Off the Shelf (4)

As followers of our blog will know, voracious reader Robyn has been sharing with us on a regular basis the titles that she has been adding to her For Later shelf. Here are some more titles that have recently graduated to her Completed shelf.

Cover for Maker & MuseMaker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry

This truly is a beauty. The pieces are breath-taking but the very best thing about it is the chance to read about  women as designers and makers as well as consumers.

Cover for Weeping BritanniaWeeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears by Thomas Dixon

Who knew that the British are actually quite emotional? Not me until I read this book. Turns out they’ve been giving free reign to their lachrymose tendencies for centuries, with a bit of time off for a more martial approach between 1870 and 1945. It’s full of fascinating facts such as Queen Elizabeth II crying in public (more accurately dabbing at the corners of her eyes) for the first time at the age of 71, when the royal yacht Britannia was  decommissioned . The author is the director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London so he knows what he’s talking about.

Industrial Vintage Interiors by Maria Eugenia SilvaCover for Industrial Vintage Interiors

A biggie and almost a beauty, this is probably one for the true enthusiasts who can pore over page after page of metal stools. It’s a world where your cat has to be grey to (mono) tone in with your colour scheme.

Aspirational reading

The Honest ToddlerAspirational books – they tempt me with a promise of perfection.  It used to be parenting books. I took home Ian Grant’s Growing Great Boys and Growing Great Girls. I tried to organise family meetings to talk through our “issues” but like most attempts I had at creating the perfect family, they failed. I should have just read The Honest Toddler : a child’s guide to parenting, it would probably have been just as effective.

The winner of the aspirational titles of all time must be the diet books.  They march out the library doors promising not only weight loss but also complete overhaul of our fat miserable lives…

Loving yourself to great health : thoughts & food : the ultimate dietLoving Yourself to Great Health by the Self Help guru Louise Hay is perhaps the book that promises the most – health, happiness, and spiritual awakening. Greedy girl’s diet second helpings : fab food fast for a slim life promises that healthy food can be fun, and interestingly has a section on guilt free Junk Food!

Scandinavian ModernInterior Design and Cooking are the most aspirational books I flick through these days.  Perfect for the coffee table – and little else – they leave me wanting a house that is a calm oasis of neutral/Scandinavian/eco-friendly/retro cool.

I am however beginning to give up on cooking books as I don’t have the stomach for cashew nut cream or coconut oil, and the word Paleo brings me out in a rash.

I can’t help but love these books.  I take them home for inspiration and ideas along with hope of that magic elixir that will make everything perfect.  For that brief window when I read and wonder, I am transported to the perfect me, the perfect family with the perfect house, and – like reading the much maligned Mills and Boon-  they are time away from the realities of life, and create the opportunity to dream.

“A Politically sensitive interiors book”

Estates: An intimte HistoryWhen I was younger, a trip to London brought me face to face with social housing and tower block living.  My aunty lived 15 floors up. It was a spacious place with big windows that let in the sun. I remember being surprised that she was allowed to have four dogs and pondered their toilet habits (let’s just say if wasn’t always good),  but she lived there until her block was deemed unsafe and she was once again at the mercy of the private landlord.

Coming from New Zealand with my memories of backyard cricket, I was secretly horrified that she could live without a garden and surrounded by so many people. However she loved it, social housing was after all “social”, her friends were nearby and she had support and company. Those days are gone, and when I came across this book Style Council: Inspirational interiors of ex-council homes I was interested to see what gentrification of these once important estates would actually signify.  I imaged pared back neutral interiors, a few choice pieces scattered artfully with owners declaring the building had ‘good bones’.

Style councilI was pleased to find that this book although containing a bit of fancy interior talk, it is by and large a celebration how social housing bettered people’s lives and how a dedicated bunch of admittedly often arty types are bringing these buildings back to life, some of whom work in association with Poplar Harca (Housing and Regeneration Community Association) a housing association in the East End of London which is revitalising estates and working on community regeneration. The author – mindful of the fact that many would find this book idea to be gentrification gone mad – states she may have created “a publishing first – a politically sensitive interiors book”

The buildings vary as much as the people who live in them. I particularly enjoyed the large brutalist Tower blocks,  (which I’m sure must have ‘good bones’), and perhaps this gave me a fondness for the old Government Life building in Cathedral Square. I always liked to think it would have made great apartments.

This is a lovely book to pick up and read a chapter, look at the interesting photography and enjoy a glimpse into both the past and the present of these iconic buildings.

Watch a movie! at the book festival!

Because we have the amazing Joanne Drayton here to talk about her recent book The Search for Anne Perry, the clever festival people have managed to organise three screenings of the 2009 documentary Anne Perry: Interiors as a kind of hors d’oeuvre (or maybe a counterpoint? I’ll let you know), before Joanne’s presentation, 3.30pm tomorrow (Saturday).  I caught the first screening this morning at 10am, and there was another session straight after that at 11.30, but if you missed both of those there is one final chance to see it on Sunday at 3.30pm.

It’s well worth a watch, even despite a bit of a glitchy start, and notwithstanding the 3D surround-sound experience of sitting next to a woman whose bottle of fizzy drink exploded spectacularly all over her about halfway through.  The YMCA is an interesting venue to be in, and after I stopped expecting someone to burst through the door to make me start exercising, I settled down and really enjoyed the documentary.  It’s a beautiful piece of film-making, and a very interesting portrait of a no doubt difficult subject.  There are moments of comedy, and the undoubted star of the show is definitely the small spotty terrier, but overall it’s a mesmerising and poignant portrayal of a woman who, I have to say, remains a mystery still, even despite the increasing amount of material being produced about her.

I managed to write 5 pages of notes in the dark, and almost all of the words are legible, but I’m not going to share them until after tomorrow’s session with Joanne Drayton.  I will be really interested to see how (or if) the two pictures mesh.  In the meantime, you should think about attending Sunday’s viewing (it’s free!), and make sure you grab a ticket for Joanne’s session tomorrow as well.  And if, as it seems so many of us in this city are, you are really obsessed with Perry/Hulme, and Parker, and those long-ago Christchurch events, remember that the library has copies of Drayton’s new book, last year’s book So Brilliantly Clever, by Peter Graham, and a raft of other information as well.