The Travel Kit: The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers

12/01/2012 § 2 Comments

Virago: vi-ra-go, noun
\və-ˈrä-(ˌ)gō, -ˈrā-; ˈvir-ə-ˌgō\
a woman of great stature, strength, and courage

The word comes from the Latin word vir, meaning virile ‘man,’
to which the suffix -ago is added,
a suffix that effectively re-genders the word to be female.

I recently received a copy of The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers, detailing the stories of several remarkable viragoes throughout history, in their own words.  Included in the compendium are excerpts from the writings of aviatrix Beryl Markham, Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen, Middle East explorer Gertrude Bell, and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West who was the lover of Virginia Woolf and served as the inspiration for Woolf’s novel Orlando.

Perhaps a coffee table book is not what you would consider an essential part of your travel kit, but one of the most important elements of choosing my next travel destination is the inspiration that draws me to a specific part of the world: be it through art, music, literature or fashion.  My initial perusal of this lovely book has definitely lead me to consider a few unconventional destinations — a bit more off the beaten path — for my next excursion.  If you like historical accounts of adventuresome ladies in foreign lands, definitely pick this book up.

The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers
Edited by Mary Morris with Larry O’Connor.
Available in paperback on Amazon here, and a few can be had on eBay here.

~*~Further QC Travel Kit posts here.~*~

Les Histoires de Babar at Les Arts Décoratifs

04/01/2012 § 2 Comments

Can you believe that Babar, the beloved king of the elephants from the popular children’s books written by Jean de Brunhoff and his son Laurent, is turning 80 this year? In his honor, Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris has put together a lovely exhibition of books, sketches, toys and memorabilia, drawing from great museums and private collections around the world, showing Babar’s journey throughout the years.

Growing up, Babar was one of my very favorite stories, and I strongly believe it is the source of my small obsession with elephants.   I especially love the simplicity of the watercolor illustrations by Jean de Brunhoff, from the little pom pom on cousin Arthur’s beret to the wrinkles of the older elephants.  It was even better to find out that Babar was originally a bedtime story told by Cécile de Brunhoff, mother to Laurent (who was five at the time) and wife to Jean, a painter, in 1930.  Jean, at the request of his sons, turned the story into an illustrated album that was then published by his uncle’s publishing house in 1931 as Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (Story of Babar), to great acclaim.  Jean went on to write six more Babar books before his untimely death in 1937, with son Laurent continuing the tradition after WWII.  Laurent has since added more than thirty books.

A lovely interview with Laurent about Babar, his family and his own writing.

New York’s own Morgan Library — one of my favorite places in the city — has also contributed to the exhibition in Paris, and for good reason.  In their collection they have the Jean’s original maquette (or first draft) of Histoire de Babar, which you can view online here with commentary and comparison to the published work.

The exhibit runs through September 2012, and I have very high hopes I will be able to make it to Paris in time to catch it.  If you go before I do, please give Babar my regards.

Les Arts Décoratifs
107 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris

Holden Caulfield Turns 60

15/07/2011 § 2 Comments

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the
publishing of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

I’m due for a revisit.  What are you reading this summer?

Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House

29/10/2010 § 1 Comment

Released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s election as President of the United States, Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House is an amazing collection of photographs (many of them previously unreleased or rarely seen) taken by Kennedy’s official White House photographer, Cecil Stoughton, and is accompanied by prose penned by bestselling political historian Richard Reeves.  The position of official White House photographer was actually created by Kennedy and Stoughton was the first to hold it.  John, Jackie and Stoughton collaborated closely to create the image of Camelot that captivated and enthralled Americans, yesterday and today.

Images via: Vanity Fair

The book is accompanied by a DVD of film footage also shot by Stoughton of the Kennedy family in the White House, in Hyannis and on holidays – a special treat for those of us who love the “Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy,” produced by CBS in 1962.

JFK makes an appearance in the last segment.

You can hear author Richard Reeves read an excerpt of the book on the Vanity Fair site here.  So interesting to hear how Jack came to symbolize the evolution from an old man’s world to a young man’s world, perhaps best signified in the arena of men’s fashion:

…when JFK was elected president American men kept their hair short and wore hats and 3 button tube suits with skinny ties.  Their new leader had long hair (for the time), hated hats, wore custom made european suits with rolled lapels.  Esquire magazine picked up on that in early 1963: “Kennedy sets the style, taste and temper of Washington more surely that Franklin Roosevelt did in 12 years, Dwight Eisenhower in 8, Harry Truman in 7.  Cigar sales have soared — Jack smokes them.  Hat sales have fallen — Jack does not wear them.  Dark suits, well-shined suits.  Avoid button down shirts — Jack says they’re out of style.  Secure your striped ties with PT boat clasps…”

Definitely looking forward to making this addition to the library.

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