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Posts Tagged ‘literary’

 

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Jaimee Leigh sells books at the Barrow Bookstore in Concord, Massachusetts, but during after hours, she makes literature-themed birdhouses designed for actual birds. 

Betsy Levinson was the editor of the Concord Journal for many years and was responsible for the majority of the articles, writing with exceptional grace and insight. Nowadays, she contributes as a stringer, and I see her byline most often on infomercials for local real estate, which don’t interest me as much. But in a recent front page article she did herself proud. And when I went to the locale to take pictures, I could see that other readers had been inspired to follow up, too.

This is what she reported for the Journal. “Jaimee Leigh sells books at her sister Aladdine Joroff’s shop Barrow Bookstore in Concord, but a talent for creating one-of-a-kind birdhouses keeps her busy during her hours away from the shop.

“The birdhouses aren’t just functional, either. Her creations are pieces of art, each one designed around a work of literature.

“For instance, the roof of her ‘The Hobbit’-inspired birdhouse has glow-in-the-dark lettering on the roof in the same original font that J.R.R. Tolkein made for his books.

“Then there is the suet bird cage, inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,’ which she noted was written from a Concord jail cell where he was ordered after refusing to pay taxes. Leigh inscribed words from the book inside. …

“It was four years ago that the idea of making a book-themed birdhouse came to Leigh. She was visiting her godmother in Sligo, Ireland, and attended a creative arts competition as a fundraiser for a storied estate there. She made a ‘memory box’ featuring seashells found in the area, photos and poetry. Though it wasn’t a birdhouse, it inspired her to create ‘similar things for the bookstore in Concord.’ …

″Each birdhouse ‘aims to summarize the essence of a book or story,’ Leigh wrote.

They are sealed from the elements on the outside, but she leaves the interior free of chemicals or noxious fumes that might hurt the birds.

“She bores holes of different sizes to accommodate larger or smaller birds. Recently she started fitting inch-wide ’emergency egress steps’ inside the house in case the bird finds the inside too smooth and can’t get a toehold or clawhold to get out. Leigh’s careful about using a perch on the outside because sometimes predator birds can lurk outside. …

“She has shipped birdhouses to South Korea, Canada and Texas. Others are scattered around the floor-to-ceiling stacks of books at the shop. She has donated houses to local charities for fundraising auctions. Each one can take 60 to 80 hours to complete, she said. … For information, email Leigh at barrowbookstore@gmail.com, or visit barrowbookstore.com.”

More at the Concord Journal, here.

I took pictures of birdhouses featuring the Brothers Grimm, Dracula, and Great Expectations. Regarding the latter, note that Miss Havisham’s wedding dress is evoked by lace, and the clock is stopped at the moment her bridegroom ditched her, twenty minutes to nine.

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Illustration: Ben Kirchner
Raduan Nassar was 48 and at the height of his literary fame when, in 1984, he announced his retirement. He wanted to become a farmer.

I liked a recent article in the New Yorker about a Brazilian who left the writing life to become a farmer. Did literary perfectionism stress him out too much, or did farming just seem more real?

Alejandro Chacoff has the story.

“In 1973, the Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar quit his job. After six years as editor-in-chief at the Jornal do Bairro, an influential left-wing newspaper that opposed Brazil’s military regime, [he left] and spent a year in his São Paulo apartment, working twelve hours a day on a book, ‘crying the whole time.’ In ‘Ancient Tillage,’ the strange, short novel he wrote, a young man flees his rural home and family, only to return, chastened and a little humiliated, to the place of his childhood.

“ ‘Ancient Tillage’ was published in 1975, to immediate critical acclaim. … In 1978, a second novel appeared in print; Nassar had written the first draft of ‘A Cup of Rage’ in 1970, while living in Granja Viana, a bucolic neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It, too, was received euphorically, winning the São Paulo Art Critics’ Association Prize (ACPA). …

Last year, Nassar’s two novels were translated into English for the first time, for the Penguin Modern Classics Series. …

“Nassar was forty-eight and at the height of his literary fame when, in 1984, he gave an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the country’s biggest daily newspaper, in which he announced his retirement. He wanted to become a farmer. … The following year, he bought a property of roughly sixteen hundred acres and began to plant soy, corn, beans, and wheat. …

“Nassar said that farming had always been his main occupation, whereas writing had ‘just been another activity.’ But his life in agriculture did not begin smoothly.

“ ‘For the first six years, we got killed; there were only losses.’ … Like his characters, he appears to have found solace in manual labor. ‘My life now is about doing, doing, doing,’ he told an interviewer, in 1996, when asked how he was faring after his literary retirement. …

“Both [Luiz Schwarcz, the editor-in-chief of Companhia das Letras, the country’s main publishing house,] and [Antonio Fernando de Franceschi, a poet and critic who became a close friend of Nassar’s,] believe that Nassar’s decision to quit came not from a waning of interest but from literary perfectionism. ‘He’s a guy who devotes himself so much to the craft that I think it’s hard for him to feel rewarded,’ Schwarcz said.” More here.

I intend to track down his books.

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Thank you, Gwarlingo, for tweeting this. Looks like there’s hope for us all.

“All your excuses are invalid,” says Dustin Kurtz in an article at the Melville House site about “the seventy-five year old winner of a prize for emerging writers.

“The semiannual Akutagawa prize was awarded in Japan this past Wednesday, and this season’s winner was Natsuko Kuroda. The Akutagawa prize, begun in 1935, is awarded for stories published in newspapers or magazines by new or emerging authors. Kuroda is seventy-five years old.

“Her story, ‘ab Sango’ (it can be previewed and purchased here) is unusual in that it uses no pronouns for its young principle characters, and is written horizontally across the page from left to right, rather than the standard top to bottom. The result is strange and beautiful, and hints at a genealogy of Popper-esque fairy tale formulae, of mathematics or of sociology, and all of which is given subtle cultural freight by Kuroda’s horizontal lines. But again — because it bears repeating — this intriguing emerging writer is seventy-five years old.

“Kuroda is in fact the oldest writer ever to be given the Akutagawa prize, and she is nearly as old as the prize itself. Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the award’s namesake and perhaps Japan’s most celebrated story writer, famously killed himself when he was less than half her current age.

“Upon receiving the prize, Kuroda said, ‘Thank you for discovering me while I am still alive.’ ” More.

Photograph: Melville House, an independent book publisher in Brooklyn, NY.

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