Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
1. Louise Penny talks about licorice pipes in every Three Pines novel.
A friend and I enjoyed dinner not long ago at a place that was just bistro-y enough to put us in mind of the one run by Olivier and Gabri. The conversation turned to licorice pipes, and had I noticed Penny drops a reference in every single novel she writes? I had not. I didn’t even know what a licorice pipe was. Is it like a Twizzler?
No. It is not. It is a piece of candy shaped like a smoking pipe, and sure enough, Three Pines diners are forever plucking them from The Bistro’s glass jars, nibbling them while having deep thoughts. I couldn’t track down the ones with red candied embers Isabelle Lacoste enjoyed in Glass Houses (that’s page 307 for you Penny fans), but I did find these basic black pipes online. And I’ll never miss one of Penny’s candy references again.
2. A tiny town in the middle of Indiana has some of the best modern art and architecture in the United States.
This month I spent a weekend in Columbus, Indiana, a small town a mile off I-65 between Louisville and Indianapolis. I’ve driven by this highway exit a hundred times without stopping, not realizing what I was missing.
The city first hit my radar a year or two ago, when a design-obsessed friend who especially loves mid-century architecture surprised me by planning a trip there to check out the world-class architecture and public art I didn’t know was there.
Then in October, I was invited to join friends for a weekend getaway. The destination wasn’t the point; the object was to leave town for a few days, and we ended up in Columbus (and nearby Brown County) for the weekend. We weren’t knowledgeable enough about the art and architecture to appreciate it like my friend, but we saw some cool buildings, ate great food, and thoroughly enjoyed our weekend away.
3. The story of how and why Manhattan’s Penn Station was demolished …
will make you weep. My trip to Columbus inspired some interesting conversations about art, architecture, and zoning at my house. (We are fascinating people, I’m telling you.) Several of Columbus’s buildings are protected historic sites, but most are not—if the owners wanted to raze them and build something new or even turn them into parking lots, they could.
Will asked if I knew the story behind how architectural preservation laws came into existence. I did not, and he shared something he’d read recently about how and why Penn Station was demolished beginning in 1962 to make way for Madison Square Garden, the international outcry that resulted, the historic preservation laws that were enacted in the aftermath.
Favorite line about the station’s before-and-after: “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”
4. The difference between pop lyrics and musical theater lyrics.
My husband recently got me hooked on the podcast Song Exploder. In every episode, an artist tells the story of how a song came to be made. In the episode about La La Land, lyricists Benj Pacek and Justin Paul came on to explain how they wrote the lyrics—and specifically, how they got away with using the word “sneezing.”
They explained that word—as with most of La La Land’s lyrics—could only work in a musical, and never in pop songs. That’s because pop songs are about feeling and mood, but a musical is about telling a very specific story. To oversimplify: pop lyrics deal in the general; musical lyrics are very specific. Thus, sneezing.
5. What bookcrossing means.
This month I found an abandoned copy of Hamlet on a park bench, shared it on Instagram, and asked what you thought the story of the lost book might be. Several of you wondered if it might be a BookCrossing book … and I had no idea what that was.
Google sent me to the BookCrossing website, which explained that bookcrossing is “the act of releasing your books “into the wild” for a stranger to find, or via “controlled release” to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.” You can identify a BookCrossing book by the sticker on the inside cover.
Sadly, Hamlet wasn’t strategically placed on the bench by a BookCrossing member, but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for one in the future—and maybe ordering some stickers and putting a few of my own books into circulation.
6. Fredrik Backman’s next novel has a title and a pub date!
Backman has a short, strange novella coming out on October 31. It’s called The Deal of a Lifetime, and it’s a beautiful little book that reads more like a short story and reminded me of The Book Thief.
But tucked away in the back was a brief announcement: Backman’s next novel, Us Against Them, will be published in the States on June 5, 2018. This is the second book in the planned trilogy Backman began with the fabulous Beartown, and he told Modern Mrs Darcy book club members a little about the plot when we chatted about Beartown this summer. I CAN’T WAIT.
7. You can listen to podcasts on Spotify.
What did YOU learn in October?