Friday Fun: Emerge from Your Library?

Maybe not just yet, not when the libraries look so tempting…

This looks like something out of Beauty and the Beast, from Pinterest.
Library of the Waldsassen Monastery in Bavaria.
Victor Hugo’s library in his house in Guernsey.
A cosy fireplace and a cuddly pet are great accessories, from Archzine.com
And that is why I love high ceilings – designed by Luis Bustumante.
Books really bring colour to even the most neutral and airy of bedrooms, from Pinterest.
And if you can’t leave your books alone overnight, or need to recover after all the holiday eating, here is the sleep-in library from Mildred Slane.
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Friday Fun: Cosy Bookishness

As we start to retreat into our cocoons, here are some rooms where all our bookish goodness (and greed) can come to the fore.

Backlighting and ladders – what’s not to look about this? From theurbaninterior.co
Perfect reading nook, although I still prefer the Brasilia chaise. From homedit.com
More of a lived-in look, from vintagenook.com
For those of us who have high ceilings, from Pinterest.
Even if you have long, narrow rooms, you can still create a welcoming library. From kwnyc.com
I could be so organised if only I had those millions of little drawers, from Pinterest.
All that’s missing is the whisky, from the Mayflower Inn.
Perfect for book clubs, from Pinterest.

Friday Fun: Glorious Bookshelves to Cosy Up In

Back to school, back to work, back to reading amidst all the glorious bookshelves. Here are some to inspire you, including my favourite house ever, built specifically around the owners’ book collection. Who wouldn’t commission that, if they had the money?

Casa Ricart in Valencia, Spain, built by Gradoli + Sanz architects.

Another angle of this house that I can’t get enough of…

Books are dusty and will cause you asthma, my mother said when I wanted a bedroom like that. From Fairy Oak Instagram.

If you’re in a tight spot, bookshelves on staircases always work. From Francesa Mantovani.

Sometimes the books are more important than the actual stairs, from Max Wan Architects and Urbanists.

Another bed design, although perhaps more of a day bed. From Pinterest,

A comfy reading chair is always a good idea – but what’s with that space on the shelves? From Vila Spider Hawk.

Finally, a bookshop which occupies a whole little alleyway, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

 

 

Do the Hustle: Rearranging My Books

With all of the book-buying binges I’ve been indulging in for the past year (and last week especially), I’ve had to rethink how I arrange my books on the shelves. In other words, I was running out of shelf space, despite the fact that there are bookshelves in my study, both of the boys’ rooms and the living room (although the latter could do with more bookshelves, but stupidly placed radiators prevent it).

So I had a genius moment of inspiration: why don’t I use some of the other furniture to keep books? I have two large bedside tables all to myself and a chest of drawers in my bedroom, plus another chest of drawers for the children’s clothes on the landing. Of course, there had to be a bit of logic to my madness, and this is what I came up with.

The bedside table by the side where I have my reading lamp is dedicated to ‘books to review and other current reads’, books borrowed from the libraries and my three favourite authors: Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and Tove Jansson. I don’t actually have all of their books here with me – the downside of moving frequently to new countries. But on the day when I will be reunited with all of them, I may have to rethink this strategy, as it’s filling up fast, as you can see! (I still need some space for a cup of coffee.)

On the other bedside table I have the Russians (more of them lurk in Romanian at my parents’ house, but these are the ones I’ve got translated into English), the non-Japanese Asians and Middle Eastern authors (of which I have shamefully few), another favourite writer Shirley Jackson and a few short story or essay collections that I am currently delving into. I also have a small selection of favourite crime fiction authors, so that I can take a peek at them when I get discouraged at the (non-)progress of my novel.

On my chest of drawers I have poetry, because every room needs some poetry in it. The selection was somewhat haphazard, mainly what was overflowing from my poetry bookshelf in the study, but you can’t go wrong with whatever book you open! And I did ensure that Anne Carson, Sharon Olds and Naomi Shihab Nye, three poets who really inspire me, are there.

Out on the landing I have a selection of my Nordics (yes, they are a bit divvied up although lumped together as ‘Nordic’), including my favourite crime fiction series Martin Beck, plus some of my boys’ books that I also want to read and ARCs that I have already reviewed and that I might pass on to friends.

All of this has left no gaps in my proper shelves, but merely means that there is no more double or triple stacking. I can see all the titles at last! And I can also instantly spot the gaps in my world culture. (For example, the Latin Americans are starting to fill up, but Africa and Asia are still woefully underrepresented).

What clever tips and tricks have you got for arranging books or incorporating more shelf space? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you can find a solution for those pesky radiators.

The title is inspired from a song and dance from my parents’ youth: Do the Hustle by disco wonder Van McCoy. (I hasten to add that my parents’ dance was nothing like as complicated as that!) 

