Friday, January 26, 2007


I came home last night to the smell of baking brownies. The embroidered cloth I bought in Budapest was on the table, along with a stack of the best dishes and the silver epergne full of baby roses.

Dolores was in the kitchen, pulverizing a pile of avocados into fresh guacamole.

Dolores Cooks

"This is a pleasant surprise," I said. "Is it by any chance a...belated birthday dinner? Hmmmm?"

"Book group," said Dolores, tossing a pinch of salt into the bowl.

"You joined a book group?"

"No, I started a book group. You think I can sit around with the sock yarn all day watching Nickelodeon? I pulled out Catullus the other night just for shits and grins and realized my subjunctives are slipping. I need stimulation, cupcake."

"Did your batteries go dead again?"

"Vulgarity is not appreciated. Now get out of the way so I can mix the sangria."

"How many people are coming?"

"Just three of us. It's only our first meeting. I put up a sign in the laundry room but this building is full of Philistines. So we got Harry, Mrs. Teitelbaum, and me."

"She's not bringing Tinkles, is she? Harry's still got that twitch in his eye."

"Of course not. How could Tinkles read the book? He's a cat."

"Oh. Of course."

I went into the bedroom to change clothes. Harry was reading quietly on the chair in the corner.

"Good book?" I asked.

Harry Reads

"I think so," he said. "I don't understand all of it. But Dolores says if I expand my mind it will give me greater range as an actor."

"How true."

"Also she said being smart is a great way to pick up guys."

"Did she really?"

"Yeah. Like, she said if it weren't for your brain being kind of big you'd get about as much action as a shy cloistered nun with a suspicious rash."

An hour later, the Coven of Intellectuals convened in the living room while I sat nearby spinning the last of Rabbitch's merino. Dolores, naturally, took the lead.

"I think we should begin by discussing our initial reactions to the work," she said. "For example, I found it to be a profoundly moving exegesis of the female mind, and a testament to the power of exploring the depths of one's own soul. Mrs. Teitelbaum, what did you think?"

"I don't understand what it had to do with airplanes," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.

Dolores rolled her eyes.

"Well," said Mrs. Teitelbaum, "it's called Fear of Flying."

"That's a metaphor," said Dolores.

"What's a metaphor?" said Harry.

"It's when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.

"No," said Dolores, sucking in her breath. "That's a metamorphosis."

"Oh," said Mrs. Teitelbaum. "Pardon me for living."

"I couldn't finish it all," said Harry timidly. "And I didn't understand a lot of it. Like, what's a zipless fu–"

"Harry!" I said, jumping up from the spinning wheel, "How about we go in the other room and have a brownie and I'll read you the next chapter of My Friend Flicka?"

"Yay!" shouted Harry, rolling off the sofa.

"Is the meeting over?" asked Mrs. Teitelbaum vaguely.

"Yeah," said Dolores. "We're adjourned. Here, take some guacamole home with you. Shalom."

She shoved our neighbor out the door and pulled her coat out of the hall closet.

"Where are you off to?"

"I gotta go buy batteries."

Welcome to My Library

It's been very bookish in the apartment lately, quite aside from Dolores's attempt to establish herself as the kultur maven of Lake Park Plaza.

I've been a bibliomaniac literally for as long as I can remember. The first gifts I can recall were books. My earliest memories of my parents involve bedtime stories. And I'm told that as a toddler I used to smack our patient German Shepherd, Sandy, with The Poky Little Puppy and command, "Read!" My appetite for a good yarn is far older than my appetite for good yarn.

My personal library has grown like a bed of mushrooms since the first pile of Little Golden Books landed next to the crib. Now, I'm not one of those people who never gets rid of books once I own them. I have a strict schedule of two cullings a year, spring and fall, during which deadwood is ruthlessly removed. But I usually get rid of three or four books each time. In a given month, I usually acquire five or six. Or ten.

Get the picture?

I've never counted or catalogued them, until now. That nice Brenda Dayne, hostess of Cast On, mentioned many episodes back and I was intrigued. I opened an account and am slowly working my way to the finish line, enjoying the process of handling every book individually. I estimate that I'm a bit less than half done.

Care to have a look at the work-in-progress? Feel free.

