Many years ago, I spent a summer working in a shop. During the inevitable quiet times, my co-workers and I needed to get innovative in order to avoid debilitating boredom. (It only took so many minutes to tidy the shelves. Clearly it wasn’t a book shop or boredom would NEVER have set in!)  One of our preferred pastimes was to entertain one another by making up stories about the people walking by the window; the more outlandish the tale we could muster, the better! It was clear to us everyone had a unique story. Now imagine collecting images of the people who pass and learning their real stories. Brandon Stanton is a photographer who began a project whereby he intended to simply archive 10,000 photos of people in the city of New York. After a period of time he began to also record the brief conversations he shared with his subjects. Brandon’s gentle kindness and the way he clearly relishes the time he spends with each subject creates lovely moments. And stories … such stories! Poignant, funny, thought-provoking, disturbing, romantic, cheeky … all united in their human-ness. Brandon uploaded the images and, understandably, an enormous following gathered. His blog can be found here at Humans of New York.

The blog beget the book, such a beautiful book …

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For a glimpse into Brandon’s story, here’s a clip:

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Spring with Mary Oliver

March 20, 2014

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Mary Oliver simply writes the most beautiful, evocative poetry. The first day of Spring seemed like the ideal time to draw your attention to her spunky spirit and love of Nature. Gosh it was hard to narrow down the quotes from her poems – I have collected so many. You may recall her Peonies poem being featured here a few years ago. I encourage you to take a Spring stroll through the pages of any one of her books, savouring the images she paints with her words as you go. She has won many awards (a little one called the Pulitzer among them) and she is widely cherished though rarely appears in the media. Fortunately, she has made good use of her quiet time and has many volumes available, the most recent being these two:

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“Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.”

― Mary Oliver

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Happy Spring to you!

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I’m so giddy about this discovery that I am pirouetting about in search of where to even begin (I am actually ‘pivoting’ but pirouetting sounds more like what a Parisienne would do!)  I recently discovered the engaging work of Canadian-living-in-Paris, Janice MacLeod, and couldn’t wait to tell you all about her and her art, and her letters, and her book … As I sit here playing with phrases to aptly capture her charming allure, I am realizing her very own words will best give you a sense of her playfulness and the guaranteed fun ahead when you read her letters and book. I just know you are going to be reading her letters and book!

From Janice’s website:

“After a childhood in Canada that was just dysfunctional enough to make me funny, I became an advertising copywriter and eventually an associate creative director. Most of my time was spent in top agencies throughout the USA and Canada, because I’m kinda into fame. And modesty. I’m humble, too. And perfect.

After 110 years of writing junk mail in advertising, I devised an exit strategy to finance my own sabbatical. My Shawshank Redemption, if you will. When I met my financial goal, I skipped town and traveled with nothing more than my suitcase and a small set of watercolors. Along the way, I painted letters about my travels and mailed them to friends. Enamored with this unique medium, I opened an online shop. Each month I create one painted letter, copy it, personalize it and mail it to hundreds of subscribers who are hungry for fun mail.”

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“I am the artist behind Paris Letters, a painted letter series sent out via snail mail to those who crave getting fun snail mail from the land of fromage, rosé and lippy waiters.”

So, you can enrol to receive a single masterpiece, or a 6-month subscription, or a full year of 12 treasures! (I  know, I know, my mental math is mind blowing) To do so, visit Janice’s Etsy shop, as above, or by clicking here. Just imagine the delight of finding Paris in your postbox and what an impressive wall display you could have! Hooked already? Wait! There’s more.

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Now for the booky bit …  Run, not walk, to your nearest bookshop and snag yourself a copy of this (if you can find one!):

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You see, there’s a love story afoot too. (Mais bien surParis Letters – One Woman’s Journey from the Fast lane to a Slow Stroll in Paris is Janice’s story behind how she came to start her letter writing endeavour and the Amour who motivated her to find a way to stay in Paris. It’s an inspiring tale of making dreams come true. So if you’re not packing up for a trip to Paris over Spring Break, and heck, even if you are, this enchanting read will bring you joy.

Wherever you are, I hope your day looks something like one of these images. Happy reading and Happy Canada Day!tumblr_mogcjz8kwC1rrqsx6o1_1280

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16 DeWit, Deborah (1956-...) Casting, 2001

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Busy Brat-Packers

October 23, 2012

If the movies Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire or Pretty in Pink resonate with you, you likely know of the Brat-Pack actors that starred within. Three of those actors, who arguably defined an era, have recently appeared on the bookshelves as writers.

