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Join the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) on Wednesday, October 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for “Art of People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos.” From collecting art to tasting wine, the ART OF series aims to introduce attendees to the endless creativity and innovation in the community. Created by locals, for locals, these all-inclusive experiences require no supplies or commitment. Just bring your friends and the ACP will do the rest. more

Join author Clifford Zink on Saturday, October 8 at 10 a.m. for a walking tour outside Princeton University’s storied and majestic eating clubs. Learn about the architecture, origins, and development of the 16 Classical and Gothic-style clubhouses, which date from 1895 to 1928. There will be an opportunity to visit inside one of the eating clubs; masks will be required during this portion of the tour. Copies of Zink’s 2017 book, The Princeton Eating Clubs, will be available for sale at a discounted price at the tour.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

Her love of beauty and order is everywhere visible in what she planted for our delight.” The words honoring landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959) are engraved on a bench adjacent to the Princeton University chapel.

Reviewing the 2009 edition of Beatrix Farrand: Garden Artist, Landscape Architect (The Monacelli Press $60), The New York Times Sunday Book Review alerted “English majors” to the fact that the book “does double duty as a companion” to the novels of Farrand’s aunt Edith Wharton, whose friend Henry James knew young Beatrix as “Trix.” An updated edition of Judith B. Tankard’s monograph has been released on the occasion of Farrand’s 150th birthday.

Early Farrand

Farrand was still Beatrix Jones when she sent a letter to the editor of the September 6, 1893 issue of Garden and Forest, observing how “the White Pine makes an excellent background for the Red Oak (Q. rubra), which in spring emphasizes the gray tree bearing its ‘candles,’ as the country children call the new white growth, while in the autumn the Pine retires to its place as foil for the Oak, which is first gorgeous in red and fades into brown as it prepares for winter.” Also mentioned, the “Hemlock and White Ash” are “striking together in spring or fall, and at the turn of the leaf the Scarlet Maple seems ablaze near a group of the White and Black Spruces.” Beatrix ends the paragraph with a flourish that must have impressed Aunt Edith and Mr. James: “the stately Yellow and Paper Birches are noticed in damp places, and the Pitch Pine, clinging like a limpet to an impossibly steep rock, looks like a tree on a Japanese fan.”

At 21, “Trix” clearly not only showed signs of her aunt’s literary abilities, she had the eye of a painter, and would one day envision the owner of a garden as “the leader of an orchestra” who must know “which instruments to encourage and which to restrain.” With the last analogy in mind, you could compare the Princeton campus to a symphony created and conducted by Farrand during her years (1912-1943) as the University’s landscape architect.

Her melodious handiwork included the graduate college, McCosh and Blair walks, Holder courtyard, and Prospect Gardens. An architectural tour of the campus conducted in Princeton University and Neighboring Institutions (The Campus Guide $12.55) finds the rules Farrand established for Princeton’s landscape design “as defining an element of the Princeton style as Collegiate Gothic.” Even after her relationship with the University ended, “succeeding landscape architects and gardeners followed the design and planting principles she laid down.” more

Frank Bruni

On Friday, October 7 at 7:30 p.m. join the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown for The Beauty of Dusk: An Evening with Frank Bruni. Tickets are $60 per person.

Bruni has been a prominent journalist form more than three decades, including more than 25 years at The New York Times, the last 10 of them as a nationally renowned op-ed columnist who appeared frequently as a television commentator. He was also a White House correspondent for the Times, its Rome bureau chief, and for five years, its chief restaurant critic. more

The beloved Princeton Children’s Book Festival returns on Saturday, October 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Princeton Public Library and Hinds Plaza. This largely outdoor, in-person event brings together some of the most popular children’s book authors and illustrators, giving families the opportunity to meet their children’s favorite storybook creators. Book sales for the event will be available from jaZams in downtown Princeton. Authors and illustrators will be available to sign personalized copies and describe some of the details and inspirations behind their books. more

By Stuart Mitchner

It’s a stretch, but you could say that Princeton University paid for my son’s birth while I was helping Alexander Leitch deliver the first Princeton Companion to Princeton University Press. In that sense, the Companion godfathered my son. And since Robert K. Durkee’s The New Princeton Companion reports that the Press was founded in 1905 with a loan from Charles Scribner II (Class of 1885), you could also say that Scribners — the publisher of Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway — godfathered (or godparented) the Press.