 

Friday Fun: Home Libraries at Long Last

I’ve been neglecting the first and abiding love of my life: pictures of home libraries. It has been quite a while since I featured any, mostly because most of the interesting pictures on the internet have already been used up on this blog. So hurry up, folks, furnish some more gorgeous libraries in your houses!

Library designed by Evein Galls.

The dark clubhouse style, from Freshome.com

The extremely rustic yet still cosy, from Cottage Life.

The awkwardly shaped one with a staircase, from Elle Decor.

Small but perfectly formed reading nook, from Pete Ginkey.

For the more palatially minded, from Empatika.com

This one comes with a how-to guide for those who own mansions, from Mansion Global.

Friday Fun: Getting Cosy in Home Libraries

November and it’s time to roast chestnuts over the fire, cuddle up with a soft blanket and a pliant animal, and read in perfect surrounding such as these.

All this needs is a fireplace. From Vogue.

If you’ve got high ceilings, flaunt them! Dluximages.photoshelter.com

More modest, but still double decker. From Flickr.

One home library to rule them all by wood… By Morgante-Wison for Elle Decor.

Steps leading up to a library… which needs a few more books on the shelves. From paloma81.blogspot.com

For the royalty amongst you… From Bluepueblo.com

Finally, one with a roaring fire! From Pinterest.

 

Most Obscure on My Bookshelves – Romanian Prose

While bringing down books from the loft, I realised that I had some very ancient, almost forgotten books there, which have travelled with me across many international borders and house moves. Some of them are strange editions of old favourites, while some are truly obscure choices. I thought I might start a new series of ‘Spot the Weirdest or Most Obscure Book on my Shelf’. Although it can also be interpreted as ‘Books which don’t receive the buzz or recognition which they deserve.’ I would love to hear of anything on your shelves which you consider unusual or obscure or deserving of wider attention? How did you get hold of it? Why do you still keep it? What does it mean to you?

I’ve had to break this down into two posts, one for poetry, one for prose, for fear of it becoming a post as long as a novella. I have the sneaking suspicion that anything that I mention here will be obscure, as Romanian novels are not widely translated and very little known beyond the borders. There are some contemporary writers that are starting to find some recognition: Mircea Cartarescu, Dumitru Tsepeneag, Dan Lungu, but there are many more that have failed to penetrate foreign markets (especially the English-speaking ones, they seem to do better in French, German, Italian etc.) I am focusing on the classics rather than on contemporary writers for this post. Once again, I’ve tried to find ones that are available in translation.

Prose

I. L. Caragiale – A Lost Letter – election time comedy – for a taster 

I have mentioned Caragiale before in a writing exercise: I am awestruck and intimidated by his impeccable comedic timing, exquisite precision with language and ability to convey characters with just a few of their stock words and phrases. Think Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Chekhov all rolled into one. His short stories/flash fictions paint a discomfiting picture of all the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of Romanian society in the late 19th century. He was a razor-sharp, merciless journalist with a cruel tongue. Above all, his plays are masterclasses in combining farcical situations with a serious message. For instance, A Lost  Letter is ostensibly a comedy about adultery, a missing letter and misunderstandings, but there is a lot of political satire here, very much like Beaumarchais with his Figaro plays. Back in high school we had a group of friends nicknamed after the main characters here. And in fact my cat is partly named after the main female character here: Zoe.

You may not be able to understand the following brief fragment, but it’s a typical political scenario. The head of the committee is making a speech and summarising (once he finds the right page): ‘If you allow me, we need to decide one or the other…. In conclusion, either we are going to revise this decision completely, I agree, but then nothing must change. Or else we don’t revise it, I agree, but then we should make a few changes here and there, in the essential parts.’

Liviu Rebreanu – The Forest of the Hanged 

I keep repeating myself, for I’ve mentioned this writer and this book before. It is one of the most moving accounts of the First World War that I have ever read, based partially on the true story of Rebreanu’s brother, who was conscripted into the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army in Transylvania and forced to fight against his fellow Romanians from across the Carpathians. This is not just a war novel, but a brilliant psychological thriller. Rebreanu also wrote one of the defining novels about Romanian peasants and the love of the land Ion, which might remind you of Hardy but with a lot more Latin passion.

Mateiu Caragiale – The Gallants of the Old Court

The son of I.L. Caragiale was also a writer, but in very different style from his father. He was much more wedded to nostalgia, heraldry and a glorious past, which his father saw as something to despise or make fun of. Influenced by Proust, this is a richly descriptive paen to the fast disappearing oriental influence and decadence on Bucharest in the years before the First World War. Full of sensual descriptions, virtually plotless, by turns gothic and Mediterranean, it has all the indolence and voluptuous charm of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. It is perhaps too rich to enjoy all in one go, but tremendously evocative, very much like a prose poem. It’s a bit of a cult book, with some readers passionate about it and writing fan fiction, while others find it very slow going.

So there you have it, three writers representing all the different aspects of Romanian literary (and perhaps national) style: wit and sarcasm, drama and psychological torment, poetic fantasy.