Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Recommended read: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

Filled with curiosities, the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins is the perfect book to have around when you have just 10 minutes to read, or perhaps when you want to learn a little about a lot (each entry averages two pages). The diverse alphabetical entries range from "Aerostation" (hot-air ballooning) to "Yes" (as in, don't automatically think "no"). This quote from the author's introduction explains her aim: "These entries sprang directly from a file I kept on my desk, bulging with scribbled scraps. Xeroxed articles, quotes, and curious images I'd come across-- anything that lit a spark, or excited 'intense delight.' In my mind I called the collection 'Why I Like It Here,' 'here' meaning on the planet."

So, while not every entry did I love, or even like, I found many fascinating. Favorites include "Tea" where Kerwin discusses the manner in which it was ritualized in Japan and England, which yield two very different perspectives. "Mouches" and "Ogi" delve into the mores and popularity of beauty marks (Mouches) and Japanese folding fans (Ogi). "Pouf" enlightens you on the elaborate hairstyles of the late eighteenth century. "Maraviglia," Italian for "marvels," describes the lengths to which artists would engineer extravagant sights and delights for their princes, including the creation of gelato.

This book would make for a superior gift. With it's unique cover and whimsical illustrations, the book itself is exquisite. It also might be nice to start a "Why I Like It Here" file.

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
You & Your Family -- 031.02 JEN
Find it in the catalog!