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Books by the bed

Books I'm listening to in the car

  • Sena Jeter Naslund: Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)

    Sena Jeter Naslund: Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)
    I don't like historical fiction. I have very little interest in the French monarchy. But Sena Jeter Nashland, whose first novel could not've been more different, is a brilliant writer, and has me utterly pulled into this world, time, and place, and given me sympathy towards a person to whom I had none. A novel like this reminds me of why I fall in love with fiction, over and over again. Transporting, tragic, and deeply fascinating. (****)

  • Markus Zusak: I Am the Messenger

    Markus Zusak: I Am the Messenger
    (***)

  • L.A. Meyer: Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary 'Jacky' Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack Adventures)

    L.A. Meyer: Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary 'Jacky' Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack Adventures)
    (***)

  • Robert Mnookin: Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight

    Robert Mnookin: Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight
    (*****)

  • Curtis Sittenfeld: American Wife: A Novel

    Curtis Sittenfeld: American Wife: A Novel
    Alice Lindgren Blackwell's normal-enough middle-class Wisconsin life goes through the windshield twice, once quickly and literally (a car wreck when she is in her early teens, in which she kills the young man who just may have been the love of her life) and once very slowly, and for a long, long time (when she marries Charlie, a super-wealthy, basically incompetent charmer with fierce political ambitions, who ends up --- somewhat to everyone's surprise --- in the White House). An imagining of a life loosely based on Laura Bush's, Sittenfield's writing is unshow-offy, as unobtrusive and accommodating as her careful protagonist, who tries to walk the impossible line of being "good wife" to a public figure with whose actions, public and private, she does not always agree, and cleaving to her own conscience, which may have gotten lost somewhere along the way. The book is inhabited by carefully drawn, detailed, dimensional characters: Alice's off-again-on-again best friend, her wise, quietly lesbian grandmother, the members of the dynasty into which she has married. An endless war, a weak wealthy husband saved from being a total wash-up by the embrace of a Christianity Alice herself does not understand, a bereaved parent whose son has died in the war, who attempts to meet the president ... all these echo the tragedy of the Bush years from an imagined perspective. Yet finally the novel rings true not because of this echo, but because Sittenfeld has created characters and a plot as complex, flawed, and mysterious as life itself. (****)

  • Nora Ephron: I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (Vintage)

    Nora Ephron: I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (Vintage)
    The wry, funny Nora Ephron, in her own words. She forgot more than many of us knew. Highly entertaining, and makes me grieve her recent death even more. (***)

Books in my (culinary) office

  • Mary Donovan: The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook: A Collection of Favourite Receipts from Thirteen Exemplary Eighteenth-Century Cooks With Proper Menus for Simple Fare
    Early American recipes and lots of good quotes from period source material, this is just the kind of thing that fascinates me. (***)
  • Kevin Young: The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink

    Kevin Young: The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink
    (***)

  • Michael Natkin: Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes

    Michael Natkin: Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes
    (****)

  • Ben Hewitt: The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food

    Ben Hewitt: The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
    Hewitt raises more questions and hypotheses than he answer... one has the sense that he was grappling with issues that were too large for him, and the subject of the book, the food-centric (sort of) hardscrabble town of Hardwick, Vermont. I got frustrated with his asides and a certain precious town that occasionally crept in, but I couldn't help but find it enthralling. He tries to make peace with the fact that environmentally sound, home gardening, and incremental agricultural semi-self-sufficiency may be elitist and nay not be economically sustainable. But that our present-day food system is also frighteningly fragile and unhealthful in any way, and simply would work unsubsidized: 1 single fast-food mega-ag calorie on the plate takes an average of ***95*** calories of fossil fuel to get from seed to plate. A gardener himself, Ben Hewitt writes: "The scale on which my family and I grow food is arguably inefficient, in terms of economics, efficiency, and land use. We don't utilize chemical fertilizers, synthetic weed and pest control, or genetically modified seed; these things could probably boost production in the short run, but then, we don't farm for the short run. "I can buy a fine potato from any number of local farmers, but (not) the May afternoon I spent w/ Penny in the garden, sticking our hands deep into the cool soil. I can buy a head of lettuce, but (not) the pleasure & pride of my boys returning from the garden w/ a basket of greens & saying 'We picked it ourselves, Papa.' " And, in this Monsanto-fast food-fake-food world... being willing and able to feed yourself, even partially is a true "Occupy" act. Hewitt quotes a farmer named Eliot Coleman: "Small farmers are the last bastion protecting society from corporate industry. When we feed ourselves, we become unconquerable." I wish this book had been better edited: someone needed to keep Hewitt more on track and focused, with fewer asides. He needed to be less anecdotal and more fact-based, or more anecdotal and... Well. Still very much worth a read. (***)

