Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Different Kind of Luxury again....

I mentioned in a previous post that I had ordered A Different kind of Luxury. Well it came today, and I have not put it down for several hours. It's really wonderful. It transports you to the world of these people that are living simply and intentionally in Japan and I just love it. It has everything that I love in a book. Here is an excerpt that will transport you too for just a minute:

As I look again around the three rooms that make up Nakamura's house I am able to take in its aesthetic in a new way and appreciate this house seemingly empty of everything except the smoke from the fire. Next to the irori fire pit, where we have now returned to rekindle the fire for another cup of bancha, I look more carefully at the simple fire implements, the several woven wheat colored kindling baskets, and a blowing tube of bamboo for bringing embers to life. Each object I see he has chosen with deliberation.
In the adjacent cooking area, back in the shadows, stands a heavy ceramic, nutmeg colored urn almost three feet high in which Nakamura stores his water. To the right of the sink, there is an ochre earthenware pot with a fitted lid containing ash from the fire, which along with a stiff natural bristle brush is all that he uses for washing dishes. Amber colored wooden shelves hold glass jars of spices, powders, chili peppers, and several types of flour, all lined up and classified by size. A well proportioned cast iron spatula with a long tapering handle and a blade shaped like a ginkgo leaf hangs on a post in the center of the shelves, Behind the shelves, his cereals and grains are stored in glass jars in large hanging straw baskets suspended from the ceiling.

The book continues on to tell the stories of fascinating people, living simple but very full lives, it is very descriptive and you feel that you are right there with Andy Couturier on his journey. Now, since I am a Libra I have to swing over to the other side and offer one small critique of the publishing. This is a book I want to savor and I will read it again and again, it's very well written and I love the people the author chose to write about. However, I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the book itself. I love to hold books, I love the smell of them, love beautiful photographs. There was such an opportunity here to make this a really special little piece of art. I am guessing that it was a budget issue, but somebody with a bunch of money should re do this book and give it what it deserves. I would love to see the photos get better play, it's ok that it isn't a hardback cover, but I like a cover that feels satiny, not a cover that feels like a beach paperback. The horizontal sizing is also strange to me, I like it, I just wish it was more artistically done, at least it's not an electronic book. I'm going to be the only human on Earth without a Facebook and an electronic book, but I'm ok with that! This thought about the books' design came to me as I was reading about the care that Nakamura takes with his book making and the quality of the work of each of the artists and I wanted to get that same feeling for this book. The cover is beautiful, but it's just missing a certain something that would make it even better as you are reading it. Sorry Andy, not your fault, talk to that publisher and get a book artist to make your book even better than it is! you could even charge more for it then :)
Except for that minor thing, the book is great, glad I stumbled on it, thanks to the blog world! What did I do before I found you bloggers?
My reading habits have changed so much over the past few years. I never read fiction any more, there are so many great non fiction books out there and I learn so much from them. I have a hard time getting through fiction just like I can't watch much TV anymore, except for Current TV and American Idol(sorry, but I love that show). Wesley is reading English literature right now, and she is into haikus, so I'm reading to her from my book about Japan and she is reading excerpts from Oscar Wilde and crazy poems that she finds, pretty funny conversations around here right now, but never dull!


Andy Couturier said...


Just wan to thank you for your kind and thoughtful post. Was interested in the design thoughts you had, and would love to hear in more detail what specific changes you would see. Perhaps some of them could make it into the third printing? Thanks, Andy

cookingwithgas said...

I am off to check out his blog and get a better idea about the book- thanks!

Judy Shreve said...

Sounds like a wonderful book -- and YAY for blogging that you can have the conversation about it being an art book with the author.
As I'm reading your description I was picturing almost an art journal feel for the book -- I think I'll wait for that third printing to purchase -- but I am reading the blog now - thanks!

(we watch Idol too -- don't tell anyone -lol)

Tracey Broome said...

Hi Andy: I started thinking after I went to bed last night that I shouldn't have said anything about the simplicity of the book or selling more of them, when the book is about simplicity and living with less money.
I was also thinking about some of the books I have that I really love. I either love them for the content, like yours, or I have bought them and look at them because of the look and feel of them. For instance, I bought the last two cookbooks by Jamie Oliver, not for the recipes, we are vegetarian and his books are heavy meat eating books, but because of how the books look. His America book is so cool, fun to look at fun to read, the pages feel great. I also like the way the pages and cover of Dwell magazine feel, don't care for the magazine so much but it feels nice...
I also have some books with linen covers that I love, books with their own sleeves that are really cool, what if your book came in a sleeve with Japanese woodblock prints made by one of the artists featured in the book or what if it came in a box like Japanese tea bowls come in? My point is, you write about people that take such care with craftsmanship and they are artists and people that have a strong aesthetic value, it would be good if the book itself reflected that. I also like Judy's idea of it feeling like an art journal, but that could get sketchy, it could easily get corny. Anyway, it's the content that counts most and the content is great! I just wonder if in this day of electronic books, if book publishers should start thinking about the artistic value of the book more.....I have bought many not so great books because I liked the way they looked and felt. Thanks for commenting!

jimgottuso said...

hi tracey, things have been happening over there. congrats on getting your application accepted. and cindy's sign looks great. i might have to check out this book. i love the idea that you mention and is illustrated in the excerpt. it reminds me of the sentiments expressed as the "yacqui way" in castaneda's "don juan" books. it's a seductive idea to live with intent and to choose the few items of necessity with deliberation.

Linda Starr said...

Hi Tracey, you bring up a good point, I love books and I keep hearing books are going by the wayside in favor of ebooks, (I hate to think about that) and I can't see myself reading a book on the internet with the same feeling I get from reading the actual page in a book I am holding, turning each page, sitting in a comfortable chair. We've been exchanging books with our neighbors, and donating others, but still keep a treasured few and our resource books. An artisticly made or framed book or as you say a well crafted book which has been placed on a coffee table or kitchen table always stimulates conversation for me. I'll head on over to Andy's blog to read more about the book.

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