Halibut Cove

Landing

One day while I was in Homer, I took a boat to Halibut Cove, a small island with no roads.  It’s a community of artists and fishermen, where boardwalks connect many of the buildings and homes.  I was one of the only visitors to the island that day, except for a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers on break from their worksite in Anchorage.  There are not many happier groups with whom to share a boat trip.

Halibut Cove

For most of my time on the island, I was on my own.  I hiked back to the interior of the island in the drizzly quiet.  It is one of the most beautiful, remote, peaceful places I’ve been.  The closest points of comparison I can think of are the Aran Islands and certain places in Maine.  On my walk I saw sea otters rolling in the cove, clusters of seaweed resting on their stomachs.

Sea Otter

While I was there, I also stopped at the island’s art galleries and ate halibut and Kachemak Bay oysters by the boat dock.

An incredible experience.

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Bookshopping – The Old Inlet Bookshop

One of the things I loved about Homer was its bookstores.  This small Alaskan town hosts three, and we dedicated a couple afternoons to poking around in two of them.  During our first full day in Homer, we had breakfast at the excellent Two Sisters bakery, and then went up the road to the nearby Old Inlet Bookshop, located not far from Homer’s main beach.

The Old Inlet offers an enormous selection of used books, many stacked on the floor along the sides of the aisles.  It’s one of those stores where you’re filled with awe at how much there is to read in the world.  One of those stores where you pick up a book you’ve never heard of on a topic in which you never thought you’d have an interest.  And yet there you are, standing in an aisle, transfixed.

I wound up flipping through Jean Henri Fabre’s illustrated book on insects (you can see it in the stacks in the photo above), particularly the pages on cicadas.  I didn’t wind up buying it, but I was tempted.

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The Old Inlet’s second floor is mostly dedicated to fiction and literature, with some history along the back wall.

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The fiction section’s shelves often have books two rows deep, so that you only ever see a small sliver of the store’s collection.  There is something comforting about this magnitude of books.  A comfort that resonates in this particular location, at the edge of an Alaskan peninsula, where there are winters of darkness.

On our trip, at the height of summer daylight, I was struck by this sunlit upstairs space, and the coziness of this wicker-chaired nook amid the novels.

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The owner keeps the literature grouped in rough alphabetical order, separating out the hardcover from the paperback and — delightfully — creating a whole section for short stories.

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I wound up buying this one: Best American Short Stories from 1946.  An amazing find.  J. found the sequel to the John Cheever novel he was reading, and a hardcover copy of The Godfather.

And, to boot, the owner of The Old Inlet is an incredibly nice guy — a former fisherman and a writer in his own right.  He and my husband and I wound up talking for quite some time about running and fishing and writing and books.  He even lent us his phone and tried to track down a local race for J. while we were in town.

I can’t recommend this bookstore highly enough.  Whiling away an afternoon there was an utter pleasure.

p.s. You’re in luck today!  My good friend John over at Oh John Carroll has a terrific new post on Moe’s Books and City Lights Bookstore in the San Francisco area.  Go check it out!

Kachemak Bay

Homer Spit

I just returned from two weeks in Alaska, where I spent my time walking on beaches, hiking the tundra, reading by the midnight light in log cabins, and visiting tiny old fishing, mining, and mountaineering villages.

One of the places I liked most is the town of Homer, an important Halibut fishing capital and a dynamic, creative hub on the edge of the Kenai peninsula.  I wish I could spend a whole summer there.

I’m so excited about the posts coming up in the next few weeks!  Here are a couple images of Homer’s Kachemak Bay to get started.

Bookshopping: Strand Books

One of the things I admire most about Strand (and let’s be honest, there’s a lot to admire) is that they consistently do an excellent job curating engaging, unique book displays.

Strand

Their most exciting new(ish) display series is The Author’s Bookshelf.  The store invites contemporary writers to share the titles on their bookshelves — the books they love and recommend — and then Strand displays these selections on their website and on tables in their store.  As you know from this post, I’ve always liked looking through other people’s bookshelves (do any of you do that?), so The Author’s Bookshelf has a particular allure.

Strand

Strand has a number of fun categories for their in-store displays, ranging from the ever popular (but much appreciated) Award Winning Books section to the more ambiguous Expand Your Horizons table.  Their displays are accessible and often sorted into affordable price brackets.  (“Biographies Under Ten Dollars” one sign says.)  Yet Strand pulls no punches in its book selection.

