I'm finishing up book four in my "read 75 books in 2006" challenge. Will be starting A Million Little Piecesin a few days. I'm a little behind schedule in the "challenge" but will get caught up soon enough. It's not the current book I wish to discuss, it's book two, The Cheese Monkeys : A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd. "Part irreverent academic comedy, part autobiographical statement of purpose, The Cheese Monkeys is a triumph of design as substance." I absolutely fell in love with this book. It's one of those books you can't put down, but at the same time are torn because you know if you read it too quickly you'll be upset it's over. So I tried to pace myself.
Chip Kidd is a graphic designer, best know as a designer of book covers. "Described as "the closest thing to a rock star" in graphic design today (USA Today), Chip Kidd is universally recognized as an American master of contemporary book design."Some noteworthy Kidd designed covers are: Jurassic Park, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Glamorama, American Rhapsody, and Geek Love. The Cheese Monkeys is Kidd's debut novel. "This is a largely comedic story of the protagonist's first two semesters at art school in the 1950s". Despite being set in the late fifties, the story is timeless. "The fall semester serves basically to introduce most of the cast of characters. Our green but sympathetic narrator slowly adjusts to college life, bemusedly trying to make his way through the basic art course (taught, inevitably, by a teacher who is dotty ... pardon: by a teacher whose name is Dottie). He makes some friends, notably the overly sincere Maybelle Lee and free spirit Himillsy Dodd. He has some fun. But it is all just preamble. The story really only gets going with the spring semester." You'll have to discover what transpires during spring semester yourself.
Beyond just the story there were other elements of the book I adored. On the back cover Kidd has included the usual list of positive reviews under the heading "from people who liked it" followed by reviews "from people who didn't". Check out the hidden messages on the side of the book, only visible if you roll it around a bit. Then there's the note on the first page informing you that "The inside front cover was intentionally left blank. It's not a mistake. It's actually a separate "piece" entitled "Budgetary Constraint No. 13".
Now this could just be one of those books only appreciated by those who have experienced college art classes, but I have a feeling it transcends all that. If you don't care to read the book you can wait for the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters later this year, also penned by Chip Kidd.
A few weeks ago I made a visit to Seattle's Grand Central Baking Company to sample their cupcakes. Grand Central's Pioneer Square location is housed in the historic Grand Central Arcade. Their pastries can be enjoyed by the fireplace or on the cobble-stoned patio. I just adore the buildings exterior, but it was far too chilly to eat outside. Unfortunately on this visit there was only one flavor of cupcake remaining. Luckily it turned out to be pretty spectacular. The flavor was gingerbread with cream cheese frosting. The cake was moist and the frosting was delicious. I would like to go back when the have more of a variety of flavors available. I've heard rumors that they've had such flavors as mojito and peanut butter and chocolate.
Out of a possible 5 cakes, 1 being the lowest score
3. Marc Jacobs flower cuff. "Worn over a fall sweater or on bare arms, Marc's flower cuff is an accessory to brighten any day." Comes in pink or yellow. [$68.00]
4. "Coffee? Tea? Me?" mugs. Comes in blue or orange. If only they came in pink or red. Regardless of the color they're still darling. [$8.00]
5. Hello! lucky love notes. "The cutest Valentine notes around! Letterpressed in brown, lime, mint, pink, and sky blue ink on a heavy natural coaster-quality heart shaped flat card. "To my dearest" and "yours oh-so-truly" printed on back for a personalized greeting. Four flat cards packaged with coordinating white envelopes in a clear acrylic box." [$16.00]
6. Woodhouse Chocolate, handmade in the Napa Valley. I nannyed for the graphic designer who created the labels. Trust me these chocolates are delicious. [prices vary]
7. Kate Spade cups and saucers. Set of two 10 oz. bone china cups and saucers decorated with cupid arrows. [$60.00]
8. Heart bowls from Williams-Sonoma. "Crafted of porcelain and decorated by hand with gold border filets, our heart-shaped bowls offer romantic presentation of desserts for Valentine's Day and other special occasions." [$36.00 for two]
9. A Pucci hibiscus silk scarf from Eluxury. "Dramatic swirls and angular shapes create a gorgeous landscape of hibiscus flowers." [$120.00]
10. Kate Spade pop love mirror. "Bold graphics give a wink with their "i love you" message." [$85.00]
"Frey's memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," is about his recovery from drug addiction. It is apparently a hell of a read, filled with gripping, cinematic details, some of which turn out not to be true. The Smoking Gun Web site found out, for instance, that Frey had not spent three months in jail, as he wrote, but maybe a couple of hours or so waiting for a friend to post bond. His account of his stay in a treatment facility is questionable, as is his involvement in a train-car collision that took the lives of two teenage girls. These are not, as Frey keeps claiming, the usual tussle we all have between memory and fact, but veering departures from fact into fiction. It is probably significant that he first tried to sell the book as a novel. [from Richard Cohen's Washington Post article]
I watched Oprah's interview with James Frey yesterday. Tremendously difficult to watch, as I felt quite sympathetic for Frey. I can't think of anything more terrifying to endure than being scolded on national television by Oprah. I felt James Frey handled himself with much aplomb. Let us remember he could have declined to appear on the show at ALL. He answered all of Oprah's questions in a straightforward manner. He appeared sincerely apologetic. Of course not having read the book Oprah spoiled one major part of the story, thanks a LOT. Also having not yet read the book I find I'm not that disappointed that the book is not 100% truthful. I understand that elements have to be changed to protect the identity of the people Frey wrote about. Although he did stretch the truth more than was actually necessary. The embellishment really does not bother me as much as it maybe should. Possibly I'll be changing my tune after I finish the book, we shall see. There was no mention on Oprah of the fact that Frey originally tried to sell the book as a novel. Plus no mention of his newest book, My Friend Leonard, a continuation of his first memoir. Regardless of the "fibs" it's still an inspirational book.
