Monday, August 8, 2011


Hello, welcome to The English Muse, my early experiment in blogging and coding...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Very Good Saturday Night

I changed my Tumblr theme (snapshot above, new page and photo credits here.)

And I started a new book, "Everything Beautiful Began After," by Simon Van Booy.

It's a love story, set in Athens, and this is how it starts:

"For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home. Places where lonely people can live in exile of their own lives--far from anything that was ever imagined for them. Athens has long been a place where lonely people go. A city doomed to forever impersonate itself, a city wrapped by cruel bands of road, where the thunder of traffic is a sound so constant it's like silence..."

I'm hooked. Now I want to read everything Van Booy has ever written. Susan Salter Reynolds spotted Van Booy's promise in 2007, after the debut of his first book, "The Secret Lives of People in Love."

She wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "One worries, after reading a debut short-story collection this breathtaking, what Simon Van Booy could possibly do for an encore. Write something longer? Take up haiku? Wander the world like a sadhu for a few decades and send us another book as chillingly beautiful, like postcards from Eden?"

Yes, exactly. A book like a postcard from Eden. This is a very good Saturday night.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Textile Covers on Classic Books

I admit it: I'm a textile junkie. I keep fabrics, large and small, stacked in clear boxes. So I was excited to discover that Virago Modern Classics has again teamed up with textile designers to create covers for another set of modern classics. (Including one of my favorites, The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.)

The designers include: Eley Kishimoto
, Lucienne Day
, Florence Broadhurst
, Angie Lewin for Liberty 
and Neisha Crosland. They're available now from UK booksellers. More info here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Lost Art of Postcard Writing


The New York Review of Books just posted a brilliant essay by Charles Simic on this subject. An excerpt:

"Until a few years ago, hardly a day would go by in the summer without the mailman bringing a postcard from a vacationing friend or acquaintance. Nowadays, you’re bound to get an email enclosing a photograph, or, if your grandchildren are the ones doing the traveling, a brief message telling you that their flight has been delayed or that they have arrived. The terrific thing about postcards was their immense variety. It wasn’t just the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal, or some other famous tourist attraction you were likely to receive in the mail, but also a card with a picture of a roadside diner in Iowa, the biggest hog at some state fair in the South, and even a funeral parlor touting the professional excellence that their customers have come to expect over a hundred years."

I miss snail mail.

(Photo by Moline)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Anna Ådén: Summer Cottage & Tree House

Such a charming little cottage and tree house in Sweden. Taken by Umeå-based photographer Anna Ådén. More on her blog!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Matchbook Magazine: Old Hollywood

The August issue of Matchbook Magazine is out and it includes a lovely article by Katie Armour,
featuring the photos of Gray Malin...

Malin calls the series of photos "A Timeless Pursuit"...

Although they're taken in different locals, my favorites are the ones in Hollywood and Beverly Hills...

So much to love about LA.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Evening

At this moment I'm sitting on the back porch listening to the crickets. There's a cool breeze scented with jasmine...It's the perfect summer evening...

(Photo by Stephanie Cornell).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

What are you reading?

I just started Julie Orringer's "The Invisible Bridge." It's a love story set in Budapest and Paris, and it looks amazing. I really need to get lost in a book at the moment.

What about you?

(Photo by Katie Lionheart).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Weekend

Weekend To Do List


*Avoid the 405 Freeway (This weekend is Carmageddon here in Los Angeles!)

*In fact, avoid car travel all together.

*Walk to the newsstand to pick up the weekend editions of the FT and the Wall Street Journal.

*Stop by the coffee shop for an iced latte.

*Walk to the market to pick up fresh greens, beets, and dried cranberries for a summer salad.

*Have lunch on the back porch where the canyon breeze is the best.

*Spend the afternoon reading in the hammock under the magnolia tree.

*Take a nap.


*Sleep In.

*Make French Toast and coffee.

*Read the Sunday New York Times.

*Walk to the movie theatre to see Harry Potter.

*Spend the evening at the park, listening to live music.

What are you doing this weekend?

(Collage by Michaela Frame By Frame.)

PS: Here's a very funny story about Carmageddon by one of my former LA Times colleagues.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The 5 Most Stolen Books

Publisher's Weekly has a fantastic blog post this week on the most frequently filched books. 
These are some very well-read thieves!

More Here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The New Kings of Nonfiction

Since most of the books I buy these days are from secondhand stores, the one I'm reading now is a little old but still good. It's called "The New Kings of Nonfiction," and it was edited by This American Life host Ira Glass. When it was published in 2007, it was heralded as a collection of stories that capture "some of the best storytelling of this golden age of nonfiction."

It includes authors Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Pollan, the late David Foster Wallace and a number of other male writers. Surprisingly, one of my favorite female writers -- Susan Orlean -- is also in the mix. I wouldn't call Orlean a King but rather a Journalism Goddess. Her profiles in the New Yorker have become legendary, full of insights and scenes that make her subjects come alive.

The "New Kings" book includes Orlean's article "The American Man, Age Ten," which she wrote for Esquire Magazine. It's a profile of a boy named Colin Duffy.

A snippet: "Here are the particulars about Colin Duffy: He is ten years old, on the nose. He is four feet eight inches high, weighs seventy-five pounds, and appears to be mostly leg and shoulder blade....I have rarely seen him without a baseball cap. He owns several, but favors a University of Michigan Wolverines model, on account of its pleasing colors. The hat styles his hair into wild disarray. If you ever managed to get the hat off his head, you would see a boy with a nimbus of golden-brown hair, dented in the back..."

After I finish "New Kings" I want to re-read "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup," Orlean's compilation of some of her favorite profiles. (Her essay on the taxidermy convention is the best!)

What are you reading this week?

(Illustration by Contemporary Collage and for sale, as a refrigerator magnet, on Etsy.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Where I'm blogging from...

I've given up my desk for a spot by the air conditioner!

Extreme heat requires extreme measures.

My sidekick, Lola, the black Pom.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sleeping in

We've had so many sleepovers at our house this summer...

The living room has become a crash pad for girls and animals.
It also happens to be the only room in our house with air conditioning...
Lately I've been thinking about sleeping outside in the hammock.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Official Start of Summer

My friend Elaine arrived last week from Paris for a two-month stay in Los Angeles. She always comes with gifts (this year, a scarf from an open-air Parisian market) and French magazines.
If I'm really lucky, I'll find a way to fly back to Paris with her in August.

In the meantime, I'm spending a lot of time in Beverly Hills and
at the beach enjoying the arrival of Summer with my favorite friend.