Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bell Jar 1rst Edition from EquatorBooks

At Equator Books, a Venice bookstore that offers old editions and out-of-print books, vinyl albums and photography exhibitions (above, a dog shot by Martin Cohen), I was stunned and delighted to find a first American edition of Sylvia Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar. How could I resist?
Plath indeed is an author I adore. I think she is generally very much underestimated as a poet because she was so beautiful, because her life was so very dramatic, ending in a suicide in the dark cold of a London winter, and because of the cult teen following that attached to her after she died. All this, I suspect, made academics weary of her work, yet it is truly exceptional.
This edition of The Bell Jar reveals yet another aspect of her extraordinary talent - in the field of art, as the book features Plath's very own illustrations. Sylvia, endlessly gifted.
I love her.

Speaking of illustration...History fans, art fans, illustration fans, Maira Kalman fans, do not miss, and I mean do not miss Kalman's superb, quirky and funny In Love With A. Lincoln, a tribute to the great president, in The New York Times!

And speaking of books, check out this fabulous round couch with surrounding bookshelves designed by Irina Zhdanova. I want it!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Evening In Silver Lake

Before heading to Spaceland on Tuesday for a concert, I stopped by Lamill Coffee, right across the street. This super cool restaurant and café, with its sleek design and candles on black lacquer tables, offers gourmet coffees in addition to fresh fare. I had the Love Potion, a yummy "tea sangria" or blend of teas infused in cranberries, elderberries, rose hips and hibiscus, as well as an expresso con panna, served with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream. Sadly, they were out of brioche doughnuts... I guess I'll have to go back! I also need to try their orange-infused capuccino.

At the tiny club Spaceland in Silver Lake, I fell in love with He's My Brother She's My Sister, a very original group that features a tap dancer in lieu of rhythmic section (how great is that?), a double-bass, an exquisite singer in a floor-length flapper dress - barefoot and with feathers in her hair like a forest creature heading for a party, and more surprises.
Their folky, swinging songs are catchy and textured, a sheer joy; listen to "Tales That I Tell" on their Myspace Page. I'm a fan.

But the real star of the show was Miranda Lee Richards, a Californian folk pop songwriter and singer whose voice and songs are just luminous. Her album Light Of X was released this month to critical acclaim. It was a treat to hear her in such an intimate venue.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Dear Dmitri

My mum has a lot to do with my passion for Russia. When I was 9, she took me and my sister on the Trans-Siberian, from Beijing to Paris via Moscow, and I was dazzled by the beauty of the Baikhal Lake, the kindness of Russian people to us kids, and the local little girls' bows in their hair... When I was 12, mum gave me a copy of Anna Karenina... A few years later, she allowed me to discover Dmitri Shostakovich's extraordinary, humorous yet harrowing string quartets. I took a keen interest in Shostakovitch: his chamber music especially, but also his life.
He was both celebrated by the Soviet regime as a national treasure, but, as a forward-thinking composer, he also lived in fear for instance when Stalin banned some of his works, like the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District - a masterpiece. I am enthralled by Solomon Volkov's Shostakovich and Stalin, a fab book with a great cover, which retraces this most unique relationship between a ruthless dictator and a musical genius.
Ironically, Stalin wanted to be a poet in his youth, when he published lyrical poems in his native Georgia. This is one of the many little-known facts I learnt in Simon Montefiore's fascinating Young Stalin. He went on to persecute many of the artists pictured hereunder, such as the great poet Ossip Mandelstam and one of my favorite writers, Mikhail Bulgakov.



If you're new to Shostakovich's music, you can start with the luminous Piano Quintet or merely the Piano Trio's dancing Allegretto, then move on to the lyrical, haunting String Quartets 7 and 8. iTunes offers great deals on some excellent recordings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Give Us Girls A Trim

Coincidentally, both my sister and I went for major haircuts this week; while she lives in Amsterdam, I am in Los Angeles - my hair was cut at the great, trendy but in no way snotty Trim salon, at 1424 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. I've always loved women with short hair, from the bold writer Colette who sheared her locks in the 1920's, to the flappers' cuts and actresses like the poignant Jean Seberg.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fare Thee Well, Miss Blossom


If Ella Fitzgerald's voice was sheer sunshine and Billie Holiday's a poignant dusk, then Blossom Dearie's was the very first sweet rays of early morning; it was often said she sounded like a little girl, a birdie. A Verve artist, she was also friends with Miles Davis and haunted New York jazz clubs with her wispy voice and boyish haircut in the 50's and 60's, giving very personal interpretations of standards. Hear her sing her smooth, tender "Surrey with the fringe on top", her swinging "I won't dance" and her high speed "Killing me softly with this song".
She was one of my very favorite jazz singers of all times as well as an accomplished pianist, and on February 7 she went silent forever. It broke my heart.
And if you buy only one of her albums, go for Verve Jazz Masters 51: Blossom Dearie.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Very High Marni Heels

Hmmmmm, what's in this pretty and precious box?


