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chocolate & zucchini
The food section
is my blog burning?
a full belly
becks & posh
11.30 Mark Twain
11.29 Louisa May Alcott & Madeline L'Engle
hie (hy) verb tr., intr.
To hasten; to go in a hurry.
[From Middle English hien, from Old English higian (to strive).]
hibernaculum \hy-ber-NACK-yuh-lum\ noun
: a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal
11.28 Rita Mae Brown & Nacy Mitford
11.27 James Agee & Gail Sheehy
11.24 Frances Hodgson Burnett
condign (kuhn-DYN) adjective
[From Middle English condigne, from Anglo French, from Latin condignus, from com- (completely) + dignus (worthy). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take, accept) that's the ancestor of other words such as deign, dignity, discipline, doctor, decorate, and docile.]
hydromancy \HY-druh-man-see\ noun
: divination by the appearance or motion of liquids (as water)
entelechy (en-TEL-uh-kee) noun
1. Perfect realization as opposed to a potentiality.
2. In some philosophies,
a vital force that propels one to
[From Late Latin entelechia, from Greek entelecheia, from enteles (complete), from telos (end, completion) + echein (to have).]
11.22 Abigail Adams & George Eliot
veridical (vuh-RID-i-kuhl) adjective
2. Real; corresponding to facts; representing reality.
[From Latin veridicus, from verus (true) + dicere (to say).]
11.21 Beryl Bainbridge, Marilyn French, & Elizabeth George Speare
11.20 Nadine Gordimer
pukka \PUCK-uh\ adjective
: genuine, authentic; also : first-class
How do you use
feme sole (fem sol) noun, plural femes sole
A single woman, whether divorced, widowed, or never married,
[From Anglo-French feme soule, from feme (woman) + soule (single).]
sheriff heavily pronounced, 'If she sued for divorce on the
divorce restored Ann to the status of a feme sole with the
11.19 Julia Ward Howe & Sharon Olds
extremophile \ik-STREE-muh-fyle\ noun
: an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions (as in a hot spring or ice cap)
11.18 Margaret Atwood & Mickey Mouse (1928)
minx (mingks) noun
A pert or flirtatious young woman.
[Of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch or Low German.]
11.16 Shelby Foote
giglet (GIG-lit) noun, also giglot
A giddy, frolicsome girl.
[From Middle English gigelot.]
Ravenna giglet, Mistress Ritta."
giglot fortune!--to master Caesar's sword."
recusant \RECK-yuh-zunt\ adjective
: refusing to submit to authority
11.15 Georgia O'Keeffe
sylph (silf) noun
1. A slender, graceful young woman.
2. Any of a race of mythological invisible beings who
[From New Latin sylpha, apparently a blend of Latin sylva (forest) + nymph..
meed \MEED\ noun
: a fitting
return or recompense
tercel (TUR-sel) noun, also tiercel or tercelet
The male of a hawk, especially of the peregrine falcon or a goshawk.
[From Middle English, from Middle French terçuel, from Vulgar Latin tertiolus, diminutive of Latin tertius (third). Ultimately from Indo-European root trei- (three) that's also the source of such words as three, testify (to be the third person), triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).]
pinto (PIN-to) adjective
Marked with patches
of white and another color.
1. Pinto horse: a horse having patches of white and another color.
2. Pinto bean: a variety of kidney beans having mottled seed.
[From American Spanish pinto (spotted), from obsolete Spanish, from Vulgar Latin pinctus (painted), past participle of pingere (to paint). Ultimately from Indo-European root peig- (to cut, mark) that's the source of such words as paint, depict, picture, pigment, pint, and pimento.]
