Tag Archives: books

Pride and Prejudice at 200

Via Paul Fraser Collectibles

I’m personally not a fan of “chick lit,” but then again it wasn’t defined as such when Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. Jane Austen’s sharp and quick-witted protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, was not afraid to speak her mind during a time when reservation and demurity were laudable traits for ladies of her class.

Lizzie, as she was fondly referred to, is a character who has a clear grasp of her own mind, but also manifests human vulnerabilities through her tumultuous romance with the equally keen but undoubtedly smitten Mr. Darcy. For many, their love story has been the end to all love stories – for the last 200 years. Pride and Prejudice is definitely one piece of chick lit that will remain on my book shelf for years to come.

Ms. Austen’s masterpiece celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, and literary world is abuzz with delight. Over the years, the book has undergone countless adaptations into film, TV, and has perpetually been in print circulation since its first release. Here are a few of my favorite adaptations and representations of this literary classic.

Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice takes Austen’s classic story to the other side of the world. The movie is an unexpectedly hilarious and endearing Bollywood adaptation, complete with large choreographed song and dance numbers. Although primarily in english, the film also has lines of Punjabi and Hindi dialogue in it, adding to an even more authentic feel. It’s definitely by far the most entertaining adaptation I’ve seen.

Images from IMDb

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the BBC Miniseries

Image via Fanpop

Austen meant for Mr. Darcy indeed to be Elizabeth’s match in every way, but she let him fall into that role at the same pace she finally realizes she’s in love with him. Of all the adaptations I’ve seen, no one has played Mr. Darcy quite like British actor Colin Firth in the BBC Miniseries. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that when I watched this, I thought that Mr. Darcy was, well, a total dreamboat.

Book Covers

Over the years the book’s contents have been adorned with many covers, each with its own sensibility that represented the time. Two of my favorite renditions are one that was published in the same century as it was released, and one that was released in the last year.

Via Rooke Books

The “Peacock Edition,” with illustrations by Hugh Thomson, was published in 1895. Its richly gilded cover is evocative of the Victorian period.

Via Brain Pickings

The Penguin Drop Cap edition is a series of classics with covers designed by Graphic Designer Jessica Hische, based on her now-famous Daily Drop Cap blog. “A” is for Austen, and the peacock feather flourishes on the letter give a nod to its predecessor, the Thomson edition.

Book Scarf

Image from Etsy shop Storiarts

Now if you love Pride and Prejudice just about as much the couples in the book love each other, then this scarf could be the perfect manifestation of your love for the book. The circle scarf features passages from the book printed on a circular scarf, and the rows of text make an interesting pattern. This could be a perfect gift for that literature major or librarian friend.

Posted in Culture, Design, Fashion | Tagged , ,

If Walls Could Talk: Historic Bedrooms

In her book If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsely, chief curator at few palatial locations in London including Kensington palace, chronicles the history of the bedroom and what purpose it served in times past. Bedrooms are like a still life portrait of their inhabitant, and can give insight into the kind of life they led. Here are a few interesting bedroom ‘portraits’ of popular historical figures.

Queen Victoria

Image from Laura Casey Interiors

One of the world’s most famous monarchs, Queen Victoria shaped the course of modern history during her reign, ushering in the industrial revolution. Before she became queen, Victoria spent her sheltered, stringent childhood years until she was 18 in this bedroom in Kensington Palace. She spent her last night here, in this densely decorated room before she was deemed queen.
Mahatma Ghandi’s bedroom

Mahatma Ghandi was a beacon of peace, enlgihtenment, and. His peaceful struggle led India to independence from Britain, and inspired civil rights movements across the world. This bedroom is a recreation of his attic bedroom in the Satyagraha House, his residence in South Africa. The house is now a museum as well as a guest house. The house maintains the same feeling as the bedroom, and is beautiful in its simplicity while echoing a sense of peace.

Image from An Indian Summer

The Satyagraha House. Image from An Indian Summer.

Marie Antoinette

Image from Habitually Chic

On the extreme side of Ghandi is Marie Antoinette – who was known for her extravagance in, well, almost everything. She had multiple bedrooms in the palace of Versaille, decorated in the high splendour of the time. Although she had a flamboyant personality, she was definitely a tragic historical figure. This darker, somber side of her characted is seen in the rooms not usually open to the public, which project her unique sense of style but have a haunting atmosphere.

Image from The Martins

Mao Zedong

Chairman Mao, as he is known to the world, was a leading figure in the the chinese communist revolution. He is commonly thought of as the father of the People’s Republic of China, and was the country’s leader until his death in 1976.

