Birthdays, books, and bikes

Yesterday was Hobgoblin’s birthday, and we spent the day doing some of our favorite things — riding, reading, and buying books. We started off the day going on what we came to call the cupcake ride: four cycling friends and the two of us set off on a 50-mile ride that included a stop at a bakery that sells fabulous cupcakes of all kinds. I had what they call — with wonderful redundancy — a “chocolate cupcake with chocolate” and Hobgoblin had one with a pecan pie theme. The cupcakes were great, but the ride itself was even better. We had so much fun zipping around Fairfield county, sprinting at the town line signs, making silly jokes, laughing, and generally being kind of dumb. We rode fast but it didn’t feel difficult — at least it didn’t for me, since I drafted most of the time and there were four guys over six feet tall who provided awesome drafts.

Once we got home we hopped on the train for Manhattan and had a chance to read for a bit; I had the latest Maisie Dobbs with me, which provided excellent train reading. In the city, we headed straight for the bookstores, took a break to go see Star Trek (which I liked quite a lot, and I think that means something, as I generally find action movies dull), headed back to bookstores, got some dinner, and ended the evening at the bookstores again.

It’s a nice way to spend a birthday, don’t you think?

Here’s what I brought home, all from the Strand, although we spent time looking around the Union Square Barnes and Noble too.

  • Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections. It’s the second volume of his Coleridge biography; I already had the first volume on my shelves. After Anne Fadiman’s essay on Holmes and Coleridge, I’m excited to start this one.
  • Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit. Another very long biography that I’ve heard raves about. I couldn’t decide for a while whether to read this one or the Coleridge bio first, but I think I’ll go with the Coleridge. I think.
  • Stanley Plumly, Posthumous Keats. It was definitely a day for Romantic biographies. After reading a glowing review here, I couldn’t resist picking this one up.
  • Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room. This is the next book to read in my Woolf project, and I’d like to get to it this summer, if possible.

I’ve acquired a number of other books recently I think I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about:

  • Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature. I found a slightly beaten up but still impressive looking hardcover copy of this at a library sale, and have begun to read it already. I’ll report on how it’s going soon.
  • Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, in which he argues that literary scholars should “stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead” (quotation from here).
  • Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos. At the retreat I went to last week, I had a long, fascinating conversation with a very open-minded, super-liberal Christian man who used to be a Unitarian and would probably still be one if his wife weren’t an Episcopal priest. We talked about church and theology and God, and I came away with a long list of books to read. I joked at the retreat that I’ve tried out many different versions of Protestantism and am now trying out agnosticism, which is pretty much true, but I’m still very much interested in reading about theology and church history. Here’s a product description from Amazon: “Reinterpreting the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes from the vantage of Middle Eastern mysticism, Douglas–Klotz offers a radical new translation of the words of Jesus Christ that reveals a mystical, feminist, cosmic Christ.”
  • Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Another recommendation from that conversation, this time about the historical Jesus.

Um, I think it’s time to stop buying books for a while.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life

14 responses to “Birthdays, books, and bikes

  1. Sounds like a lovely birthday celebration, especially the cupcakes, and the Star Trek! I just bought a bunch of books, too, so I hear you on the “time to stop buying books for a while” thing. I had been so good for so long…


  2. Please pass along belated Birthday wishes to the Hobgoblin. You day does sound perfect! From what I hear cupcakes are all the rage these days–what fun to have a cupcake bakery at the end of your ride! Your books all sound great! I was all set to make my way through Virginia Woolf’s books a couple of years ago. I read the first two and then got distracted, but Jacob’s Room was next on my list. Perhaps if you write about it this summer I’ll be urged on to read it finally, too! Enjoy your new books.


  3. Bike, Books and movie… sound wonderful for a birthday. And your choice of purchase and TBR titles are most interesting too. Coincidentally, I was at Regent College in Vancouver the last two weeks to learn about theology and film. So, I’ve been reading and bought books on them too.


  4. Cam

    Cupcakes –yummy! Sounds like a fun day.

