Monday, April 03, 2006

Random red books

Intrigued by the shelving methods expounded by Laura of Sorrow at Sills Bend -- she hates the 'visual mess' of the usual bookshelf and instead groups her books by colour -- I have done some research into the mysteries of bibliobiography and have taken down, at random, one red book from each of the eleven bookshelves in the house to see if any conclusions can be drawn.

Here they are in alphabetical order of author, with a representative quotation from each:

Bade, Patrick, Femme Fatale: Images of evil and fascinating women

'Manet's Olympia, one of the masterpieces of Realist painting, depicts unmistakably and shockingly a modern Parisienne ... Olympia's challenging and unmaidenly stare no doubt had a great deal to do with the moral outrage which greeted the picture when it was first shown. The black cat which stands on the end of the bed and which, like Olympia, fixes the viewer with its gaze, brings a touch of Baudelairean diablerie and suggestions of black magic and the witch's familiar. Olympia is the Realist's version of the sphinx -- or the sphinx divided into its two component parts of cat and woman.'


Chaucer, Geoffrey, The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

'Ther was also a Nonne, a PRIORESSE,
That of hir smiling was ful simple and coy;
Hir gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy;
And she was cleped madame Eglantine.
Ful weel she soong the service divine,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
For Frenssh of Paris was to hir unknowe.'

Douglas, J.H., Denis Gerard and W. Thompson, Cassell's Compact English/French French/English Dictionary

'cattiness, cattishness, n. méchanceté, sournoiserie, f.'

Grafton, Sue, J is for Judgment

'I extended one arm and studied the artificial tan, which had faded by now to a pale peach. I raised one bare leg, noticing for the first time all the streaking around my ankle. Jesus, I could do with a shave. It looked as if I had taken to wearing angora knee socks.'

Grigson, Jane, Jane Grigson's Fruit Book

'In France, the little fruit huddled in their trays in neat rows came to be known as souris vegetales, vegetable mice, which I think is a better name than the recently-adopted "kiwi fruit". But I can see that if the American market was squeamish about "Chinese gooseberry" as a name -- on account of politics, or dislike of the ordinary gooseberry? -- it would take even less kindly to "vegetable mouse".'

Kerry, Cath, The Haigh's Book of Chocolate

'Terrine of three chocolate ice-creams on a mocha anglaise with hazelnut praline.'

Mansfield, Katherine, Letters and Journals

May 1917: 'My sticks of rhubarb were wrapped up in a copy of the Star containing Lloyd George's last, more than eloquent speech. As I snipped up the rhubarb my eye fell, was fixed and fastened on that sentence wherein he tells us that we have grasped our niblick and struck out for the open course. ... it is a dreadful thought that these immortal words should go down into the dreamless dust uncherished. I loved to think, as I put the rhubarb into the saucepan, that years hence when in the fullness of time, full of ripeness and wisdom, the Almighty sees fit to gather him into His bosom, some gentle stone-cutter living his quiet life in the little village that had known great David as a child would take a piece of fair white marble and engrave upon it two niblicks crossed and underneath:
In the hour of England's most imminent peril he grasped his Niblick and struck out for the Open Course.'

Would K.M. have made a sublime blogger or what?

de Maupassant, Guy, Short Stories

'Below us the flat rectangular roofs descended like giant steps, until they gave way to the sloping roofs of the European quarter. Beyond the latter appeared the masts of anchored ships, and beyond those again the sea, the open sea, reflecting the peaceful azure of the vault of heaven ... I watched the stars as they came out one by one in the darkening sky. They were barely visible, so far and faint were they; they hardly seemed fully kindled. A mild warmth, delicate as the brushing of a bird's wing, caressed us, and sometimes, more ardent, less ethereal, from over the peaks of Atlas, came the breath of the desert, charged with the air that speaks of Africa.'

Nabokov, Vladimir, Ada

'... the girl turned her attractive, though almost eyebrowless, face toward him and asked him if he would like a cup of tea before breakfast. No. What was her name? Blanche -- but Mlle Larivière called her "Cendrillon", because her stockings got so easily laddered, see, and because she broke and mislaid things, and confused flowers. His loose attire revealed his desire; that could not escape a girl's notice, even if colour-blind ...'

Piven, Joshua, and David Borgenicht, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel

'Hang on tight and pull the reins to one side to make the camel run in a circle. It will stop on its own.'


Fyodor said...

M. Brochant, il est méchant!

M. Pignon, il est mignon!

Pavlov's Cat said...

Hm. Is this an actual quotation or just (just!) a bilingual Nabokovian joke? I've put the French dictionary away, but my guess is that one of these rhyming dudes is a pussy and the other is a pansy.

Froggie girly-men.

Fyodor said...

Oops, sorry. It's a freudian free association from the word "méchanceté", which I've always liked.

They're quotes from the fillum "The Dinner Game" ["Le Diner de Cons"]. If you haven't seen it, you really must. Immediately. It had a decent release here in Aus, so will probably be at a decent video store near you.

Brochant IS nasty. And a bit of a girlyhomme.

Pignon IS cute, but a real dumbcon, if you get my drift.

Ampersand Duck said...

Fantastic cross-section of red books. So what conclusion do you draw?

Ampersand Duck said...

BTW that could be answered by Mme Cat or M. Fyodor!

ThirdCat said...

PC, I just popped in here to read the comments, and I don't have anything to say, but if I did, I would be using the word verification ralphc! Which means I like, totally have to leave a comment so I can let you know that. Maybe one day I'll get nickx.

Your blog definitely rules the word verification waves.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh wow, that is an even better and more baffling SA joke than Sturt and the Power. ThirdCat, you are a true Adelaidean.

A. Duck -- hard to draw any meaningful conclusions, though there are a few connections. (1) Mansfield was a fan and imitator of Maupassant. (2) There are or were camels in Algiers (the city being described by Maupassant), and presumably some of them would at some point be runaway camels needing to be stopped. (3) Chaucer's Prioress would have had a lot of trouble saying méchanceté or souris vegetale in her English-accented French. (4) KM's rhubarb goes with Cath Kerry's Haigh's chox recipes and the kiwi fruit. (5) KM and Ada are/were definitely femmes fatales.

I'm not sure what any of this says about me. But it was such good fun I'll do it in another colour soon.

Zoe said...


Pavlov's Cat said...

That one has a decided gynaecological ring to it. 'Assume the position, Ms Zoe, I need to examine your umvavna.'

genevieve said...

The Prioress would cope. You would be amazed what you can get away with in any accent in French.
I don't think I have enough books with monocoloured covers to do something like that. The only real monos I have in front of me are kids books. But it can look really impressive if a whole bookstore is arranged like that - there were some photos of one last year on the American litblogs.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes -- as soon as I began to rove across the bookshelves on this quest, I realised just how many books do have multicoloured covers. Have been meaning to ask Laura what she does with those. There are also issues of whether to make a distinction between white, cream, eggshell, parchment, ecru etc -- and as for the red/pink/purple/burgundy/magenta/mauve spectrum, you don't realise how many books are somewhere in this colour range until you start looking for them.