Image from China.org.cn

His bedroom, where he established the china’s first revolutionary base in 1927, reflects his conservatism and anti-capitalist principles in its frugality and simplicity.

How does your bedroom portray your identity?

Learn more about If Walls Could Talk.

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Cookbook Review: Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

A cookbook for preschoolers, Pretend Soup.

My two year old made us dinner last night, sorta, and it was awesome.  Here’s what happened:

My two year old isn’t particularly interested in eating.  Weirdly, he loves novel foods, so he’s happy to try new stuff and old stuff presented differently, but he bores pretty quickly.  He’s also very light and we’re trying to fatten him up.  So we are constantly looking for ways to spark a love of food: fun farmers market trips; engaging him in cooking; celebrations – big and small- at our meals.

The other day I learned that Molly Katzen, author of one of my favourite cookbooks, the  Moosewood Cookbook, has a line of children’s cookbooks.  She’s so unfussy, with a great sense of humour, someone who brings all the senses and a pretty aesthetic to cooking and I immediately thought what better author than she for cookbooks for kids.

So we got Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes the other day and had a blast trying out a few recipes.  The recipes are simple, tasty, and easy to execute.  There’s a précis page for adults and then each recipe is laid out for kids in  hand-drawn pictograms in a quasi comic strip grid.  This book is for presechoolers – 3 to 6 year olds- but my 25 month old got a lot out of it. I can’t recommend this highly enough: it’s brilliant and cute and educational in so so many ways.  Everything from sequencing and measuring, to reading the pictures left to right; we even talked about nutrition as he prepped these.   And did I mention we’re now one step closer to the kid making us food!

We started with quesadillas, the first recipe in the book.  Here’s a peak at the first part of the recipe.  So easy a 2 year old could follow it!

Peek inside Pretend Soup by Molly Katzen

Look our book's already stained - a mark of a great cookbook!

This book is one of three in her kids’ line. Salad People is her latest,  also geared at preschoolers:

Molly Katzen's latest cookbook Salad Peoplerecipe for broccoli cheese quiche from Salad People

Images from Salad People

Honest Pretzels is for children 8 and up.

A cookbook for kids 8 and up, Honest Pretzels by Molly KatzenWhat a wonderful gift one these would make to those budding chefs on your list.  It’s a fun way to introduce cooking to kids.  It will make them feel capable, confident, responsible.  With younger kids, this is a great bonding activity; and with older kids you can sit back and reap the rewards of meals.  Need I say more?

Posted in Food | Tagged , ,

Fairy Tales Are For Grown-Ups

Disney's Snow White

Fairy tales aren’t for kids. If illustrators stayed faithful to the dark themes of their plots, we’d have been exposed to gruesome reading that is galaxies away from the cutesy storybooks we grew up with. Think about it. They are riddled with evil plots, murderous schemes, injustice, violence.

Remember the parents who left Hansel and Gretel in the woods to die, and the witch who wanted to bake them? How about the wolf who ate up Little Red Riding Hood’s granny? Or the Little Match Girl who froze to her death, and Pinocchio whose punishment for dishonesty was deformity? And how about the Little Mermaid, whose every step hurt like a thousand swords, and who was asked to slay her beloved so she could live?

Disney interpretations, already sterilized as they are, still have truly terrifying moments. My first movie experience was Snow White, and I remember having nightmares about the scene in the woods after the huntsman’s failed attempt to kill her.

So let’s take a look at those fairy tales again. We’ll probably get a kick out of the underlying sex and violence that we probably were oblivious to the first time we read them, but let’s look beyond those. Even when we grow up and cynically scoff at the improbability of happily-ever-afters, revisiting these tales as adults allows us to appreciate them more fully, bringing us deeper into the allegories that they usually are. We may think that they’re predictable, but they could still surprise us by bringing to the surface certain themes we did not know they had — metaphysical themes of morality and immortality, of self-sacrifice and identity.

Have you noticed the word’s renewed fascination for fairy tales? Writers, filmmakers, and composers have discovered the treasures in their depths and have commenced the mining.


