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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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    « Part 1: love / dead cat | Main | letting an invitation become personally seismic: how I began to grow up »

    April 01, 2009


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    I am very grateful that you took the time to share this here.

    Kate Lucariello

    "For if you come through betrayal and (eventually) work out how to remain open to life and people, you do so as an act of choice, and not because you are innocent, or naive, or a naturally trusting soul. You make a conscious decision."

    And it occurs to me that loss of others and ourselves, finally, is the ultimate betrayal - but only if we feel we've made a bargain that is not ours to make. A beautiful followup to Part I, Crescent, thank you! Kate Lucariello


    Just wanted to say Hi, I'm thinking of you today.


    a most moving and articulate story of grief/love and life. Blessings, Sukipoet

    Teri and the cats of Furrydance

    I came, was directed-pointed-guided to your blog with Sukipoet kind "I think you should visit this blog'...I have a steak on the BBQ and will return to wander around, sipping my Manhattan...but what i have read in this post is very much my life at the moment, in parts, and I hope to learn and enlighten myself here, too...Thank you for being.


    Thank you, Sukipoet --- so good to Visual Journal with you today. And thank you, Teri...

    And here we are ... learning and learning to be love-abled.


    Nothing...nothing...nothing could have been more valuable to me today than these words.

    From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.


    Jerri --- thank you. Thank YOU. Do I wonder if I should spend so much time on non-income producing writing? Sometimes. Do I wonder if I should I be quite SO transparent when I have something of a "public life"? Of course, from time to time.

    But a response like yours mitigates these questions... trying to speak honestly, letting what is in us shine out (even inner darkness has a way of shining if released in words) , not only frees us but sometimes, without the least intent, serves others.



    After those insightful, captivating, moving and truthful words, I find nothing to say, except AMEN and thank you.

    Cindy L

    I'm so glad I read this post. I needed to have you fill in the parts you'd already sketched for me (briefly) about your new life, how it came about. So much rich material here. You've written so beautifully about grief. While I haven't suffered the loss of my dear husband, I've lost a beloved parent, and more recently, felt the bittersweet hollow of the empty nest. The usual things midlife brings. And so much of what you've said resonates, about finding your center again after been thrown off for a while...

    Barbara H.

    Dear, dear Crescent. I write that with full consciousness that I only know you from a few posts that I have read but your willingness to share pain, loss, memories and love is a beacon of light as I travel through some of the feelings surfacing after the loss of my mother last month. They haven't been good feelings - anger, bitterness, resentment - not about her but a bigger picture than that. Feeling them has given me a chance to look at them and see if that is really where I want to go. Then the 2x4 of a broken water pipe woke me up, hurtling me back into the present and probably preserving a relationship with a relative. Other messages have come this week from the Universe - your two cat posts are the icing on that sweet cake. Thank you.

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Barbara, as I reply to your sweet words I am in NY, getting ready to spend time with my aunt, who is six months past 100 and who has just been put on hospice care. Ive written about her quite a bit here, so you may sort of know-her in the way you sort-of know me, and I sort-of (through your posts) know you.


    What I know is life asks more of us than we are ready or able to give --- and we become ready by saying yes --- which we must, even when we want to say no (or imagine that we CAN say no).


    But help also arrives, from unlikely places at times. Im glad my words spoke to you, glad sweet Beanblossom is still in some sense alive and giving through those words, and glad that your dear words have given me what I need to begin this difficult day.


    What a life it is, learning to love regardless! Thank you, B...



    Barbara H.

    Again, thank you. I will be keeping you all close in my heart in these difficult days. Blessings to all of you with love flowing your way.

    natural sleep aids

    This is the reason why I love cats! Thank you for sharing these inspiring stories.

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