Thursday, September 10, 2009

BBL: Whimsy Were the Borogroves (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

“As My Whimsy Takes Me” is, according to Dorothy Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey’s family motto and a perfect title for this collection of short reviews. (Let it be added that Lord Peter’s coat of arms features a cat on the crest, watching three scampering mice, which makes it even more appropriate for me to cite it here and not just because one of my felines left a “gift” on the sidewalk.) Today’s reviews are a collection of whimsical items that caught my fancy and I hope you will enjoy them as well:

Gnomeland: An Introduction to the Little People by Margaret Egleton (398.45 EGL Main)
Note: this review is written by a person who has pink flamingos in the garden
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gnomes seem to pop up everywhere. We expect to encounter one in most garden shops but the Travelocity spokesgnome was a bit of a surprise. That’s nothing beside the diverse denizens of Gnomeland. There are Disney gnomes (think the Seven Dwarves), soccer-playing gnomes, bathing beauty gnomes, naughty gnomes, and even political gnomes. (There are several different George W. Bush gnomes, some sporting a Texas-shaped belt buckle.) Gnomes are a world-wide phenomenon: they can be found all over Europe, North and South America, and even Antarctica. Australia seems to be particularly fond of gnomes, harboring several large gnome gardens and organizations dedicated to preservation and proliferation of gnomes. Beautifully illustrated with color photographs, this book is a delightful look at the history and lore of the “little people.” Even if you think gnomes are tackiness personified (the book says they’ve “been restored to their rightful place of kitsch honor”) you’ll smile at some of the creative ways people have used gnomes. It may just inspire you to add a gnome or two to your own garden. Or not.

I Can Has Cheezburger? : A LOLcat Collekshun by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami (818.54 NAK Main)
O hai! (Hi!) Once upon a time, a photo of a chubby, hopeful gray cat was posted on the internet with a caption: “I can has cheezburger?” This was part of the inspiration for the website where folks post photos of cats, dogs and other animals and allow others to invent captions for them. If you have email, you’ve probably already received some examples. The phonetic spelling and odd phrasing can be off-putting at first, but as I became used to that particular affectation I found that to be part of the charm. The gray cat, dubbed Professor Happycat, offers lessons in LOL (Laugh Out Loud) speak throughout the book. (In case you were wondering about the title of this column, yes, BBL is also LOLspeak/internet slang for “Be Back Later.” There’s a story behind that as well, but I digress. ) Charming photos and clever captions make this a great way to spend a few minutes, and may inspire some photo sessions with your own pets. (I have visions of my Melon becoming a LOLcat posterkitteh at some point. Melon’s visions may differ. Yes, that's Melon with the bunny ears above.) As this collection proves, even less-than-perfect photos can bring a grin with the right comment. K thx bai. (Okay, thanks, bye.)

The Cats’ House
by Bob Walker (636.8 WAL Main)
Once upon a time, a nice man who liked cats married a nice lady who liked cats. Right after the wedding they went out and adopted a nice cat. However, it turned out that the nice cat was bored at home by himself during the day and amused himself by ransacking the house, especially the kitchen. So the nice couple went out and adopted ANOTHER nice cat to keep the first cat company and the next thing they knew they had quite a lot of nice cats and one nice dog. They decided they would like to make their house a nice place for cats.

The results are for all to see in this amazing book, which I have to say is one of my favorites. If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to use it for a blueprint for my new abode. The house is a rainbow of colors with climbing beams, cat trees, cat stairs, and “mouse holes” in the walls for the cats to move from room to room and, of course, cat themed décor. The Walkers are also avid collectors of Mexican folk art and have painted the house and furniture in vibrant color combinations that simply have to be seen. (Cable viewers may have seen this house on some of the extreme home shows.)

While the text is delightful, it’s the gorgeous full color photographs of cats and house that make this book a visual treat. My favorite sequence has to be the time-lapse photos of the couple sleeping, surrounded by an ever changing assortment of felines. A close second would be the shots, apparently taken from underneath a glass table, of the cats licking milk.

While instructions for making your own cat items are included. The instructions appear very complete and easy for any competent woodworker, which explains why I haven’t attempted any of these. I just admire from afar.

And yes, I own my own copy of this book.

Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara? The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World’s Best-Loved Books by Jenny Bond & Chris Sheedy (820.9 BON Main)
This is a collection Paul Harvey would have loved! Short, addictive chapters give brief biographies of fifty different authors and some little-known facts about their best-known work. The books are arranged chronologically from Pride and Prejudice to The DaVinci Code in fiction and from Johnson’s English Dictionary to A Brief History of Time in non-fiction. Imagine the fun you’ll have making friends guess which world famous author was so poor he couldn’t afford a telephone so the publisher had to notify him by telegram that he’d sold his first book or which author’s love letters were torn to bits so a jealous wife couldn’t read them—but she did anyway, by carefully piecing the bits back together. (The reconstructed letters still exist.)

As promised in the title, you do find out which heroine was originally named Pansy until the author reconsidered. Thank goodness she did!

Reviews by Jeanne

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