iPhoneography: Baby got books

8 12 2017

Yep, she sure does! (Love my new supersize mug)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 6s / Snapseed app effect & border)

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It’s all my father’s fault…

19 07 2013

…my obsession with collecting books. You can read all about my “biblioholism” in Marisa Sarto’s interview with me in the summer 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine! She also shot images in my library to illustrate the feature. I wrote an accompanying article, “Alas, Poor Borders, I Knew You…,” an ode to Borders Books & Music. Michael wrote a lovely essay about how his parents fostered his love of reading in, “Why I Love Reading.” Check out all these book-related articles by downloading the issue free in the links below. Visit our website to download previous issues at http://www.celebratehomemagazine.com.

View the issue as reader spreads (my favorite!):

CHM Summer 2013 Spreads

View the issue as single pages (suitable for printing):

CHM Summer 2013 Single Pages

Splurge and purchase a beautiful print copy on magcloud.com (no markup; at cost + shipping):

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/600404

Help us spread the word! Share Celebrate Home Magazine with your family and friends.

Photography and design by Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Rampant Biblioholism





Re-post: Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

26 11 2012

Originally posted 11.16.2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian, Christine Kane and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!

CHIME IN! Do any of my fellow biblioholics have any treasured stories about frequenting Borders? Leave a comment and I’ll compile fodder for a future posting!

PREVIOUS COMMENTS:

From composerinthegarden.wordpress.com: A witty and fond look at a once great place to gather. Here in the rural suburbs, it was a beacon of civilized life and a favorite gathering spot, complete with live music on Fridays. Now sorely missed. Thanks for the great post!

From jntquigley.wordpress.com: Great ‘farewell to Borders’ post! I miss it terribly, also. It was always my favorite getaway place on my day off or after work.

From thatgirlwhit.wordpress.com: saddest. thing. ever.

From barbaragarneaukelley.wordpress.com: Cindy: What a lovely post! And, I have been the lucky recipient of some of the bargain books you have bought over the years.

From thekingoftexas.wordpress.com: Loved every word of it, and you aren’t exaggerating about the countless books and magazines and various ephemeral items such as the white chocolate you grudgingly shared with me. I should know, because I’ve staggered out with many a load of books for you—in fact you have a large box of books that has been in the closet waiting for you.

The way I remember the white chocolate was that you consumed two of the three pieces before you asked if I wanted one.

One more thought: Do not ever chide me for the length of my postings—never, I say, never, never, never! You used 1635 words (I speed-counted them in blocks of 25) You could have just said, “I bought a lot of books and other stuff on sale when Border’s went out of business.”

Just look at the amount of ink and paper you used—this was so not green!

All seriousness aside, this was a great posting and a glorious tribute to a worthy organization. You done good, ija de mio.

From Dan: How Chastity became Chaz? Shall I draw you a picture?!





Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

16 11 2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!





Iron Chef Bobby Flay and the Sneeze Guard Heiress

21 09 2011

This afternoon Barbara and I went to the Westfield Annapolis Mall in Annapolis, MD for a booksigning by Iron Chef and author Bobby Flay at the Williams-Sonoma store. You can learn more about Bobby Flay here.

I have watched every season of the Next Food Network Star, so it was fun to meet one of the judges/hosts in person. Unlike a few well-prepared line-waiters, we did not bring a folding chair. That would have come in so handy. We did get a chance to sample several things from the cookbook—Williams-Sonoma salespeople brought around samples of a pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, chives and cranberry-maple creme fraiche (delicious!), a red velvet cupcake (good!), hot potato chips with blue cheese sauce (yum!), and apple chopped salad with toasted walnuts, blue cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette (really, really tasty!).

We stood in line beginning about 1:00 p.m. until we finally got into the store to meet him and have him sign our copies of his latest book, Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook. How’s that for perseverance? The last image I shot was time stamped 15:34:36, so we waited exactly 2 hours, 34 minutes and 36 seconds to get the photo of Barbara and Bobby below! Barbara did get a chance to mention to Bobby that she is a Sneeze Guard Heiress (to learn more about that story, click here). Barbara had him sign my book as well, but I had to get the shots! At last count, there were more than 200 copies sold when we made our way through the chain in the store. (Jeff Evans—you would be happy to know that Bobby shares your love of black and white Converse sneakers. He be stylin’!) Check out Barbara’s blog, Kelley Hospitality, here.