Molly Ringwald explored writing in her 2010 Memoir/Lifestyle Guide called Getting the Pretty Back- Friendships, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick. She clearly has a sense of humour. Now she has written an ambitious “novel in stories”, When It Happens to You. Released in August, this collection has received many positive reviews:

Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors as they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life — revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.”

Rob Lowe’s memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, was apparently considered by the publishers to be so well-written that he’s been extended a contract for a new memoir to continue the story.

“A wryly funny and surprisingly moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye. Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.”

Andrew McCarthy, of the three, has most significantly reinvented himself as a writer, a multi award-winning travel writer in fact. He is presently an Editor-at-Large of National Geographic Traveler magazine. This one makes the cut for me; I’ve put it on my to-read list.

This is a perfectly balanced combination of travel diary and documented introspection. While he travels the world, visiting destinations from the Amazon to Mount Kilimanjaro, McCarthy is wondering what in him leads him to keep the people he loves at a distance. That’s the short version. Set against exotic backdrops most of us will never visit, this is a man trying to figure himself out, and having the courage to write it down; that the man is famous is of no consequence.

Beyond his book, I encourage you to visit McCarthy’s website and sample some of the articles he’s written. He is certainly a gifted writer. This excerpt is from “Courting Vienna”, an article in The National Geographic Traveler.

“Despite her sensible shoes, her granite-stern features reveal a constant, low-level strain. She is well past 50— perhaps well past 60. Her arms sag under the weight of her burden; each tray she carries threatens to be her last. But when she breaks into a rare smile, her face lights up with unguarded delight. Her name is Annelies, and she, not Mozart, nor Beethoven, nor even Empress Sissi, has come to embody Vienna for me.

Annelies works as a waitress at Café Sperl, on Gumpendorfer Strasse. The Sperl has become my base, Annelies my anchor.” 

Before there was “It’s A Wonderful Life” (the movie that’s become a heartwarming Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed) there was a charming little short story that seemed destined never to be read.

Philip Van Doren Stern was a writer and editor with particular expertise on the topic of the Civil War. One morning he awoke having had a strikingly clear dream about a suicidal man who was given an opportunity to view what life would have been like for those he loved had he not lived to impact their lives. Van Doren Stern quickly wrote down the dream in its entirety and then, over the following few years, worked it into a short story he called “The Greatest Gift”. When he believed it was ready to share, he distributed the story in hopes of publication but was met with unanimous rejection. Finally, during World War II, he printed 200 copies himself and distributed them as Christmas cards to friends and family. By chance, a Producer at RKO pictures had a chance to read the short story and was immediately motivated to purchase its film rights. At about the same time, Good Housekeeping magazine printed the story in their January 1945 issue with the title, “The Man Who Was Never Born”. In 1945, RKO sold the film rights again to Frank Capra who created the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, released in 1946. “It’s a Wonderful Life” did not enjoy box office success at all but still managed to be nominated for 5 Oscars – it won none. The movie faded away until the early 1970s when a clerical oversight resulted in a failure to renew the film’s copyright. It entered public domain and was promptly picked up by television networks whose frequent seasonal airings turned it into the classic it is now considered.

This holiday season, Graphic Image has issued a limited edition hard cover reproduction of Van Doren Stern’s first self-printed pamphlet which he shared with his friends. It’s a beautiful little book and can even be purchased in a fancy red leather collectible version. Take a peek at it here on the Graphic Image website. What a wonderful Christmas gift for your friends.

I love when a book is the star of the story!

I hope you’re finding time during this week to enjoy a few holiday classics – either in written or movie form.

Crash!

May 28, 2011

Hello readers!

A quick note to let you know you’re not being neglected (well, on purpose anyway!) I’ve experienced the universally dreaded “Computer Crash” and have therefore been hog-tied so to speak. Have new machine as of today and so only a steep learning curve prevents me from sharing new posts with thee.  A whole list of fun topics in the docket to motivate me so stay tuned. Tally ho!

 

Happy New Year

December 31, 2010

Wishing you a 2011 filled with happiness and delight!

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’  Attributed to Clement C. Moore   1822

A Thank You Note

August 9, 2010

A quick note to all of you to say “Thank You!” for your encouragement and cheerful responses to Bedside Table Books. It puts a bounce in my step every time I chat with you in person or hear from you on-line and learn that a certain post has delighted you in some way or that you’ve taken the time to kindly encourage your friends to join the party too.  It’s an honour that so many of you trust the recommendations you find here and then take the time to let me know your thoughts.  We’ve been at this for 6 months now and there is still so much bookish chat ahead!  Please know that your ideas and “finds” are always welcome here too – add your comments at the end of a post or if you prefer, send along an e-mail to bedsidetablebooks@hotmail.com.  

Happy reading and happy summer to you all!

Susan 

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