Romanians do not read. With an average of 5 euros a year spent on books by a Romanian, we are on the last place compared to any other European country, so the Federation of Romanian Publishers and Distributors decided to start a national campaign to promote reading as a means to personal and social development. Yaaay!
I am not sure about that social development, but anything bookwise taking place in Romania is worth noticing  and even applauding, although there are plenty of criticism that can be expressed: the campaign only happens in several cities, so calling the campaign national is a bit too much; reaching people in cities with plenty of book shops is less impressive than going into small towns where book shops hardly exist and literary events are practically nonexistent.
Still, I am looking forward to finding more about this campaign, initiated a week ago. Maybe the Federation will provide more info on the related events, contests and book launches...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The French Do It Better

At least when it comes to good movies. In the past few months I have been watching a lot of French movies and they all lead me to this conclusion: they are all more emotional, more interesting and less tacky than most/all Hollywood films. You only have to watch "Cafe de Flore" to realize this simple truth. If time allows it, you can also watch "Seraphine" (the story of a housekeeper turned painter) or "Tomboy" (a girl who truly wishes she were a boy). They are both so beautifully filmed, and the stories are so touching you will have a problem watching any other movie that isn't French, because they are so addictive :)

My next stop: Romain Duris' filmography.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Piercing - Six Word Sum Up

You probably know about my Japanese Literature Challenge... and "Piercing" is one of those books read for this challenge and which really made me thankful for having decided to join in, since it is a book you will never forget. If this is not enough for you to read it, then take into consideration that I stopped twice because I was shocked by the images and situations it presented... My first book by Ryu Murakami, but definitely not my last!

Unimaginable obsessions defeated by daring prostitute.

The Guardian has a great review here and I have a tempting passage below :)

"As he opened his eyes he found that his senses of sight and sound and smell were getting entangled with one another, and now came a snapping, crackling sensation and a pungent whiff of something organic burning. Yarn or fingernails, something like that. He moaned beneath his breath: Not again. It always started with the sweating, followed by this smell of charred tissue. Then a sudden sense of utter exhaustion, and finally that indescribable pain. As if the particles of air were turning to needles and piercing him all over. A prickling pain that spread like goose bumps over his skin until he wanted to scream. Sometimes a white mist clouded his vision and he could actually see the air particles turning into needles.
Calm down, he told himself. Relax, you’re all right, you’ve already made up your mind you’ll never stab her. Everything’s going to be all right."

Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge and The New Authors Challenge.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Ms. Sexton went out looking for the gods.
She began looking in the sky
—expecting a large white angel with a blue crotch.

No one.

She looked next in all the learned books
and the print spat back at her.

No one

She made a pilgrimage to the great poet
and he belched in her face.

No one.

She prayed in all the churches of the world
and learned a great deal about culture.

No one.

She went to the Atlantic, the Pacific, for surely God...

No one.

She went to the Buddha, the Brahma, the Pyramids
and found immense postcards.

No one.

Then she journeyed back to her own house
and the gods of the world were shut in the lavatory.

At last!
she cried out,
and locked the door.

by Anne Sexton

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gourmet Rhapsody - Six Word Sum Up

This book is written by Muriel Barbery, the author of the famous and extremely beautiful book "The Elegance of the Hedgehog". I was expecting so much from the book and I was more than "full" :) It is definitely a "must" once you have read "The Elegance...", because you may want to know what other secondary characters in "The Elegance" are doing 'now", but just prepare to get hungry, while reading and looking for that exquisite flavour... Thank you Bellezza for this great opportunity!  

Proust-like cook redefines taste, smell, life.

 P.S. Here's a "taste" of this wonderful book:
"Meat is virile, powerful; fish is strange and cruel. It comes from another world, a secret ocean that will never yield to us; it bears witness to the absolute relativity of our existence, and yet it offers itself to us through the ephemeral revelation of unknown realms. When I was savoring these grilled sardines, like an autistic child whom nothing could trouble at that point in time, I knew that this extraordinary confrontation with a sensation from elsewhere was making me human, bringing its contrasting nature to bear to teach me my human essence. Infinite, cruel, primitive, refined ocean; between our avid teeth we seize the products of your mysterious activity. The grilled sardine suffused my palate with its frank and exotic bouquet,with each mouthful I grew more mature, and every time my tongue caressed the marine ash of blistered skin I felt exulted." 

P.P.S. Don't click here if you are planning on reading the book :))

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Love matters."