  • Ayun Halliday: Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste
    A feisty memoiristic series of vignettes, from growing up in Indiana and aspiring to Betty Crocker Enchanted Castle cakes with a mom who aspired to Julia Child and a fried-chicken-and-mashed-potato cooking grandmother to the author's own "postcoital breakfasts", labor, deliveries, and childrearing (one picky eater, one not). Categorized on the jacket as "FOOD / HUMOR" it is both, sort of. A recipe, written slap-dash but followable, and certainly with personal, um, zest, follows each chapter. It kept me somewhat amused; it kept me reading; and it did warn "questionable taste." The latter was over-the-top for me; a combination of TMI, reliance on gross-out, and a few too many gratuitous 'fucks' crossed the just-have-to-drop-the-#-of-stars line. Ayun's a good writer; a little less smart-assiness and a little more depth to the revelations, and I could be done for the cause with her. (**)

Books in my (writing/creativity/teaching) office

Charlotte, Aunt Dot & me

  • Cz_laughing_happy
    An elderly mother, her even older sister, their middle-aged daughter/niece ... and a small sheep.

National Cornbread Festival

  • Fashion to a T
    The apogee of all experiences for the true cornbread lover is the National Cornbread Festival, held annually the last full weekend of April in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

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    December 12, 2011

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    Mysti Easterwood

    Lovely! My first thought *every* morning for many years was :: "When will write today?" About 2 years ago I sheathed my pen to focus on my teenage son -- who was spinning out a little harder than we were expecting (being that he had the cool parents and all). He seems to settling into the idea of really managing his own life, so 2012 will be devoted to reviving my writing/dissage practices. Your voice - steady, musing, meticulous - has a calming effect on my nervous nelly, who is prancing at the gate. 'Writing my wings' daily is not yet possible, but thank you for reminding me what that *feels* like.

    Attentively yours,

    Myst

    Joycee

    Oh so good and satisfying too, just like the oatmeal! I write, but I'm not a writer. It's one of my favorite things to do so I'll call it a hobby! Thank God for the real writers like you who inspire me, open my eyes and my mind. I have that same sense of "alls right with the world" after reading something with substance.

    Mendy Knott

    Beautifully done. So important for the as yet unpublished writer to know they are "real" writers because they write. The act of writing, of practicing make them as much writer as publishing. And if they don't get published in this lifetime, then they are more writer than most; keeping at it without the reward, or prestige, or whatever you wind up with. Thanks for this.

    Crescent

    Thank you, Marilyn. LOVE those hugs! And I can feel it from here...

    Crescent

    Mendy, thank you. It is my privilege to be able to get to remind others (and have some, like you, hear it) ... just as it is part of my own inner personal work to remind myself over and over. To write, I mean... every day.

    John Dahlgren

    I applaud you for "hanging in there" with your friend. Depression is like being on deserted island waiting for the rescue ship to come. For your friend you are the hope that tomorrow the ship will come. And today I am a writer because I posted on my blog about my own journey through mental illness. Thanks for helping your friend and being such a darned good writer and cook.

    Crescent

    Thank you, John. I went over and read your blog (and commented there, too).

    Sometimes readers wonder about why/how one can write material that is revelatory personally.(Maybe less now, in the age of memoir, but still, I do occasionally get asked about this). Your comment makes it so clear why transparency just... is. Must be. Should be. "We are all lost people in this world. Do we need introduction?"

    Crescent

    Joycee! If you write, you're a writer. Don't make me get tough, now! I MEAN it, as anyone who knows me will tell you.

    Just to get slightly tough... we all conspire with our own self-diminishment. We all have to remind each other to stop it.

    Luna

    What a wonderful share. First, I will be trying my oatmeal with some new additions! Second, you really laid it out and it's true. Whatever you really are, you don't feel it unless you did it that day. Charming and heartfelt, as always!

