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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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    « Aunt Dot & the Splendid Sunflowers | Main | elegy for a tomatillo ... and Steve Jobs »

    August 22, 2011


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    John Sutton

    Thank you Crescent for being, and being fearless.



    It's okay to be tired. "Plucky" is the feeling in the middle. Later, when you are not so tired, you may recognize it as grace.


    Thank you, John... xxxxooo


    Cathy, I think you're exactly right. What felt like such struggle at the time, later appeared to me as grace. Just that I had gotten through it, I mean! Let alone to feel happy again... a marvel...


    Beautifully, sadly, truthfully said. Thank you.

    In my experience, grief is a ninja in mufti. SO much harder to spot it and head it off than if it wore its blades on the outside!

    Jeannie Goldwire

    Crescent, thank you so much for sharing this beautifully woven narrative of your heart's journey. I only witnessed some of this journey from the outside. I had no idea back then what to say or how to help. Standing there in great frustration on the sidelines, I felt completely powerless to change the cruel facts that had taken place in your life. The only lifeline I knew of, you were already clinging to. I remember once sending you extra oxygen from my heart. I believe so many of your friends felt like I did. In my opinion, your life has been and still is a great work of art and courage.

    Theresa Rogers

    I have been deeply moved reading your blog. I touch your sadness, round and real, dip my hand in and wonder at the shimmer on my skin. To love someone as you did/do/will always…I knew you, long ago, you and Ned, when I was a child in Little Rock. Even now my dad, Red Hawk, has a copy of my impossible child, a cookbook, in his hands, waiting to see you in November and pass it on, my wishes and hopes that you will write a tiny, little something about it bound up in its papery heart. (I say impossible because the path of becoming someone who knows anything about food has been a long, thorny, mud-strewn one.) And I hate adding this to my note, afraid you will think this is the true motivation for my leaving a comment. It is not.

    I remember Ned’s laugh and you both reading books to my sister Hadley and me. I remember he had a beard. I can hear the sound of his voice. I remember I loved your name, wanted to change mine to something so beautiful and curvy and full of white clouds and sunshine. It is not a lifetime of memories, but when I read your words, I feel myself come alongside you. “This is what it will be like,” I say, “so pay attention.” If I can be half as self-aware in the wake of loss I will consider myself a true practitioner.

    But at this point, even if you took my book and threw it in the gutter, just having found your writing, read your words, looked at the world through your heart, would be enough.

    Theresa Rogers (back then, Courtney Moore)

    Crescent Dragonwagon

    Theresa... thank you. I am overwhelmed by your generous, compassionate, interesting, thoughtful response. I do remember you and your sister, and am glad you remember us, especially Ned, and so warmly. I am glad my words about my current sojourns and attempts to understand it speak to you and are helpful and provocative. I am glad to be reminded to come from the best part of myself, to remain honest, to continue to try for integrity in life and in writing, so as (in part) to be worthy of your admiration and respect, as well as for self-respect. I will be delighted to see, touch, and read your book, and I didn't for a minute imagine that you wrote me to hustle praise for me!(I'll also be delighted to see dear Red Hawk again, too). And I understand 'impossible because the path of becoming someone who knows anything about food has been a long, thorny, mud-strewn one...' because I think the path of becoming ANYONE who knows anything about anything is exactly that. Strewn. Fraught. Tough. Not without joy and discoveries, but a lot of rugged scrambles and setbacks and seemingly lost ways.

    And yet, we keep walking, and gradually make a path thereby. As you, clearly, are doing, dear one. I wish you much courage and even more curiosity --- I find, these days, that inquiry and curiosity get me much farther than I would have imagined back when I felt I needed answers more than anything. And, of course, I send you love and respect... for you and for the journey you are on... cd

    Theresa Rogers

    Dear Crescent--

    First, thank you, so much, for your wonderful response. I've written you a letter in reply, packed firmly with the little package of my book, so I won't repeat myself here except to say that I'm finding all these little doors in what you wrote, and it is my delight to pull them open and see what lies behind them.

    And now to the embarrassing mistake in that letter, the one that, when I realized it, made me wring my hands until I finally talked to Chandrika, who laughed and said, "How nicely human, tell her, she will laugh, too."

    So I said the due date for writing anything about the book was November 10th, and that's wrong, as we don't go to press until December 13th, so please forgive a novice for this mistake! Please just tell me what works for you, if you decide this is a project you'd like to support.

    I'll try to stop wringing my hands and just laugh. And breathe again.


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