Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Memoriam

The following snippet from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam is rather aprpos for the end of the first decade of the new millenium.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Shrine of Bibi Jawindi, Uch Sharif, Pakistan by SaffyH @Flickr

Shrine of Bibi Jawindi, Uch Sharif, Pakistan. Bibi Jawindi, the great granddaughter of the saint Jahaniyan Jahangasht, was known for her piety. Her tomb is considered one of the most important and the most ornate sites in the town of Uch, which was the centre of Sufism under the Delhi sultanate of 1494. It is octagonal on the exterior, with the interior walls angled to form a circle. The thick walls rise to two stories, transforming by way of squinches into a sixteen-sided drum upon which a dome sits supported by bell-shaped brackets. Both the interior and exterior walls are decorated with a profusion of faience revetment.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Most Literate U.S. Cities

The poll that publishes the most literate U.S. cities is not an oxymoron. Some cities have a justly earned reputation for having well-read denizens.

Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the America's Most Literate Cities Study ranks the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the United States. This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

The original study was published online in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Rankings 2005 and onwards were published online at Central Connecticut State University.

Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, is the author of this study. Research for this edition of AMLC was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at CCSU.

And here are the chest-thumping results (for me) for 2009:

1. Seattle, WA 1 1.5 2 1 1
2. Washington, DC 2 3 5 3.5 3
3. Minneapolis, MN 3 1.5 1 2 2
4. Pittsburgh, PA 4 12 9 6 8
5. Atlanta, GA 5 6 8 3.5 4
6. Portland, OR 6 10.5 12 10 11
7. St. Paul, MN 7 4 3 5 9.5
8. Boston, MA 8 8 10 11 7
9. Cincinnati, OH 9 10.5 11 7 9.5
10. Denver, CO 10 7 4 8 6

Seattle's rankings for 2005 through 2009 have been: 1, 1, 2, 1.5, and 1.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bundling Harlequin

Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesJessica of Racy Romance Reviews has a fabulously hilarious blog about how she feels gypped that Harlequin didn't offer her a personalized e-bundle of out-of-print titles like they offered to some bloggers (such as Dear Author and Super Wendy). Then she proceeded to show what her bundle would look like so that Harlequin might be, ahem, inspired.

In the same spirit, if I had the choice to design my own bundles, here're the titles I'd like to have...

Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesBetty Neels Bundle
Sister Peters in Amsterdam (1969)
Tabitha in Moonlight (1972)
Victory for Victoria (1972)
Roses for Christmas (1975)
The Edge of Winter (1976)
Philomena's Miracle (1978)

Ann Mather Bundle
Masquerade (1966)
Arrogance of Love (1968)
Master of Falcon's Head (1970)
Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesReluctant Governess (1971)
White Rose of Winter (1973)
Leopard in the Snow (1974)

1949 Bundle
The Manatee (Nancy Bruff)
Lost House (Frances Shelley Wees)
The Wicked Lady Skelton (Magdalen King Hall)
Flame Vine (Helen Topping Miller)
Blondes Don't Cry (Merlda Mace)
Close To My Heart (Margaret Nichols)

Do you have a favorite author whose fondly-remembered books you'd like to see repackaged just for you? If so, let's petition Harlequin Enterprises for special consideration.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sun Temple of Modhera

The Surya Mandir of Modhera, Gujarat, India is a 1000-year-old edifice with a much more ancient architectural style similar to the Konark Temple in Orissa and the Martand Temple of Jammu and Kashmir, India. A paean to Surya, the Sun God, the temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty in 1026 CE. The Solanki Rajputs believed themselves to be the descendants of the lineage of Surya. The area on the banks of the Pushpavati River (God of Wealth Kuber's river of golden flowers) is called Dharmaranya (forest of righteousness).

The temple is composed of three axially-aligned and integrated constituents: Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap or Rang Mandir, and Guda Mandap or Nritya Mandir.

Surya Kund is a 100-square-meter, rectangular, deeply stepped tank at the entrance of the temple. 108 shrines dedicated to Lords Shiva and Ganesh are located within the tank—the number 108 is considered auspicious by the Hindus. The original purpose of the tank was to provide dusty travelers a means to bathe (purification) before entering the temple. A huge toran (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.

Sabha Mandap is an assembly hall where religious gatherings and meetings were conducted. It's open on four sides to the four directions and has a walnut-shaped ceiling supported on 52 pillars representing the 52 weeks of the year.

Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum. It's octagonal shape supported by a lotus-base plinth is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. And it is oriented in such a way that the first ray of the sun at dawn on the equinoxes shines directly through the arched doorway onto the large diamond set in the center of the gold crown placed on the head of Surya's golden statue. The shikhar (dome on the roof) and the statue were plundered by the Mughals of Central Asia: Muhammad of Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji. In medieval times, a surang (tunnel) led from Anahilvad Patan, the headquarter of the Solankis, to this mandap and served as a means of escape for the royal family.