Today I sent a "thank you" card to my friend Sarah (for the care package) and sent off my tea cup for Beth's Tea Cup Swap. I'm crossing my fingers that it arrives in Texas safely (I'll show pictures soon, once it is in the hands of its new owner). In my mailbox today was a package from Amy, which contained the sweetest card (she made herself) along with a copy of A Million Little Pieces and an article from Time magazine regarding the whole "how truthful are memoirs" question. Thanks so much Amy, it really made my day. This is the first Oprah's Book Club selection that I will be reading. Typically I tend to shy away from anything with an Oprah Book Club sticker, but this book is too intriguing not to read.
After leaving the post office I grabbed a cup of coffee then went to view an apartment I was considering renting. I'm thinking of moving in the next couple of months so I'm on the prowl for the perfect place. The apartment I was given a tour of is in a part of Bellingham's downtown that is on the verge of gentrification. The apartment building is on top of a stationary store and a pita place, kitty corner to a Starbucks and across the street from all kinds of interesting shops and restaurants. Unfortunately it's also next to an adult video store. I might have been willing to overlook the whole adult video store situation if the apartment itself had been spectacular, unfortunately it was not. It was a bit of disaster. Super small. In fact the bedroom seemed too small for even a bed. The current tenant apparently sleeps on the futon in the living room. So I'm still on the lookout for a new place. I have my eye on a certain new apartment building, but at the moment there are no units available. The apartments in this particular building are all lofts and my favorite shoe store (Left Right Left) is located on the street level. Although such easy access to a shoe store may not be a good thing. [more updates on the apartment search to come soon]
1. AValentine Kit to create your own cards. The kit includes a booklet with tips and tricks on card-crafting, plus 10 cards, 10 envelopes, 10 patterned papers, ribbon, stencil, and a sheet of stickers. [$12.95]
2. Vermeer Asiatic Lilies from Martha's Flowers. There is nothing sweeter than receiving a bouquet of lilies. [$34.99 for 10 stems]
3. Juicy Couture mini charm hoop earrings. "Hearts abound on Juicy's golden hoop earrings, as do other romance-inducing touches like cupid's bow and arrow, crystal encrusted lovebirds and a locked heart with a close by key." [$55.00]
4. Heart card holder from the Pottery Barn. Made of antique white wire twisted into the shape of a heart. A charming way to display your Valentine's Day cards. [$29.00]
5. A book by Raymond Peynet. "A former cartoonist, book illustrator and theater set designer, the French illustrator was best known for Les Amoureux ("The Lovers"), which he created during World War II. Peynet's simple graphics illustrated romance for generations of French." I found Peynet's "The Lovers Pocketbook" on eBay and so can you, along with various other books, prints, vases and figurines. [prices vary]
6. A Roses Diptyque candle. "Diptyque presents its classic Roses candle in a pretty frosted pink glass encasement. Combined with the memory-evoking scent of dewy roses, this elegant scented candle perfectly reflects the freshness of spring and the tranquil beauty of an English rose garden. Diptyque's founders were trained at the renowned Ecole des Beaux Arts, and their botanical candles are individually hand-poured and use no synthetic fragrances." Worth the steep price. [$52.00]
7. Notecard fromSnow & Graham which reads "hey there cupcake". How cute is this?! "Letterpressed in pink and chocolate brown ink on a heavy 3.5" x 5" folded ivory card." Here's hoping one of these shows up in my mailbox. [$3.00]
8. Love labels from Basic French. Set of 5 assorted iron-on fabric labels. [$20.00]
9. Chocolate Strawberry ice-cream sandwiches. The recipe can be found on Martha Stewart's website. How delicious do these look? [price varies]
10. A hostess apron from Jessie Steele. I collect aprons and think this would be a perfect addition to my collection. Very appropriate for the next Valentine's party you plan on hosting. "The apron is back in a style that is perfect for today's modern woman. Beautiful, fun, flirty and elegant - a must have accessory for entertaining 2 to 20 and a great way to lift your spirits as you whir around the kitchen to feed the hungry at the end of your hard day. The Jessie Steele line of fine hostess aprons brings us wonderful designs, carefully handpicked fabrics and quality craftsmanship to create heirloom quality pieces." [$50.00]