Category Archives: Special Post

Special Post – Basquiat: Now’s The Time

11004954_10152835533129081_1924418450_nAfter finishing Widow Basquiat I decided to head down to the AGO to see the Basquiat exhibit on now until May 7. I was both pleased and disappointed: Disappointed that Suzanne was not mentioned at all but pleased because the exhibit does send a powerful message. Black Live Matter.

I quite enjoyed the book. It focuses on Basquiat’s relationship with his muse Suzanne and their sordid relationship. It’s told through a series of vignettes but written like a lyrical poem. Suzanne’s own words and memories are mentioned, in italics, alongside the author’s retelling of their story. It’s another tale of love and heartbreak between talented people set in New York, much like Just Kids. 

You can read all my thoughts on the exhibit here.

Best Of – Books Set in New York

I spent the latter part of this last week in New York City, where I tried to fit in as many cultural institutions as I could. It ended up not being that many as I spent 7.5 hours in the American Museum of Natural History on Thursday. Oh Well, such is life. I did however make it to the New York City Public Library, which caused me to stop and think about all of the amazing books I’ve read that take place in New York. So many of the classics like The Great Gatsby, The Catcher and the Rye, and The Bell Jar, are set in the City of Blinding Lights. Here I’ve compiled a (brief) list of my favourite books that are set in New York, New York.

Welcome to New York (It’s Been Waiting for You)

NewYorkEdward Rutherfurd’s New York is requisite reading for anyone who loves the city (or who loves massive books). It’s a historical epic, and is quite long, but its also easy to read due to the narrative style that Rutherfurd uses. Beginning with the earliest settlement of New Amsterdam Rutherfurd traces the history of the city to just after 9/11 following the lives of different families through the generations. It’s a great book and a great introduction to the City that has become the epicenter of American culture.

The Lower East Side: The American Dream

IceCreamQueenOrchard Street was just one of the streets located in the Lower East Side to where thousands of immigrants flocked. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street is story of the “American Dream,” and the immigrant experience similar to Betty Smith’s classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The protagonist, Lillian Dunkle finds herself a member of the wave of Jewish immigrants coming to the city in the 1920s moving into the tenement houses of the Lower East side where she works as a garment maker. Abandoned by her family, Italian immigrants who teach her the art of making ice cream take her in. Smart and shrewd, Lillian uses her keen sense for business to get ahead in life, becoming America’s first “Ice Cream Queen.” While not everything in her life leads to a “happily-ever-after” Lillian still becomes one of the most successful women in American in this rags-to-riches novel.

The Jazz Age in Harlem

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While some parts of the novel extend back to the mid-19th century American South, the majority of the narrative takes place in Harlem during the 1920s. Each character is a storyteller and Morrison mirrors the stylistic elements of Jazz with the various characters “improvising” solo compositions that fit together to create the whole work. Jazz music is a main theme throughout the book and Morrison recreates the vibrant atmosphere of 1920s Harlem with her narrative.

 

An Institution: The New Yorker

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The New Yorker has been a New York institution since 1925 and has given rise to many acclaimed literary figures, including Dorothy Parker. Best known for her satire and quick wit, this collection of Parker’s stories, poems, and short pieces published in the New Yorker provide readers with a glimpse inside her life as well as the life of the magazine. Because the pieces are small, it’s easy to pick up and put down her stories, although I devoured them all at once. She’s a fantastic writer and her sharpness and wit has endured to today.

A Fairytale of New York: The East Village

just-kids-patt-smith-200x330While already featured on this blog, I can’t speak highly enough about Patti Smith’s memoir which not only provides insights into the art and music scene of the East Village but is also fairytale New York love story. Smith writes openly, candidly and quite frankly, beautifully about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Even though the relationship ended, the two remained so deeply in love and shared a special bond that not even his death could break. A heartbreaking and poignant read, set against the backdrop of New York City’s East Village.

Manhattan’s Elite: The Upper East Side

HowtoLoseFriendsNew York has provided a setting for an ample amount movies and T.V shows like Sex and the City of the Devil Wears Prada, where the characters are involved in publishing in some way. In his memoir, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Toby Young writes candidly about what it was like working at Vanity Fair, in the 1990s and his experiences with Manahattan’s Elite. One major theme in Young’s book is the differences between London and Manhattan society, as Young is an Englishman employed by Condé Nast. While not as overly critical of Manhattan’s Elite as The Devil Wear’s Prada, Young is still merciless in his writing about the women of the Upper East Side who refused to sleep with him. Insightful and honest, although sometimes crude and offensive, I still love this memoir about working at Condé Nast in the 1990s.

If You can Make it Here You’ll Make it Anywhere

Kitchen_ConfidentialFinally to round out this list I have Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which has also already been featured on this blog. This behind the scenes look at the “Culinary Underbelly” of American as well Bourdain’s rise to fame takes the reader into the kitchens of some of New York’s most famous restaurants. New York has one of the most vibrant and thriving dining scenes in the world and chefs will often do whatever it takes to land at one of the city’s 5-star joints. After all, if you can make it here you’ll make it anywhere!