Poetry Table

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen Gertrude Stein featured on any bookstore’s poetry table (if, indeed, they even have one).  So to see Tender Buttons next to Stanley Kunitz and Sylvia Plath was a thrill.  Not to mention the prominent placement of Wislawa Szymborska, one of my all-time favorites.

This is a bookstore that honors its readers with a high standard of expectation.

Strand

Regardless of category, all their section signage includes quotes, some thought-provoking (“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,” Franz Kafka proclaims from the Literary Nonfiction signage) and others lighthearted (Sally Field’s “You like me!” on the aforementioned Award Winning Books sign).

Strand is a store where it’s easy to come across old favorites, titles you’ve been meaning to read, and books you’ve never heard of but are very glad to have found — all in the span of one table or shelf.  Strand’s in-store signs market their books as cheaper than eBooks (they often are), but that’s hardly the only thing that gives them a competitive edge.  It’s a bookstore still personalized by staff picks, author recommendations, and a spirit of creativity that — in a world of online bookbuying and eBooks — makes the store feel ever-relevant and necessary.

(Note: You can read more Bookstore Reviews here.)

Eleven Hours In New York

Flatiron

The Flatiron glimpsed through lush Madison Square Park foliage.  (Park bonus: Orly Genger’s new public art installation.)

Image courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

Jeff Koons at Gagosian on W. 24th.  I’m fascinated by his imaging of the Venus of Willendorf through the lens of his balloon sculptures.  Koons continues to experiment at the intersections of pop and classical antiquity in this exhibit.  (On view through June 29th… go check it out!)

Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer at Gagosian on W. 21st.  This exhibit is all about scale and brushstroke, so you’ll have to go in person (through June 8th).

Strand

Bookshopping.

Highline

Drizzly Highline walk.

ABC Carpet

ABC Carpet to escape the rain.

All capped off by a friend’s terrific concert and then a late late train.

Memories and Traces

This weekend I went up to New York to see Memories and Traces, my friend Perla Krauze’s show at the Howard Scott Gallery.  Perla’s work is beautiful, and the recent paintings on view at Howard Scott are evocative and compelling.  Her work has a dimensional quality in person that is impossible to capture in photographs.  There are textures and layers of color that lend each piece a distinct emotional landscape.

Because I’ve had the unique good fortune of visiting Perla’s studio during a residency this fall, I know how organic her process is, and the way she interacts with place.  There is so much that echoes through in the finished pieces.  If you’re near New York between now and June 22nd, you owe it to yourself to stop by the Howard Scott Gallery to see this show.

All paintings by Perla Krauze.  Images courtesy of the Howard Scott Gallery.

Colorscape, Ireland

I’ve been thinking a lot about the saturated landscapes in the west of Ireland.  I think I’m craving that color density, and the intense, windy quiet.

Ireland

People often fixate on that green-verging-on-neon color when they think about Ireland, but the west has so many aquas and deep muds and dark moody indigos.  I took this picture in Connemara, and had it framed on my desk at work for years.

A long time ago I lived in Ireland for a little while, and lately I’ve been daydreaming about what it would be like to go back again.  If I could live in Ireland again now, I’d want to write in a windowed bungalow all day and sing along in village pubs at night.  There’s something tremendously compelling about all that lush vegetation.

Chrysler

When we stayed in New York this winter, our hotel had an amazing view of Chrysler Building, which has always been my favorite skyscraper.

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During our stay, I found myself thinking about the building’s numbers.  Seven arched tiers at the top.  Then the rays on each tier arrayed: one, three, three, five, five, five, eight.  These numbers feel elegant, like they carry their own rhythm, a numeric poem.  A riff on the Fibonacci Sequence,* which has long been one of the mathematic concepts that’s resonated with me most.  Three rays plus two tiers equals five rays.  Five rays plus three tiers equals the next tier’s eight.

I had never known about the connection between the Chrysler Building and Fibonacci before, and it was a pleasure to discover it for myself while lying in bed, watching the sunrise.

*A funny story about the Fibonacci Sequence: I first learned about it from Mathnet on PBS, when I must have been somewhere between 5 and 7 years old.  Detectives Monday and Frankly used the Fibonacci Sequence to solve a crime, and for me, the pattern has been imbued with a quality of mystery ever since.

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I love that this picture captures both the Chrysler Building and the small rooftop garden across the street from our hotel.  Large-scale and miniature testaments to beauty.