Tips: If you choose Display Style "D" you'll see my comments, where I record marginalia, inscriptions, or other aspects of the book. And if you search for the tag "beloved," you'll pull up the list of volumes dearest to my heart.

Also: No liquids, no cigarettes, anything before 1850 must be handled with gloves, and you will be frisked at the door before you leave. I understand Book Lust all too well.

And Finally

Many, many thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes and comments. It was good day. I am happy to be alive. And I am so happy you are all out there.


Anonymous said...

That is such a great idea! My husband and I never get rid of books (our bookcases are groaning) and it would be so nice to go through all of them. Now that I think about it, my yarn-stashing behavior was probably honed through years of book-stashing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Franklin for showing us another wonderful idea to use in our own lives. I will be happily stacking and re-stacking my books this weekend in preparation for listing them in Booklibrary!! And may i be the first to wish you an utterly wonderful birtday - and more more like it or far better!!!! Perhaps Delores is actually planning a surprise party for you.....

Anonymous said...

I LOVE LibraryThing. I ended up getting one of the CueCats they're selling to speed up my cataloguing, and I adore the thing, although it's a little, erm, moody.

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy you are "out there" too. You've made me laugh, cry and think - a wonderful gift. Thank you. I'm very glad you had a good birthday and hope you have many more.

Anonymous said...

I so glad that you had a wonderful day. Remembering back to the day you were born, it was a very happy day. You were a wonderful child and now you are a great adult.

EmilyG said...

Oh, yeah! Happy belated birthday! You are one day older than I am. :)

Anonymous said...

(Franklin's Mom, I gotta ask: have you demoted Franklin? He's gone from "a wonderful child" to "a great adult." Just asking.)

Franklin, I hope your birthday was grand. I'm a little late to the party, but at least I showed up.

I love reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

You will understand then how it is that I went to our local drum-up-funds-for-the-library sale and came home with...ahem...70 books. And read them all. And bought 50 more the next time. I have a problem.

The sad thing is that when I bought the 70 books I didn't have room in my bookcases for them so I drove around with them in my trunk for, oh, I don't know, two months. On the positive side, I always had something to read close at hand. (Seriously. I finished a book at TMK's one time, went out to the trunk in my PJ's, grabbed another book, and headed happily back into the house.)

Anonymous said...

Just started taking a look at your collection. So lovely to see Cold Comfort Farm and all of those Baroque Art books! Not to mention the Anglophile tendencies...

Have you ever read Howard Hibbard's Bernini? A fabulous, extremely entertaining yet scholarly work.

Happy Birthday, and tell Dolores she's welcome to come over for gin+tonics anytime. We have batteries.

Katy said...

Dolores and Erica Jong in one post?
Too much! ;)
Happy Belated Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, may there be many more happy ones for you.

The most painful thing I ever did while moving was toss two moving boxes of books into the paper trash.
That was nearly 7 years ago and it still hurts to think about it. But there was no way I could take them. It was books or clothes and furniture, like e.g. the playpen, and my only table.
I still don't know the full extent of what I tossed, it was mainly things I bought myself when I was a teenager (like the entire Anne of Greengables series, Hardcover! argh argh argh, 20DM per book and I only got 5DM pocketmoney per week....) right now I have one bookcase which is nearly full. Almost everything's paperback. I will probably never throw a book away again.

Anonymous said...

Isn't LibraryThing wonderful? My only complaint is that my to-be-read pile has grown at an even faster-than-usual rate in the year+ I've been over there.......

Months ago, I started an LT group for those who collect cookbooks. COme on & join us. Not much activity with it but I'm hoping to change that one of these days.

Anonymous said...

I should probably sit down and do the Library Thing thing myself. We're rapidly running out of space for books, and some culling needs to be done. That said, my hands are acting up and sidelining the knitting for a bit, so maybe I'll actually have a chance to get caught up on some reading.

Anonymous said...

Would you ask Delores if I can join the book club, please? I'll bring some killer artichoke spread and some slushies. I expect Mrs. Teitelbaum wouldn't mind if you and Harry hung out at her place til we're done.

Oh and, yeah, Happy Birthday. You brighten up a lot of lives.

Anonymous said...

As a librarian and a knitter, your post did my heart very good. Books and yarn are both fun to play with and also look picturesque around the house. Decorators have already discovered books as a design element. Fiber can't be far behind!