Jeanette Winterson is interviewed by the Australian television ABC about her latest book, "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" 
First aired on the 31st of July 2012.

 P.S. Happy Birthday, Jeanette! I hope the weather is fantastic in Paris! :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Night train to Lisbon - Six Word Sum Up

I heard about this book after Jeremy Irons accepted to play the leading role in the movie that is going to be released next year. Adding this to the fact that I have been planning for two years to visit Portugal, the book seemed like an interesting choice, and so it was. I recommend it to anyone who actually knows that there is more to life than our daily routine and it is never too late to decide to do whatever you feel like, no matter the social constraints.

You are more than your routine.

Read for the New Authors Challenge and the European Reading Challenge...

Thursday, August 16, 2012


"Somebody" is turning 54 today!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Mighty Gatsby

 "The Great Gatsby" is one of my all time favorite books and F.S. Fitzgerald is among my favorite writers, so to see that Buz Luhrmann, whose "Moulin Rouge" I adore has directed a new adaptation for the screen, with Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jay Gatsby), whose acting skills are more and more amazing with every new movie.... it really feels like this movie is going to be EPIC, even though it is quite hard to beat Redford's Gatsby. I can't wait till December!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It is so hard to caress...

It is so hard to caress an angel on his wings!
No matter how close, he keeps away from touch
For fear you could catch him,
He swirls, comes back, quietly flaps his wings,
It is the only sound he is capable of.
The angels, they do not know how to speak,
Words are incapable
Of expressing them,
Their deaf message is their presence.
The way they approach
To embrace you with their aura,
But quickly draw away,
Scared of intimacy,
Protectors, but not familiar,
Always leaving a distance through which
My words crawl to reach them,
Without knowing if
They are too weak to touch their hearing.
What a handicap of faith:
Not knowing if you are heard or if you hear
And out of all senses only the tactile dream remains
Of caressing, without scaring, an angel on his wings …

By Ana Blandiana

The original version is here. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Paris en Juillet

"Il faut avoir vécu des années dans le rien pour comprendre comment on peut être subitement effrayé par la possibilité." (Foenkinos' La Delicatesse)
Unexpectedly, Paris was quite cold this July, but that did not keep me from enjoying its beauties :)  
Seine's banks, full of souvenirs and old books...
My friends, the gargoyles, up the Notre Dame, always waiting for something...
Le Marche aux Fleurs, one of my top 5 favorite places in Paris...

"La Delicatessse", by David Foenkinos and "Paris Revealed" by Stephen Clarke were two reads I loved and recommend if Paris is on your mind for a future vacation and if you want to discover either its secrets and past, or if you want to get an intimate account of a sad Parisian's life and loves...
...and "Cafe de Flore" is a superb film, mostly set in 1960s Paris, starring Vanessa Paradis.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey - Six Word Sum Up

Whoever thought erotic literature cannot sell was completely mistaken. The hype that surrounded this book (actually, trilogy) made me read it because I was way too curious about it. Surely, it is quite erotic, in the sense that a 49 year old woman is writing about her fantasies and this made me wonder if I will be dreaming about that when I am 49 as well... Totally undemanding literature, which can be perfect for a few summer nights, depending on your mood!

Dark desires can never be boring.

Read for the New Authors Challenge...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Story Birds

I have discovered the most wonderful site, STORYBIRD, which I am going to use with my students starting in September.
Simply lovely! Take a look and create your own stories... Boys I Have Loved by czikimonkey on Storybird

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Paris in July

Nothing beats Paris in July... well, maybe Venice in February :)

I decided to join yet another reading challenge - Paris in July - since I love Paris and I will be visiting the city this month so, this July it is time for Paris again and since we're talking books, I will be reading Foenkinos' "La Delicatesse" (which I plan on buying from Paris), Patchett's "Bel Canto" for Orange in July Challenge and "Paris Revealed" and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" because they seem just the books to read while in Paris (actually, while waiting for planes to take off).
See you soon! :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Word of the Day 6: BRIDGE

One of my favorite idioms in English is "burn your bridges", meaning to do something with the result that you will not be able to return to a previous situation again, even if you want to . Sometimes it is imperious to do it in order to let go of the past and move forward, less burdened and more confident.

