Jan 31, 2010

Beach Reads

Beach + books = bliss! Here's the caption from the Guardian's 24 hours in pictures series (worth checking out daily): Sydney, Australia: A beach goer selects books from 30 red Ikea Billy bookcases lined up to form the world's longest outdoor bookcase to celebrate the 30th birthday of the brand's signature furniture piece, at Bondi Beach.


Jan 30, 2010

Bon Iver in a Monmartre Hallway

Our friend Lucy just showed us this beautiful La Blogotheque podcast on Youtube.

Performed by Bon Iver:  Justin Vernon, Sean Carey and Michael Noyce, it's a spontaneous a cappella version of "For Emma" in a Paris hallway before a house show. From the album "For Emma, Forever Ago".

Jan 28, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye is dead.

Just found out that The Catcher in the Rye is dead. Long live "The Catcher in the Rye."

Here's his obit in the New York Times.

Jan 22, 2010

Photo Friday: Here's Homer

[click photo to enlarge]

It felt like spring on our walk today--it was so sunny we had nearly enough skip in our step to keep up with the speediest dog in all of France.

Artists: Paint your way through Italy!

The Rome Art Program offers artists the opportunity to paint and draw in the plein-air tradition on the streets of Rome and Florence, and in the countryside of Umbria. The deadline for application is February 20 and details can be found here

Jan 20, 2010

Inspiration on Paper

The new issue of Poets & Writers is perfect for the new year. The issue's theme is Inspiration, and Chip Kidd's whirling-dervishes-meet-spirograph-swirls cover kicks it off right. Inside, things just keep getting better.

We've already enjoyed a great piece on "how the winter's biggest books got started,'" some new insights on the psychology of writer's block, and an inside look at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Only the third link directs to the actual article; the other two are print only. But it's a great time to subscribe to the magazine; online literary journal Fiction Writers Review is offering a special subscription rate of only $12 (or $22 for two years) in support of Jeremiah Chamberlain's  incisive and inspiring "Inside Indie Bookstores" series.

Speaking of independent booksellers and subscribing to magazines, we're resolving to spend a little less time staring at screens this year, and a little more with the printed (on paper) word. Join us?

Read the Printed Word!

Jan 18, 2010


Today the United States honors Martin Luther King Jr.  We want to highlight the King Day of Service initiative, and their push to celebrate Dr. King's memory by serving others (Americans can find a local volunteer opportunity here).

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. Visit MLKDay.gov.

Sure, we could all use a day off, especially on what some psychologists argue is the saddest day of the year. But giving feels really good! No matter how you spend your day, devote a moment to considering this King quote: "Life's most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?"

This Day

Our friend Peter Rush (aka the Pitch Doctor) sent along this Sanskrit proverb by Indian poet and playwright, Kalidasa. We thought  sharing it here would be a nice way to begin the week:

Look to this day
For it is life,
The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence, The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power  -
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
 Look well, therefore, to this day.

Jan 15, 2010

Photo Friday: Snow Stars

La Muse is a good place to be snowed in. We're lucky to live in a place that's so beautiful, and to be safe and warm. Our hearts are with the people of Haiti; we hope you'll make a donation today.

[click photo to enlarge]

Jan 12, 2010

Reasons to Live in France

Our friend Dean sent us this link to this year's Quality of Life survey results, and France tops the list! The publisher of International Living, which conducts the survey, had this to say about the reasons for France's ranking: "In France, life is savoured I don't think anyone will argue that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The French love tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes, and clean streets. Cities are well tended and with little crime.Variety is also seen as a major factor in France's appeal, with the survey noting: 'Romantic Paris offers the best of everything, but services don't fall away in Alsace's wine villages, in wild and lovely Corsica, in lavender-scented Provence. Or in the Languedoc of the troubadors, bathed in Mediterranean sunlight."

Read the rest, and see where your country lands on the list, here. While we're on the topic of life in France, here are a few links that may be of interest: 

  • It's been twenty years since Peter Mayle published the book that popularized Provence in a way, Mayle suggests some French people are still peeved about, "I’ve been accused of causing everything from the baker running out of bread to a surfeit of Germans in the cafe."
  • Our current barter, Elizabeth, has a post up at the Kenyon Review blog that touches on some of the pleasures of life in Labastide (unlearning English and lucques premier among them). 
  • French-foodies are probably already reading (and drooling over) Chocolate & Zucchini, but if not, check out Clotilde Dusolier's culinary adventures in Paris and try your hand at one of her recipes. If your interests fall squarely in favor of chocolate over zucchini, you might check out the beautiful Tartelette (we're definitely trying our hand at these adorable gingerbread macaron men next December). Both of these blogs have recipes in French and English, so you can practice your cooking skills and language skills simultaneously! 
  • Or, better yet, pay a visit to La Muse and see for yourself what life in France is like. 

