33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
From Nectar and Ambrosia to Sequins, from Omelets to Frilly Lingerie, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins has compiled a handbook of pleasures, a guide to refinements, both exotic and humble. Readable and whimsical, it's a book to savor, like a big box of chocolate Truffles, which sublime fungus, of course, merits an entry--and a recipe. This is not a frivolous compendium; Jenkins has done serious research, so readers learn the Venetian origins of the Umbrella, and how it was used by Thai acrobats in performance. She also understands that the exquisite is not limited to the material world, and there are entries on Twilight, Wanderers, Far Niente, and the elusive Quintessence. There is an extensive bibliography, too, for those whose curiosity has been inflamed. And as an object, the book itself is exquisite, with deckle-edged pages, and a binding stamped with gold.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." -- Exodus 16:31 (NKJV)
Most of us just enjoy seeing and indulging in things that appeal to us. Jessica Kerwin Jenkins has more curiosity than that. She memorializes the experiences and in this book has shared with us a little light learning about her fascinations.
Since there is no listing of subjects or index, I have listed the topics: Hot-air balloons, alfresco (outdoor) experiences, amorini and putti (cupids, cherubs, and baby angels), attitudes (striking a pose), black in women's fashions, blancmange (a pudding), bobbed hair, Bon Chretien pears, boudoir, carousel, champagne, Claude glass (a mirror for viewing landscapes), confetti, Countess de Castiglione, crickets, cumulonimbus clouds, dahlias and gladioli, the Dark Tower (a literary nightclub), divan, elephant-shaped buildings, enthusiasm, fanfare, far niente (doing nothing and enjoying it), faux jewels, felines, fireworks, folly (foolhardy structures), frilly lingerie, giochi d'acqua (water jokes), gloves, heels, hello, italics, jester, kimono, Kumari (living goddesses in Nepal), art for art's sake, lazzi (Renaissance comic gags), lightning, love notes, marvels (curiosities), masquerades, milk baths, miracles, Miserere (a choral composition), moritsuke (Japanese food arrangement), mouches (fake beauty marks), Nebula (a ballet), nectar and ambrosia, obelisk, obsidian (volcanic glass), ogi (Japanese folding fan), omelet, origami, painted ladies (models), pell-mell, pentimento (blotted out part of a painting), perfume, pillowbook, pouf (hairstyle), polo and badminton, Venetian lace, Islamic etiquette guide from the 11th century, enthusiastic quadrilles (dances), quintessence (sought-for nonexistent element), red lipstick, ruff and cravat, saffron, sequins, showstopper performance, silence, soteltie (dish for table decoration), string games, underwater, swing (suspended seat variety), talk, tassel, tea, tempest, thaumatrope (toy), top hat, bullfighter's costume, trapeze, truffle, turban, twilight, umbrella, unicorn, velocity, viriditas (life force), female wanderers, weekend, whistling, white paint for decor, xenia (ancient Greek hospitality), text of memorization techniques, and yes.
As you can see, the list bends toward the exotic and the literary while remaining grounded in fashion and taste. Obvious choices are missing (such as chocolate) that remind us that this is a book about the author's tastes.
The listings are beautifully illustrated, a big plus for the book, and some recipes are included.
For me, the descriptions could have been a bit more exhaustive . . . along with fewer of them about ordinary things. Rather than an encyclopedia, I think it would have made more sense to have grouped related topics and let the writing play off of more dimensions that way.
But it's a fun book. The joy you receive will relate directly to your degree of ignorance about and interest in these subjects.