For the Irish so Loved the Book…

For the Irish so loved the Book… They built shrines in which to house them.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of the monks who illuminated the Book of Kells and other precious manuscripts. Beyond their talents as artists, scribes and custodians, their dedication to preserving vital texts sometimes extended to the creation of ‘cumdachs’. And they are stunning.

A cumdach or book shrine is an elaborate ornamented box or case used as a reliquary to enshrine books regarded as relics of the saints who had used them in Early Medieval Ireland. They are normally dated later than the book they contain, often by several centuries. (from Wikipedia).

Today is an ideal time to take a moment and appreciate the beauty of some of these unique and exquisite contributions from the Irish that will speak to every book lover’s heart.

Cumdach or Book Shrine of Molaise | est. 1001 AD - 1025 AD

Cumdach or Book Shrine of Molaise | est. 1001 AD – 1025 AD

bday 3-17 repro of Shrine of O'Donnell - Cathach or Battler

Reproduction of the Shrine of O’Donnell – Cathach or Battler (original dated 1084)

bday 3-17 shrine for a book was found on the bed of Lough Kinale in 1986

Shrine for a book | Found in the bed of Lough Kinale in 1986.

bday 3-17 Shrine_of_Book_of_Dimma

Reproduction of Shrine of the Book of Dimma, Roscrea, Co Tipperary. 12th century (original in Library of Trinity College, Dublin)

bday 3-17 St Columba psalter holy book 561 ad to 1843 ad

St. Columba psalter (est 561AD to 843AD)

Domhnach Airgid Shrine

The shrine known as the Domhnach Airgid (“silver church”) was originally 8th century, but little is visible from before a major reworking around 1350 by the abbot of Clones.

The Stowe Missal | the metalwork is elaborately decorated, with some animal and human figures, and one face and the sides probably dates to between 1027 and 1033.

The Stowe Missal | the metalwork is elaborately decorated, with some animal and human figures, and one face and the sides probably dates to between 1027 and 1033.

How Santa was Busted in a Book Store

december the truth about santa busted

So ‘Santa’ got busted by one of the twins in our local bookstore yesterday.

I was  shopping with the twins in our local book mecca. Rowan peeled off quickly to go read in the Kids fiction section. Malcolm stuck with me while I wandered around. When we stopped to admire the Hobbit display, Malcolm turned to me and – finally -asked…

MALCOLM: “Mom, are you Santa?”

I need to point out that the twins are ten and to this point appeared to fully believe in Santa-Tooth Fairy-Easter Bunny et al. so I had no indication “the question” would come in this moment.

Seeing the real fear of the answer in my son’s eyes. I gently responded

ME: “What do you think?”

MALCOLM: “I don’t know. Just tell me, Are you really Santa?”

I put my arm around him and told him that I was one of millions of parents who help keep the “magic” of Santa alive while children are small. I explained that once kids are old enough to see how parents help Santa, they are old enough to keep the magic going for younger children.  I told him that his question meant that he was growing up and I was so happy that now he could join the “grown-ups” and keep the magic of Santa going from the other side.

He looked sad for a minute. Then he took my hand, looked at me with relief and said..

MALCOLM: “Thanks for telling me the truth.

–long pause —

MALCOLM: Honestly, I was just worried that you were going to tell me that the Elf of the Shelf wasn’t moving around on his own.”

ME: “Uhm…”.

MALCOLM: “Oh my GOD!. MOM! Are YOU moving the Elf?!!”

ME: “Uhm…well…What do you think?”

UPDATE: After digesting this critical need-to-know data overnight, Malcolm came home from school today…and gave me a knowing “Santa-like” wink as his sister ran into the house and to begin looking for where her elf had ‘moved’.  One down, one to go.

learning the truth about santa

Bibliophile Birthday: Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Short Story King

"Blade Runner' based on the short story ' Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'

“Blade Runner’ based on the short story ‘ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’

I love science fiction short stories so much.  I don’t know if it’s simply the best way for me to experience “hard” sci-fi without putting on my “science” hat (which is ill-fitting), or that it allows me to sample many different writers in the genre before committing to their longer works.

That said, in the many years that I have read and re-read through countless sci-fi short story collections. From the various “Best of..” compilations and chronological anthologies to the annual collections of top short fiction and sci-fi magazines – I eat these stories like candy.  I’m fat with this fiction. But it was Philip K. Dick’s work that I would constantly return to – digging out old anthologies and collections – to revisit the unique storyteller’s landscapes that Dick created. His stories are unforgettable, but they demand pilgrimage. They deserve pilgrimage.

