Tag Archives: writers

‘Writers and Their Cats’ by Alison Nastasi – review

Writers and Their Cats: (Gifts for Writers, Books for Writers, Books about Cats, Cat-Themed Gifts)Writers and Their Cats: by Alison Nastasi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If dogs are man’s best friends with their childlike artlessness and uninhibited affection, what are cats? Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, answered thus: “Cats are so nice and selfish.” Writers and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi is a delightful illustration of such a relationship between writers and their cats with peek-a-boo glimpses of the celebrity authors’ unknown personal aspects behind the public façade.

The fascination with the graceful demeanor and graceful capriciousness of cats is particularly intense among the volatile and imaginative writers as the muse of their lettered labyrinths. Edgar Allan Poe wished he could write as mysteriously good as his cat Catarina who liked to hover herself over Poe’s shoulders while he was writing. Mark Twain, whom I used to associate with something of a Dog Father, turns out to be a godfather of cats who rented cats to city dwellers during their holidays in the countryside. Twain also named his cats commensurate with his wicked sense of humor: Satan, Soapy Sal, Lazy, etc. Furthermore, Twain proclaimed that anyone who likes a cat is his friend. The imposing figure of rough and tough Ernest Hemingway may not match the delicate silhouettes of cats’ sophisticated society. Still, Papa Hemingway loved them with the tenderness he rarely showed even to his better halves.

The book also introduces readers to various writers of our digital era whose love of cats takes them to the world outside their comfort zones in selective solitude. Patricia Highsmith, a high-strung, highly opinionated, no-nonsense author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, reveals her Tate-a-Tate moments by greeting her cat, “We are going to have a great day today.” Marion James, who wrote A Brief History of Seven Killings, met Tom the Cat at a café in Brooklyn, New York, who, like the writer, enjoyed being outside among people because both of them thrived on the liveliness of the world around them as a creative force. Then Peeti Shency, the Indian novelist and artist, writes about the experience of sharing a terrific story about her trip to the Kedar-Gouri Temple dedicated to the eponymous goddess with a particular fondness of cats, thus elevating them to the divine status of the immortals. Shency resurrects the legends of holy cats in the temple to our digitalized reality of the world and connects them to our need for their presence for nature’s mysteriousness.

There are many other writers in the book whose love for their cats are touching. They all confess to their odes to cats that only cats can understand what they are and who they are. Whether or not cats have a supernatural sense of reading people’s minds, I have no intelligence. Still, I do know that a cat is good at observing your movement and facial expression from my observation of Toro, a 12-week old male brown tabby kitten, who likes to watch me what I am doing and where I am going. A cat is a curiously interesting beast, and it is this semblance of intelligence that makes a cat so attractive to the imaginative, high-strung writers. If you have a cat at home and a writer at heart, this book will present you with a delightful treat to your mind, packed full of beautiful pictures of writers and their cats not in grim portraiture but natural snapshots. Readers may tempt to show the writers’ photos with their cats to your cats.

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Why I write

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My very first e-book now available on Amazon Kindle

Dear Readers,

Howdy to all. Thanks for visiting my hermit blog either by happenstance or curiosity. Writing has always been my favorite activity by which I feel meaningful and truthful. It has been a magic marble, an alchemical mode of transforming myself into all that I want to become or capable of becoming via the magical process of words. As Francis Bacon corroborates, reading makes a full person, writing makes a whole person by expressing the self to the extent possible. I am not a great writer, but my passionate volition to express my inmost thoughts and feelings that strive for artistic manifestation exceeds such fear of public derision. This yearning for manifested creativity chimes the bell of Kurt Vonnegut’s benevolent adage: “To practice any artno matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

Hence I published my first-time official short fiction on Amazon Kindle that is available now for free. It’s a whimsical story without a complex plot about a young girl unsure of herself experiences a kind of Midsummer Night’s Dream or Rip Van Winkle’s fairy tale. This may sound audacious hyperbole, vis-a-vis the works of the geniuses in Literature, but the semblance of thematic and the author’s affinity for the brilliance of the great literature allow her to make a literary parallel thereto, so to speak.

As some of you may know, English is not my mother tongue but a beloved adoptive linguistic child of mine that I love to nourish and nurture. That said, my first e-book is my attempt at producing a child of labor. This doesn’t surpass the degree of affection for this blog of mine, which is also a labor of love, but writing a book is certainly on a different spectrum of mental efforts.