In 1911 Scribner gave land, an endowment, and a Collegiate Gothic building modeled on Antwerp, Belgium’s Plantin-Moretus Museum. A drawing of the courtyard entrance is featured on the cover of A Century in Books: Princeton University Press 1905-2005, which highlights 100 of the then-nearly 8,000 books it had published, from Albert Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity (1922) to George Kennan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Russia Leaves the War (1956) and Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance (2000).

A Centenary Echo

In 1922, at a time when the author of Moby Dick was still on the road to rediscovery, the Press published a limited first edition of Herman Melville’s John Marr and Other Poems, which receives a centenary echo in Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times (Princeton $32) by Cornell professor of history and American studies Aaron Sachs. According to a press release, “Mumford helped spearhead Melville’s revival in the aftermath of World War I and the 1918–1919 flu pandemic, when American culture needed a forebear with a suitably dark vision. As Mumford’s career took off and he wrote books responding to the machine age, urban decay, world war, and environmental degradation, it was looking back to Melville’s confrontation with crises such as industrialization, slavery, and the Civil War that helped Mumford to see his own era clearly.” In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book “an incisive homage to the continuing relevance of two towering writers.” more

On Tuesday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m., Princeton Public Library and the Historical Society of Princeton welcome bestselling author Jennifer Weiner to the Updike Farmstead at 354 Quaker Road in Princeton. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of The Summer Place, plus sparkling beverages, sorbet, and other sweets. Purchase tickets here: https://bit.ly/3Pj61Vz. This event is presented with support by Labyrinth Books.  more

Summer is the perfect time to address that pile of books lingering on your bedside table. These recommended titles from New York Public Library are being made into feature films set to arrive in theaters this summer. Our suggestion — read the literary form before you see it on the big screen. It’s a wonderful way to put your imagination to the test and see how your own interpretation matches up to Hollywood’s. more

Bonding with Art, Books, and Children

By Stuart Mitchner

After a visit to the Princeton Public Library in search of art therapy books for children, I came home with an armload, including one seemingly intended for serious, thinking adults, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s heavily illustrated tome, Art as Therapy (Phaidon 2013, paperback 2016). In fact, some reviewers treated both book and audience disparagingly. Elle called it a “cultural cure for what ails you” while Vanity Fair on Art gave it credit for massaging “the mind in all the right places.” Taking it to task in the New York Times (“Patronizing the Arts”), Parul Sehgal chided the authors for dreaming of the day “when museums can be redesigned as gyms for the psyche.” Sehgal also included an illustration from the book, a museum floor plan arranged according to therapeutic needs. Above the cafe and shop are five floors, the first a Gallery of Suffering, followed in ascending order by galleries of Compassion, Fear, Love, and Self-Knowledge. As Sehgal noted, de Botton had been accused of condescending to his readers, regarding them as “ants,” or more to my point, as children, as if this weighty book were little more than a child’s guide to art therapy on steroids.

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Labyrinth Books welcomes Maggie Edkins Willis and Samira Iravani for an in-person event (with the option of virtual) on Sunday, June 12 at 2 p.m. Willis will discuss her debut middle grade graphic novel entitled Smaller Sister, which touches on the author’s own real-life experiences navigating confidence, body image, and the everlasting bond of sisterhood. more

The Historical Society of Princeton introduces their next historical fiction book group on Monday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. with Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge.

Named by the New York Times Book Review as the Best Historical Fiction of 2021, Libertie is “a coming of age story, tracing the travails of a free-born Black girl raised in Deconstructionist-Era Brooklyn. Libertie Sampson defies her doctor mother’s stifling dreams that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, instead following her fiancée to his home country of Haiti — where Libertie escapes American-style racism but not the misogyny that leaves her subordinate to all men.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

“After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth….”
—James Joyce, from Ulysses

So thinks Leopold Bloom on his way to lunch at Davy Byrne’s in Dublin on June 16, 1904. He settles for a cheese sandwich. I’m beginning with a vegetarian-friendly quote from Ulysses in recognition of its 100th anniversary. For a whole book of Joycean recipes, there’s Alison Armstrong’s The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin (Station Hill Press $14.99), which has a foreword from novelist Anthony Burgess.

