Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lolita: Forbidden Fruit

I admit, I went just a little cheesy with the name for this one. It seemed fitting for both books read this week, Reading Lolita in Tehran and Lolita. In very different ways, each book is about doing something that is forbidden, something that remains off limits.

Apple Pucker
Lemon Water

I combined equal parts of the Hypnotiq and the Apple Pucker in a rocks glass over ice. The flavor was great, but I felt like the result was a little too sugary. I added a little bit of water and lemon juice to cut through the sugar and was very happy with the result.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


To follow up to Reading Lolita in Tehran, I read Lolita. I don't know that I would have picked it up otherwise, but I wanted to see for myself what could make this story a classic and a frequent topic of study.

This story is unsettling. There are so many things that turn the reader off from the main character,almost from the beginning. For many current readers, I think this actually starts before reading anything. Many of us know that the story is about the seduction/abduction of a twelve year old girl. A lot of people can't get past that, and to be honest I can't blame them. It's difficult to read, knowing that the reality is far away from what Humbert sees from his perspective.

From that standpoint, the story is about his obsession and his delusion. It's about completely losing control by trying to take the ultimate control of another person. That's what I think draws people back to this book. Nabokov provides so much depth and so many layers to the depravity that makes up Humbert. It's possible to be taken in by his delusions and see the seduction he imagines is taking place. 

I wonder if there's a part of all of us that has the capacity for living under delusion. Not that I think most people would make it to the level Humbert does, but we all have a tendency to think of ourselves as right in all circumstances. Self-awareness is scary, and sometimes it's easier just to blame other people for the bad decisions we make.  

Please do not take anything in this review as condoning sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind. It's not OK. If you or someone you know are being abused, please don't be afraid to seek help.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.- Vladimir Nabokov

I am frequently reminded how lucky I am to live where I do. This is not to say that any place can be absolutely perfect, but there are so many opportunities and advantages available to me as a female in America that simply wouldn't exist if I were somewhere else. That thought struck me many times while I was going through Reading Lolita in Tehran.

I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and find that the leadership of my government has determined that I must dress, behave, and think a specific way. Do I agree with everything my government does? No, but I have the opportunity to disagree and vote for those who share my opinion.

That's a fairly idealized version of what we have, but when one stops to consider the alternatives there are many reasons to be happy with the potential inherent in our government. I find myself to be far too independent to accept being told what to do. That's not to imply that I have a terribly rebellious nature, please believe me when I say that I don't.

I am struck by the bravery and encouraged by the rebellious spirit of the women who join this literature professor in her home to continue reading and discussing and learning. I can't imagine an existence without books, so the premise of the memoir draws me in right away. Throughout the book, Azar Nafisi weaves a complex and compelling narrative of what she and her students had to endure both inside and outside her makeshift classroom.

There's a comment Nafisi makes in the opening pages of the text where she describes the women who made up the group and she talks about those who were not there at the end. Her comment is that  the absences had become more real than the presences. That's something I think we can all relate to. Whether it's a place or a person or a particular time in our lives there is something that defines us as much if not more by no longer being there.

There's also something that we internalize about each of our experiences making them uniquely our own, even when they've been shared with other people. I often feel like every choice I've made, every experience I've had combined in an almost impossible way to bring to where I am at this very moment. Even though I didn't enjoy or appreciate all of them at the time, I believe that there was a reason for all of them. I don't have to understand it right away, but I do trust that it's there. I have faith in the notion that everything happens for a reason.

Another aspect of the story that resonates with me is the power these books have to bring these women together. It doesn't always have to be books, but I think we all need those things that provide reasons for creating and sustaining connections. We all need something, especially in difficult times, that gives some kind of affirmation that life can not only continue against all backdrops and all kinds of trials, but that there can be improvement. It's the power to find hope in the darkest of experiences that really characterizes the women in this story for me.

It's the idea that things can get better, that we can get better.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Orlando: Timeless Modern

To go with Orlando, I wanted something that would have both a masculine and feminine aspect to it, along with something to create some interested.

I flipped through some options on my Food & Wine cocktails app and came across the Timeless Modern. I was definitely intrigued by the name, and the ingredients looked different from anything else that I've tried on here.

2 thin lemon wheels
2 thin lime wheels
3 thin orange wheels
1 1/2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
Dash of Angostura bitters
1 maraschino cherry
2 1/2 ounces bourbon

Set aside 1 wheel of each citrus fruit. In a cocktail shaker, muddle all of the ingredients except the bourbon and ice. Add the bourbon and ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the reserved citrus wheels.