    Crescent

    Thank you, dear Luna (fellow moon sister)... This method, though good with regular oatmeal, is unbeLIEVably good with the nice texture-y slow-cooking Irish oats (like McCann's). Glad you felt it was true... we just can't coast on the big stuff in this life, or I can't, without feeling fake. xxoo

    Theresa Rogers

    Oh I am SO familiar with that little sideways glance, the "And have you been published?" fishing, it's exactly as you wrote. I remember when I decided to start calling myself a writer--I'd been writing for ten years and it took me months before I didn't feel like a fraud. Really! What other profession/passion/calling makes people hesitate to proclaim it? I don't see people asking doctors with that glance, "And have you ever saved anyone?" "Oh, no, not yet, but when I do, then, THEN I'll be a real doctor!" (The very thought makes me laugh.)

    And yet I took myself as a writer a bit more seriously after my first piece was published. "Oh, whew. Now I'm legit." So I did it too, although looking sideways at myself took some doing.

    LOVE the comment about Picasso. Yup, that about sums it up. Do you write to get published? You won't for long. It's only when words sing down your veins and you can't make it through the day without putting some to paper that you get a taste of what it means to "be a writer." Of course, the true test is when those singing words lose their voice and you sit there anyway, writing through the silence, knowing you're writing crap but knowing, too, that the only way out is through. Maybe that's when you really know you're a writer.

    And this is the fourth thing I've written today. I love that guide, as well. Have I earned my wings today?

    Theresa Rogers

    And here's a little something inspired by another bit you wrote...

    http://theresarogersonline.com/

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    ~Theresa

    Crescent

    You have not only earned your wings, Theresa, you've added a little and much-needed upward draft under mine today. I just posted/linked your piece on the need for such periods on my FB wall, w this comment: "HONORED to be mentioned by, or to have helped inspire or prod towards her own wise articulation, writer Theresa Rogers, in her exploration of the necessity of suckiness in writing, and sucky times in life, as part of the process. Needed to hear this myself today. (As bad as it has sometimes gotten for me, however, Theresa, I've NEVER contemplated a career in math.) "

    And you are so right: "the true test is when those singing words lose their voice and you sit there anyway, writing through the silence, knowing you're writing crap but knowing, too, that the only way out is through."

    THANK YOU!!!!

    Theresa Rogers

    You are so welcome. And yes, you can take all the credit, you did inspire that whole post!

    Better than being published is knowing something you wrote made a difference in someone's life. Thank you for letting me know I achieved that goal.....today. :)

    Tim Wilson

    Crescent, as I'm writing this I'm listening to the radio spot you did with Tom Ashbrook on NPR. You are a gem and I love your topic because I think beans are GREAT for people and the planet. The impact goes beyond what most would think.

    OK, a question. I bought the domain "CrescentDragonwagon.com partly because people look up your name and exact match domains like this are usually pretty east to get ranked on the search engines. I thought I would do a site listing your books and such. Before I do that, out of courtesy I thought I'd offer you the opportunity (if you wanted it) to get that domain for yourself. No, I wouldn't be trying to make a lot of money on it but contact me if you want. Otherwise, I'd like to use it. I wish you the BEST and thanks for doing what you are doing with such lovely personality. If you do respond, put your name Crescent on the Subject line so I know to pay attention to it. Thanks.

    Charles

    Just came back to read this again after your FB post.

    Your patience and steadfastness with your depressed friend touched me along with the acknowledgment of the irritation.

    Vic, my life mate of 22 yrs, and I have taken care of his mother for most of those years. Perhaps some of it is culture (Thai/Chinese) but in a house of three adults and three precious dogs, I end up being #7 with her.

    It was so long in coming, but I recently began seeing her as a gift, a reminder to live my unconditional love. What a difference it makes not only with Pranee but in life in general.

    I love it that your style take us with you into your personal dialogues when you're writing in-the-moment. It reminds me of Thomas Jefferson's letter called My Head and My Heart which he wrote to Maria Cosway from Paris. It's not a short read but such a privilege to read something so intimate of his. It's too bad he didn't leave us with a similar dialogue over his beliefs about equality and that he was a participant in a slave-holding society.

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