National Geographic Live! events: Don George interviews Frances Mayes and Andrew McCarthy

30 06 2011

On April 12 Michael and I attended one of two travel writing lectures, part of the National Geographic Live! series. At the reception prior to the lecture, we feasted on Italian appetizers (an unexpected surprise, and welcomed since we hadn’t eaten dinner first!).

Frances Mayes was the guest author that evening. Mayes is the best-selling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. Her recent book is Every Day in Tuscany, which chronicles her latest renovation project—a 13th-century house in the mountains above Cortona.

National Geographic Traveler editor Don George hosted the interview. George is a legendary travel writer who has worked as a travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and was the Global Travel Editor of Lonely Planet Publications. His books include The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing, The Kindness of Strangers, Tales from Nowhere, By the Seat of My Pants, and his latest book, A Moveable Feast. He also writes the “Bookshelf” column in National Geographic Traveler magazine.

We thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Frances Mayes weaves a verbal tale as well as she writes one and Don George asked a wide range of questions about her life in Italy and her writing process. I learned that Mayes was born and raised in Georgia, where many of the relatives on my mother’s side live. During the book signing, I got a chance to chat with her about Swan, the town she lived in. I told her that as a child I spent a few weeks every summer in Georgia with my maternal grandmother and various aunts, uncles and favorite cousins. Mayes and her husband now divide their time between their homes in Cortona and North Carolina. We bought several of her books and she signed them for Michael while I got the record shot. Check out her website and journal here.

On May 12 we attended the second lecture in the series. Don George conducted the interview with actor/director (and now award-winning travel writer) Andrew McCarthy (what girl didn’t crush on him in his younger days…hello?). While I was able to get some shots during the Mayes lecture, the McCarthy lecture was being filmed and the audience was specifically told “no photos.” Bummer. I had my gear with me, of course, and was all set with my ISO at 2000 or something like that, but I didn’t want to risk getting thrown out. So, no photos of the older (but still as handsome) McCarthy.

McCarthy is a two-time Lowell Thomas Award winner and was named the 2010 Travel Journalist of the Year. He discussed his acting and directing career at length, but then the conversation (finally!) shifted to how he got involved in travel writing. At the end, the mic was opened for the audience to ask questions, and brave little me had the perfect question ready (after working up much-needed courage)—“Are you a published photographer, too? Do you take a camera with you on your travels?”

One of the National Geo employees saw me raise my hand and came down to kneel by me while McCarthy answered a question from the other side of the room. Before I could ask the question, another attendee stole the question right out from under me. Bummer. McCarthy’s (paraphrased) answer: “No, not really.” (This would have been a very short interaction with him!) Apparently National Geo either has someone travel separately or must use existing stock to illustrate some of the places he writes about. While he has had photographers travel with him, he said he much prefers traveling solo.

Learn more about his acting career (St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, Weekend at Bernie’s, and Mannequin, to name a few) and directing career (Gossip Girl and several theater productions) and read some of his writing on his site here.

Read his profoundly moving essay, “Going Back In,” which he wrote for the August/September 2009 issue of National Geographic Adventure. You’ll find that article by clicking here, then click on the Adventure magazine cover in the second row.





From my library: The Hunting Years

3 05 2011

In June 1983, while working as a fashion illustrator for Jones & Jones, an upscale department store in McAllen, Texas, I accompanied my friend Andrea (also the store’s book buyer) to the American Booksellers Association convention in Dallas. (This was the same convention where I got up close and personal with several celebrities who had released books at that time: Dick Cavett, Erma Bombeck, Shirley MacLaine (can’t believe I actually found a recap from People magazine of her actual breakfast talk here!), Art Buchwald, Leo Buscaglia (‘King of the hug’ author—and yes, he did hug me, unsolicited), Leroy Neiman, Lana Turner and Richard Simmons (got a hug from him, too). I had them all autograph my badge; wish I knew where I squirreled away that item!) In the exhibit hall I picked up an “advance reading copy” of The Hunting Years, a novel by David Kranes. It was later published by Peregrine Smith Books in 1984.

Here’s the synopsis on the back: Hunt is an artist. To his wife Leah, he is an enigma. To his young sons, he is merely “sometimes weird.” In this melancholic/comic third novel, David Kranes gives us Hunt as an artist and family man trying to reconcile the life in his imagination with his life in The World.

