P.S. Bookshop wishes you all a warm and glowing lovers' day. Love is the vital energy at the bottom of all human creation, not only art and literature. As a used bookstore we merely partake in the eternal working and re-working, in the implementation and dissemination of this most recycled of themes, one that, however, would never run its course. Below is but a random assortment of books, for our benefit, in celebration of the day:
The Complete Taj Mahal
Some acts are impossible to follow. Yet nobody expects you to live up to the standard laid down by the emperor Shah Jahan Agra. A masterpiece of Mughal art, the Taj Mahal stands as the highest monument of love, an image of paradise which is also the earthly tomb of a cherished wife. This lavish volume, published by Thames & Hudson, is filled with meticulous data and accompanied by hundreds of gorgeous photos, diagrams and studies of the entire structure: the temples, the courts, the gardens, the art and so on and so forth.
It can serve as a memento for a past visit or promise a for future one.
Letters to Women in Love
A case study in “How not to use your friends as cannon fodder”. Mrs. John Van Vorst mines a lifetime of correspondence with four women friends to illustrate that “indifference, ambition, egoism, jealousy” are the chief disturbers of married love. She laments that “in these times of telegrams and telephones …. letter writing seems an archaic form of communication”, but we have a sneaking suspicion that in her case, the decline in letters received post-1906 had less to do with technological innovation than with this publication.
When it comes to love, observed Madame de Rosemonde to Madame de Tourvel in “Dangerous Liaisons”, all advice is useless.
No offense to Mme de Rosemonde, but The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex could have given poor Mme de Tourvel some much-needed tips about defensive dating -- “How to fend off a pickup artist”, maybe, or “How to survive a sex scandal” (though that’s probably more in de Merteuil’s line). The handbook offers other practical, illustrated, bullet-pointed solutions to the various stages of modern love: the hook-up (“How to have sex in a small space”); the relationship (“How apologize when you don’t know what you’ve done wrong”); the wedding (“How to treat a panic attack”) and the endgame (“How to break up with your boss”).
Love and Other Nonsense (1909)
The aphorism as a form reached its climax in the 19th century. Though one can trace its origins to ancient time, it is a distinctly modern form whose short and succinct insights appeal to thoughtful yet distracted contemporary man. Oh yes, aphorisms are mostly by men for men. The charm of saying something significant in only few words gets lost on the fair sex, and it is interesting to note that the men who brought this form to its highest expression (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) were also some of the greatest male chauvinists. Arthur L. Humphrys, who compiled the selection and authored some of the gems in this pretty little book, takes part in this said (sad?) tradition, e.g.: “A man when angry says cruel things just because he is angry. A woman says them because they are cruel.” Yet even through such bitter humor occasionally shines that true wit which Anglophiles live for: “The worst of all faults is to have none.” And the overall mood is evened out by some women’s quotes: “A man objects to being questioned by one woman about another, especially if he is in the habit of lying to both.”
McDermott & McGough: Please Don’t Stop Loving Me!
A more admiring (albeit campy and fetishistic) image of women is found in the unique work of this artistic duo. Messrs. McDermott and McGough have been collaborating for several decades. Their habit of attributing older dates to their artwork is intended to confuse us. This 2006 catalog is dated 1965, a celebration and play on the tropes of the disillusionment and despair of film noir women. The evocative images of Hollywood women go beyond the flatness of Lichtenstein and are derived from "Detour" by director Edgar Ulmar and Cocteau’s "The Human Voice" (both end with a woman killing herslf because she cannot be with her lover). Beautiful anachronism.
Daphnis and Chloe by Longus illustrated by Marc Chagall
Chagall’s color lithographs, beautifully reproduced in this large volume, accompany and enhance the direct, innocent style of Longus’ timeless tale of the love’s tribulations. In preparation for this work Chagall made two trips to Greece. In his recognizable lyrical style he offers a unique take on the ancient tale and “enable[s] many more people to posses this masterpiece, to be enchanted by the artist’s soaring color harmonies and the touching nakedness of bodies evoking the inifinite softness of the air on the island of Lesbos." (Prologue).
Baby Precious Always Shines: Selected Love Notes Between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Immortal love, aphoristic love, camp interpretation of heterosexual love, love in need of advice or advice decidedly not needed, in the end maybe it comes down to this:
January is almost over, and so are most people’s New Year’s resolutions. P.S. Bookshop holds an agnostic view in the church of self-improvement, so we’d like to suggest some books for those whose belief in the possibility of the New You surges and wanes depending on the time of night and the severity of next-day’s hangover. Here’s a little something for the 2 a.m. theists, the morning-after atheists, and the wobbly in-betweeners.
Richard Wiseman’s recently published "The As If Principle"summarizes decades of psych studies on happiness and transformation to argue that, in line with the philosopher William James, “If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.” This certainly proved true in the fascinating case of "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit" a drifter who used the “fake it to make it” approach in a decades-long series of largely successful impersonations of upwardly mobile and socially connected bon vivants. His trial for murder begins at the end of the month.
Hopefully the New You is more connoisseur than killer, in which case why not give Brooklyn’s DIY ethos a seriously sophisticated twist and build a brandy still in your basement? “Traditional Distillation: Art & Passion” is Hubert Germain-Robin’s treatise “on the essential elements – philosophical as well as technical – for the production of ‘eau de vie’, or water of life”. The author, a ninth-generation distiller, had what sounds like his own transformative moment; hitchhiking in California in the 1980s, he caught a lift with a stranger who went on to become his partner in a Mendocino distillery. Their small-batch, handmade brandies (says Eric Asimov in NYT) are considered some of the best in the world.
No discussion of the New You can proceed without a nod towards some kind of sacrifice – giving up elevators, or trading in your Chucks for big-girl shoes on odd days. “Great Chefs Cook Vegan”, with contributions from Thomas Keller, Marcus Samuelsson and other James Beard award-winning chefs, has photographs so persuasive that even the most fervent steak-house hog might be seduced into a few weeks of sweet pea ravioli, roasted baby beets with shaved black truffles, and grilled king oyster mushrooms with avocado carpaccio and charred jalapeno oil.
Those giving up something more human-shaped might want to put down the takeout menu and pick up Suzanne Pirret’s“The Pleasure is all Mine,” a pean to the indulgences and possibilities of cooking for one.
Transformation, industry, renunciation and the embrace of new and different pleasures – all these come together in that ultimate New York New You fantasy, an escape from the city (however temporary) to your own hideaway, ideally handmade and prime fodder for the tiny house blog (tinyhouseblog.com).
Jane Tidbury’s "Little Retreats" looks at 31 completed country, mountain and seaside projects. In "A very Modest Cottage", Teresa Surratt documents her restoration of a 1920 log cabin. The meditative "Cabin Fever", by Marie-France Boyer, surveys sheds and huts around the world, including the world’s oldest tree house (1692, Shropshire, Queen Victoria was a fan). And the classic “Woodstock Handmade Houses”, a best-seller when first published in 1974, is a photographic celebration of the self-sufficient, communal, off-the-grid spirit and sheer joy of the builders who created an art colony in the Catskills.