Legends Never Truly Die Away


Peter O’Toole, the lead character in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, a role which led him to be considered one of his generation’s most respected actors, passed away yesterday at 81. I tried watching this epic movie in my youth, but a four-hour movie about skirmishes in the Arab desert somehow failed to capture my addled teenage brain back then, even if blonde blue-eyed, six-footer O’Toole was quite the dish in his prime.

I recently acquired a beautiful Folio Society edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence—the original Lawrence of Arabia—who wrote about his involvement in the Arab Revolt on which the film was based. What sold me on it wasn’t so much the blurb on the Folio site as much as this description of a paperback edition:

This is the exciting and highly literate story of the real Lawrence of Arabia, as written by Lawrence himself, who helped unify Arab factions against the occupying Turkish army, circa World War I. Lawrence has a novelist’s eye for detail, a poet’s command of the language, an adventurer’s heart, a soldier’s great story, and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those. Lawrence describes the famous guerrilla raids, and train bombings you know from the movie, but also tells of the Arab people and politics with great penetration. Moreover, he is witty, always aware of the ethical tightrope that the English walked in the Middle East and always willing to include himself in his own withering insight.

Earlier this week I got a great deal on the audio edition of the recently published Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson, of which Janet Maslin writing for The New York Times says: ‘For those already fascinated by Lawrence’s exploits and familiar with his written accounts of them, Mr. Anderson’s thoughtful, big-picture version only enriches the story it tells.‘ So now it seems I’ve got my work cut out for me: read T. E. Lawrence’s book, then listen to Anderson’s, after which I should be well prepared to fully appreciate the movie version.

You’ve got to listen to this!

I’d never heard of The Idan Raichel Project before, but Kerry, a friend on LibraryThing has been quietly posting some links to great music on my LT thread lately (including The Hobbit’s Song of the Lonely Mountain).

The following directly from the The Idan Raichel Project site:

The Idan Raichel Project burst onto the global music scene in 2003, changing the face of Israeli popular music and offering “a fascinating window into the young, tolerant, multi-ethnic Israel taking shape away from the headlines” (Boston Globe).

Idan Raichel, the creator and leader of the Project, began his musical journey by inviting collaborations from artists of different generations, multiple ethnicities and singing in languages as diverse as Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili. The resulting albums shattered sales records in Israel, made Raichel his country’s biggest musical breakthroughs, and sold over half a million records worldwide. The Project was honored as the “Musical group of the Decade” in Israel in 2010, and the song “Mima’amakim” was selected the “Best Song of the Decade”. As described by The New York Times, “His arrangements bind the voices together in somber minor-mode anthems paced by electronic beats, earnestly seeking to uplift.”

The Project’s blend of African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds, coupled with a spectacular live show, has enchanted audiences worldwide. They have headlined in some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including New York’s Central Park Summer Stage, Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater, The Apollo Theater, the Sydney Opera House and Radio City Music Hall. They have also performed across Europe, South & Central America, Hong Kong, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Singapore to enraptured audiences of all backgrounds.

Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday

The cover design of this Mary Rodgers book is by Edward Gorey. Copies of the original hardcover published in 1972 can be found via online used book merchants. The blurb says: ‘Freaky Friday’ is an imaginative story about family life, and waking up one morning to find out that you’ve turned into your mother!

I’m tempted to get it myself!

Image found on my vintage book collection (in blog form)) via l’entonnoire du lièvre (tumblr)

Tanti Auguri, Birthday Girl!


Today is Monica Vitti’s 81st birthday, so I thought I’d send her best wishes and show her beautiful face in her prime to embellish my blog (besides which, current photos of her proved nearly impossible to find). I’ve heard of her since I was very young, but I don’t believe I ever saw a movie she was in, so I decided to have a little Vitti festival by borrowing L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961, with Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau), and Eclipse (1962, with Alain Delon) from the library, all in Italian with English subtitles, and all directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and forming his famous “trilogy on modernity and its discontents”. According to wikipedia, Antonioni “redefined the concept of narrative cinema” and challenged traditional approaches to storytelling, realism, drama, and the world at large. He produced “enigmatic and intricate mood pieces” and rejected action in favor of contemplation, focusing on image and design over character and story. His films defined a “cinema of possibilities”. Should be interesting. And nice to look at!


Steinbeckathon Parts 1 & 2

Some time last year, after I finished re-reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (a five-star read for me which I reviewed right here), I decided it might be time to focus on this author’s work, re-read some favourites and discover many new-to-me titles. I mentioned this idea over on LibraryThing and quite a few people said they’d like to jump in too, and so the Steinbeckathon was born. A few buddies and I came up with a schedule for the year, thirteen novels in twelve months, highly feasible considering some of his works run no more than 100 pages. I’m a little bit late reporting this, since we started in January of course. Our first work was the short novel Cannery Row in January, which we’ve followed up this month with The Wayward Bus (links lead to the discussion threads). Here are my reviews for those first two novels:

Continue reading

A Change of Plans

I spent a good part of the day with my friend Liselotte today, whom I officially adopted as my surrogate grandmother, since she literally could be at 93 years of age. We were supposed to go to the museum of fine arts to see the latest exhibit and attend some conferences about Lyonel Feininger, who was a very famous artist in Germany at the turn of the 20th century. I’m a little bit shocked that I’d never heard of him before, considering he was a famous cartoonist, then was part of Der Blaue Reiter and taught at Bauhaus among other things, but then, I keep learning something new-to-me every day. Continue reading


My mum sent me the above image link today, which I of course hurriedly followed up on. They have a beautiful selection of children’s and young adult illustrated books; their French byline translates to “Illustrated literature for children, or all those who have been children”. This publishing house based in France has a mandate to promote multiculturalism and as such, pairs Chinese texts and stories with French illustrators in the creation of their titles. I was pleased to discover that I had already picked up one of their books, a sublime affair illustrated by Agata Kawa, called Tigre le dévoué (The Devoted Tiger). You’ll find my short review and some image samples below. I’ve now reserved another one of their titles which I found at the library called Yin la jalouse (Jealous Yin), which will be an introduction for me to the work of illustrator Bobi + Bobi; click on the links to have a look at their sites, which are brimming with wonderful examples of their work. Continue reading