Sci-fi readers know Dick. But many mainstream pop culture consumers have only brushed up against his work through several successful films that have been adapted from his work.  From the almost comic action-fest of the original “Total Recall” film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger to real masterpiece works like “Blade Runner” – the closest some folks get to his work is from movie adaptations of his short story works. I wish more people were aware of the “source”, the fount from which these iconic films flowed.

I’ve collected below some of the movie posters from particular movie adaptations that I liked – in hopes that someone who’s not experience Philip K. Dick’s writing may be inspired to search out a short story collection that includes some of his inspirational tales that launched the more familiar films.

He was born on this day in 1928.  He died far too soon at age 53.

Here Lies…the Author, the Poet, the Storyteller

grave burial tombstones

On this holiday that originally celebrated the thinning of the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living,  it seems like a good time to bring us (and our favorite writers of yore) together. This assemblage of images shares the final resting place of celebrated authors and poets in appreciation of their imagination and story-telling brilliance which supersedes a mere grave. Read something great in remembrance of writers this All Hallows Eve!

Devouring Good Books…On National Cake Decorating Day

It’s National Cake Decorating Day!

Seriously, there’s a calendar event for this. So, HEY!  It’s the perfect day to serve up these delectable images of literature-themed cake!

Raise your forks and tip your hats to the awesome friends and family who KNEW these particular cakes were PERFECT for their dedicated reader! (and go ahead and bend the knee to the amazing cake artists who created these masterpieces!)

Harry Potter Cake (via

bday 10-15 Harry Potter cake

Hobbit Home in the Shire Cake (via imgur)

cake hobbit shire

Eye of Sauron Cake (via

cake eye sauron lotr

Narnia Birthday Cake (via Cake Wrecks)

cake narnia

Game of Thrones Cake (via

cake game of thrones iron

A Map of Middle Earth Cake (via groovycraftchick)

cake middle earth map lotr

Jane Austen Cake (via sprinklebakes)

cake jane austen

Lord of the Rings – Minas Tirith Cake  (via

cake LOTR Minas Tirith

Hogwarts Cake (via

"Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix" Premiere

The Hunger Games Cake (via

cake the hunger games

Effie Trinket Cupcakes (via

cake hunger games effie trinket cupcakes

Where the Wild things Are Cake (via

cake where wild things are

Alice in Wonderland Cake (via zentertainment)

cake alice wonderland

Wizard of Oz Cake (via

cake wizard of oz

And last, but not least…. BOOM!

Moby Dick Cake (via tumblr)

cake moby dick 2

Frank Herbert’s “Dune”: That About Covers It

Right about the time when science fiction’s ‘golden age’ was dimming in the mid-sixties, author Frank Herbert was shopping around to publishers a dense manuscript set largely on a desert world.

It was a vast anthropological, environmental and political sci-fi epic that was rejected by every publisher. Except Chilton (yes, the Chilton that is best known for publishing auto repair manuals). And thank Muad’dib…they published it.

To mark the birthday of Frank Herbert, the visionary author of one of Sci-fi literature’s most enduring and influential worlds – here’s a selective collection of “Dune” book covers and illustrations – from the spare to the far out –  that remain signature visual reminders of Herbert’s landmark work.

bday 10-8 coverENCYCLO

bday 10-8 FrankHerbert_ChapterhouseDune_1st-No-ship

bday 10-8 Frank Herbert Ornithopter-RoadtoDune

bday 10-8 frank herbert notebooks of

bday 10-8 frank herbert dune cover

bday 10-8 frank herbert dune cover art

bday 10-8 Dune Frank Herberst first

bday 10-8 ChildrenOfDune_FullCover


bday 10-8 dune messiah cover

bday 10-8 dune-herbert-frank-hardcover-cover-art

bday 10-8 herbert God Emperor of Dune

bday 10-8 herbertGodEmperorOfDune

bday 10-8 frank h Rare Dune art from Omni

This image was recently pulled from the archives of Omni magazine. It was reported to be highly commended by Frank Herbert as an accurate depiction of the Dune he imagined.



The Note in the Mad Hatter’s Hat

bday 10-6 mad hatter day 6

Today is officially recognized as National Mad Hatter Day.The original artwork by John Tenniel in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” features the Mad Hatter – always with a hat bearing the note “In This Style 10/6”.While this note would typically indicate the hat style would cost 10 shillings and sixpence, this artistic detail is what landed this eccentric holiday on the date of October 6 (10/6).