sylvia townsend warner: 2 posts

Winter Lists : 5 Books and 2 Perfumes

There is nothing especially winter-like about my list of books (and perfumes). It’s mainly about enjoyment, with a dose of something high-spirited. Some may call it escapism, but I see it as a way to recharge and tune out the world long enough for me to find my balance and plunge back into the routine. Moreover, high-spirited, entertaining and fun, whether in literature, art or perfume, can assume many different forms. Here is my take.

winter-list

Jeffrey Steingarten The Man Who Ate Everything

“Whenever I have nothing better to do, I roast a chicken,” writes Jeffrey Steingarten. The food critic at Vogue magazine since 1989, Steingarten is also the author of two of my favorite books about cooking and eating, The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must’ve Been Something I Ate. Steingarten is witty, irreverent and passionate, an irresistible combination. His essays are full of interesting tidbits and recipes, but the main reason I enjoy them is because of Steingarten’s dry sense of humor. I don’t know how many times I’ve read “Kyoto Cuisine,” but the scene in which he tries to pry off the lid from a bowl of soup leaves me laughing out loud every single time. In the same essay, he also describes the exquisite flavors of Japanese cuisine, reminding his reader that as a bumbling tourist he may have missed many nuances. With Steingarten you can visit the Nishikidori market in Kyoto, run a scientific test of ketchups, grill sardines with Marcella Hazan in Venice, perfect fries, or try cooking from the back of the box.

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Perfume in the Library : Lolly Willowes and Le Temps d’Une Fete

The heroine of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s novel, Lolly Willowes, rebels against society’s expectations. It’s a common enough theme, except that her rebellion takes an unconventional turn. Laura Willowes’s father dies when she’s twenty-eight, and the family council decides, against her wishes, that she should leave the country estate where she grew up and move to London. Treated as “a piece of family property forgotten in the will,” she becomes attached to her older brother’s household, where she’s expected either to marry or be useful as Aunt Lolly. She steadfastly refuses to do the former, and eventually she shocks her relatives by announcing that she will live on her own in a village called Great Mop. To safeguard her freedom, she becomes a witch.

lolly-willowes

Townsend Warner paints Laura’s transformation from Aunt Lolly to her own self through a series of events, most of which involve small sensory pleasures, out of which “she had contrived for herself a sort of mental fur coat.” They include second-hand bookshops, soaps, roasted chestnuts eaten in bed and cut flowers. Her relatives look down upon such frivolous–in their eyes–expenses, but for Laura they become an antidote to her dull, senseless life and catalysts for her awakening.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Sylvia in On the Spice Route: Less sweet and mire subtle sounds good. Thank you Klaas! January 26, 2020 at 5:07pm

  • Sylvia in On the Spice Route: That sounds interesting Gelia. Thank you for your reply! January 26, 2020 at 5:04pm

  • Lily in On the Spice Route: I am so glad you still enjoy it!!! Of all my “fall/winter” scents it is the MOST cold-season, I just really cannot wear it without a nip in the air.… January 26, 2020 at 9:05am

  • Christine Funt in Postcard from Bulgaria : Ice: Thank you for sharing this beautiful image–one to meditate on. January 25, 2020 at 2:41pm

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