Big may be beautiful, but small is seductive!

Spoiler Alert: I am talking about books here.

I love small squarish books. I like the feel of them in my hands, their unexpected heft, their solidity. Customers in libraries ask all sorts of questions, like  “Where are your Biographies? Do you have any Italian books? How do I log-on to the computers?” and “Where are the toilets?” to name but a few. But as of yet, no one has ever asked me to direct them to the Small Seductive Books section.

A Dog a DayBut just recently I have been spoilt for choice. Here are 5 small, but perfectly formed chunky little books: A Dog a Day by Sally Muir is a collection of Muir’s dog drawings – a different dog every day over 365 days. I am moved by this book in more ways than one: I love drawing (and I try to draw every day), I love dogs (though Muir has omitted Scottish Terriers – what was she thinking?), and it is small and  squarish. Win, Win, Win.

In the midst of the dreary grey winter weather that was such a feature of life in Christchurch a few weeks ago, a small jaunty book stood out from all the drabness and said “Pick Me!”, and that’s how Brolliology (A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature) ended up in my book bag. What substances are these people imbibing to get such an off-the-wall idea as linking literature and umbrellas? Whatever it is – Give It To Me Now!

Everyone know’s that I love café culture, that I never take my meals at my workplace, but each day treat myself to a capuccino at a nearby café. Some libraries even have café’s on site – that works too. Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour is a neat little book that I wish I’d had in my possession when we travelled to Italy. I checked out the New Zealand and  South African cafés and I am pleased to report and I am ahead of the pack in these two countries. If you are about to travel, have a flick through this muscular little number.

Now, let’s put it all to music. Donna Leon, well known crime novelist has brought out a beautiful little book on an intrinsic aspect of Venetian life: the Gondola, and it comes with its own CD of well known Gondolier renderings. This book is arguably one of the most beautiful books I have ever held. It is also informative and entertaining. One of the first chapters “I Think I Could Do This” tells of a dinner guest who was given the blueprints of a gondola as a gift. It took him over 5 years to build, and 32 men to lift its 350kg weight onto the truck that would take it to its launching place. That’d keep Greg busy in his retirement!

And finally, step aside Hygge, because Japonisme is about to knock you right off your perch. In an exploration of your Ikigai (purpose), Kintsugi (repairing broken ceramics with gold) and wabi-sabi (the transience of life) and more, you will be gently exposed to much wisdom, such as:

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.

Japanese Proverb

And I am delighted to tell you that all the above-mentioned seductively small books did indeed make me smile.

Recommended Reading:

Customers relaxing in the Attic Coffee House, 123a Cashel Street: Picturing Canterbury

Customers relaxing in the Attic Coffee House, 123a Cashel Street. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0042.

Customers relaxing in the Attic Coffee House, 123a Cashel Street c.1957. The building was demolished in 1972.

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Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

The first cappuccino of the year

Book coverThere is nothing quite like the first cappuccino of the year. It holds in its bowl all the memories of  coffees past, the enjoyment of the present cup and the promise of all the good caffeine still to come. In that spirit, I believe I can face whatever twentytwelve throws at me.

I love my coffees in cafés. I like to savour my brew surrounded by the soothing murmur of conversation. I’ve watched the awkwardness of first time internet daters as they plot their way over the minefield of  their disparate lives; I’ve overheard job interviews go catastrophically wrong; and, to my horror, I now know that there is at least one man in Christchurch who showers with his socks on.

My fingers immediately itched to blog.

And in twentytwelve I hope to blog in a café – on the iPad that Father Christmas omitted to bring. In fact, I love cafés so much, I fantasize about owning one of my own some day. It will be book-lined and with free WiFi. I will name it “Café Paisley”. People will come for the decor alone. My customers will sit in comfy chairs, sip delicious coffees and nibble on tasty morsels. And as it’s my fantasy, therell be no decaf at Paisley and… There Will Be No Muffins.

I am certainly not the first person to link coffee, cafés and writing, take J.K. Rowling for starters – and the library has several items in the catalogue that feature coffee and coffee shops in the titles, such as:

Let’s raise our lattes to twentytwelve and resolve to indulge in at least one fantasy each. Happy New Year!

Little pieces of happy

ImageLast week I got my handbag back.  Retrieved from my library by brave team leaders, it contained a number of important things like my driver’s licence and wallet and cellphone.  But the thing that made me happiest was the unexpected rediscovery of a ring in one of the pockets.  It’s ridiculously huge, shaped like a star, and covered in rainbow diamantes.  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.  And I figure that’s a pretty good deal right now.

Like standing in a busy library (even if it’s not my regular one), and watching people hang out and spend time with friends and family, borrow books and music and movies, and have coffee together.

Like hearing librarians say they are finally beginning to enjoy reading again, and discussing their books choices (Barbara Trapido’s Sex and Stravinsky – mostly great but with a less-than-average ending; Rachael King’s Magpie Hall – a great read; F G Cottam’s The Waiting Room – beautifully written ghost story).

Like unpacking boxes of shiny new books and sending them off to people who have been waiting for them.

Like reading on a national news website that the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book is being re-released.

Like … well, what’s made you happy recently?

Image of the week

Woman serving expresso coffee at Fails Cafe 82 Cashel Street, near the Bridge of Remembrance c. 1955

Woman serving expresso coffee at Fails Cafe, 82 Cashel Street, near the Bridge of Remembrance

One of the only coffee machines in Christchurch at the time.

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Coffee drinkers are diabolical

I don’t like coffee. It’s far too bitter for my tastes. Though I do sometimes envy coffee drinkers their passionate love of the stuff. That look of relaxation and satisfaction on their faces when they get their hands on (and lips around) that first cup of the day almost makes me wish for another vice…but not quite. Coffee breath is right up there with smokers’ breath and coldsores on my “list of reasons not to snog someone”.

Writer Ben Obler clearly doesn’t have any such qualms. He obviously loves his cuppa-joe because he’s gone to the trouble of compiling a list of the top 10 coffee drinking scenes in literature. I mean, I’ve got to ask – is this not the unhinged behaviour of an addict?

What other top 10 literary scenes might other fanatical enthusiasts conjure up? The chicklit crowd might offer up the top 10 scenes “where the previously totally unsuitable suitor delivers a speech so moving that the heroine is rendered incapable of rebuffing him and they fall into each others arms”. Top 10 descriptions of trains (model or otherwise)? I’d like a top 10 of cheesecake eating. Truly the possibilities are endless.

What would be the subject of your literary top 10?