Decline in the Dining Room


Olive Reads is not turning into Olive Interiors, but I couldn’t help sharing this photo from a spread in the May 2014 issue of Elle Decor.

You may need to lean in or get out a magnifying glass, but that’s a passage from Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in mural form on the dining room wall! That’s a way to keep dinner conversation going: have each guest read a paragraph.

Actually, text passages appear all across this Manhattan apartment (appropriately designed by Jim Luigs, who is also a playwright, lyricist, and director).

That leads me to today’s query to my readers: if you were going to be so bold as Luigs and his client and festoon your walls in literary passages — I’m not talking about the “Live, Love, Laugh” variety — what would you choose?

It’s Lear for me.

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

See more of Jim Luigs here


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Tumblr Tuesday

Yesterday was Mystery Monday, where I was a titchy bit cranky and proclaimed two mysteries that I’ve never embraced. Today is Tumblr Tuesday, where I am a wee less cranky, if only to tempt you over to what is really a happy corner of the Olive universe: her Tumblr page.

Pretty pictures and short little ramblings — that about sums it up. Here’s a sample from Sunday:

I’ve never combined books and tea cups — possibly my two favourite things — on one bookcase. And yet, why not? I just need a gas ring next to the fire to make a cup without trotting down to the kitchen (as they seem to do in the Barbara Pym’s I’ve been reading lately).

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It’s a Mystery

And you thought I’d forgotten about Mystery Mondays. Tut tut. Despite an alarming upturn in the humidity, I am here. Nonetheless, perhaps the weather is making me a little cranky: I am here, but I’m not telling you what mystery to request from the library. No, instead I admit to two (well one book and one series) that I’ve never been able to lose myself in.

A classic mystery novel that any aficionado should have polished off before you can say Hercule Poirot. Unfortunately, I’ve barely made it through 10%. Should I have persevered or was I right to decline The Moonstone? 
Dear Father Brown: why am I bored by you? Why does your priestly charm fail to win me over? Can a kind reader tell me which of your 50-odd short stories I should read if I’m to give you another chance?

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Mystery Monday

Hello Fellow Wanderers in the Written Word! (That’s perhaps a bit too wordy, though it is meant endearingly.)

It’s Monday but, in this part of the world at least, a provincial holiday. It’s also pretty darn hot. Olive has never been known for coping well with the heat, and now that I’m a bit old for my mother to bounce me up and down under a cool tree, the only thing for it is to head into a book and forget the perspiration (to put it delicately).

What better time to initiate a new tradition then: Mystery Monday! I’d say it’s pretty self-explanatory: Monday rolls around, I suggest a new mystery.

Except the heat is making me rebellious, so for this first time around I am offering the mysteries I hope to read before the summer is out. If you’ve read them, tell me: are they worth the hot drive to the library?

Pour the iced tea (I take mine unsweetened, thanks). It’s not getting any cooler.

I’ve read nothing of Josephine Tey, but was put on to her by author Gretchen Rubin (whose own Happier at Home I’m currently reading).

Are there any Tey fans out there? Should I start with The Daughter of Time?

Now to Nicolas Freeling’s Gun Before Butter (yes, the title caught me first). I heard about this one through yet another author, this time Jason Goodwin (who himself writes an excellent mystery series set in 19th century Istanbul). Is Mr. Goodwin correct to give it five stars on Goodreads?
Finally, what of Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke? This one was read of via J.K. Rowling in her interview with mystery author Val McDermid at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. She said The Tiger in the Smoke is “a phenomenal novel.” Do you agree?
Well! I’m so excited to wait for your responses that I’ve not complained about the heat for a full twenty minutes! So go on, keep me cool and let me know your recommendations for Mystery Monday.
PS. I didn’t set out to include only mysteries from Penguin’s green Crime Classics series, but the colour cohension is so pleasant I’m thinking of starting a collection for my bookshelf. Wouldn’t that look crisp and orderly.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Gretchen Rubin’s mention of it.
Gun Before Butter by Nicolas Freeling
Jason Goodwin on Goodreads.
The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham
J.K. Rowling’s mention of it.
Penguin Crime Classics to start your collection (and mine)
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Moving for Art’s Sake

Moving. What can one say about the disorder of boxes, Sharpies, packing tape, and broken glass? Not too much, Olive says rather grumpily. Yet, in the interests of positive thinking – it is the May long weekend, after all, and how can one complain when the pond outside is rippling deliciously, and the birch tree waving with such languidness – Olive has decided to turn the upset of a change of address into an inducement for a fresh decorating spree!