Well, it happened. I went back to the Barneys Warehouse Sale, as the prices were slashed on the last day, and I got my hands on a pair of crazy, towering lilac-grey Marni Mary-Janes; when I moved to California, I didn't bring a single pair of heels with me, and on several dressy occasions I have found myself sorry I hadn't. This pair was marked down from $435 to $101. But that's not even the best part - what makes me really happy is that they're not made of leather, except for their wide strap, which makes them my first animal-friendly, (almost) veggie shoes.
As you know, animals' rights are one of my main centers of interest but when it comes to footwear, my commitment to steer clear of leather shoes had so far been frustrated by poor offerings - from unaffordable pairs by militant vegan Stella McCartney to clunky post-hippie sensible shoes as sexy as a slab of raw tofu. So for the first time I could indulge, yield to my love of beautiful footwear without feeling guilty towards the animals. Ah, the bliss!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ballets Russes, 100 Years Later

As an excellent article in the New York Times recently reminded us, the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev's extraordinary company, gave its very first performance 100 years ago.
I have been celebrating this anniversary with remarkable books. Speaking of Diaghilev is a collection of interviews with all kinds of people, from supreme prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina to dancers Serge Lifar and Ninette de Valois, conductors Ernest Ansermet and Igor Markevich, who were all involved with the Ballets Russes.
I also read Choura, the memoirs of ballerina Alexandra Danilova, whose exquisite face and superb legs you can admire in these pictures. A student of Vaganova at Theater Street and later Marinsky dancer, she was also the second wife of Balanchine. Her recollections of Saint-Petersburg during the 1917 revolution are as engrossing as her tales of working with Massine, Coco Chanel, who designed costumes for the company, Balanchine, Stravinsky, Alicia Markova and many more.


I also just ordered Bronislava Nijinska: The early memoirs, an autobiography of Nijinsky's sister and a choreographer who famously staged Stravinsky's Noces. And I have my eye on John E. Bowlt's Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900-1920: Art, Life, & Culture of the Russian Silver Age...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cat Power Concert

I've been listening to the music of Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, since the mid 1990's, way before she was this famous, but it was the first time I saw her perform - at the baroquely decorated Avalon in Los Angeles, with its carved columns and red lights. For a rock and roll touch, I wore red lipstick, my silver jeans, layered black and white tank tops and a pair of Converse.

Maybe I was expecting too much, but the concert was something of a disappointment, despite her beautiful voice and her very fine musicians. She never addressed or even looked at the audience, never seemed to want to give. She paced the stage back and forth, moving awkwardly. Much to my astonishment, she sang "Lilac Wine" by my dear, dear Jeff Buckley. That was great.
I did like the opening act, a trio called Entrance Band, with their super cool bass player, Paz Lenchantin. She rocks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Images From Around My Home

On Saturday, my dear cousin Gabriel married a lovely pop artist named Bellinda (see her art here). They were wed in Chamonix, in the sumptuous French Alps at the foot of the Mont Blanc. Long live their love!
I keep their fun, youthful wedding card on my fridge, where it's held in place by Gaynor Minden magnets. The one on the left reads: Eat right, respect your body, dance forever. I wish.

And here are the images that adorn my bathroom door. I plan to expand this mosaic until it covers pretty much the entire door...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fashion Buys

It's been pouring in Southern California so I've been wearing a Banana Republic peacoat I bought last month during another stormy spell. I love this coat's elegant detailing.
I wear it with the striped cap I bought from my dear Artycho.

But the major fashion thrill in the Los Angeles area right now is Barneys New York's humongous warehouse sale (details here). I bought a very simple James Perse black skirt I'll wear as soon as it stops raining.
It's made of Tencel®, a new, natural eco-friendly fabric that's super soft. And I bravely resisted a divine Yamamoto skirt - way marked down, but still a plump $400.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Treats

From the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, some fresh pistachios and juicy tangerines. And my new favorite chocolate, from Scharffen Berger...
At the Market, I also bought some fresh raw orange blossom honey, which I use to sweeten the lemonade I make with lemons from my back yard; I should have also bought their exceptional avocado flower honey. Sigh. Maybe next week.

Everyone who hasn't come across it yet must check out artist Christopher Niemann's great I Lego NY pics published this week in The New York Times.

Monday, February 02, 2009

My Desk

I was just tagged by Charlotte Tollstén, whose sensuous and delicate photographs capture the light of Finland Sweden as well as daily life.
My assignment: to show my desk. So here it is, awash in California sunshine! I always have fresh cut flowers on my desk, as well as a picture of my sister at age 6, and my darling little Mac laptop (Viva Apple!). Since I moved to Los Angeles, I've been reading a lot and using my desk as a bookshelf but I'm running out of space so I need to get bookshelves. Piled up on the right are the books I haven't read yet, including one about the collaboration between Stravinsky and Balanchine, two of my idols.
Ballet lovers, note two must-read works about this art, Noverre's Letters on Dance, and Akim Volynsky's recently published Ballet's Magic Kingdom, which dancer Toni Bentley called "a fantastic book" in her New York Times review. Also check out the Swedish DVD The Dancer, a classic documentary.
Sitting atop the pile of unread tomes is the sublime Leonardo Da Vinci book my friend Spangler gave me last Christmas.
I tag Hila, Chloé and Gabbi.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Lady GoGo Boots

I recently showed you pictures of a kitten, the exquisite GoGo Boots. She has been growing steadily and is now a real lady! Isn't she just gorgeous? Meow!

I was thrilled to receive a double award from Italy's talented Francesca, who makes the most beautiful little toys and painted boxes, as well as Japan's Michiko, whose blog is an unexpected and sublime museum.
I'd like to pass on the awards to Solange for letting us into her wonderful home, Esti for her poignant yet fun drawings, the bunnies of Qi Papers, My Castle In Spain for her colors and treats, Rina who takes us to Chile with love, Los Angeles hip blogger Joanna, Mansuetude for her insights and amazing pics, Diana Muse for her exquisite treasures, Solvi's poetic Sheltering Sky, and Annechovie's tasteful eye candy.