Obviously I loved this book—it is still in my library after all these years. I’m not sure if it’s because I can somewhat identify with Hunt “trying to reconcile the life in his imagination….” or just because there are so many passages that are just painfully poetic. After I read it, I could envision it being translated into movie form. (I felt the same way after reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and voila! the producers read my mind and the movie materialized a few years later. And Hollywood, if you’re still listening, how about a film adaptation of James McBride’s book, The Color of Water?)

In my favorite passage in The Hunting Years, Hunt’s wife Leah, who loves feeding the birds outside their home, is watching the weather suddenly change from sunny to a full-blown ice storm. She had put out food for the birds just before the drastic change in weather and twenty minutes later she returns to the window and sees the birds frozen in place on the lawn.

Hunt! It was Hunt! Hunt had done this! Somehow it was all connected in her mind. And all confused. All of Hunt’s sorry seekings and indecisions had made a heaven, had made a sky that acted with such swift and stupid cruelty. Leah ran outside. No birds moved. It was thirty degrees, another upswing, and sun broke everywhere, splashed carelessly through trees and all over the yard. It made no sense. Leah moved in one direction. Then another. Her throat unwound sounds. She was a murderess! She made a word: “…Bird?” But the world was motionless. No wind even. The food globes hung around like still crystal from their strings. Unable to bear any more complicity, finally, Leah bent and snatched up a glistening husk, an evening grossbeak in its shell of ice, and hurled it, high as she could, into the white pine branches. It was a dozen forms of denial, the act. But it was fury and rage, too. It was terrible anger. But a miraculous thing happened. The boughs of the pine delicately brushed and cracked open the ice. And it dropped away. Like pieces of the finest wineglass, bough to bough, the casing fell. And the bird…! Leah’s mouth swung open. It was as though, ice free, its down and feathers radiated from some center, took on a shape, substance, grew. Leah thought she was imagining. She believed that the madness she had thought possible throughout the whole winter had arrived. But the bird rose! Wings unshackled, it assumed the air. And its freedom…and its flight…were both real. Leah shrieked a new, wild, victorious scream. She ran from imprisoned bird to imprisoned bird, falling repeatedly but lifting and unfurling them high, high into the releasing pine. Now the temperature was thirty. Now above. The sun grew generous; there was a new benevolence in the air. Fractured ice crystals fell, sounding like windchimes. Another grossbeak took flight! A chickadee! A junco! Wings beat! and Leah was spinning and falling and hurling but shouting, “Fly!” to the birds. And, “Fly!”

Although this book is rather old, I did find this excellent review below by Miriam Berkley on the The New York Times website: “Like the ambitious and provocative novel he inhabits, the hero of The Hunting Years is brilliant and elusive. An artist living on a New Hampshire farm, Hunt is a well-intentioned man but not easy to deal with as he wanders through life seeking his proper relationship to the world. His paintings vary widely in both the style and subject matter, reflecting his state of mind. He fantasizes frequently, communicates erratically and equally exasperates his wife, Leah, and his paramour, Anne. (The affair with Anne is brief—the traits that make Hunt a difficult husband, especially his inability to let another person get close, also make him a frustrating lover.) One of two young sons observes, ”Sometimes dad lives on another planet.” When the novel opens Hunt is in his ”Blue Period,” a time of emotional and artistic paralysis during which his canvases remain empty and his marriage goes sour. One morning he awakens literally paralyzed and unable to open his eyes; a doctor’s punch in Hunt’s solar plexus finally unclenches them. Later, while visiting London, he tries to slit his wrists. The landlady at the rooming house tells him, ”don’t be blue,” and upon returning home Hunt follows her injunction and begins painting outsized fruits and vegetables in brilliant colors. As Hunt’s adventures continue—he travels to Las Vegas, Nev., and Tucson, Ariz.—we witness the gradual emergence of his capacity for love. And along the way, there are some wonderful set pieces and humorous scenes—a sendup of the art world, for instance, in which Hunt works as a ”ghost painter,” the visual equivalent of a ghostwriter, and produces a series of paintings that he cannot acknowledge, or the description of Hunt’s turning to minimalism as a way of life and art after being accused of excess. David Kranes’s prose is spare and lovely, his portrait of Hunt as well as that of Leah is compelling, even if at the end his hero remains mysterious. In the final scene Hunt realizes, ”this World is too large. It’s too vast. No wonder, for a while, I was painting only avocados.” Nearly killed in an accident, he’s glad simply to be alive, and thinks, ”It was all startling.” Readers following Hunt’s adventures will agree.”