Anonymous said...

I was watching "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" (UK music quiz show) t'other night, and I'm *sure* I saw Dolores (or maybe a Dolores wannabe) on rather intimate terms with Geri Halliwell. 'Twas in a clip of GH's video for a song called "Ride It". At first I thought it couldn't possibly be the lovely Dolores, but with all the talk of batteries and such, I'm getting a sneaking suspicion it might be her after all...

Totally with you on LibraryThing. :oD

Anonymous said...

I just finished "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" by Maureen Corrigan, then this. Sigh, not enough room in the house for complete stash of both sorts.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Franklin - I hope this upcoming year will be great for you.

Nana Sadie said...

Happy belated birthday! And after reviewing your books might I suggest that it's time for a "Dolores at the Opera" cartoon? (or have I missed that one somehow?)

Anonymous said...

Ooh, THANK YOU for the link. I'd never heard of LibraryThing, but now I'm quite in love!

Anonymous said...

I would think you are amazed, or perhaps a better word is bewildered, that all of these crazy people you've never met are interested in the books you own. It's a mad, mad world. Nice cookbook collection by the way.

Anonymous said...

I know about that culling thing - the first time or two, a fair amount went to the library sale, but now I'm back to way more books coming in than going out... And in that spirit, may I suggest that the next time you're visiting Indiana, you stop by Hyde Brothers Used Books in Fort Wayne? Not much in the needlearts section when I was there in December, but there was a huge selection of cookbooks. If you're missing any of your childhood favorites, you're likely to find a copy there.

Dolores makes guacamole! I'm even more charmed...

Anonymous said...

Having a tag that is "beloved" is great, but "pompous ass" is way cooler. I may just have to alert the Library of Congress and suggest if for their subject headings ;).

Anonymous said...

Belated birthday wishes. Glad you had such a good one. I love reading your blog. Thanks so much for the knitting, the humour and the quiet wisdom as well as the artistic talent you display.

Anonymous said...

last year I culled and gave 4 xerox paper boxes full to the local library for their annual book sale.

the volumes now on my 4 shelves are the best of the best, organized by category (humor, philadelphia history, autobiography, travel, etc.).

among the shelves are some signed first editions.

I will have to explore your list further later.

have a good weekend!

Susan said...

Looking through your book collection on line is fun! As you are the primary reason I grew to like reading, and you have supplied a good many of the books in my collection, it amazes me to see where our tastes overlap as well as where they diverge. Cool site. Sorry we didn't have a chance to look at it together over Christmas break!

Holly M. Wendt said...

A knitting graduate student in English thanks you a thousand times over for linking to your LibraryThing catalogue. I'm alwys looking for a good recommendation, and your "beloved" tags look like a lovely place to search out some new ones (and to see some old friends). Now, if only I could get someone to hold up the books and turn the pages for me as I knit, all would be bliss.

Anonymous said...

Wild. Last night at the knitting group, we got introduced to LibraryThing by an attendee who is an Information Architect. I'd never heard of it before, and here are 2 mentions within 24 hours.

Do you really have 2 copies of "Maurice", or is there a duplicated entry?

And where did you get Walker's "Craft of Multicolor Knitting"? I've always wanted to spend some time with it.

Anonymous said...

Ah... "The Art of Eating," what a glorious book!

Delurking to say you're the best and I love your blog. How in the world do you put up with Dolores? Also, I'd love a T-shirt with Doloroes making guac... love it!

Anonymous said...

I love LibraryThing! I've only got 123 books in so far, so I've barely started, but so far we share...exactly 0 books. I did order a scanner, though, so hopefully I'll be able to get the bulk of my library in soon, though. Then maybe we'll have a few books in common--at least some knitting books?

Anonymous said...

Only one Moosewood, and no King Arthur Flour books? And you went to school in Boston? Tut, tut, tut. And Fanny only in the facsimile? I have no less than 3 editions of Fanny, including the facsimile, 1951, and 1980-ish.....all useful, the older ones more so than the 1980s one.

Cook much? LOL!

Ok, I also ruthlessly cull, sell on ebay, and donate to the local library book drive, and I have no less than 7 bookcases full of books. Cooking gets a whole bookcase. 8-) Librarything looks like another addictive behavior to get into.

Anonymous said...