Both the mandaps are covered with scenes depicting social, cultural, religious, moral, and sexual teachings of daily life. Eight directions, twelve facets of the Sun for each of the months, cycle of birth and death, friezes of gods and goddesses, stories from the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharatha and life of Lord Krishna, scriptures Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, Kama Sutra erotica similar to the Khajuraho Temple, Vedic philosophy, and art, mathematics, and science of the day comprise the exterior and interior carved sandstone panels.

The oddest depiction of Surya is the statue in which he's wearing a jacket, a belt with a grand Texan cowboy-style buckle and knee-length boots, similar to the original statue at Dakshinaarka Temple at Bodh Gaya, India (where Buddha attained nirvana). Depictions of stone statues wearing such clothes are found in Iran and Central Asia, leading to the belief that the Indian sun worshippers are descendants of the Persian fire worshippers or Zoroastrians.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Rare Glimpse

Copyright Random House British Classic Crime author P.D. James, Baroness of Holland Park and inductee of the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame, is a private person.

For those of you who don't know who she is, here's a brief biography: "P.D. James is the author of twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. In 2009, she celebrated her eighty-ninth birthday. She lives in London and Oxford."

Copyright Fantastic Fiction UKHer memoir Time to Be in Earnest written in her 77th year as a diary, gives us a brief look into her life, her experiences, and her thoughts on the people and events in her life.

For a fan of her work, I've been dying to lay my hands on more glimpses into: Who is P.D. James? I've read her memoir a few times over from cover to cover. The style of her fiction books reflect a mindset that is congruent with the memoir, and I love that. Makes her feel closer to me.

Then on the flight a week ago, the United Airline magazine Directions had this rare glimpse into a detail that hasn't even been hinted at in her memoir or any of her online biographies. In her own words...

"I've traveled to so many diferent countries promoting my books, but the place I've felt most at home is America, and my favorite city there is Boston. it's a very english city, and that's such a funny thing to say, because we don't travel to ther places to find more Englishness! But there's so much history there, and I've loved the architecture. There's something very special about Boston. it combines all the activity of a big city with a kind of intellectual peace."

"I was there for three months teaching creative writing at boston University. I really enjoyed the historic sites such as the Paul Revere house and the State Capitol. It's a very walkable city, I remember going across the bridge to Harvard University, which is a very attractive campus. And we went down to Cape Cod and visited Nantucket, where the houses have widow's walks around them. It's just lovely."

Talking About Detective Fiction by PD JamesP.D. James's latest book Talking About Detective Fiction has been commissioned by Oxford's Bodleian Library. It was released on December 1, 2009.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Personal Picks: 20 Best of 2009

Copyright University of FloridaTo date, I've read a total of 147 unique books this year, not counting the re-reads of my favorites. The end of the year always brings out the list-y in me. I'm all goals, resolutions, bests, to-do's, what-have-yous, etc. busyness. In keeping with that and Eloisa James's B&N List, here are my top twenty romances that were published in 2009 (an unordered list).

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris
Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman
Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell
The Lone Texan by Jodi Thomas
Easy on the Eyes by Jane Porter
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady by Diane Gaston
So Enchanting by Connie Brockway
At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh
The Conqueror by Kris Kennedy
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
The Secret Wedding by Jo Beverley
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Wicked Little Game by Christine Wells
The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe
Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Smart Bitches
Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

And I already have a best of 2010...Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale!

What are your top picks for 2009?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Picture Day Friday

A testament to Persian power established by Darius the Great (522–486 BCE), Persepolis awed dignitaries who came from the far ends of the largest empire of the age to present gifts.

(Copyright by Simon Norfolk for National Geographic)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Technical Difficulties

There will be a brief break in blog updates while I reconfigure my Internet connectivity.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Lake Palace of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India is a dream of white marble and mosaic. Conceived in romance, the palace was built in 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II, 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar—believed to be descendants of the Sun God. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Aravalli Mountains and located in the middle of Lake Pichola, the palace, now a hotel, spreads across a four-acre island.

The Royal Butlers, descendents of the original palace retainers, look after all contemporary comforts and ensure that all guests are treated like royalty. Opulent silks, richly coloured murals, ornately carved wood furniture, brass lamps, original portraits, glass mosaic inlay, traditional cloth fans, and doors surfaced with mirrors retain the original royal mystique.




Thursday, December 3, 2009

Calls for Academic Papers

January 1, 2010 is the deadline for proposals for Popular Romance Studies: Theory, Text, and Practice, the second annual international conference on Popular Romance. The conference is sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and will take place in Belgium, August 5–7, 2010.

IASPR is seeking proposals for innovative panels, papers, roundtables, discussion groups, and multimedia presentations that contribute to a sustained conversation about romantic love and its representations in popular media throughout the world, from antiquity to the present. IASPR welcomes analyses of individual texts—books, films, websites, songs, and performances—as well as broader inquiries into the creative industries that produce and market popular romance and into the emerging critical practice of popular romance studies.

Confirmed keynote speakers are: Celestino Deleyto, University of Zaragoza, Spain; Lynne Pearce, Lancaster University, UK; and Pamela Regis, McDaniel College, USA.

For inquiries, please contact

(Become a member of IASPR, and look for the first issue of IASPR's peer-reviewed online Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) in February 2010.)

