A few months ago my friend Dee Dee gave me these absolutely fabulous round dice! You wouldn’t think that they would work but there is a little weight inside of each one that allows them to fall perfectly on the table and not roll around. Here you can see that they are approximately the same size as traditional dice.
Then just the other day I received an email from Dee Dee’s darling daughter (how’s that for alliteration?!) sending me a photo of a huge container of these babies along with a note from Dee Dee letting me know that she had purchased quite a few. Such fun! Hmmm…I wonder if I can convince her to sell a few to me…
You might remember that I was so excited to have our book listed in Vanity Fair’s hot list in this month’s issue. Well, shortly after putting up that post, I received a message from my friend Katie with some fabulous photos – I know you will all enjoy this.
Ann, your recent post reminded me of a booklet I recently received that was published by Vanity Fair. I thought I’d share:
And I am saving the best one for last:
Oh, and if you happen to be anywhere near Old Chatham, NY today – please stop by the Old Chatham Country Store where I will be doing a Black Friday book signing from 10 AM to 1 PM – I I hope to see you there!
This evening was such a special time for me. After having a second home in Columbia County for over 20 years, it was so wonderful to be back there on Main Street and to have an event for our book at the wonderful Chatham Bookstore. This is a very special place for me, filled with so many memories, and I was honored to be a guest there. And what an amazing evening it turned out to be. We started out with Tom Chulak, one of the owners of the store, conducting an interview with me and Michel Arnaud, our incredible photographer. That was followed by a Q&A session and then, the best part of all, 4 women sat down in the middle of the room and started playing Mah Jongg for all to watch!
Much thanks goes to my friend Warren Collins for putting together the Mah Jongg demonstration along with her three wonderful friends who played the game with her. And, of course, much thanks to the beautiful catering of food and wine provided by Brian Albert of the Old Chatham Country Store.
There was an incredible turnout for this event and I am so grateful for all of the support and love shown to me by all my friends. In addition, it was such a pleasure to meet so many new people – all Mah Jongg players, I might add! This was a night to remember – a very special evening, indeed. I believe my literary agent, the wonderful Jane Creech, took photos – if there are some, I will post them at another time.
There are so many wonderful articles coming out now that our book is about to be delivered to all of you – it is so very overwhelming and gratifying. But this is one of my favorites so far… From Rural Intelligence:
From China To Chatham: The Marvelous Mystique Of Mah Jongg
By Lisa Green
Not long ago, I was asked 1) if I wanted to join a Hadassah group, and 2) would I like to play Mah Jongg with a group of ladies. Right there, right then, I knew I’d passed some sort of demographic milestone. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago these same ladies were wanting to fix me up with their grandsons?
I politely declined, but now I’m reconsidering the Mah Jongg offer, thanks to Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game, an elegant new coffee table book written and photographed by three people with Columbia County connections. For many players, there’s a social ritual to the whole game experience. For the authors and photographer of the book, however, it’s so much more. It’s about the art of the Mah Jongg tiles and sets: their histories, their design, the materials used, the varied symbols and scenes depicted on the tiles.
“A group of us took lessons four years ago, and started playing every Wednesday. We call ourselves the Mahjettes. Whoever is hosting prepares lunch and we have a great time,” she says.
Beyond the social aspect, however, the game “hit me like a thunderbolt,” she continues. “I’ve always been interested in art and art history. I look at this as a brilliant art form. The carvers were such artisans — unnamed heroes, really.”
Co-author Gregg Swain, one of the original Mahjettes, continues the story. “Ann got a vintage set, and then I got one. We discovered that although there are how-to books for Mah Jongg, nothing had been written on the art of the tiles, so we came up with the idea of putting a book together.” A few more Columbia County part-timers boarded the Mah Jongg train. Israel called on her longtime friend, East Chatham photographer Michel Arnaud (he’s worked for Vogue, House & Garden, and Architectural Digest, among many other publications, and has photographed lifestyle and design books) who agreed to participate. His literary-agent wife, Jane Creech, offered to publish the book. Gregg Swain’s husband, Woody Swain, art directed.
By this time, both authors heavily were invested in acquiring antique sets, and knew who the great collectors and historians were. The first shoot — photographing Israel’s and Swain’s collection, of course — took place at Arnaud’s East Chatham studio, but then Arnaud traveled across North American and Europe to photograph other collectors’ sets. Prepping the tiles for their closeups was a challenge.
The tiles, boxes, and their stories are comprehensively covered in the book, which chronicles the early beginnings of the game. But chiefly, the book showcases the beauty and artistic nature of the different kinds of tiles. The photos are sumptuous and remind me of how I used to love the slippery smoothness of the tiles in my mother’s set.
I hadn’t heard much about Mah Jongg after my mother stopped playing, aside from my invitation to join a group. But Mah Jongg is alive and well. Both authors now blog about the subject, Israel at mahjonggandme, and Swain at majhongtreasures. The Chatham Library hosts players on Mondays and Wednesdays. Google Mah Jongg and you’ll find a whole world devoted to the game.
In advance of the official book release on November 18, Ann Israel and Michel Arnaud will be signing books at The Chatham Bookstore on November 15 at 5 p.m. Israel has invited local residents to give a Mah Jongg demonstration, and refreshments for this event — essential for any Mah Jongg gathering — will be provided by the Old Chatham Country Store.
“We’re trying to celebrate the craftsmanship and art form that’s been completely overlooked, and hoping people will take out their grandmothers’ sets,” says Swain. “Those tiles should get restored and into the light.”
Guess it’s time to dust off my mother’s set.
Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game
A Collector’s Guide to Mah Jongg Tiles and Sets (Tuttle Publishing)
Book signing and demonstration Saturday, November 15, 5 p.m.
27 Main Street, Chatham, NY 127 Main Street, Chatham, NY 12037