I think you whisked Harry away just in the nick of time....

Anonymous said...

Actually, I found you at awhile ago "Oh, look, it's Franklin! And he has OMIGOD! 561 books in his library!" That was at least a month ago, and you have added nearly a hundred books since then.

I use the librarything link in my sidebar to list the books I have read in the current year. It was the best, least-work-required way to accomplish that.

Since I started working in a library, I buy far fewer books -- everything I want to read is available for free! The few books I do buy tend to sit on the TBR pile because there is no deadline to read them.

Happy belated b'day!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday! I find it interesting that some of your favorite books are also some of mine.

Anonymous said...

My brain must be on the fritz tonight because I could have sworn I read:
"Is it by any chance a...BLEATED birthday dinner?"

Bleated, belated, hope it was a good one anyway!

Anonymous said...

Am I to believe that you share your birthday with the late great Robert Burns ? (Scottish Poet whose birthday is January 25th) How wonderful.
America should declare this a holiday and have Franklin Suppers, reading passages of Dolores adventures, and toasting the Yarn.
Sorry - I've had too much Haggis - hope yours was just as wonderful and btw the little note from your Mum made me cry (I'm a mummy too)

Anonymous said...

Oh, the Little Golden Books. How I loved them. I still have a few that survived my childhood and have been much-loved by my own children. Thanks for the memories.

So glad you had a happy birthday.

(Good heavens. My teenage daughter was just reading over my shoulder and suggested we go dig out the LGBs and have a "read date". Gotta go.)

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear! I totally forgot about Golden Books (cue "Memories"). As a child, I was a loner whose best friends were books of all description, along with music and hand-crafts.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were an uber mensch Gemini.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, I love you. Sometimes I think my purpose in life is to read. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was sell about 2,000 paperbacks (for slightly more than a pittance each) at Powell's when we hit hard times back in the mid-80's - all but my nearest and dearest. Things are some better, so I'm building back up, but it's very slow, since things aren't that good. (Besides, there's yarn and all. [g]) But some good friends are helping, and I think I'm up to oh, 500-600 or so, maybe. Not nearly enough! And I'll never remember/find many I used to have and love. But luckily, Powell's still trades. (I categorize books as good once - those get traded; read a few times, then trade; then keeper.) Plus there's and Amazon partners, the Gutenberg Project and other places for ebooks, and friends. Halllujah!

I aspire to my friend Lois's achievement. When she and her husband moved a few years ago, she had a literal ton of books. They took up one whole moving van!

Re Dolores - are you sure it was Catullus? At first I read it as Caligula. ;)

Bev in TN said...

You are quite possibly the most delightful man I have never met. Your friends are very fortunate to know you!

3 things: 1) belated birthday greetings and I am glad you are happy to be alive; 2) I share your book-loving tendencies: my "beloveds" are mostly children's titles, and I love most things (books, etc.) British; and 3) I am addicted to Delores and I can't get enough of her! So special thanks for this posting.

Carol said...

Was that Delores' way of saying happy birthday to you? Hope it's one of the best! Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

How nice that Fannie Merrit Farmer popped up first! I tortured my family with many recipes out of that book when I was was the only cookbook we owned! I had a peek at your beloved books-how nice to see Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Carson said...

I notice the ash on Dolores' ciggie is rather long & hovering dangerously close to the bowl of guacomole.
If you find ash in your dip, do you graciously, surreptitiously pick it out & act like it wasn't there or do you give D hell for her less than hygienic food preparation?

oh..and Happy Belated!

Anonymous said...

Librarything is like, the crack for book addicts.

Also, your tags for the Alden Amos book made me laugh out loud. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you for the link to library thing! I doubt I'll get ALL my books catalogued, but it's fun to start putting some of them in. I've been wanting to catalogue them for ages now...

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're such a bad influence... Like I needed another time- consuming internet thing right now. Especially as I'll have to insert most of my books manually.

Unknown said...

Franklin, I believe we must be related, however distant. I too have ga-ma-zillion tons of books. The fact is, last time I moved, I had three cartons of books to every one of anything else. We counted almost 25 large bozes along with several small ones (this not including first editions, foriegn pre-1900, or domestic pre-1900 those rode in the car with me). I'm glad you had an excellent birthday and if I had your address I beleive I would send you a book!