Still, before thinking that everything is "water under the bridge" (what happened in the past should be forgotten), you should take all precautions in order to leave all worries behind while "crossing that bridge when you come to it", since you do not want to take bad memories with you on the other side...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Summer Without Men - Six Word Sum Up

It has been my first encounter with Siri Hustvedt ( the surname has Norwegian origins) and I am sure I will be reading some of her other books in the near future, especially since she is so interested in psychoanalysis and she has included this aspect in her writing. Here's one of her interesting interviews on the topic.

A cheated woman goes beyond despair.

Read for the New Authors Challenge.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


2012 is definitely the year of challenges ... reading challenges! I have decided to join EIGHT and now I am wondering whether I will be able to finish them. Five months have passed and here is a recap of what I have accomplished so far:

Orange January: 2 books: Rape (Oates) and Small Island (Levy)- completed;

Venice in February: 4 books: The Passion (Winterson), Vivaldi's Virgins (Quick), Invisible Cities (Calvino) and Crossing the Bridge of Sighs(Michael) - completed;

Murakami Challenge: I started 1Q84 (two more volumes to read and two other novels by him);

New Authors: I have read 23 new authors, my favorite ones being Pamuk and Foenkinos;

Orange in July: 1 book to be read (Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett );

Tea and Books: 1 book read (The Museum of Innocence) 1 to finish (1Q84);

European Reading Challenge: 8 books read, there might be more, but I am not sure;

Japanese Reading Challenge: 1 read, a lot more awaiting...

What are your reading challenges these days?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ten People, Ten Colours... Ten Books

Juu-nin to-iro is a Japanese proverb meaning that everyone has their own tastes. For the next months, my tastes will coincide with Bellezza's and her Japanese Reading Challenge 6 which I have joined for the second year. I am so thrilled to be reading Japanese literature, mainly because it is so different from any other and I managed to gather ten books, mentioned in the collage below.
Five of them are written by Haruki Murakami, but I am not sure I will be reading all of them. My goal is to finish 1Q84 for Birgit's Tea and Books Challenge and two more, for the Murakami Challenge. I will also be reading Yamada's In Search of a Distant Voice since I loved Strangers... Any other book will add to the pleasure. So, will you be joining us? :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Woman in Black - Six Word Sum Up

     Do you believe in haunting ghosts? 

This is quite a creepy book to read, and I stopped reading it a few times, probably because it somehow got to me. Susan Hill has also written a series of crime novels, which I might tackle, after I get rid of this awful feeling of being watched and followed by a woman in black...

Read for the New Authors Challenge. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Me, Myself and Jeanette

“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.” This may seem incredible - and it actually is - but tomorrow I will be (hopefully live) on the BBC radio , asking Jeanette Winterson questions about her first novel, published in 1985, "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit". How out of this world that is? :) Am I over the moon? Yes. Am I worried I will be too nervous and make a fool of myself? Oh, yes. Is this a dream come true? Definitely. I will update the post after the interview to keep you posted about how my fascination with JW has reached new heights :)

 UPDATE: No live chat due to my work schedule, but my question has been answered. What question and what answer? You'll have to wait till the 2nd of June, when the podcast will be available :)  
UPDATE 2: Here's the podcast!

Friday, April 20, 2012

World Book Night

The 23rd of April is not just Shakespeare's day or birth (and death), it is also this year's World Book Night. There are huge campaigns to promote reading in the US and UK. To check their list of books to be given away click here or here. To let friends know that they should get down to some serious reading these days, send them a text or an email :) Enjoy your reading! I will surely enjoy mine, reading Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black".

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Sense of an Ending - Six Word Sum Up

Disturbing memories can ruin one's ordinariness.

This is my 5th or 6th Barnes, and definitely not my last, since there are already two waiting to be read.
"The Sense of an Ending" is a short novel that goes smoothly until you reach the final pages and you are left wondering if Tony told us the whole story, or memory played tricks on him... or us?

Friday, April 13, 2012

E Scris Pe Trup ...

