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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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    « letting an invitation become personally seismic: how I began to grow up | Main | creative discontent: lasting father-wit, & a writer/innkeeper's ex-files »

    June 18, 2009


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    Marilyn Scott-Waters

    Beautiful! Thank you!

    More please!

    Kimberly DuVall

    Thank you....thank you...thank you...what a treat for a lunchtime read! Look forward to the next!



    Yes, thank you! I wish I could meet David one day. For the past two years, we've hosted a group of visiting students from Africa at the Intensive English school where I work. They visit on a grant that I helped write and is close to my heart - the theme of the grant is "The civil rights movement in the American South." At the end of the program we take a bus trip through the south, visiting notable historic sites. I went on the bus trip the first year and it was amazing (Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Greensboro, NC, ending up in DC). I will go again this summer and will dutifully record the trip on my blog!

    Working with EFL students means I am SURROUNDED by language gaffes...right up your alley. Just yesterday I was laughing with a teacher who had to tell his class not to use the word "cock" for rooster so as to avoid sentences such as, "Mmmm, this cock is delicious."


    "Listen to the fish" may be your best advice since the gems about unrelenting incrementalism. Thank you.


    Such a sunny, bright smile in those lilacs! Half the time, our lilacs freeze. Here, average frost-free dates are Memorial Day until mid-September (but I have seen snow in June). My okra, set out early June, live in their wall-o-waters until the Fourth of July, and by August I have to watch them, picking daily, or I'll have tough 8" pods overnight. Clemson Spineless does best for me.


    I have GOT to get some wall-o-waters! I hadn't heard of them till this year.

    And yes --- I'm happy in general these days (the more so as who knows when the cycle of life will make its next turn), plus, lilacs make me VERY happy! (Plus, I was so pleased with myself for my mulch-o-rama session...)


    You make the passing of time beautiful.

    I think of you everytime I make those cornmeal pancakes with corn et al in them. I just love them. I cherish your book. I love to read your blog. I am always moved and for a moment I am able to click in with an adult instead of Sesame Street and everything PBS kids.

    BTW, I just love celeriac like your teacher. I fell in love last year as well.


    Was just looking through the cookbook shelf for what to do with all the kale from the garden (besides sauteeing or baking into crispy salted chips, both yum!)which brought me to one of my standbys, your Soup and Bread. After a good while caught up within its pages somehow I ended up here, reading this most recent post, and wanted to let you know just how much all of this resonates, from the calculating of frost dates, the sort of people and solstice potlucks of which you write, the solstice parties, the mud season troubles, the appreciation of lilacs, the aging of self, partner, and parents, and even the middle of the night soak at Esalen which I'd entirely forgotton about until just now thanks to your reminder, but that we were lucky enough to get to do back in, let's see...1993, I think, the summer we lived and worked in a teensy town of 10 along the southern end of the Big Sur coastline. We even have a local doctor friend in our community who gave up his practice to become a travelling musician, much of the year in Eastern Europe.

    Anyways, it's lovely to find you here and will check back in on some of your earlier posts some time when it isn't after midnight and the temps aren't dropping (41 F right now in the garden) which will certainly leave me dropping off to sleep worrying and wondering, if it freezes tonight, on July 10th, would it be considered the first frost of the fall, or the last frost of the spring?

    Naruto Figure

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