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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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    « fearless French toast | Main | The Arc of the Moral Universe: Bush, Barack, & the Bend Towards Justice »

    December 19, 2008


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    During this holiday season, I wish you peace, joy, love, and a speedy recovery from your surgery! I love that you are willing to share this news with us.

    I also loved the part about teaching David how to make some of your favorite foods. That is really cute. I noticed, however, that you didn't mention DK's special banana-ginger-cornmeal muffins from The Cornbread Gospels. Surely a batch of those would be extra-healing! I made them around this time last year for a special breakfast with friends, and we all swooned over them, especially with the Aphrodite Butter. Hubba hubba!

    Even if David didn't get a special muffin-making lesson, your instructions are nice and clear, so I'm sure he could figure it out if necessary.

    S Longfellow

    Get well, be gentle on yourself, and I promise not to pound on your shoulder next time I see you.


    Heal and delight in the extra nurturing, CD. You deserve the extra attention being given to you. Don't dismiss it.

    I mentioned your blog on mine tonight, and I have been sending healing vibes your way.


    I hope by now the worst pain is over and you are healing well. Just thinking about you this morning and sending you best wishes.


    Here's hoping your recovery is speedy and that the new year will bring you happiness and good health. FYI, I am making one of your cornbread recipes to eat with my black-eyed peas on New Year's Day....for good luck as you know down here in the South.

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

    Suzette Haden Elgin

    I am hoping that the surgery went well, that you have been relatively free of pain [and of GI complications from the opioids], that you are moving steadily on your way to full recovery, and that you'll soon be back with us here.

    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well...

    Account Deleted

    crescent - just stumbled upon your blog - its been a long time since we spoke at iacp and then later regarding your writers colony in arkansas. i see you are a month or so out from your surgery. with so much inaugural goodness going on in the last few days i just wanted to wish you well and godspeed and i look forward to your tale yet to be told about where you are with recovery. besides, i think i have 5o year old shoulder too. so i will try to bite the nails off only one hand while i wait for your answer. warmest, dorette

    ps my printer went totally nutso and stated spontaneously printing off your blog - 50 odd pages. so i sat up to take notice - it will take me a few to read it all, but i know there is an important message in there...

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Dear everyone,

    as I hope you know from the blog that followed this one, I am alive and well and my 56-and-counting year-old shoulder, though it has cycles where it hurts a lot (whenever I switch to new PT exercise series), I am doing well. And I attribute a sizable portion of that to your good wishes (even if I am so frighteningly tardy in acknowledging them). Thank you, Rose-Anne, Syd, Cathy, Jon, and Suzette.

    And dear dear Dorette! Please know that that printer thing is hilarious! I LOVE being an omen, and I hope a good one. Secondly... in around 1975 I wrote a poem called "The Garlic Lady in February" so your screen name tickled me no end. I hope you DON'T have 50-year-old shoulder and do have some intact nails left... You going to IACP this year? I'm dithering...

    warm greetings and happy post inaugural glow, everyone ---


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