- Eu sunt Bing.
- Eu sunt Elefana, nu ti-am spus? De peste un an de zile imi comand cartile de pe, cea mai mare librarie online, pentru ca ofera cele mai bune preturi din Romania, au carti in romana si engleza, ebooks, muzica si filme cat cuprinde. Poti chiar sa citesti pagini din carti inainte de a le cumpara si ghici ce? De cateva saptamani poti comanda doar cu un click, e o metoda foarte simpla, rapida si eficienta.
- Serios? Un site ce ofera servicii grozave, asta e chiar o noutate pentru voi!
- Da, cred ca vorbesti in cunostinta de cauza, calatorind peste tot…
- Nu chiar peste tot, dar hai sa zicem ca am vazut cam tot ce era de vazut prin galaxie.
- Si cu lectura cum stai?
- Lectura e cool(tura), parca asa ziceti voi, nu?
- Da, pana la urma, ignoranta poate fi un pacat, deci citim mult.
- Si cam ce cititi voi?
- Noi? E scris pe trup.
- Scris pe trup? Cum adica?
- Vezi tu, Scris pe trup e o carte ce vorbeste despre ce e mai frumos pentru noi, oamenii: dragostea, o dragoste pe care nu o poti uita, o dragoste care ramane cu tine si isi lasa amprentele in suflet.
- Suflet? Nu cunosc notiunea.
- Iti explic mai tarziu. Acum hai sa-ti vorbesc despre dragostea obsedanta, pe care o pierzi, si crezi ca ai pierdut totul. Hmm, oare “de ce masura iubirii este pierderea ei?”
- “De ce ti-e atat de frica de mine?”
- “Frica? Da, asa e, mi-e frica de tine. Ma tem ca s-ar putea sa ai o usa pe care nu o pot vedea, ca in orice clipa aceasta usa se poate deschide si dus vei fi.”
- “Pune-ti trei dorinte, si se vor implini toate. Pune-ti trei sute de dorinte, si eu ti-o voi indeplini pe fiecare din ele.”
- “Nu-ti dai niciodata inima cu totul; o imprumuti doar, din cand in cand. Daca nu ar fi asa, atunci cum ai putea sa ti-o iei inapoi fara sa ceri voie nimanui?”
- “Problema ta e ca vrei sa traiesti intr-un roman.”
- “Esti un inger cazut, dar nemiscat, asa cum sunt ingerii; trupul iti e usor ca de libelula, ai aripi mari aurii, taiate din soare...”

“Aici incepe povestea, in aceasta camera aproape goala. Atunci cand vom pleca, vom putea lua lumea cu noi, si soarele sub brat.” E Scris pe trup.

Post scris pe blog, nu pe trup, pentru sufletul meu si :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Museum of Innocence - Six Word Sum Up

Every few years I stumble upon a book that turns out to be just... PERFECT! "The Museum of Innocence" is such a book, and I can't wait to read more of Pamuk's work!

Obsession - Love raging in the soul.

Read for Tea and Books Challenge, The European Reading Challenge and New Authors Challenge.

Here is a video of Pamuk talking about his book and the future museum inspired by it.
And here is my favorite quote, well... one of the dozens :)
"When two people love each other as we do, no one can come between them, no one," I said, amazed at the words I was uttering without preparation. "Lovers like us, because they know that nothing can destroy their love, even on the worst days, even when they are heedlessly hurting each other in the cruelest , most deceitful ways, still carry in their hearts a consolation that never abandons them." (p.191)"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Catherine Locandro - Clara la nuit

Ce soir-là, je ne redescendis pas sur le trottoir.
Je regagnai ma chambre habituelle et me livrai à une introspection minutieuse. La conclusion de cette plongée en moi-même tenait en deux questions-réponses très simples : avais-je eu peur ? Non. Allais-je recommencer Oui. Le lendemain, j'achetai des porte-jarretelles à ma taille. "

"Clara la nuit" is one of those novellas which you wish it had been longer, so you could discover more about the mysterious character.

During the day, Claire is an ordinary woman who reads and loves walking on the streets of Paris, but during the night she turns into Clara, a prostitute of Rue du Temple. One night, a man asks her not to have sex with him but to read a letter instead. She is moved by it and she seems she cannot forget him. When she finally finds him while being drawn to a portrait resembling herself, she also discovers the sadness in his heart. The relation between them changes when, in danger, she finds comfort in his house and his arms.
Besides Clara's story and her past, the writer also examines the human condition, struggling between loneliness, vice and the need to love and be loved.
There is still an unanswered question: why did she choose to become a prostitute? She tells the painter that it is what she does best, but can that be truly convincing?

Read for the New Authors Challenge.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tish & Pish - 6 Word Sum Up

Fancy Language Can Be much Fun.

It is quite uplifting from time to time to peruse a book that is not a novel. In fact, it is a book about language, and what language that is!
Here are a few examples of gorgeosities:

How are you? - May I enquire as to whether you are in receipt of a state of bodily wellness?

