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I spent the weekend helping my son bake a ton of cookies for relatives far and wide, wrapping, card writing and getting boxes ready to go. Today was the LAST TRIP to the post office for me! Huzzah! All is very merry here with the snow and the cold and the child who might very well burst with joy between now the 24th. It's too cool.

In the meantime, many folks have been singing the praises of many neat things all over the internet. For those thinking about next year's books, do check out Dan Wickett's amazing look forward at [mostly] indy press titles due out in 2009. This is about as comprehensive as it gets and Dan's literary taste is impeccable - it's well worth a few minutes of your time.

Steampunk Home has a look at some very cool gifts for the holidays and a promise of a list of appropriate book recs to appear soon as well.

For nostalgia junkies or those who like historic eye candy, Scrapbooks: An American History by Jessica Helfand sounds like a good bet. The NYT liked it and bibliophiles will find this bit especially appealing: "Helfand has made a point of including celebrity scrapbooks. Her book begins with an especially appealing one, the record of an elopement, with a hotel key, a photograph of the young couple on a beach, labeled "us," and finally a forgiving telegram from the parents. It turns out that the bride is Anne Sexton. Zelda Fitzgerald's scrapbook is here ("page compositions that celebrate a kind of random chaos"), as is the imagist poet H. D.'s. Carl Van Vechten, the writer and cultural impresario of the Harlem Renaissance, collected photographs of nude men."

This is neat - Helfand has a site where she shows images from her scrapbook collection.

On the horizon (and after the winter storms have passed), The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley received high marks in Booklist from my divine editor, Donna Seaman: "This wounded daughter of a land of the midnight sun recounts a journey to Iceland as dramatic, dangerous, and mysterious as any ancient epic adventure, and retraces her ardent quest for the truth about a staggering family secret. Steeped in the highly symbolic mythology, complex language, and otherworldly landscape of Iceland, and the little-known story of the nineteenth-century Icelandic diaspora, Sunley's astonishingly accomplished debut is a bewitching tale of volcanic emotions, cultural inheritance, family sorrows, mental illness, and life-altering discoveries."

All lovers of the north should take special note of that one.

Whale scientist Eva Saulitis considers the fine line between art and science (and myth and marine biology) in her essay collection Leaving Resurrection. The one sounds quite unusual in the Orion review: "There are stories of killer whales helping humans by driving seals onto the ice. There are stories of killer whales calling to people who are about to die. Science teaches us that these are myths. But what if they aren't? A whale approaches Saulitis's boat, a pulsing bloody seal in its jaws; the whale turns an eye toward her. "What are you saying?" she asks the whale. The whale might answer, "This is who I am." Couldn't killer whales and humans have once shared a language understood one another? Scientific method creates a shape, Saulitis writes, 'a net of words." Data, facts—these increase our knowledge, she admits, "but the step to wisdom is less certain.' '

I didn't see this one before my post on Alice wonderfulness, but Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life by Robin Wilson sounds like a book many fans will enjoy: "Readers will find rare magic, for instance, in Carroll's conversion of Dodgson's professional analysis of terrestrial rotation into a whimsical Wonderland exchange between Alice and the Duchess on the nature of time. A biography as full of twists as the capering of the Jabberwocky!"

And ooh look - Alice jewelry!


I haven't read Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton yet (but have it here waiting for me) but already want her collection Delicate Edible Birds (awesome title!). It's due out next month. From Groff's site is this description: " 'L. De Bard and Aliette" recreates the medieval tale of Abelard and Heloise in New York during the 1918 flu epidemic; "Lucky Chow Fun" returns to Templeton, the setting of Groff's first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, for a contemporary account of what happens to outsiders in a small, insular town; the title story, "Delicate Edible Birds," is the tale of a group of war correspondents, a lone woman among them, who fall prey to a frightening man in the French countryside while fleeing the Nazis.:

I think the short story is grossly underrated and feel we should all make a New Year's resolution to read more of them. (I'm certainly going to try.)

I did not know State by State had a DVD too. I'd love to see more of this sort of thing - even if it's just online. I'd love to get some background info by authors on research in their books, character inspirations, that kind of thing. (Like the director's commentary.)

[Post pics all from Scrapbooks: An American History". The third one is from Zelda's book!]

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