Beauty's Punishment

Some novelists like expand on or reinterpret fairy tales. Anne Rice, an author famous for her vampire chronicles, wrote her Sleeping Beauty Trilogy under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release. Now these books are definitely not for kids, nor for faint-hearted adults, as they are BDSM erotica novels.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Author Gregory Maguire likes to give readers new perspectives on classic tales, often switching around the protagonist and antagonist roles in his characters. His Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is told from the point-of-view of Cinderella’s younger stepsister. Mirror, Mirror is a revision of the Snow White tale which incorporates actual historical figures in the story, such as Lucrezia Borgia, whom he cast as the Evil Queen and Stepmother. His Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, based on Frank Baum’s novel, is now a Stephen Schwartz Broadway musical, Wicked.

An illustration from King Golden hair

And just last week I read an article about the discovery of 500 new fairy tales in Germany, which were collected by one Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. These myths, legends, and tales he drew from common countryfolk in long ago Bavaria, and recorded them faithfully. He didn’t edit or embellish them, and so reading them will be like a glimpse into a culture hundreds of years in the past.


Cinderella, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake have been well-loved ballets for more than a century already. Same with Hansel and Gretel, which is also an opera. But Wicked is a fairly new musical. And Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid, have also been adapted for the stage.


Once Upon a Time is a television series that is set in a fictitious town in Maine, that serves as a kind of limbo that all the fairy tale characters are exiled to. It revolves around the conflict between Snow White and the Evil Queen and incorporates a different fairy tale in each episode, oftentimes intersecting two or more. I love the well-crafted back stories to the fairy tales, and how the characters they translate to “modern” times.

And then there’s Grimm, which is a police-series-meets-fairy-tales kind of show.


Fairy tales are so inherently cinematic, so why shouldn’t they be in the movies? I can’t even count how many fairy tale movies have been made…

I loved Enchanted! It’s a wonderful amalgamation of the classic romantic fairy tales juxtaposed with the harsh reality of New York City. It’s amazing how these two seemingly incongruous realities mix so beautifully in this movie.

And wow, two Snow White movies are to be released this year — and within 3 months of each other! Add that to the TV Snow White, that’s a lot. Hope we don’t overdose.


That’s it for fairy tales, for now. I haven’t even started on nursery rhymes!

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Five Design Books To Give As Gifts

Image via booklover.tumblr.com

This year was a good year for books on art and design.  It’s hard to choose just five, but here’s a list that’s sure to cover all those design savvy folks on your holiday gift list:

Bibliographic: 100 Classic Graphic Design Books Jason Godfrey has put together a fun and thoughtful compilation of design books from the last century which works to give readers real insight into the evolution of graphic design through the 20th century.  Sure to provide the graphic designers on your list and those design aficionados with lots of inspiration.

New York Times Magazine: Photographs Journalism and photography, both as an art and journalistic endeavour, is certainly changing and changing fast.  This volume, edited by Kathy Ryan, former editor of the Magazine, is a collection of some of their finest commissioned photographic work over the last 30 years.  Divided into 4 section covering reportage, portraiture, style, and conceptual photography, The New York Times Magazine: Photographs also includes behind-the-scenes interviews and anecdotes that highlight old and emerging tensions that surround photojournalism.

Sustainism is the New Modernism

I’ve written about this book before, a clever design book full of hope for the future by Michiel Schwartz and Joost Eiffers. Modernism is dead, posit the authors, and the new ‘ism’ needed to think about the world is Sustainism. Sustainism  is responsible: ethically, socially and environmentally so;  it shifts the global versus local discussion to understand it as “all locals are globally connected”;  Sustainism celebrates open source information and a networked, collaborative approach to innovation, technological and otherwise. This is a neat little book, full of quotes from historical figures who’ve discussed the concept the authors have named, as well the authors’ vocabulary and symbolic language to start thinking about the world in a new way.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

For all the fashionistas on your list, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton is the gift for them.  McQueen was a maverick who pushed fashion’s boundaries with fierce intelligence, cultural commentary, and humour.  This book, released to coincide with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, examines the full breadth of his creative work and offers real insight into his artistic process.  Oh and the photography of the fashion is extraordinary too.

Just My Type

Simon Garfield’s book is about fonts.  And it’s very very entertaining.  Whether you work in the field or are a layperson who’s wondered why we are surrounded by so many different fonts everyday and at every turn, this book takes you through the rich history and subtle powers of type.  Plus it answers the question you never thought to ask: what does your favourite font says about you?  You might be surprised.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Okay so this one isn’t a book, it’s a movie or documentary  depending on your interpretation and it’s now available on DVD and BluRay.  For all of the street art lovers on your list and perhaps even more for those who aren’t, this irreverent film will start a dialogue about what constitutes art in the modern age.  Gift it to hipsters who won’t know if you’re mocking them.