Oh no, not you again - Tish and pish, has the restraining order already expired?

Pleased to meet you - I tingle in your presence.

Hi, allow me to introduce myself - Greetings, pleasure me with permission to present myself to you for evaluation as a potential friend, lover or colleague.

I can read you like a book. I bet you’re great between the covers. - Your forehead appears to have about seventy thousand
words imprinted thereupon. I’d hazard that you are accomplished in the rumpy-pumpy department.

Every cloud has a silver lining - Every visible collection of fluffy, floating water particles possesses a surface layer of a lustrous, pliable metallic element of the atomic number forty-seven.

Oi, taxi! - Forgive my shouting in the street in this rather vulgar manner, but I should like to reserve the usagenosity of your taximeter cabriolet for a journey to... oh, fiddlesticks, someone else has beaten me thereto.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vivaldi's Virgins

"Vivaldi's Virgins" is a daring historical novel set in the 18th century in Vivaldi's Venice. It is the story of Anna Maria Dal Violin, an orphan whose amazing voice and talent mesmerize Vivaldi, known as "The Red Priest", who starts composing just for her.
Anna Maria struggles to find the identity of the mother that abandoned her at Ospedale della Pieta, writing letters to her from the convent, without knowing if she is alive or not. These letters offer us a glimpse into the Venice of the 1700s, with its mysterious people hidden behind masks, cruel nuns, naughty girls who escape from the convent just to go to the opera and who feel enthralled just to ride in a gondola.

“The sky on a clear night is a living, pulsating thing. The stars are like musical notes turned to light, and, like notes, they shimmer and swell and fade and fall. The painters have never captured it—but they never will until some painter teaches his colors to dance.”

If you are interested in knowing if Anna Maria finally discovered who her mother was, then you must read the novel. What is more appealing is the fact that Anna Maria actually existed, and Barbara Quick spent a few weeks in Venice back in 2005 doing research on her. If you want to read more about her experience, go here.
I enjoyed the story quite a lot, since it depicted Venice in a daring way, just as I see it and it also reminded me of Sarah Dunant's "In the Company of the Courtesan", a book I simply loved.

Read for Venice in February Reading Challenge, European Reading Challenge and New Authors Challenge.

P.S. Santa Maria della Pieta is now open to accommodate pilgrims, in case you wish to visit Venice :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Venice in Black and White

My beautiful, my own
My only Venice-this is breath! Thy breeze
Thine Adrian sea-breeze, how it fans my face!
Thy very winds feel native to my veins,
And cool them into calmness!

~ Lord Byron "The Two Foscari"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Venice Reading Challenge - Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" is a poetry-in-prose book, a series of descriptions, told by the Venetian traveller Marco Polo to Kublai Khan, the oriental emperor. As Marco travels round the world on the Emperor's business, his job is not to bring back treasure, but stories - the accumulated wealth of his imagination. The book has no plot and no characters, except for the two mentioned above and the described cities, all named after women - Raissa, Irene, Valdarda, Phyillis, Chloe...

"In Chloe, a great city, the people who move through the street are all strangers. At each encounter they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no-one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping."

Even though Khan insists, Polo never talks about his own city, Venice. He only talks about strange, magical, invisible cities that nobody else ever saw. And yet, Khan cannot avoid the feeling that by telling him about those nonexistent places, Polo does describe, bit by bit, the city they both really think of.The book consists of fifty-five extremely short city descriptions, embedded within an intellectual duel between Polo and Khan.

"From there, after six days and seven nights, you arrive at Zobeide, the white city, well exposed to the moon, with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets, each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive's trail, they arranged spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again."

Is this the mysterious Venice, the city that unravels itself according to its viewers or just an imaginary city? Those who have been to Venice know that it is a city you can so easily build for yourself, at your own pace and imagination; it is unlike any other city or unlike any other impression someone might have on it. And yet, no matter how you see it, it is the city that best combines art and life. Your life with the art you've chosen for yourself.

“When you have arrived at Phyllis, you rejoice in observing all the bridges over the canals, each different from the others: cambered, covered, on pillars, on barges, suspended, with tracery balustrades. And what a variety of windows looks down on the streets: mullioned, Moorish, lancet, pointed, surmounted by lunettes or stained-glass roses; how many kinds of pavement cover the ground: cobbles, slabs, gavel, blue and white tiles. At every point the city offers surprises to your view:
a caper bush jutting from the fortress’ walls, the statues of three queens on corbels, an onion dome with three smaller onions threaded on the spire. “Happy the man who has Phyllis before his eyes each day and who never ceases seeing the things it contains,” you cry, with regret at having to leave the city when you can barely graze it with your glance.”