Although I’m neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, my fondness for Moby’s music and my memories of India have led me to two volumes recommended by a discriminating colleague: Moby’s Little Pine Cookbook: Modern Plant-Based Comfort (Avery $24.99) and The Modern Tiffin: On-the-Go Vegan Dishes with a Global Flair by Priyanka Naik (Simon and Schuster $24.99).

Cooking with Moby

Quoted in The Guardian’s “What’s in your basket” column from the early 2000s when music from Moby’s worldwide best-selling album Play could be heard in shops all over London, he recommended garlic and ginger as “the key to a long, happy and full life because they’re such concentrated foods you think if there is anything bad and nasty living in your body, garlic and ginger will go in like a cartoon superhero and drive out the invaders.” Admitting that as much as he loves the U.K., he adds that he finds it difficult to get fresh bread there like the wholemeal organic loaf he likes to eat with organic peanut butter. Although I’ve never thought of myself as a vegan, the comfort food closest to my heart is peanut butter, so I guess you could say I’ve come out of the closet.

Moby named his cookbook after Little Pine, the restaurant he opened decades ago in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Actress Rooney Mara has said, “I have literally walked for miles to get the Little Pine Mac n’ Cheese.” Among the 125 recipes are dishes like Panko-Crusted Piccata and Fried Cauliflower with Kimchi Aioli. Desserts include Chocolate Bread Pudding, which suggests the possibility of an energy rush equal to “Feeling So Real,” possibly the most deliriously exciting music Moby ever recorded. more

The Wedding Dress: Styles and Stories

By Stuart Mitchner

For our lavish New York wedding (no music, no frills, no rice, bearded nondenominational minister, statue of St. Francis looking on), my wife wore a knee-length, crocheted off white dress purchased from the teenage girls’ department at Lord and Taylor (she’s 5’0).

Also 5’0 and two years younger on her wedding day in February 1840, Queen Victoria, according to numerous online sources, wore a white, off-the-shoulder gown with a structured, eight-piece bodice featuring a wide, open neckline; short, puffed sleeves trimmed with lace; a floor-length skirt containing seven widths of fabric; and a satin train over six yards long, which 12 attendants carried down the aisle.

Another thing my wife and Queen Victoria have in common is a fondness for Charles Dickens, who resisted invitations to visit the Queen until shortly before his death in 1870. Of all the wedding gowns in literature, the best known must be the one worn by Miss Havisham when young Pip first sees her in Great Expectations: “She was dressed in rich materials, — satins, and lace, and silks, — all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white.” Dressed for a wedding that never happened, she had but “half arranged” her veil, her watch and chain “were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers…” And everything within Pip’s view “which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre and was faded and yellow.”

Credit to Victoria

In The Way We Wed: A Global History of Wedding Fashion (Running Press $24) by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Queen Victoria is credited with popularizing the long, white wedding gown, which was solemnized with the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Among the book’s illustrations is Michel Garnier’s painting The Marriage Contract Interrupted (1789), a preview of Miss Havisham’s dilemma that shows a bride in full wedding regalia “dropping her quill in surprise as an unexpected clause derails the ceremony.” more

Princeton University’s Public Lecture Series will continue March 16 from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at McCosh 50 with Marc M. Howard of Georgetown University, one of the country’s leading voices and advocates for criminal justice and prison reform. He is a professor of government and law, and the founding director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University. He is also the founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice, a nonprofit organization that launched in 2020.  more

Poet James Longenbach. Photo Credit: Adam Fenster.

Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies (FIS) presents a lecture by James Logenbach on W.B. Yeats and his poem, “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” on Friday, January 28, the 83rd anniversary of Yeats’ death, at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom webinar.

