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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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    « buffalo girl: adventures in children's book writing & publishing/non-publishing, screwing up, & being inspired by one very fearless child | Main | Part 2: love/ let sleeping cats tell the truth »

    March 23, 2009


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    Jim Long

    How wonderful to bang a fork against a bowl and conjure up Beanblossom and Ned. Loved the pictures, both visual and mental. You just never know what you'll get when you break an egg!


    Thank you, Jim. You just never know, period.

    At least I don't!

    I love that picture of Ned and Beanblossom too. Hangs on my stairway wall; I look at it often.

    I am jealous of what I KNOW your garden is doing. We have loads of very dirty snow here and it's supposed to be 20 degrees tonight. Much of the time Vermonters brag... but in March, we whine.


    What's amazing about your writing, Crescent, is how you can write a post that's really just the beginning of a story and yet it's so full of life and love that somehow it feels complete. The story about Beanblossom cat-paddling out to you is wonderful.

    I have two other unrelated thoughts for you. One is that I love your sidebar of books; it's fun to see what you are reading right now. Your reading style sounds like mine in that you've got a bunch of books going at the same time. Me too! The other is that I love love LOVE that you've got Walden in your culinary office AND you gave it five stars. When I was sixteen, that book literally changed my world. I should read it again soon.

    Happy spring, friend. xo


    Rose-Anne, you are too kind to me in your appraisal of my writing. Really! Not that I don't thank you --- I do. But if I blushed, I would have blushed several times reading your generous remarks on this and other comments. I think probably I am a novelist at heart and that's why I have a hard time writing short or, god knows, bullet point type blogs... So maybe each individual post is like a chapter; a story in itself, w/ a beginning-middle-end, but also a piece of a large story. So I hope. I've done essays in the past, but the blog's the first place I've added pieces about HOW I wrote them... Glad you like the booklist, as well; I always love knowing what people are reading, too. And Walden? Always a revelation. And (said the Bean Book writer) FULL of bean references!

    Kate Lucariello

    Hello Crescent! Wow, that brought a lump to my throat as I think of the cats in my life. I'm still not over the loss of the last two. I've become "chicken" to have other cats and commit myself to a possible 18 to 20-year sentence of loving and losing them. You're brave to keep doing so. And I know that I'm cutting myself out of the joys of such love. Becoming lovable. Wow. A big lesson. Thanks! Bring on Part II!


    Dear Kate --- you know, the deal is... love, loss, love, loss, love, loss, love. Consider that an overture to part 2! Brave? Naaaaahhh. it's just that the alternative is, as you say, "cutting myself out of the joys" which in my experience seems more painful, just in a different way. I am so glad this spoke to you! cd


    OMG I loved this story, made me smile so much. Loved this line, "you take pleasure and joy where you find it, and never miss an opportunity to do so." I try to live like that and it's nice to have a reminder to live like that!

    Your words fall on me like a sweet bed time story that I would read to my children. Bittersweet really. Like life. Thank you.


    Lori, thank you. Thank you.

    Loving is bittersweet. Like life, as you say. And, the better types of chocolate!


    Hi Crescent,

    I love the story of Beanblossom and how it came up at the time you were beating your eggs.
    I looked in your blog for an RSS feed to keep up with your entries. Is it my tired eyes that can't find it?

    Just in case you wonder what I'm referring to, here is a link



    Wendy Whaples Scully

    Just found your blog yesterday. I loved the description of Bean and the water. Excellent writing style! Thank you!

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