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Dear friends,

The little town in which I now reside happens to be home to one of the most fantastic and well-equipped public libraries I’ve encountered in my adult life. (It’s hard to judge and rank fairly the public libraries of my youth, because I think of them all with such nostalgic fondness!) Over the weekend – a pair of grey, dull, wet winter days – my husband and I stopped by the library’s annual book sale, where we found ample rewards for our braving the weather.

This biography of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1877, is now the most exciting book that I own. It is in deplorable condition – but considering I paid $1 for it and that it is 143 years old, I can’t complain! Acquiring this book (and another late Victorian volume of King Lear) may prove thrillingly useful for me: as throughout this past year of blog-neglecting, I have occupied myself with attempting to write a fantasy novel that involves some elements of nineteenth-century publishing.

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Have you seen the most recent Little Women film – and – a more important second question – were you also blown away by the jewel of a scene in which Jo watches eagerly as her words literally take physical form and become a gorgeous book? It is the splendor of this period of publishing that I want to understand as best I can, and this biography is a fine example. I wish I could download the typeface used for the cover text!

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Another even more relevant and fascinating aspect of these nineteenth-century books I hope to collect: personal annotations! Let us generously assume that in this case, ” ’78 ” refers to 1878, the year after this was published…

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The copy of King Lear from 1888 that I purchased lacks an elaborate cover, but I do enjoy the design and composition of the pages.

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To return to the theme of a few paragraphs ago – as someone who notoriously abandons half-finished novels and never finishes them, trying to stick with this draft has been one of the greatest challenges of my creative life. My “book” (how odd it seems to use that word to refer to an excessively large Word document!) is nearly 90,000 words long, and I would say that every thousand words or so I am tempted to jettison the whole thing altogether and start anew.

Perhaps I can channel that desire for novelty into writing new blog posts instead?

Sincerely,

Mailbox Mermaid

even more emily: poetic wanderings in Amherst, MA

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Given my disturbingly cheerful bubblegum-mermaid persona, the fact that I’m fond of respectfully exploring centuries-old cemeteries might seem a bit paradoxical. I am a historian, though, and the memorials people leave behind are a wonderful window into the past. As a writer, too, I also enjoy paying my respects to the great writers and artists from whom I am separated by decades or more: especially my favorite reclusive poet and “neighbor,” Emily Dickinson.

Because my blog is apparently hosting a kind of impromptu “I Love Dickinson!” week, here’s a virtual stroll through some quieter, more secret parts of Amherst, gravesites and otherwise: all with a vaguely literary bent!

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Lake District, Part II: So Romantic

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A slumber did my spirit seal;

I had no human fears:

She seemed a thing that could not feel

The touch of earthly years.

 

No motion has she now, no force;

She neither hears nor sees;

Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,

With rocks, and stones, and trees.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved “collecting” poems: committing them to memory so I can recite them again and again like ancient, arcane spells. I found this childhood hobby continuing throughout the literary studies of my college years, too. Repeating verse in my mind whilst writing analytical papers. Scribbling stanzas in the margins of textbooks.

My most beloved poets, however, will always be the Romantics. I remember encountering Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” for the first time at age seven and subsequently exploring its sprawling sands as often as possible. And who among us didn’t have a teenage crush on Keats? You can imagine, then, the joy I felt at visiting the small villages in the Lake District where William and Dorothy Wordsworth spent the latter parts of their lives…

(A note: the William Wordsworth on the grave above is actually Wordsworth’s son, who just happened to have a slightly more photogenic headstone than his father!)

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Quick Fiction Reviews: January 2016

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Every year, I resolve to read more–because why not? I spent my childhood devouring books in a matter of hours, returning from the library with my dragon-print bag packed with tens of appealing volumes. College destroyed all of my chances of reading for fun over the course of a couple of years, but I’ve been making a comeback ever since.

My book tastes are so specific that I sometimes can go through weeks of reading without finding something that really appeals to me. So far, though, January 2016’s reading list has been filled with clever characters, delicate gems of prose, and uplifting stories with just a touch (or more!) of magic…

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Messing About in Boats | Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions’ Wind in the Willows

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I’ve never been one of those people who can identify one single “favorite book.” Though I usually answer such a question by rattling off a list of the authors I enjoy the most, I’m starting to think that I do have a number-one novel after all.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been deeply in love with The Wind in the Willows. It’s such a beautifully told story, one that immerses me in a cozy (if occasionally weasel-filled) world that I want to visit over and over again. Kenneth Grahame’s little story about friendship and the relationship between man (or rodent) and nature’s “sublime” has comforted me again and again over the years.

Recently, I decided that I needed to have a copy of my own on hand–in case of an emergency, as the case may be–so I thought I’d give the Barnes & Noble Collectibles Edition version a try.

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