Solicitation of readership may come across as an aggressive way of forcing people to read what she writes because it may not satisfy the level of expectations that a reader has set as an intellectual or entertaining touchstone, which is why I find it hard to self-promote my e-book. And yet, despite my shyness fused with hesitation, I would like to request that you try my e-book and leave your feedback on Amazon after reading because that’s the way I can grow into and blossom into a beautiful literary rose in the future. Won’t you as a kindred writing pard throw me a rope of hope to climb up the Alpine Path? Many thanks in advance! 🙂

Best regards,

Stephanie

‘The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England’, by Ian Mortimer – review

The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan EnglandThe Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People tend to make an anachronistic mistake of assuming that their times are more culturally and socially superior to their previous generations’ times, whereas forty years on an evolutionary scale amounts to a million second on a twenty-four-hour clock, the amount so infinitesimal that it makes you smirk. What makes us set apart from the predecessors of our human civilization is not how they looked but how they looked at the landscapes surrounding their everyday lives, which led to the creation of the ethos of society peculiar to the different historical periods of time. This Thucydidean approach to history as a branch of social science as well as humanity strikes the chords with Ian Mortimer’s perspectives on his Elizabethan ancestors in his scintillating book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England.

Rich in details and splendid in descriptions that successfully and naturally resurrect the period, Mortimer’s vividly atmospheric accounts of the era transform the people and the landscapes of Elizabethan England from one-dimensional textual elements to animated figures in his engagingly vivacious narrative that strut in the mind’s theater of the reader, commanding attention in every chapter in a way that looks virtually real, evoking a phantasmagorical display of the periodical images. Mortimer is a knowledgeable and witty guide well versed in the English Renaissance with a practical sense of reality, which makes him something of Dr. Who, who pitchforks his wide-eyed volunteer reader to the subject time and then materializes when the reader is in a pickle. He shows the reader both the beauty and the beast of the Elizabethan society at its core with his wealth of knowledge drawn upon extensive research on the period and general erudition without putting a supercilious air of a highly learned man and stands in awe with the reader of the cultural and social progresses of Elizabethan England that began to define the “Englishness,” with which we tend to associate when the name “England” chimes the bell of literature, religion, and geography, all in the collective image of being “English.” Mortimore does this wonderfully with his engaging narrative skills that will not make you bored and skip a page.

Mortimer as a literary Dr. Who aims to bring the gaps of time and space between the reader and the populace of Elizabethan England to elucidate his stance on the truth about unchanging human nature wrapt in a periodical costume; in fact, history is a branch of literature made by artificers and artists with stories full of events, persons, and places that are woven into a tapestry of time, which also reflects how we have become what we are. In light of this, Mortimer is a cross between Herodotus with his entertaining narrative skills and Thucydides with his objective analysis of the historicity of society and culture. At the end of the book, the reader will find William Shakespeare, one of the most notable figures of Elizabethan England, holding up “a mirror to Mankind and shows people what they really are.” This is a cracking read packed full of interesting tidbits on the ways of life in Elizabethan England which he relates with wonderfully lucid insights into the turbulent but magnificent era that marks an indelible landmark in the history of England, and ultimately, of the world.

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Episode VII – Saturday Morning Serendipity at Bonjour Cake Shop

IMG_3843One Saturday morning, Mathilda Bear, who currently works at Bauer Daycare run by Hannah Bauer, stops by at Bonjour Cake Shop to reward herself with a cup of freshly brewed hot French Vanilla coffee with cream and two cubes of sugar and a piece of Ispahan cake that captivates her dormant testing bud and elevates her withered spirit with wonderful rose cream. It’s her weekly treat as a sweet reward for her hard work as a daycare teacher.

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Since it’s Saturday, the proprietress of the cake shop, Laura Collie, is at home with her family, attending to keeping the household neat and tidy, doing laundry,  preparing for special Saturday menu for her family, and probably taking a promenade with her friends late in the afternoon. So Laura has hired Bonnie Poodle, originally from Paris with her two baby twins, named Nena and Neno, both of whom are one-year old with Nena being five minutes older than her brother. The Poodles lost their parents two years ago by a tragic car accident in Paris. Since the death of their parents, the Collies being distant relatives by their mother’s side have invited the Poodles to live in Avonlea to help start new life in a different land under their aegis.

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“Good morning,” greets Mathilda first when she comes into the cake shop. “Bonjour!” is the French reply from Bonnie, who despite the fact that she’s a good English/French bilingual, oftentimes tends to reply in French because her brain’s language facility has already been cemented in her first language. It is said that you can have native-level fluency in acquisition of a foreign language if you learn it before the age of fourteen. Anyhow, Bonnie is getting well adjusted to her new life in Avonlea and likes her new job as a cashier/attendant at her aunt’s cake shop. She likes to talk with her customers with a pretty smile on her face, and always works hard even during a period of lull in the store hours because the word procrastination does not exist in her disposition as it is a hereditary trait in her family.

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“May I have a medium hot French Vanilla coffee with milk and two cubes of sugar?” Mathilda orders with her eyes gravitated toward the delicious-looking donuts by the counter. ‘”Anything else, miss?” Bonnie asks with a sweet smile. “Hmm, I can’t decide which one I should have because all looks so very scrumptious. I am wrestling with temptation of getting both donuts and cakes. But I can only take one because I have to watch out my figure. What do you recommend, miss?” “Then I’d like to recommend you our Ispahan, a rose-cream filled cake made by our fine patissier Laura, who is also my aunt.” “Oh, is Laura your aunt? Well, nice to meet you! What’s your name?” “I am Bonnie Poodle, and Laura is a distant cousin of my mother from France.” “Oh, I see. Bonnie is a pretty name for a pretty girl! I am Mathilda Bear. I work at Bauer Daycare. I am a regular customer of your establishment. I love coming here after hard days of a working week. I will have an Ispahan, which is actually one of  my favorite delicacies in the world.”