    Douglas-Klotz’s book sounds interesting. I’d be interested in what you think about it when you’ve finished it. I’ve made a note of the title as something to look into as selection for a book group I’m in that reads theological/spiritural books (rather loosly defined; right now we’re reading book on role of religion in presidential politics/elections since Kennedy). Read a few pages of the Borg book about a year ago, put it back on the shelf and havne’t touched it since. Maybe it will appeal to me some other time.


  5. Swearing off book buys is really hard. It’s best not to try it unless you’ve got a really good public library handy. I’m glad I don’t live in New York anymore. If I still had proximity to the Strand and the Union Square B&N, I’d never make it. It sounds you like you picked up some good stuff there, I must say.

    I found your site this weekend while looking for Virginia Woolf links. I love it, and adding it to my bookmarks was a no-brainer. Keep up all things good!


  6. What a lovely day – and many happy returns to the Hobgoblin. I am completely in awe of people who can cycle 50 miles AND then spend the rest of the day in Manhatten. Unbelievable.


  7. What a marvelous way to spend Hobgoblin’s birthday doing all the things you love. Those cupcakes sound yummy. Your new books sounds good too. They should keep you busy this summer!


  8. Gentle Reader — not buying books is a condition one can be in for only so long, right? 🙂

    Danielle — I had no idea cupcakes were so popular! Cool. And I’d really like to read the Woolf novel this summer — I’d love to have company!

    Arti — a chance to study theology and film sounds great! It sounds like you enjoyed it, which is wonderful. I’d be curious to hear what you studied and what you’re reading.

    Cam — your book group sounds very interesting; I’d love to hear what other books you read and what you liked. I’ll certainly let you know about the Klotz book; right now I’m finding it fascinating, although I can sense he’s a bit of a controversial figure — but in my opinion that’s a good thing 🙂

    Robert — thank you for your very kind comment and for the link! I must say it’s a good thing I’m a 2-hour train ride from the city, or I’d be in some serious trouble. It’s bad enough that I have a couple used bookstores within walking distance …

    Litlove — well, we spent many years working up to the point where we can ride 50 miles and then take off to the city 🙂

    Stefanie — we did have a great time, and I really want to go back for cupcakes! They are a great addition to an already great bike route.


  9. Sounds like Hobgoblin had a terrific birthday!

    We haven’t yet been to the Strand, but I am looking forward to visiting one day. In the meantime, must work on the TBR list. It grows ever larger.


  10. verbivore

    Sounds like a perfect birthday and non-birthday to me! And I can’t wait to hear what you think of the Nabokov, I’ve been slowly reading that one for the last year or so (reading the text he’s discussing and then the lecture) and have loved it.


  11. What a lovely birthday – belated greetings to Hobgoblin. I can’t believe you could do all of that on the same day! Sounds amazing though; I’d love to get back to the Strand one day.

    Good book buying luck you’ve been having; I’ve been looking for a copy of the Nabokov for myself since I read the library copy and loved it. The Douglas-Klotz book looks very interesting too. And thanks to your recent mention of him, I have the Holmes bios on my list.


  12. Debby — oh, yes, the TBR pile is way, way too large! We’ll have to go to the Strand some time — it’s really great to browse in.

    Verbivore — that’s a great way to read the Nabokov. I’ve read almost all the books he’s discusses already; if I hadn’t, I would want to do what you’re doing because otherwise the lectures would be hard to follow and not nearly as interesting. You’re probably doing a lot of re-reading of the novels, which would be another great project.

    Melanie — I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the Nabokov; I was delighted to find my copy, and I’m enjoying it a lot so far. The Douglas-Klotz book is good too — definitely in a category of its own in the way it mixes textual commentary and meditative exercises.


  13. This is one of the most romantical blogs I have read in a long long time!
    Riding, reading, and buying books.
    What could be better than this? The above three things. It is positively IDYLLIC!
    How refreshing, to read of such adventures.
    That last book you mention… the Marcus Borg one…. I have had it on my bookshelf [unread] for a millennium, it seems.
    You remind me that perhaps it is time to dust the thing off, and turn its pages!


  14. Cipriano — indeed, what could be better?? I hope to read the Borg book soon, maybe at some point this summer. I look forward to your thoughts on it, when you do get there!


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