So what are your favourite books that are set in New York?

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Special Post – Douglas Coupland

I finished reading Generation X just in time to visit the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the ROM. (Part of the exhibit is also at MOCCA, but I haven’t gotten the chance to head down there yet). I loved Generation X, it so so surreal and absurd, and while it is written about those born in the 1950s-60, the sentiments and themes apply all the same to our generation. As strange as it sounds, I saw some similarities between Generation X and Girls, especially in some of the dialogue that had between the characters. The vague sense of perpetual dissatisfaction with one’s life is a theme in both Generation X, and current writing about “Millennials.”

I was also blown away by the exhibit. His art, shows such a deep understanding of human nature and the problems that plague us. Coupled has managed to stay relevant, being inspired now by what he calls the “21st Century Condition.” I took a bunch of photos and you can see them here, as well as read more of the thoughts I had about this exhibit.

Special Post – Neal Thompson, A Curious Man (2014)

CuriousMan

This week I also posted a book review of Neil Thompson’s, A Curious Man, on the University of Toronto Museum Studies’ Blog, Musings. While the book was mainly a biography of Robert Ripley, it still posed some good questions relevant to the Museum community, including, can we consider Ripley “Odditoriums,” both then and now, Museums? There is a debate within the art community over whether mass produced art can really be considered “art”? Ripley entertainment owns 32 Odditoriums worldwide, can a mass produced museum, constructed specifically for tourists be a real museum? Or do our conceptions of what a museum is, dismiss Ripley Odditoriums as simply kitschy and tacky tourist traps? It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Read the whole review here.

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Special Post – Christmas Roundup

I got some pretty great literary themed gifts for Christmas this year, and I wanted to share them all with you. Thank you to all my family and friends for knowing me well enough to know that you can never go wrong with buying me books.

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First up is a set of Reader’s Teas from Indigo. The box states “There is nothing more agreeable than the voice of a book and the quiet of a cup of tea,” and I happen to agree. I love White Teas and am especially excited to the the White Anjou Pear. Now just to find the right book to pair it with.

2014-12-28 20.32.36From the One of a Kind Craft Show come this literary inspired pillow. My apartment is lacking in book related decor, and I love the sentiment expressed on this pillow; “I open a book, it opens my heart.” The pillow is from Lois Ward of Goodlines Décor, based in London Ontario, who makes all her products out of pre-loved fabric and non-toxic ink. You can check out her site and where to buy her products on her webpage.

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Also from the One of a Kind Craft Show is this bookbinding kit from Sprout’s Press. I posted a while ago about how much I loved everything at the Sprout’s Press booth and was so excited to open this on Christmas day. I can’t wait to try my hand at binding my own journal and will be sure to share my experience on this blog.

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Obviously a number of books were on my Christmas wish list. Santa must read this blog because Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler are both hilarious women as well as strong female role models, and anyone who reads my blog knows what a winning combination those two things are. I cannot wait to start reading these so that I can fall in love with both women even more.

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Last but not least, everyone knows that I am constantly carrying multiple books around with me and always have a need for good book bags. The one on the left depicts Queen Street West and was crafted by No Place Utopia, which creates beautiful Toronto themed artwork and decor. The tote with the typewriter is also from the One of a Kind Craft Show and was crafted by Made in Brockton Village. Both of these will definitely come in handy when lugging around my collection.

Finally I also received a gift certificate to Indigo and am torn on which books to buy. Right now I am pretty much set on The Tastemakers by David Sax, and The Massey Murder by Charlotte Gray. Anything can happen when I step into a bookstore however, and I have a feeling I will be needing one of my new book bags to carry home all my purchases.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and has a very happy New Year.

SproutsPress

The One of a Kind Craft Show

Today was the last day of the One of a Kind Craft Show in Toronto. I wanted to share some of the literary crafts that Sprouts Press Designs had to showcase. In addition to beautiful handcrafted journals, the booth also had these adorable Christmas Ornaments for “Christmas Curmudgeons” all containing pages from Charles Dickens’ works. I also loved the idea of a bookbinding kit which contains all the materials you need to make your own hardbound journal. If that’s not enough, Sprouts Press also offers bookbinding workshops. Check out their upcoming workshops and products on their webpage.

http://sproutspress.com/

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Special Post – A Victorian Christmas

Christmas is officially one month away! I decided to look into how 19th Century Torontonians would have celebrates this time of the year with a trip to Mackenzie House. You can read all about it on the Musings Blog. For anyone looking for something to do in Toronto this weekend I highly recommend visiting one of Toronto’s Historic Houses. (Complimentary Cider and Cookies at Mackenzie House!)