IMG_3823Bonnie thinks Mathilda a bit loquacious but pleasant and affable. Besides, the fact that Mathilda works at a daycare school provides her with a sense of relief that she can take her two baby twins  in the care of Matilda when she’s at work without having to take Nena and Neno to her Laura, whom Bonnie wants to alleviate from loads of responsibilities, so that she can enjoy her own private time with her own friends. So she writes down the address of Bauer Daycare School to check it out on Monday morning when she’s off from work. If all goes well, Bonnie wants to learn a new trade that can help her start a new business of her own in future. What trade it will be, Bonnie will do it just fine.

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The Classic Wisdom on Food and Drink

Food and Drink: A Book of QuotationsFood and Drink: A Book of Quotations edited by Susan L. Rattiner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but it is most well conveyed in quotations from famous writers, thinkers, artists, and many well-known figures in the matters of positive thoughts, great advice and ideas on human existence and humanity. As Oscar Wilde said, “Quotations are serviceable substitutes for wit,” inspirational quotations stimulate our minds to fresh endeavor, gives us a new viewpoint upon our existential matters, and enable us to get a fresh hold upon ourselves and things that are necessary for our human existence, such as elegantly compiled in this charming book of quotations about food and drink.

The cover of the book showing Renoir’s beautiful painting of “A Luncheon Of The Boating Party,” imparts lightheartedness of the subject matters of the book encompassing the festivity of celebrating them both as a pleasure and a necessity. The quotations in this lovely little book, which readers can finish at one setting, comprehends all the aspects of food and drink -ranging from a necessity of our existence to an object of pleasure, from a means to measure our temperance to a touchstone of inculcating etiquette to achieve our self-respect and dignity- with insights, thoughts, and witticism from writers, thinkers, and proverbs. Included in this review are selected quotations from my personal reading of the book.

Food is sacred, a victual for the nourishment of the body and the mind. Therefore, it should be taken in a peaceful, civil manner, as to appreciate its values both physically and ethically. In this regard, Rudyard Kipling seems to disfavor the American way of fast food as we can hear him saying that Americans had a habit of “stuffing for ten minutes thrice a day.” And who says eating alone invokes a sight of pity when Charles Lamb glorifies “Oh, the pleasure of eating my dinner alone!” Aesop also agrees to the importance of eating food with peace of mind as follows: “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” Mark Twain’s aphorism of “To eat is human, to digest divine” can become a mantra to reconstitute insalubrious eating habits.

A host of the notable emphasizes on the power of coffee as a tonic to awaken our sleepy senses. Take Johann Sebastian Bach’s humorous claim that without his routine morning coffee, he is just “like a dried up piece of roast goat.” Honore De Balzac concurs with Bach metaphysically because he trusts a cup of coffee to be his Muse by confessing “Coffee falls into the stomach [and] ideas begin to move… [and] the shafts of wit start up like sharpshooter, smiles arrive, the paper is covered with ink.” Accordingly, President Teddy Roosevelt’s immortal approval of good coffee as being “good to the last drop.” still reverberates in radios and televisions.

However, there is also the other side of food when it is indulged beyond the pale, as Ludwig Von Beethoven cautions against gluttony by which man “sinks almost to the level of an animal when eating becomes his chief pleasure.” The Talmud tells us how to eat in moderation as follows: “In eating, a third of the stomach should be filled with food, a third with drink, and the rest let empty.” Desiderilis Erasmus attests to the moderate way of eating by testifying, “When I got a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.”

In fact, moderate eating has been a matter of importance throughout the human history from the ancient time until now. For instance, Ovid counsel for the universal topic does not sound new to readers at all: “Stop short of your appetite; eat less than you are able.” The American Renaissance man Benjamin Franklin gives readers gives readers more detailed advice on the exercising and moderation of eating as follows: “If, after exercise, we feed sparingly, the digestion will be easy and good, the body lightsome, the temper cheerful, and all the animal functions performed agreeable. Eat to live, and not live to eat.” To cap it all, the simplest way of calorie expense is given by the Jewish proverb: “He that eats till he’s sick must fast till he’s well.”

As illustrated above, these witty and reflective quotations about food and drink (mostly about coffee) from the great minds who lived before us are universal in their appeal and still applicable to our ways of life in terms of the manners of understanding the nature and values of eating and drinking as a pleasure as well as a necessity. In this delightful, light-volume of book, readers will enjoy more quotations without a need of contextual interpretation or psychological analysis of the words of motivation, reflection, and humor. This book will make a good companion at a coffee-shop when you wait for someone, rest yourself before heading in to work, or just enjoy your solitary comfort.