Read for the Venice in February Reading Challenge.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Venetian Masks - Bauta

The Bauta is to be considered the traditional Venitian mask, the one mostly used to cover your features, made in a way that it is still possible to eat and drink without having to take it off. The Bauta is always black, white or gilded, and it is not only a Carnival mask, in the sense that centuries ago it was also used to protect one's identity in different circumstances. It was mandatory all year long for women who went to the theater and forbidden to girls waiting to be married.

The name bauta may come from the German "behüten"(to protect), as well as from "bau" (or "babau"), typical Italian representation of the monster, or bad beast, used by adults to scare children.

The Bauta mask formed part of an entire outfit. This outfit consisted of a Tabbarro which was a veil or a small cloak starting at the neck and covering the shoulders and a tricorn hat. From this the mask protruded to give complete anonymity.

In 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Venice Reading Challenge - The Passion

There is no better combination than to read your favorite author while reading for a challenge involving Venice! Does it matter that it is my fourth read of The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson? Not at all. :)

I first read this enchanting novel more than ten years ago and it is still in my top five favorite books. You may surely wonder what is so special about it? Here's a short list:

~ Jeanette's style is incomparable to any other author, dead or alive;
“Perhaps all romance is like that; not a contract between equal parties but an explosion of dreams and desires that can find no outlet in everyday life. Only a drama will do and while the fireworks last the sky is a different colour.”

~ the (love)story that gradually unravels between Henri, Napoleon's cook and Villanelle, the mysterious Venetian:
“In that house, you will find my heart. You must break in, Henri, and get it back for me.'Was she mad? We had been talking figuratively. Her heart was in her body like mine. I tried to explain this to her, but she took my hand and put it against her chest.
Feel for yourself.”

~ the key phrases will follow you long after you finish reading the book and you may find yourself quoting them now and then.
"I'm telling you stories. Trust me."
"You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play. It’s the playing that’s irresistible. What you risk reveals what you value."

~ Venice, described as the "city of mazes", where one can lose one's way, where nothing is certain and everything is unfolding into another thing:
"This is the city of mazes. You may set off from the same place to the same place every day and never go by the same route. If you do so, it will be by mistake. Your bloodhound nose will not serve you here. Your course in compass reading will fail you. Your confident instructions to passers-by will send them to squares they have never heard of, over canals not listed in the notes."

~ magic realism, which gives you the feeling that one day you could live (in) this fairy tale yourself: "Rumour has it that the inhabitants of this city walk on water. That, more bizarre still, their feet are webbed. Not all feet, but the feet of the boatmen whose trade is hereditary."

~ the switch in narrative voice which, if you are not careful, can make you lose yourself between the lines, just like you might lose your way on the small streets of Venice;

~ crossing boundaries and transgression: Villanelle can be as mysterious and provoking as Venice itself.

~ in short,it's a book about loving so/too much: “Whoever it is you fall in love with for the first time, not just love but be in love with, is the one who will always make you angry, the one you can't be logical about.”

Venice will taste, feel and smell even better after you've read The Passion!

Read for the Venice Challenge and the European Reading Challenge

Monday, February 6, 2012

Venitian Masks

It's carnival time in Venice and since we are not there showing off our expensive costumes, we'd better lean a few things about the different masks that appear during Carnevale.

Venetian masks have a long history of protecting their wearer's identity during promiscuous or decadent activities. Made for centuries in Venice, these distinctive masks were formed from papier-mâché and wildly decorated with fur, fabric, gems, or ribbons. Eventually, Venetian masks re-emerged as the emblem of the Carnival.

After the 1100s, the masquerade went through periods of being outlawed by the Catholic Church, especially during holy days. Their policy lead to eventual acceptance when they declared the months between Christmas and Shrove Tuesday free for Venetian mask-attired decadence. This period evolved into Carnival, the pre-Lent celebration meaning "remove meat." Although Carnival lost popularity as Venice's cultural production faltered during the Enlightenment, it was officially reintroduced in 1979.

