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Picturing a World

Cicada

Shaun Tan is one of my favorite artist-authors—brilliant, sly, offbeat, insightful. When I saw an advanced review of Cicada, I pre-ordered it from a local independent bookstore on the assumption that anything Tan did would be wonderful. I picked it up. Read it. Reread daily. Feel throb. Laugh out loud. Tok tok tok. My advice? Seek it out!

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Hanging wallpaper

Blog post tip: On October 15, 2014, Rodama: a blog of 18thC & Revolutionary French Culture posted a series of six rare drawings of 18thC techniques for manufacturing and hanging wallpaper. They were probably intended as submissions for Diderot's Encyclopédie. For the historical fiction writer, can't they stimulate the imagination from the point of view of either the workers or the householder who ordered new decoration?

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New look

My website is hosted by the Author's Guild, which this month revamped its design templates, the better to fit cellphones and other screens. To celebrate the new, I'm posting a glimpse of the past. For a writer of historical fiction, a magazine cover from the year about which she is writing, which itself illustrates an earlier period, seems about right. Besides, I love textiles.

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Twelfth Night, or what you Will

I don’t much like 19th C caricatures, but I love the punch drinker’s salute to William Shakespeare’s bust here. As you probably know, the play Twelfth Night was written by Shakespeare in the winter of 1601–1602 (the first recorded performance was on Candlemas Night,  Read More 

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Edwardian Christmas morning

An Edwardian Christmas by John S. Goodall is a gentle treat, an indulgence in nostalgia that can surely be forgiven in unsettling times. I bought a used copy a few years ago and happily turn its wordless pages every December.

For this and other images from the book, click here.

And Merry Christmas! Read More 

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Christmas commerce and celebration

I was looking for a seasonal image and found this “Christmas gifts” issue of Vogue for 1918. A hundred years later, it reminds us of the joyous and tattered end of World War I. And it’s by an American woman artist! Helen Dryden. Born in Baltimore in 1882, she moved to New York in 1909 to sell artwork to magazines—just about the time that ANONYMITY’s Mattie would have known her. Perfect. Read More 

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Visit from Saint Nicholas

Website alert: The American Antiquarian Society has posted a digitized version of a recent donation—a copy of the first illustrated, book-length edition of Clement Moore’s poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, published in 1848. The interior of the house is depicted as furnished more sparely than we have grown accustomed to seeing it, and the Santa Claus clearly predates the Norman Rockwell—Coca-Cola version! I wonder whether looking at this version might prompt a 21st C writer to a new response to the old favorite? Read More 

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Hallowe’en cats

Blog tips: Vintage Halloween postcards at the Toronto Public Library is an archived post with lots of images of Halloween cards from ca. 1910 and links to the library’s collections. Usually I’d choose a witch to offer as a treat for Hallowe’en, but there’s something weirdly imaginative about these menacing Jack-o-lanterns and their panicked cats that tickles my fancy this (and there is a witch in the upper right-hand corner). A different card at the American Antiquarian Society, moreover, makes clear that the gauzy bows could be perceived as witches’ bodies. For it and another set of vintage Hallowe’en cards, click here.

And whether you trick or treat or celebrate Samhain as the pagan new year, have a happy, safe Hallowe’en—with just a touch of the spooky or wild! Read More 

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Who knew?

Blog post tip: I’m speechless. Who knew? William Faulkner drew? Read more at Maria Popova’s Brainpickings post, William Faulkner’s Little-Known Jazz Age Drawings, with a Side of Literary Derision.

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Typists' strike

This 1919 poster, which shows typists as New Women who are voicing demands by striking is, in fact, an advertising poster for Labor brand typewriters (see Ruth E. Iskin, “Popularising New Women in Belle Epoque Advertising Posters,” in A Belle Epoque?: Women and Feminism in French Society and Culture, 1890–1914 (2006). But, heck!, it’s a great image. And if we have to resist the Lords of Creation, we might as well do it handsomely. Sisters, solidarity—and happy Labor Day! Read More 

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