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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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    « "fixing to" ... and a message via indigo bunting | Main | in which I thank my plucky stars, though not without regret »

    June 25, 2011


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    Oh Cres, this is lovely. xoxox, with tears streaming down my face....



    Tears... so beautiful, and delicious to read. We, too, have a special connection to Mammoth Sunflowers... more tears.

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience!

    Anne Petty

    How is it that your words are able to reach out, over hundreds of miles, to touch my hear and start tears flowing as I remember my husband Bob. Thank you, Crescent. Lovely, timeless writing.

    Joy Golliver

    This touched my heart to its depth. So much said in so few words.


    Lovely, my dear. Heartbreaking, too. May we all have such tender love and care to escort us to our next destination.

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Thank you, Rose-Anne...Your comments are always so generous. My aunt was childless, yet there I was (and the "tender care and love" in escorting my privilege). I too, have no children... but my hope is, ALMOST my certainty, that there will be someone for me too when I get there. xxxooo

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Thank you again, Joy. That it spoke to someone in your line of work is an honor --- I hope it proves of use to you and those you serve, and I am grateful your friend sent it to you...

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Anne, my dear, thank you, thank you. You ask, I'm sure rhetorically,about "words (that) are able to reach out, over hundreds of miles" --- I think because in that realm, there's neither time nor space. Where you and Bob meet, and me and Ned, and me and Aunt Dot... mysteriously, and despite, in the face of, maybe even because of, all we've lost in the world of space and time.

    As I believe Muddy Waters said (and was reprised by the Rolling Stones) "Love is love and not fade away."

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Julie... now I want to know about YOUR sunflower experience and connection!

    Michele Murray

    Crescent, that is the most beautiful story on love and aging I have ever read. I will copy this and put it in my living trust for my children to read. You touch so many hearts with your words. I pray to have someone with your compassion when I am ready to go on my last trip!!

    Judi Sartwell

    Crescent, I hope you realize what a special and wonderful person you are! This is so touching and beautiful. I still am snuffling and drying tears off of my cheeks. I know you're also going through the same thing with your mother, and I just pray that she goes as peacefully with you by her side, telling her how much you love her. Bless you!

    Frieda Wishinsky

    A wonderful, touching riveting story. Your aunt was lucky to have you in her life.


    Thank you, Frieda. I think *I* was the lucky one, but maybe we both were. I am happy this story spoke to you --- and happy to get to remember her out loud, and introduce her and that experience to many who never got to know her: one way, I guess, that writing is as the poet Wislawa Szymborska says, "revenge" (against death) "of a mortal hand."


    Oh how this touches my heart. Priviledge and burden are where I am now with my Mom. Seventeen years of dementia have now robbed her of speech and the ability to walk. I am there, like you were for the good days and the bad. I'll never again look at a sunflower without remembering your words, they will be a must have in my garden. You are a gift Crescent, not only to your family and friends but to all who read your words.

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Thank you, Joy. I am honored by your words and grateful that our lives can touch this way.

    I think, sometimes, that it's all a gift: the good days and the bad, the sunflowers and the weeds.


    Dwain Cromwell

    I love being your friend.

    The Sandwich Life

    Lovely. Just lovely. Thx.


    I appreciate how honestly you write of grief and life's challenges, and living with them - even when you don't want to :-).
    My favorite Aunt Dot quote, "Have you personally observed this?"

    Henrietta Wolf

    Nothing much to add to what has already been said, except to share the one word that came out of my mouth when I got to the end of the writing about your Aunt Dot: "Gorgeous!"

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