Princeton University professor and Co-Chair of the Fund for Irish Studies Paul Muldoon will provide a welcome and introduction. The lecture is free and open to the public. Register online at https://arts.princeton.edu/events/fund-for-irish-studies-poet-james-longenbach/.

Logenbach will give an account of William Butler Yeats’ (1865-1939) poem, discussing how it assumed its shape, and, more importantly, the influence of that shape on subsequent long poems written throughout the 20th century. Yeats won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. more

Treat your bookshelf and home library to a book subscription box from Book of the Month (www.bookofthemonth.com), the original book subscription service. 

This convenient subscription is perfect for bibliophiles who would like to support the publishing industry and rely less on ordering from Amazon and other big-box retailers. The other great thing about Book of the Month (BOTM), is that it provides a curated list of wave-making titles in a variety of genres and sub-genres. From new fiction to thrillers, romance, “quick reads,” history, family sagas, mysteries, and more, readers are sure to find a monthly title that appeals to them and will be shipped in the form of a hardcover, directly to their front door. more

Join Princeton Public Library (PPL) for a virtual Crowdcast event on Thursday, January 6 from 8 to 9 p.m. with writers Karen J. Greenberg and Julian E. Zelizer. On the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, Greenberg and Zelizer will discuss the “subtle tools” that were forged under George W. Bush in the name of security and their impact on how the Trump administration was able to weaponize disinformation, xenophobia, and distrust of law. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Rostov … looked at the snowflakes dancing above the fire and remembered the Russian winter with a warm, bright house, a fluffy fur coat, swift sleighs, a healthy body, and all the love and care of a family.

—Leo Tolstoy, from War and Peace

I’ve never been to Russia in winter or spring or any other season. But I’ve been there all year round as a reader ever since the St. Petersburg summer I spent in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The following spring, I spent my first Russian winter reading The Brothers Karamazov in the Modern Library Giant edition. When you approach the world of Dostoevsky at the tender age of 19, the prospect is more inviting wrapped in an image of striking storybook simplicity: deep blue sky, snow tipped onion-domed towers above a white snowscape pure and clear against the black of a horse-drawn sleigh. So began a sophomore binge that carried me from Karamazov to Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. My fate was sealed. I would graduate as an English major with a minor in Slavic studies.

Everything in a Flower

“A flower fell on the snow and he rushed to pick it up as though everything in the world depended on the loss of that flower.” The “everything in the world depended on it” essence of Dostoevsky is in that sentence, which comes toward the end of “Ilusha’s Funeral,” the last chapter of The Brothers Karamazov. The chaotic life and death intensity of the passage is driven by Ilusha’s crazed father running alongside the coffin, “fussing and distracted,” rushing to pick up the small white flower, as if his dead son’s flower and all the flowers in the world were one.

Gogol’s Overcoat

In “The Overcoat,” from Nicolai V. Gogol’s Tales of Good and Evil (Doubleday Anchor), the St. Petersburg climate is “a great enemy,” along with the “northern frost” that targets “the noses of Civil Servants” and makes “the foreheads of even those who occupy the highest positions ache with frost, and tears start to their eyes.” Gogol pictures the “poor titular councillors … running as fast as they can in their thin, threadbare overcoats through five or six streets and then stamping their feet vigorously in the vestibule, until they succeed in unfreezing their faculties and abilities.” The overcoat of the title belongs to Akaky Akakyevich, who finds on thoroughly examining it at home that “the cloth had worn out so much that it let through the wind, and the lining had all gone to pieces.” more

A book authored by local historian Harold James has been named to the Financial Times’ Best Books of 2021: Politics List.

The War of Words: A Glossary of Globalization, published by Yale University Press, reveals the origins of key buzzwords and concepts used in contemporary political debate such as “neoliberalism,” “geopolitics,” and “globalization,” while highlighting communication challenges associated with their misuse. more

Part of the Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series at Princeton

Students enrolled in fall creative writing courses in the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University will read from their new works of fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and literary translation on Tuesday, December 7 at 5 p.m. in the Chancellor Green Rotunda on the Princeton campus as part of the Program’s Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series. The reading is the culmination of students’ work in the Program in Creative Writing’s fall creative writing workshops.  more