I chose to change the recipe a bit and muddled all the ingredients and served the cocktail over ice in a rocks glass. Definitely a unique combination, but one that seemed to fit the book for me. The bourbon being the stronger masculine edge of things and the surprising lightness of the citrus fruits being the softer feminine side.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I just finished reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I thought this was an appropriate book to follow up yesterday's post about judging a book by it's cover.

One of the aspects of Orlando's story that I enjoyed most was the way that Woolf tackles the perceived notions of right and wrong for the sexes.

For those of you that haven't read Orlando, one of the central events in the story is that midway through the life described by the writer the main character changes gender. Orlando begins life, and this story as a male and becomes female around the time of her thirtieth birthday. The story is a fanciful twist on a traditional biography for this reason as well as many others. For example, during the years we watch Orlando while she ages from childhood to the age of 36, close to 400 years pass.

So not only do we see the differences between the sexes highlighted, but also the differences of the ages. Among all this change and transition, we also see the ways in which many things remain the same. This introduction also goes into the relationship, ie the affair, between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. The character Orlando is based off Vita in temperament, travels, and Orlando's home is even modeled off Vita's. The book is in many ways a love letter to Vita.

We see Orlando win the favor of Queen Elizabeth and develop a love for writing through an early interaction with Shakespeare. We watch as Orlando chases a beautiful Russian princess and has his heart broken when he finds her to be unfaithful. We lose ourselves in his writing of the Oak Tree poem as he does. We feel his frustration with the Archduchess as he does not return her affections. We follow Orlando as he leaves England behind to become the King's Ambassador to Constantinople. We wake up with her when she finds herself suddenly, but not surprisingly a woman. We travel through the hills with her and the gypsies. We join her on her voyage home to England and watch as she begins life in a new era. We watch her run away from love and finally embrace it.

It's interesting to see the way even as her physical gender shifts, her psychology stays the same. The Lady Orlando frequently goes about in men's clothing and finds herself engaging in affairs with women. There's nothing that the Lord Orlando would want to do or experience that the Lady Orlando does not embrace with equal fervor and abandon.

I enjoyed the way the book tackled the behaviors that are expected for men and women and the way our attitudes can be shaped towards another person based solely on their gender. Even though the book was written close to a century ago, many of those notions remain with us, and are things some of us will struggle with even today.

Whether it's being teased for being an effeminate man or rebuked for being too strong willed as a woman, society still tries to put us each in a little box and tries to define us. What's appealing about Orlando's character then is her refusal to be defined and her acceptance only of her own definition of self.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Judging A Book By Its Cover

In theory I know that this is bad, but I do it all the time. If a book has a pretty or interesting cover I'm going to pick it up and look it over. If it's especially pretty, I just might bring it home regardless of the story. Occasionally I'll get lucky and find a set of books that are just gorgeous.

One set that I've been working on collecting is the Clothbound Classics set by Penguin. They're simple and beautiful, and I think they make a statement grouped together. I have to admit, I stalk Amazon to see when there are more books being released in the set. I think I have two or three pre-ordered as I type this.

I actually have them all over the house. Most of them, as pictured below, are in our main living room mixed in with the Big guy's collection of decanters and some other fun mementos from trips we've taken.

I also keep some on our mantle. I rotate these depending on the time of year. Right now, it's all the blue ones since I'm going for a wintry feel. I've done black/gray/scary books at Halloween, brown/beige at Thanksgiving, and usually keep ones with magenta accents up all year round.

I also have a few sets that I keep in our guest room. The first is the series of 5 Virginia Woolf books that I love for the dust covers. Normally I don't keep dust covers, but I made an exception for these.


There's another set that I've picked up for the dust cover designs, and those are the F. Scott Fitzgerald books. I love the art-deco flair on these designs. Not surprising, they heavily influenced the vibe I have overall on our guest room.


What about you? Are there any books that you've picked up, or maybe even hunted down, because of their design or because they were part of a series?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 

I hope you're all enjoying a wonderful day filled with relaxation and fun, and if you need it recovering from whatever celebrations you had last night. I will be doing all of those things. I'm also going through and ampping out some new post ideas and the books I'll be talking about throughout 2014. 

It's hard to believe it's a new year already. I feel like we were all just talking about 2013 starting and our resolutions for the new year that has far too quickly become last year. I'm excited though. I love the potential that comes with the beginning of a new year. It's a great time for making a fresh start, getting rid of clutter, and doing things differntly. It's a good feeling. 

I'll be finishing up some plans, reading a bit more, and coming back next week to start off the posts for the year. I'll see you all then!