March 31, 2010

March Reads

This month's literary odyssey took me to Singapore, World War II-era England, and the inner workings of a Russian literary genius' mind.

The Painted Veil
by W. Somerset Maugham. Set against the backdrop of 1920's Singapore, The Painted Veil (which I've mentioned here before) is a redemption plot about the
young, beautiful, and intensely shallow Kitty who marries the wrong man, has an affair with another, is caught, and is subsequently forced to accompany her bacteriologist husband into the heart of a cholera epidemic. Is her husband conspiring to kill her? Will the cholera take her life before her husband does? Or can Kitty survive it and possibly redeem herself? I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite awhile. Maugham is a superb story-teller: he has a real knack for eliciting sympathy for his characters and sets a great pace to the story (another great character book by Maugham: Of Human Bondage). I like the literal and symbolic journey Kitty goes on, though the ending leans a little toward the saccharine. Still, it was satisfying, and I feel the story has held up remarkably well considering it was written nearly a hundred years ago. I really recommend.

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes. These twenty-one short stories were written between 1939 and 1944 for The New Yorker. During this time, Panter-Downes wrote book reviews, a regular column called "Letter from London", and over thirty short stories about English domestic life. Unearthed for the first time since their original publication date over fifty years ago, these stories endure as perfectly intact snapshots of war-time England, when families were torn asunder, homes were shattered, and a stiff upper lip was the rule of the day. For life simply must go on.

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy. This is a memoir of Tolstoy's spiritual crisis and his disillusionment and subsequent turning away from the religious orthodoxy of his youth. I appreciate and felt inspired by the journey and Tolstoy's probing questions about the meaning of life, though the ending leaves a lot to be desired (I felt somewhat unsatisfied and confused, for nothing was resolved). It's a quick read and I'd recommend it to any Tolstoy fan or anyone in a particularly pensive and philosophical mood. The edition I read is from the Penguin Great Ideas series and it's basically a design-lover's dream. You can see the stunning cover for yourself, along with the other gorgeous book covers from the series, right here.

Coming up: a recently published book that has been nabbing awards left and right
and then whatever suits my fancy, really. Nose back to the reading grindstone now....

March 30, 2010


The weather right now is quintessential early spring. The sun is once again starting to grace us with his presence for just a little bit longer each day, and there is a discernible briskness to the air that, when inhaled and savored and enjoyed, is deeply satisfying. Right now clouds the color of lead are blanketing the sky and look as though they're about to burst at any moment and unleash the first spring rain of the season. If you haven't already guessed it, I simply adore this weather. Which is why when I spotted this moody gray nail polish from Rescue Beauty Lounge last fall (appropriately called "Stormy"), I knew I had to get a bottle for myself. Not only are Rescue Beauty Lounge polishes 3-free (free of the harmful chemicals DBP, Formaldehyde and Toluene that are sadly found in a lot of nail polishes out there), they apply like a dream and come in the most delightful, fashion-forward colors. Although the price is a little steep ($18 a bottle), Stormy hasn't let me down. I'm currently rocking it on both my fingers and toes, and five days after my mani/pedi, the color is still going strong.

P.S. If you get on their mailing list, you can receive email alerts about any future (sometimes 50% off!) sales.

March 26, 2010

Inspiration Living Space

Who knew a simple seascape could look so fetching hanging over a fireplace? I could live in this space quite happily and not change a thing about it.

{Image via Abbey Goes Design Scouting}

March 21, 2010

Oh, the places you'll go!

This week I flew to Philadelphia for a work conference. Sadly, as the trip was for business and not pleasure and lasted only a couple days, I wasn't able to do the things I really wanted to do, like check out the liberty bell, Philadelphia Museum of Art or Edgar Allen Poe Historic Site. But it wasn't all work all the time: I ate at great restaurants, had delicious jasmine tea at Reading Terminal Market, enjoyed some amazing spring weather, ogled the beautiful architecture, and delighted in how friendly people were. All the more reason to come back, I say. Which I most certainly shall.

P.S. How adorable are these vintage travel posters? Adding Seattle and Miami on my list of American cities to visit...

{Images via The Heads of State}

March 14, 2010

Spring is on her way

DEAR March, come in!
How glad I am!

I looked for you before.

Put down your hat—

You must have walked—

How out of breath you are!

Dear March, how are you?

And the rest?

Did you leave Nature well?

Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,

I have so much to tell!

I got your letter, and the bird’s;

The maples never knew

That you were coming,—I declare,

How red their faces grew!

But, March, forgive me—

And all those hills

You left for me to hue;

There was no purple suitable,

You took it all with you.

Who knocks? That April!

Lock the door!

I will not be pursued!

He stayed away a year, to call

When I am occupied.

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come,

That blame is just as dear as praise

And praise as mere as blame.

--Emily Dickinson (1830–86)

March 10, 2010

Meredith Frampton

To piggyback on yesterday's post, I've included a few more paintings by British artist Meredith Frampton. I really love the vibrant, saturated use of color and their flat, child-like quality. Don't the female subjects seem like the epitome of glamour? I want to wear what they're wearing. Even the unclothed woman. She wears nudity so well!

Nude with Flying Swans 1919

Portrait of a Young Woman 1935

{Images via the Tate Collection}

March 9, 2010

The Painted Muse

I just finished a book by W. Somerset Maugham called The Painted Veil, and adorning the cover of my copy is this exquisite painting you see to the right (I'll leave my actual review of the book for a future post, but here's a little hint: I loved it). The distant mountains and expansive sky suggest a sort of loneliness, as if the subject were caught in a land utterly strange and foreign to her (which is, fittingly, a theme in Maugham's book). The painting is by British artist Meredith Frampton and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, one of my favorite places on the planet. According to the National Portrait Gallery's website, the sitter of the painting is Winifred Radford, a singer and teacher of singing. Seemingly, she was a London girl-about-town in the 1920-50's because there are loads of photographs of her from that era on the gallery's website. It looks as though she had quite the glamorous life (I just found her obituary from The Independent; apparently, she was also an accomplished musical performer).

I love studying older paintings and photos and contemplating the lives of the subjects. I imagine and hope Winifred's life was as lovely as these images would suggest. I really like this photo of her posing next to her famous portrait. She was still such a beauty, even in her later years.

{Images via the National Portrait Gallery}

March 6, 2010

Style Icon: Lovely Rita

When I came across this picture of Rita, grandmother of fellow blogger Katie (she of the adorable the NEO-traditionalist blog), my mouth dropped to the floor. How beautiful and impeccably stylish is she? If I turn out half as chic and accomplished as Rita when I grow up, I would be very happy indeed.

{Photo via the NEO-traditionalist}

March 1, 2010

Linda & Harriet Spring Cleaning Sale

Adorable Brooklyn letterpress company Linda & Harriet (whom I've talked about here on more than one occasion) are having a spring cleaning sale this week only. Most of the items on their website will be a whopping 50% off. Sale ends March 7th. See you there!