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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.
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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.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2010
Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is a fantastically delightful read. It was clear when I read the introduction that the author and I are kindred spirits. This book engages the little girl in me who thought the glass doorknobs on our old house were made of diamonds and clearly had magical powers. Each entry is it's own adventure, like a peephole into a bygone era. The author writes clearly and beautifully, making each bit come to life on the page and the illustrations are gorgeous!
I'm having to force myself to read only a little at a time to make it last longer, like I'd do with a fancy bar of chocolate. I'm already wondering if she'll consider a second volume, as I am now noticing exquisite things all around me that I'd love to know the story of. I know I'll be giving copies to friends for years to come, beginning with this Christmas!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2011
The title, beautiful dust jacket and review by Sarah Jessica Parker drew me in on this one. While the idea of an encyclopedia of discriminately selected entries is appealing, I can't say I found more than 1/2 of these entries exquisite. Of the half I enjoyed I did enjoy them completely. Also I was quite happy to find such a nice bibliography in the back. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste but some of the historical figures reviewed in this book were a bit disturbing. They left me feeling the same way French films often do (depressed). I would give this book an 8 out of 10 with most points going for such a novel book idea and the remaining going for the bibliography and the entries that piqued my interest.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2011
I saw this book reviewed in the WSJournal and it seemed like it might be the answer to Christmas gifts for several artistically inclined folks on my list.

My mother-in-law is a successful artist and her style is definitely eclectic. She is a voracious reader. My son recently proposed to his girlfriend who is a lovely young woman who works supporting the arts and has a very strong artistic talent and interest. Due to distance, we haven't seen them as much as we'd like so I was kind of still on the learning curve as to her likes/dislikes.

Solution: Bought two copies; looked them over when they got here and thought they exceeded my expectations.

Result: Two home runs! Both recipients were enamored with their gifts! I think I would have enjoyed reading it also, but they were gift wrapped quickly upon arrival so only a cursory glance was possible. I may have some time in my schedule after the Super Bowl & March Madness so I may ask to borrow one back.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
I regret purchasing the Kindle version of this book. It's a really cool concept, and the content seems pretty good, but the experience of reading it in black and white is kind of depressing. It's also kind of a hassle to zoom in on images. This book seems like it was intended for print (or at least a higher-resolution e-reader format than the Kindle Touch).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2011
An exquisite friend presented this book to me as a Christmas gift, and I was immediately delighted. Like a kid with a new toy, I read deep into the night as Christmas Eve changed to the wee hours of Christmas Day. Subject matter includes an alphabetical listing of earthly delights, along with delectable details about familiar and new topics ranging from chamgagne to fireworks. A beautiful gift for anybody interested in the fine art of life, and a well designed treat, as well.
This has to rank as my favorite reference book!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2012
The author has assembled some very interesting content, but the writing is strangely flat and uncompelling. An odd mixture. She seems quite remote from the subject matter as if this was just a research project.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2011
I was so disappointed in this book. From my perspective, it was written by a person who had gathered most of their cultural knowledge very superficially, that's the only explanation I have for this compilation of information that isn't particularly unusual or difficult to find. Some writers can make even the mundane soar and help us to see with new eyes... this author's prose is dull and just makes you hope the next subject will be interesting. It's like reading a bright high school student's report.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2011
I love the concept of this book, and it is lovely! I wanted to share this with all my friends and loved ones including my 13 year old daughter until I came across a very unpleasant word starting with F! And one questionable picture, and just wish I would have had some forewarning is all.
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