The first order of business must be art on the walls. I’m so sorry, says Olive, but I can’t go in for the mass-produced Ikea variety, as snobbish as that sounds. No, I’m not aiming for a genuine Renoir (yet), but some real paint or at least a limited edition print would be most welcome.

With that in mind, I’ve created a Pinterest page to virtually collect what I would like to hang on these bare walls. Yes, the title — “If I Could Bid at Sotheby’s” — is ambitious, but why not aim high with your inspirations!

I’m always on the prowl for new artists and words: tell me what I should be collecting!

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No, this is not a post on good reads (although watch for those in the future!). Instead, this is a warm invitation to join Olive on! Haven’t heard of it? Gosh, it’s only one of Olive’s favorite ways for keeping track of what she’s read, what she wants to read, and what she thinks she has to read. Pop over and see the books Olive has rated 5 out of 5 or, oh dear, given only one star and see if you agree. I’m username “olivewrites.” Add me as a friend, and let me see your good reads.

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Literary Heroes

If you had seen Olive’s Facebook page this week, you would have noticed that she was madly engaged in one pursuit: entering the Chapters Indigo “My Fictional Hero” contest. Fifty “literary heroes” were nominated the first week of the contest — characters who inspired readers for one reason or another — with the characters slowly being whittled down week by week. Olive was sorry to see Bertie Wooster fall back, but she is still cheering on a fighting Anne Shirley.

Aside from her fevered wish to win the fifty books that Chapters Indigo is offering as a prize (where they will go she doesn’t know), Olive was intrigued by this idea of a literary hero. Who would you vote for? Someone like Bilbo Baggins who forged on through Middle Earth despite his diminutive size? Maybe you admire the moral strength of Atticus Finch? Or perhaps the quiet resilience and loyalty of Jane Eyre? (Olive voted for all three, in fact.)

Let’s have our own vote, shall we? Tell me who your literary hero is, and why!

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Pin Me!

I’ve always been a bit flummoxed over what to do with the plethora of images I find online everyday. It’s all well and good to keep a file on your desktop of glorious editorial photos, vintage images, and shopping inspiration, but rather pointless if you can’t readily see them.

So Olive say “hurrah” to the folks at Pinterest! At last someplace to organize, share, and discover even more pictures to set the heart racing. See if my images do the same for you here, and then share your Pinterest board with me!

PS. Well Friday already? It’s always a funny week when Monday is a holiday. What special plans do you have for the weekend? I’m finishing up this wonderful hardcover on art in Paris between the wars: Paris 1919-1939: Art, Life & Culture
Highly recommended and sure to get you twitching for a paintbrush or maybe even a trip to the art gallery.

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Secondary Sources Requried

Olive has always considered this a bad habit: she often prefers reading about a book to reading the book itself.

With the discovery of podcasts (rather late, I know), this has now morphed into a preference for listening to knowledgeable, articulate folk talk about books, even authors discussing their own works. There was first British Booker-winning author Penelope Lively on Moon Tiger via BBC’s World Book Club. Absolutely absorbing and hosted with admirable restraint and poise by Harriet Gilbert, you needn’t have read the book in order to enjoy this hour long-conversation. Olive is always impressed by the depth of the questions BBC World Service listeners send in, and by the thoughtful answers the authors provide, discussions which often delve into their craft, how they work as authors. Perhaps one day I shall have the courage to call in myself. Until then, why not join Olive, and pop an episode onto your iPod? The rhythm is just perfect for an hour-long walk.

Do you have any favorite podcasts, websites, book, et cetera, on books? Any irresistible reviews that leave you itching to read?

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This is What You Shall Do

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


An Olive Aside: Have you read Leaves of Grass? I am just delving into its rich celebration of life. (Perhaps too much of a celebration for its nineteenth-century readers, who balked at its language of the body and sexual love). It’s readily available online, so you have no excuse not to at least take a glance.

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