Pisa, Paper Dolls, Judy Blume, Bad Trips, Cooking Melville & More: Endnotes 23 April

Pisa, Paper Dolls, Judy Blume, Bad Trips, Cooking Melville & More: Endnotes 23 April

Friday, 23 April, 2021

Every Friday, we celebrate the weekend — and all the reading and relaxing and daydreaming time ahead — with Melissa's favorite book- and travel-related links of the week. Why work when you can read fun stuff?!

This post is part of our Endnotes series.


Sometimes looking at an iconic landmark is a bit like listening to a Beatles’ song: You’ve been exposed to it so often, it’s easy to discount how amazing it is. So take a long look at the Tower of Pisa and pretend you’re seeing it for the first time. The construction of the bell tower (campanile) started in 1173, mainly as a way for Pisa to broadcast its wealth and military power. The tower took about 200 years to complete, and even early on, the lean began to reveal itself. The earth beneath the tower — made of fine sand, shells, and clay from the nearby rivers — was too soft to support the tower’s weight. By 1990, the tilt was 5.5 degrees; restoration work has since reduced the angle to 3.97, and experts say it should stand happily askew for another 200 years. Fun fact: It’s survived four strong earthquakes since 1280. This TED talk explains why the tower doesn’t fall over.

  • Nerds and Beyond wants us to reconsider Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic fantasy Crimson Peak: ‘A Gothic romance that serves as del Toro’s love letter to stories like Rebecca, The Haunting of Hill House, Jane Eyre, and The Turn of the Screw, Crimson Peak was never given the praise it was due upon its release.

  • Time to indulge! How about pancakes from around the world?! And perhaps international tea traditions as a go-along?

  • The Washingon Post wonders if Judy Blume’s books about kids’ and teens’ issues hold up in our modern age. I recently re-read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? and Blubber. They’re so honest and unjaded; I’m still a fan.

  • Sort of related: I was a guest on The Perks of Being a Book Lover podcast, and we talked about Judy Blume’s book, among other things, including how we define place in the books we choose books for our podcast, how roller derby changes people, Phryne Fisher, and the books I loved as a kid. Listen here - and do check out their other episodes. The hosts Amy and Carrie talk to fascinating people doing cool things associated with books and reading.

  • As a fan of doorstopper novels, I enjoyed this post about how book length is determined. ‘Americans expect bang for their buck. Yet the price of novels is unrelated to length. Trade paperbacks are around 16 bucks a piece whether they are a 100-page novella or a 400-page tome. Even among highbrow literary readers, I’ve heard people say they rather get a long book than a short one for the same money.’

  • This traveler blogger’s collection of women-centric souvenirs is so charming.

  • Yes, I did buy a set of paper dolls last month, and yes, I will be having a tabletop fashion show. Collector’s Weekly goes deep into the history of these fashion plates. ‘As the first successful African-American female cartoonist, Jackie Ormes created many comics starring black characters, like her ‘Torchy in Heartbeats’ strip, which began in 1950. The series followed Torchy’s globe-trotting adventures as she chased after romance and generally led a life of intrigue, though Ormes also included difficult themes of racial and social injustice… Ormes’s strip also regularly included a paper-doll set called ‘Torchy Togs,’ showcasing the lead character’s stylish, modern wardrobe.’

 vintage torchy togs paper dolls

  • Last Autumn, TripFiction hosted a ‘Sense of Place’ Creative Writing Competition and had hundreds of entrants from around the world. They just announced a new ‘Voyages by Verse’ Poetry Competition. Open now, the competition runs through 13 June. Aspiring poets, get all the details here.

  • The magazine covers included in the art exhibit ‘Magazines and the American Experience’ at New York’s Grolier Club are showstoppers.

  • Take the edge off your wanderlust with these recommended travel documentaries.

  • This essay about cooking recipes inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is engaging and lovely from start to finish. Such great writing! ‘Whenever I would tell someone I was cooking from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick for my next column, they would gleefully shriek, Whale steaks! And I would dither a bit and explain that no, those are illegal in America, and that I was instead planning to make two forms of chowder, clam and cod, that weren’t going to be very different from each other. In our Chowhound-fueled, extreme-eating kind of world, I felt a little silly.’

  • The photographs from Vietnamese photographer Tran Tuan Viet are stunning images of fantasy found in real life.

  • I wasn’t sure how I felt about this short story ‘Unraveling’ by Karen Heuler when I read it — and I’m still not. But it’s stayed with me, and I keep thinking about it. Sometimes it makes me wrinkle my nose. Sometimes it makes me chuckle. Maybe give it a shot and see what you think?

  • Why bad trips can make for great stories, from National Geographic.

  • This walrus had a very confusing day.

  • Levitating tables! Ghostly appendages! These faked 20th-century spirit photos (and how it was all pulled off) are so much fun.

  • Related, on CrimeReads: In the 1930s, famed spiritual investigator and ghost hunter Nandor Fodor found himself disappointed by several hoaxes.

  • Hope there’s not a traffic jam near the neighborhood strawberry. (Sorry.)


May some of your favorite things happily collide in your brain to make something super-fun and new.

Top image courtesy of Heidi Kaden/Unsplash.

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Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a translated Finnish epic poem, the 'other' Alcott sister, Croatia's Plitvice Lakes, how travel makes us smarter, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got international condiments, a new literary podcast, a poem set in a castle, Iceland fun facts, Dracula on a toy stage, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a 19th-century pool, governess facts, poetry to cure the Pandemic Blues, Art Deco treasures, tips for buddy reading, and more.

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