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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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    « a sound of wings unseen, inadvertent wisdom: a fathering day post | Main | whimper while you work: life-density, writing, very dark chocolate »

    July 10, 2010


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    Thank you for this post. I hungrily wait for your blog as reading your words is always an inspiring activity for me, making me dive more deeply into my own writing practice.
    Thank you for that.


    Thank you for this post. It's precisely what I needed to ready. Today.

    Please practice...or play...again on this topic. Your leaps of logic and bits of magic always make my day.

    You know, sometimes you are just READY to hear a message that the Universe has for you. This post feels like that to me. I have an index card on my desk that says, "Practice makes practice," and it reminds me every time that this whole life business is pretty messy and that all I can do is practice life by doing my best every day. I really like the idea of using your Wynton favorites as a primer for asking myself if I'm doing my best. Unlike this abstract concept of one's personal best, questions about focus, relaxation, and practicing things that I don't do well--those questions can be answered. And sometimes when one of those things is missing, it explains a lot about why the day's efforts don't seem like they are working.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Crescent. You are a gem. xo, Rose-Anne


    Ah, Rose-Anne ... I was so happy to learn this had spoken to you. I wrote it on a day when I should have been packing to travel out of town (teaching) but felt drawn to do it (in my mind, of course, it was longer and more complex, but I settled for Part One-ing). And better for HAVING done it! Of course - the point of practice. Listen, my friend --- all our lives are messy because life IS messy. If I am a gem, I am one that is still rolling and tumbling in the lapidary machine...xxxooo cd

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Dearest Kim, I am honored that you hungrily wait for my posts and find meaning and use from them. I often write them mentally (the way all of us do much writing, more than on paper / screen) but love when time opens up, or I open up to, WRITE-write them. I suppose thats one of the challenges for me, because I also write for a living (to say nothing of eldercare responsibilities, partnership w/ DK, garden, fitness, etc) .. but it gives me such satisfaction to order thoughts and ideas in form as, lately, I seem to be able to do most readily on the blog. That readers like you get something from it --- really excellent icing on an already good cake. (Thinking of the chocolate-raspberry cake some friends served me recently in Tulsa...)

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Jerri, I definitely plan to practice/play more on this --- it is so close to the mysteries of what I actively, daily engage in and with. Thank you for letting me know my leaps of logic work --- of course Im never sure they do , but as W.S. Merwin said in the poem Berryman, If you have to be sure dont write. Hey, hows the grant coming?


    The thing I have learned through long practice at my writing (writing every day whether I need to or not!) is that each new poem, each new picture book, each new short story, graphic novel, novel, essay, nonfiction books--hell even each new speech-- is a learning experience. I may carry over some stuff I have learned from doing this before, but there are alway new things that I'd never come up against, always difficult word choices, sentences that slip away like a fish in the hand, plots that unwind before you can wind them up, and characters--like wayward teenagers--who will not listen to reason or sense and do what they want to do and you just hope they will live through the end of the book.

    So "practice makes practice," whoever said it first, is perfect. At least for me.

    Thanks Cres--

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Yes, Jane! Exactly! You are so right - every single time its new, and the carry-over is minimal compared to the way each piece insists on wanting to be written. You are so welcome --- I am honored and so pleased that this spoke to you. xxoo cd

    Judith jaaaane

    HOly cow-- "musician's black" oooops, that woudl be blOck.... (not blog...) What an insight!! Because of your acronyms practice, i don't face writier's block -- who can get blocked when you have a letter sitting htere daring you to not think of soem word that you almost immedailty assocaite with the letter adn the theme! Actually, I don't relaly 'get " writer's block - in both teh senses of 'get.' I don't have it, thank you God, and i dont' quite/really understnad it cause i love to write adn for some reason don't expereince black. Someitms i worry that i am arrogant to think that i don't get it. There's jsut to mcuH to write aBOUT!


    The grant will be announced on the 30th, Crescent. If I'm lucky enough to receive it, I'll jump and scream for five minutes and then register for Fearless. Immediately.

    I do so hope to see you soon.

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Got my fingers crossed for you, babe! (And for all of us --- I know you will add so much to this group, which is shaping up SO interestingly!)


    Hi! I'm a fan of your cookbooks - The Passionate Vegetarian in a favorite, and I'm sure The Cornbread Gospels, which is on the way, will be as well - and am thrilled to see that you have a blog. I'm looking forward to reading past and future posts.

    Retro Air Jordans

    Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.


    Practice writing, I like that! New to blogging, I don't consider myself anything close to a writer but the sheer pleasure of sharing my thoughts is too compelling not to follow. After reading over your blog, I have new inspiration and I think you've dislodged some things in my senior brain...a good thing cause it was stuck in pause mode! I've always loved you for your cookbooks, now I know why I love you!


    Loved this writing! : )
    A healthy dose of reality.
    Thankful to be reminded of, how practice is living, not just achieving.

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Thanks, Mona... So believe this. A blog update in a couple days.

    g-star pull

    Coucou! et bien oui, la robe (pas trop) courte+collants opaques/leggings: le meilleur! confortable a souhait et classe… en choisissant les bonnes robes… Pour ce qui est de montrer ou pas le ventre, la question ne se posera plus vers le 6e ou 7e mois… impossible de le cacher, et tant mieux! on te laisse la place dans le metro/bus (en general), on te ragarde avec un sourire tendre (euh, les femmes, surtout!)… La grossesse c’est du haut et du bas, parfois ça va, parfois moins (les hormones!), mais l’energie que te renvoient les personnes qui te croisent et te regardent en general est tres belle… souris, relax…
    continue bien… et plein de bonne energie!

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