Drop by soon to discover the types of masks and their meaning :)
Click here or here if you are interested in buying a handmade mask.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Venice - A Unique Mystery

“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is... Venice is better.” (Fran Lebowitz)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The amazing reading challenge that I am hosting together with DolceBellezza is finally here and my, the number of books to be enjoyed is so high I had trouble deciding what to read in one of the busiest months of the year, it seems. BUT, struggle aside, I finally decided on four books, hoping to be able to read them all this month. Here they are:

And since Venice is more than the background for an enthralling plot, it is a mystery in itself, this month there will be plenty of posts dedicated to the ever so fascinating SERENISSIMA, so feel free to drop by anytime and don't forget that it's incredibly easy to join us: just read at least one book set in Venice. You can link your participation here.

P.S. Re-reads count, as I am going to read The Passion for the fourth time :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blue Suitcase

There's a enticing story behind every blue suitcase...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Perfection - Six Word Sum Up

This is a very sad book, but not entirely.

Life: still possible after betrayed love.

Here's a very insightful interview with Julie Metz taken by the New York Times, and the official site for the book.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nos Separations - David Foenkinos

Most French authors write with a humour and charm that is so typical of them and David Foenkinos is no exception.

"Nos Separations" presents the story of Alice and Fritz and their other relation(ship)s with secondary characters such as Fritz's friend Paul and his lover Virginie, Fritz and his wife Iris or Alice and her husband. The book is more about the two lovers' sad separations rather than their relationship; it is about the constant need to be with the one you love even though you hurt that person and he/she hurt you as well.

"Encore une fois, nous étions dans une ambiance mi-prune mi-pêche (chacun ses expressions), et j'ai pensé que je serais peut-être heureux de passer ces moments sans elle. Depuis des mois, nous vivions collés, dans l'autarcie de notre révélation amoureuse, alors cette première séparation serait sûrement bénéfique."

The writer gives us the chance to see a few of the decisive moments in Alice and Fritz's liaison: we learn how they fell in love, how they quarrelled and how Fritz cheated on Alice. It is with so much ease that Foenkinos presents his lovers' story that you might think their situation is not serious. He even mentions at the beginning of the novel that we might all be cliches. Still, with delicate humour the final separation takes place and we are left with the character's struggles to avoid any place they walked together in Paris and with ironic dictionary definitions in which he as well becomes one.

“Il y a des personnes formidables qu’on rencontre au mauvais moment, et des personnes qui sont formidables parce qu’on les rencontre au bon moment.”

The end is still optimistic. A boy and a girl - Alice's and Fritz's children from different relationships) meet in Pere Lachaise cemetery (read the wonderful book to discover why) and we may think the story can begin once more. maybe with a different, better ending this time :)

Read for: New Authors Challenge and European Reading Challenge (France)

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Marriage Plot - Six Word Sum Up

My third book by Jeffrey Eugenides and definitely my favorite, and one of the best reads of 2011!

Life is about loving and learning.

The New York Times offers a great review here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rape: A Love Story, by Joyce Carol Oates

My first encounter with Joyce Carol Oates' work has been rather disturbing, since this novella is not something one would truly enjoy reading. As its provocative title suggests, it is about a rape and its effects on the people involved. Still, how can love find its place amidst all that?

The novella brutally starts with: “After she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park. After she was dragged into the boathouse by the five drunken guys – unless there were six, or seven – and her twelve-year-old daughter screaming Let us go! Don’t hurt us! Please don’t hurt us! After she had been chased by the guys like a pack of dogs jumping their prey, turning her ankle, losing both her high-heeled sandals on the path beside the lagoon" and we hardly find any time to breathe between pages, bound to go through the ordeals and struggles that the mother and daughter have to face. Teena Maguire together with her 12 year old Bethie chose the shorter way home, on the night of 4th of July, and being the victim of a gang rape, she is now left to regret that she has survived.
The dreadful trial, the shame and the blame that the community casts over them leave the two in the impossibility to move forward, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands. Out of love for Teena and to see justice being done. The book finally takes a positive turn when we see the two characters being avenged. Somehow.
Could things have been different? Was it their destiny? Bethie tries to find an answer:
“There was a final shake of the dice. Another time it might have been averted. When Casey said, ‘Teena, let me drive you two home. Wait a minute, I’ll get the car,’ and your mother thanked him and kissed him on the cheek, telling him not to bother – ‘We want to walk, don’t we, Bethie? It’s a perfect night.’”

It was not a perfect night, but there is hope at the end of the last page.

Read for: Orange in January Challenge and New Authors Challenge