Thursday, September 23, 2010

University of Toronto Book Sales, Autumn 2010

under these stained glass windows at Victoria College are books on the fine and decorative arts
the main entrance to Victoria College, with collectors lined up since early morning for the 3:00 p.m. opening

no bookstore that I know of has fine oil paintings on the walls; there is a lovely atmosphere of old academia

waiting in line for the Victoria College sale, one admires the picturesque late Victorian architecture, complete with whimsical turrets and towers

Among collectors and book dealers, the fall sales at University of Toronto are much anticipated. These sales have been annual events for decades and are important events on the fall academic calender. Lineups begin in the morning for the start of the sales in the afternoon. Upon entering the rooms, antiquarian dealers start scooping scores and scores of books and putting them into boxes or piles that they cover with jackets or blankets. It becomes both aggressive and territorial although with the economy these days, it isn't as bloodthirsty as it once was. For their efforts, the early bird bookworms are rewarded with rare and wonderful treasures.

The best sales are at Victoria College, University College, and Trinity College. They are held once a year, each autumn. If you line up for a good length of time before, make sure you take some (discardable) reading material, or a friend to talk to. It can be a long wait, but it is definitely worth it. The dates for Autumn 2010 are:

Victoria College, September 23-27
University College, October 15 - 19
Trinity College, October 22-26
St. Michael's College, October 26-30

As of the first sale, at Victoria College, I've not seen any e-books; these annual events are traditional, old school activities and it is a bit like going back in time to the pre-electronic age. Make sure you've got room on your shelves because there are many wonderful things. Things you didn't know you needed....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheers to the Deliciously Stylish Negroni

a chilled Negroni ready to go; SwF

the three ingredients necessary for the classic Negroni cocktail; SwF

One of my favourite films is "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," adapted from a novel by Tennessee Williams. This 1961 production features Vivien Leigh as recently widowed and now retired stage actress Karen Stone, who moves to Rome to start a new life. She is introduced to a fascinatingly sinister contessa, Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales, played perfectly by Lotte Lenya. The contessa procures for Mrs. Stone a manipulative, deceitful, and temperamental gigolo named Paolo, played by Warren Beatty. The story follows the doomed affair of Karen and Paolo in glamorous Roman cafe and nightclub society.

vintage movie poster of "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," Wikipedia

As much as for the human story, the characters, and the dialogue, I admire Leigh and Lenya as forces of nature, as well as the beautiful Roman settings and art direction of the film. Leigh is dressed entirely in Pierre Balmain couture, and looks exquisitely regal throughout.

Several times throughout the movie, the contessa and Mrs. Stone drink an Italian cocktail called a Negroni. I decided to find out what this drink was and try one. I was pleasantly surprised. The drink was created in the early 20th century. It consists of an ounce of gin, an ounce of Campari, and an ounce of red Vermouth, and a twist of orange peel. It is not to everyone’s taste, being somewhat bitter and considered a drink for the mature. It is a perfect aperitif; the bitter aspect tantalizes the tastebuds. I’ve come to quite like them, and was fascinated by the history of the drink.

According to the, “It was invented in the early 1900s by a Florentine aristocrat, Count Camillo Negroni. The count asked a bartender to add some bite to his preferred cocktail, the Americano. With an addition of gin, an instant classic was conceived, and the Negroni became the Count's new favorite.”

Next time you want to stimulate your appetite, and conversation at a party or social event, order the sophisticated Negroni; for a moment you'll feel like you're in Rome.

Cheers to the Negroni.