* * *

Last April, Princeton University hosted a groundbreaking two-day conference on popular romance fiction and American culture. Gathering scholars, authors, editors, and bloggers, this interdisciplinary gathering featured panels on romance and history (both political and literary), romance and religion, romance and sexuality, and romance and race. Each explored the ways that popular romance fiction has reflected, and also helped shape, American culture from the late 18th century to the present.

Conference organizers William Gleason (Princeton) and Eric Selinger (DePaul University) now invite proposals for a collection of essays that will build on the work of the conference: Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? They welcome proposals from academic scholars from any field—American literature, popular culture, religion, women's and gender studies, African American Studies, or any other relevant discipline—as well as from authors, editors, and other members of the romance community who wish to reflect on their practice in light of the volume’s concerns.

They will consider proposals or abstracts on the relationships between popular romance fiction and

• the history of reading in America, from Pamela to the present
• American cultures of sexuality, masculinity, and femininity
• American religious cultures, in Christian and other traditions
• Race, ethnicity, and exogamous desire
• “High” culture: literary fiction, poetry, visual art, etc.
• Other popular genres: mystery / detective fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, non-romance bestsellers, chick-lit
• Other popular media: film, comics, music, gaming
• The culture of sport (football, baseball, NASCAR, etc.)
• American political / military culture, from the early Republic to the present
• American psychological / therapeutic / self-help culture

They also hope for papers on the romance industry in America and the diverse community of romance readers, authors, and reviewers, both as they are and as they are represented in the media:

• Romance sub-genres—Western, Gothic, Regency, Medieval, Paranormal (vampire, were, empath, etc.), Futuristic / Time Travel, Multi-cultural, Erotic, Gay / Lesbian, etc.—and their shifting appeal to readers
• American romance and other traditions: comparative studies, texts in translation, transnational encounters
• Romance publishing: major presses, series and lines, the rise in e-publishing
• Representations of American romance writers, readers, bloggers, book groups, conventions, etc.

Detailed abstract or draft essay and a short CV are due by January 4, 2010. Final essays will be due in June, 2010.

For further inquiries, please contact Prof. William Gleason ( or Prof. Eric Selinger (

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pssst....On Dit

Thanks to authors Anthea Lawson and Vanessa Kelly, I found out that The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance stories is currently in progress.

From their website, this is an "unbeatable collection of noble rogues and rotters, risqué ladies, illicit lovers, and certain scandal! From some of the biggest names in Regency historical romance [come] 25 wickedly witty, lusciously romantic and sublimely sensual short stories replete with oversexed aristocrats, posturing courtesans, and feuding dukes and duchesses."

"[They] tell of a beautiful lady awakened by a passion more powerful than anything she has ever known, one that could doom or save her; a disgraced rake who, given a final chance to redeem himself, discovers love has rules of its own; and a luscious young beauty fed up with proper tea parties and elegant balls who disguises herself to enjoy a soirée of uninhibited pleasure. As the passion mounts, so do the complications."

Includes big name contributors, such as Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, and Mary Balogh, and also Anthea Lawson and Vanessa Kelly.

It will be on sale on June 24, 2010. (Yep, it's on my list; why do you ask?)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ha-Ha-Ha From The Past

Forgotten English by Jeffrey KacirkI'm a huge (literally and figuratively) fan of Jeffrey Kacirk's Forgotten English series, which has definitions and events from history. Here are some nuggets...

If you're feeling stranny today, you may be wild or excited (from Jabez Good's Glossary of East Lincolnshire, 1900).

Satyriasis (and its female version nymphomania) is immoderate venereal appetite as a symptom of canine madness (from John Coxe's Medical Dictionary, 1817).

Today, December 1, is the 250th birthday of Guinness. Slainte! In 1759, Irishman Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for a small brewery at St. James Gate in Leixlip, County Dublin for 45 pounds a year.

If you're overcrapped, you've given yourself to gluttony and overeating along with the attendant unpleasant aftereffects (from James Barclay's Complete and Universal Dictionary of the English Language, 1848).

Forgotten English by Jeffrey KacirkNovember 30, is the feast eve of St. Eloy, a seventh-century patron of goldsmiths, coin collecors, and metalsmiths.

You're likely to be called a convertine if you're inclined to be converted (from Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1893).

London's Convent Garden Theatre opened on December 7, 1732. Almost immediately the EST (English Standard Time) of noblemen arriving late for theatre events went into place.

Anti-centenarianism is the opposition to the assertion that the persons from time to time reported to have died aged a century or more had really attained to that age (from Edward Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary, 1895).

Henry Jenkins (1501–1670) was a long-lived Englishman with a lifespan of 169 years, who lived through the reigns of nine monarchs, was a fisherman in the last century of his life, and was acquainted with one Peter Garden (1644–1775), another long-lived Englishman.

A knick-knackatorian is a dealer in knick-knacks and curiosities (from London's Annual Register, 1802).Jane Austen

Wednesday, December 16 is the birthday of Jane Austen (1775–1817) who was fond of the phrase I cannot do-withall meaning I cannot help it. Mark Twain famously remarked, "Any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen—even if it contains no other book."