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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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    « Estimated Final Date of Frost: time's winged chariot, with lilacs & the fish | Main | Maurice Zolotow & Roman Polanski (with a side of absinthe) »

    July 24, 2009


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    Richard Grayson

    This was a wonderful piece of writing. Reading it made my day. Thank you.


    Oh, Richard. You are so welcome. High praise, coming from you. But then --- we (writers) all wallow in that discontent, damn it.


    What a riveting post. I was going to read a book this evening, but you completely derailed me! And your "Fearless" Facebook slide show made me wish as never before that I had a grand to kick around, not to mention a few days off from nursing and diapering and reading "Squirrel Nutkin."


    Thank you thank you.... I am so glad this spoke to you... it a sense it makes Maurice live again for me. As for Fearless, "God willing and the creek don't rise" , it, and I, will be here when you're ready and willing and able to come.
    Bury those nuts --- some will be there for the winter, and some will sprout and grow trees...


    How very wise of you to see that starving yourself for focused writing time (back when you were running the Inn) helped you devour each hour you did have.

    I also think it's *amazing* that your father reached out to you as a peer, as someone who would understand his writing crisis.

    Neither of my parents ever communicated with me as a person who might have valuable insight. I'm sure you have a confidence in your creative life that comes somewhat from your father's respect for you.

    Do you ever wonder if the inn-keeping kept you from devouring yourself and your creative spirit as the alcoholism did your father for awhile when he was younger?

    When we're younger and we're riding creative currents, it's easy to dismiss the real, concrete world and just go a little crazy.

    I wonder if your need to pass the meeping time in your garden was your way to ground the intense, subconscious creative work you were doing?

    Anthropologists often talk of liminal periods during rites of passage, when one is betwixt and between.

    I believe that happens in the creative process, too. There's a lot of internal work happening when we're wrapping up one stage of a project and moving onto the next. You can't rush a tart or the perfect, tender lettuce.

    Angel C.

    I'm as mesmerized by your writing as I was by you in those early Eureka days. I think I met your father in a book shop then and felt his out loud persona as enthralling as my mother's was.

    I missed the later Eureka years as I was travelling about and living my own family life. I'm sorry I missed Dairy Hollow.

    Do your remember the time you, I and Smiling Jim (and his dog) took some kids to a park somewhere?

    I envy the details of many people's memories. They come alive. My memories are more like my dreams--in color, but projected on a black screen. The highlights pop at times, but the edges fade away.

    You have certainly grown into as interesting a woman as you were a young woman back in the day. How could you not? How can we not become who we are? I'm often so dreadfully disappointed in myself--but I do what I do and there it is--no matter what.

    I'm glad to hear your entrancing voice!


    Tracy Young

    This is so good I have to print it out so I can really read it.


    Crescent, you are just too damned cool for school! If I could not be me, I'd wish to be YOU!


    You write such big chunks of life that I have to read slowly, to digest each moment. You've been blessed with a large life and you've not wasted a minute.

    Renee' Rodgers

    Crescent, your post so eloquently put into words exactly what I have been feeling of late. I am looking forward to Fearless in December!

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