Jan 11, 2010

Recommended: Slaughterhouse 90210

How brilliant is Slaughterhouse 90210? Perfect high-low fun for people who love Alice Munro and aren't afraid to admit they own a television set.


 Loads more on the Slaughterhouse 90210 tumblr. Check out the film column, too.


Jan 8, 2010

Opportunity: Mslexia Short Story Competition

Women writers, enter Mslexia's Short Story Competition by January 25 for the chance to win publication,  £2,000 (currently $3,200 USD/ 2,230), a one week writing retreat at the Chawton House Library, and a meeting with a Virago editor. Tracy Chevalier is judging, and there's an entry fee of £8 per story. All winning stories will be published; head here for details. Bonne chance!

The Landfill Prize: Nominate some junk!

Yesterday, we received a message from John Naish asking whether we would encourage our readers to "nominate something utterly shameful" for the Landfill Prize? Happily!

The Landfill Prize is a great initiative, seeking to highlight the most "planet-trashingly wasteful" consumer goods invented each year.  Among last year's nominees (here's 2008's winners, too):

The motorized ice cream cone. Finally! A reprieve from the awful burden of ice cream eating. The nominator, Sarah Dryden, writes: For those too lazy to twist their wrists when eating an ice-cream, there is this stupid gadget. You pop your cone in it, stick your tongue out and it does all the hard work for you, ensuring no drips get onto your hand. You can even stick it in the dishwasher – no need to waste energy on washing up.

Plane Sheets! Sarah Dryden, eyes on the crap-prize again, writes: As if flying wasn't bad enough for the environment, now irresponsible travellers can step up their wasteful footprint with this bizarre plane seat cover. Designed to "transform a tired, overused airline seat into a cozy, happy place... while keeping at bay germs, crumbs and spills from previous passengers," this lurid example of bad taste will put any fears of catching the plague whilst flying at bay. You can even have it monogrammed. Classy.

We've all been guilty of purchasing things that are ultimately more wasteful than they're worth, and the Landfill Prize reminds us, while giving us a good laugh, why it's important that we curb our consumer impulses; the prize "is a plea for us to say, 'Thanks. We've got enough stuff.'"

So, please, head over and nominate the junkiest junk you wish would have bypassed production, and gone straight to the landfill as only a ludicrous idea, discarded because certainly we're too smart to want to clutter or lives (and planet) with crap like that.


Jan 7, 2010

Diversion: Sarah Haskins

Maybe you've seen Sarah Haskins' already-a-classic "Target Women: Yogurt Edition" video:

In the latest installment of her witty and whip-smart "Target: Women" web series on infoMania, Haskins shares some ideas on how to "make yourself a better lady in 2010" and yes, it involves yogurt ingestion.

Related: Ideas on how to find yummy French-esque yogurt in the states. French yogurt is super tasty, but no way is it, or any other yogurt, "private island" good. Ha!


Jan 4, 2010

Profile: Róisín Meaney

We're grateful to Róisín Meaney for contributing this week's profile. Róisín is a bestselling Irish novelist and children's book writer. Her newest novel, Love in the Making, comes out in February and we can't wait!  

1) What do you consider most valuable about your time at La Muse? The fact that I'm distanced from the distractions of home is wonderful - and the fact that a myriad of beautiful walking trails are on my doorstep comes a close second.  

2) Tell us, in a sentence or two, about the project you were focused on while at La Muse. I had two projects. One was putting a new children's book together, aimed at the six to eight year olds, and the other was coming up with a plot for my seventh adult novel. I got the children's book written, and I've got the bones of a plot that I think will be fairly easy to flesh out (she said hopefully).

3)    What advice would you give future attendees? Lap up the scenery, walk in the forests, breathe in the clean mountain air, drink the spring water. Relax, unwind and recharge - your work will be the better for it. 

4) Describe the best meal you ate while at La Muse. Roast chicken cooked by Peter, our resident foodie. Stuffed with fresh tarragon, smashed garlic, chopped lemon. Massaged all over with a slab of butter, slathered with olive oil, salt and freshly-cracked peppercorns, and well-basted all the way through. Tender, moist, delicious, mmm. Thanks Peter.

5) What’s your one must-pack travel essential? Jasmine perfume - hey, I'm a girl!

Roisin added this question to our wild-card list: 
6) What one piece of kitchen equipment would you add to the La Muse kitchen? An electric beater. 

Roisin made a mean meringue even without an electric beater; we wonder at what she could whip up with one! 


Jan 3, 2010

Great Videos

We were watching the Editor's Choice of the top ten videos last year on the Big Think. Short, but powerful and profound stuff.

Here's John Irving talking about how difficult it is for a young writer to get that first novel published: