Just My Type by Simon Garfield

I was probably ten when I first began experimenting with WordPerfect’s fonts on our family’s personal computer. I typed the name of each font, highlighted it and selected the font from the list (because, of course, this was before you could see the font on the menu) and then I’d print out the list of all the fonts. I loved comparing them. I still do. When I was in college, I enjoyed printing each English paper and draft in a different font. I thought it made it more fun. I also loved watching the documentary on Helvetica last year, although I must admit I still struggle to determine the difference between Helvetica and Arial.

So, I fully admit that while I’m not a discerning or well-educated user of fonts, I simply adore them. I’ve been hearing about Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield for a few months around the blogosphere. I had to find a copy of it. I borrowed an ARC from nearby friend and fellow blogger Suzanne.

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RIP Short Story Monday: M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield

Time for three more RIP Stories! I am loving the Ghost Stories collection I have from Everyman’s simply because they are addressing so many different kinds of ghost stories. I’ve really enjoyed the majority of them so far.

Saki’s “The Open Window” was my favorite ghost story from my collection so far. It’s was quite short but Saki managed to create characters we liked, with distinct attitudes from one another. The dialog was realistic. This story was not a spooky story at all: it had ghosts, but with a delightful touch of humor. Because it was only a few pages long, I’ll refer you to the etext.

Because I had never come across M.R. James before, I felt the need to read a little about him after reading his short story “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Wikipedia tells me that he redefined the ghost story, by using realistic contemporary settings, rather than Gothic settings, as previous ghost stories had done. I really appreciated the setting in the Whistle story. Parkins, a professor of Ontography (a study of the nature of things), travels to a sea-side hotel for a week of golfing, agreeing in the preface to also visit a nearby former graveyard site for an antiquarian friend. I was quite interested in the story from the very beginning. It begins in the middle of a conversation, and M.R. James refers to one of those participating in the conversation as “a person not in the story.” This made me wonder at M.R. James’ purposes, and I loved how the entire subject of “nature of things” was questioned as the ghost story unfolded. This was a delightful spooky-ish story on a misty beach front. Read it online here.

Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” was simply wonderful. I definitely need to read more of Mansfield’s writing. Two elderly spinster sisters are dealing with the death of their father. After probably more than 50 years of submitting to their father’s wishes, they struggle to find their own opinions. Although this story is once again of a different type of ghost story from the gothic or horror tradition, I really loved reading it: the characters, setting, flashbacks, and haunting scenes were perfectly rendered and the story as a whole is nearly a masterpiece. I wanted it to keep going. Read it online.

Question: I’m finding it’s quite challenging to discuss the great stories I read in a short post. Would you, as a reader of this blog, be more interested in a single review of the rest of the book? Or, should I keep talking about the stories a few at a time? Do you like these brief short stories roundups? I may just do what I want anyway, but I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Next up in the Ghost Stories collection: P.G. Wodehouse, L.P. Hartley, and Edith Wharton.


(Kids Corner) Some Cybils 2011 Books about … Babies and Birthdays

Today is the last day to nominate your favorite picture books, middle grade fiction and nonfiction, and Young Adult books for the 2011 Cybils awards! Make sure you get your votes in.

Because I have the wonderful honor of being a Round 1 Judge for the Fiction Picture Books, I get to read about 200 books (so far, at least) published in the last year that have been nominated. To help me keep track of my thoughts on the books I’ve read and in order to share the love of books with each of you, I’m going to try to post on a few of the fun books each week.

This week, since my own baby girl, Monkey (to be born sometime near the end of February), is on my mind and my son, Raisin, just had his fourth birthday, I thought it might be fun to look at some books somehow related to babies and birthdays.Continue Reading

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World by Penny Colman

I wonder if my recent news about my upcoming arrival prompted me to notice this book on the New Books shelf? Possibly. Baby Monkey is a GIRL! and I’m delighted and excited that Raisin will have a little sister.

At any rate, when I saw the biography of the two foremost proponents of women’s rights (at least for the last half of the 1800s), I felt the need to pick it up and read it. For, although I know the name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and I’ve of course been exposed the Susan B. Anthony as an historical figure, I knew very little of the work, the lives, and the legacy of the two women.

Penny Colman’s young adult biography of the two women (titled Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World) tells their story, especially focusing on the women’s rights work that they dedicated their lives to. Although the book had some flaws, it was full of history that I needed to learn and I’m glad I read it. Continue Reading