Marie said...

What a great project to undertake - and I enjoyed your tagging!
Did you use a barcode reader for the raw data entry or do it manually? I've been contemplating LibraryThing for a while, but haven't taken the plunge. (As a librarian and mother of two small children we have a lot of books in the house!)

Anonymous said...

From Winne Ille Pu
My interest in Latin grew
Into bed I would hop
And read nonstop
Of Tigger, Kanga and Roo

Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Franklin!

What a smart idea to categorize your books. . .my husband and I have such a varied collection, and it never seems to stop expanding!

We are starting a knitter's book club in the Chicago area, and if you'd like to join or know anyone else who might be interested, email me at


Anonymous said...

Belated happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I see you have a few books by one of my favorite authors, Booth Tarkington. I'm a Hoosier (native of Indianapolis), so I had always heard of him as a kid, natch. It wasn't until a few years ago I read The Magnificent Ambersons, now in my top 5 favorite books. I haven't read Alice Adams because I buy them as I see them in used book stores when visiting Indy. But I have Seventeen, The Young Mrs. Greeley and The Gentleman from Indiana. I never have a copy of The Magnificent Ambersons, because immediately after I buy a copy I hand it out to a friend.

Wonderful collection! I used to read approx. a book a week until I learned to knit a year ago. I think I read 3 books last year. One was the Devil Wears Prada, and one was a chick lit book about knitting (Knitting Under the Influence). What is happening to my brain cells?!

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Hey there! Happy belated birthday wishes to you!

I am currently re-buying many of the books I owned; much of my library is still at the home I shared with an ex-girlfriend. When I am ready, I'll argue with her for the remaining ones. Not that she wants to keep them––their in boxes with HER books (her apartment is being renovated) and she has a problem about going through them to give e mine. Grrrr.

Anonymous said...

Hey there! Happy belated birthday wishes to you!

I am currently re-buying many of the books I owned; much of my library is still at the home I shared with an ex-girlfriend. When I am ready, I'll argue with her for the remaining ones. Not that she wants to keep them––their in boxes with HER books (her apartment is being renovated) and she has a problem about going through them to give e mine. Grrrr.

Anonymous said...

This posting reminds me that a few books of yours are still in St Paul. Shall I deliver them, or would you prefer to come pick them up?

Anonymous said...

So I have to ask: what elevated Amos, Steingarten and L'Engle to "pompous ass" status? Not that I am disagreeing; just curious...

And thank you for such a wonderfully voyeuristic pleasure. I adore 'seeing' what's in other's personal libraries - it's where I've discovered some of my favorite books.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Franklin, forgiving me the chance to indulge one of my greatest pleasures in life, going through other people's bookshelves (I can't be the only person who, when reading interviews with the Famous & Literate, flips the newspaper sideways to see if I recognise any of the books on the shelves they are inevitably pictured in front of).

I may need frisking however - we seem to have remarkably similar tastes. (Mapp and Lucia I might have predicted - but not necessarily The Doll's House).

And, belatedly, wishes for a happy birthday too.

Anonymous said...

My "beloved" list and your "beloved" list ... have so much in common. The Woolf, the Thurber, the Mary Poppins. I could go on.:-) Thanks for this link, thanks for sharing your bookshelves, too. And Happy Birthday, belatedly!

Terri said...

Belated happy birthday! Your blog makes me smile everytime I read it. Here's hoping you find as much happiness as you give!

Dana S. Whitney said...

Belated birthday wishes.
My DH (a Radio Shack devotee and Engineer who only recently gave up a pocket protector) got a bar code reader and a program that sucks off all the Library of Congress cataloging info for our books. So far he's only entered HIS... SF mostly.

Will miss you over the weekend.

Kristin said...

I read about library thing on your blog and signed up... then went through the first four shelves of my library entering in books... and then I realized that I was an old librarian obviously trapped in a 24 year old's body when I find cataloging my books while drinking tea exhilarating. What am I to do? I guess put on another spot of tea and go knit on my socks some more while reading some socialogical art history articles. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Franklin - I have just had a glance at your library and I see that you have a copy of the 3000 mile garden - I used to have a copy, gave it away, and now it is on my list of books I want to find.

Holly said...

Looking very Phyllis Diller there Dolores old mutton-chops.