Here are two other words to describe horses and other animals:
spotted in black and white.
mountebank \MOUNT-ih-bank\ noun
1: a person who
sells quack medicines from a platform
11.9 Anne Sexton & Carl Sagan
11.8 Margaret Mitchell
11.6 Ethan Hawke
cilice (SIL-is) noun
1. An undergarment of haircloth, worm by monks in penance.
[From Old English cilic, from Latin cilicium, from Greek kilikion, from kilikios (Cilician). This cloth was originally made of Cilician goats' hair. Cilicia was an ancient region in southeast Asia Minor which later became part of the Roman Empire. It's now part of southern Turkey.]
tergiversation \ter-jiv-er-SAY-shun\ noun
*1 : evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : equivocation
11.3 Walker Evans
macedoine (mas-i-DWAN) noun
1. A mixture of diced fruits or vegetables, often served as salad,
2. A medley or mixture.
[From French macédoine, from Macédoine (Macedonia), apparently an allusion to the diversity of people in the region.]
11.2 Marie Antoinette
zabernism (ZAB-uhr-niz-uhm) noun
The misuse of military power; aggression; bullying.
[After Zabern, German name for Saverne, a village in Alsace, France. In 1912, in this village, a German military officer killed a lame cobbler who smiled at him.]
11.1 Stephen Crane
Sorry, no more new posts until the 29th or 30th...
November 18, 2004
This new book, The seas by Samantha Hunt sounds interesting. It's about a 19 year old girl who thinks that she is a mermaid.
Writing a woman's life is quite good. I read the first chapter or two last night. Mostly I get it, but occasionally there are phrases like...well, too bad, I cannot find the offending phrase. This book is a classic, a standard in theory of writing about women. Most every later piece I've read references Heilbrun's work. I hesitate to call it seminal, for obvious reasons. Besides being informative about the process of writing women's lives and particular traps to look out for in the process, Heilbrun introduces biographies of other women like Eudora Welty and May Sarton to her readers and points out problems with how they were represented. This book is so fabulous, and her ideas so easy to grasp that it pops up in scads of undergrad syllabi. The more I read on the theory of biography, the more I understand that biographies themselves are fictions.
November 17, 2004
NYTimes reports about the plagiarism suit filed against Kitty Kelley.
More about the insufferable charm, of French women and their ability to remain rail thin despite a diet rich in fats and dairy. Wow, there may be a correlation between eating out at dining in: "In France, 76 per cent eat meals they have prepared at home; the favourite place to eat both lunch and dinner is in the home, with 75 per cent eating at the family table."
And by the way, did you know that humans are obsessed with fiction? Storytelling and "A love of fiction [are] as universal as governance, marriage, jokes, religion, and the incest taboo."
November 16, 2004
After a certain point, Loomis's descriptions of food (in On Rue Tatin) began to bother me. I don't have access to fabulously fresh French foodstuffs. And reading about it, just imagining it all, depressed me and made me hungry. Overall the book was quite good, and provided a lovely portrait of life in a French town. But, at times, the prose dragged along. For those craving adventure, this book is not for you. However, if you like reading about relationships, then this is a great one because Loomis charts her family's growing acceptance into the town's fabric. Several anecdotes illustrate the problems they encounter, like with the florists across the road and the priests living behind them.
Once I finished that, I turned to Linda Greenlaw's latest memoir, All fishermen are liars: True tales from the Dry Dock Bar. As a reader, my relationship to this writer is ambivalent. While I'm not completely fascinated with her writing, the stories she tells are interesting, so when she publishes a new book, I am torn between reading it or not. Reader, I read it. Though at times my brain froze and eyes glazed over at some of the technical terms, for the most part the book was enjoyable. Set in the Dry Dock Bar, Linda has a lunch that lasts until at least 10 o'clock that evening with her mentor Alden. She's concerned with his health, and tries to politely suggest that he slow things down. He rebuffs her concerns and instead they tell each other stories, fishermen's tales. Interspersed between the long chapters are shorter chapters titled "snack bar". In these Greenlaw lists reasons why the fishing was bad and several other anecdotal items that don't really fit in with the tales she narrates in the other chapters. The best one of these was, gosh I've forgotten the title, but it ended up being 5 things that fisherman claim. One was that they are a black belt, another is that they claim military service, but when pressed about dates or tours of duty, they come up blank or back down claiming PTS syndrome and they can't talk about it. Another thing they claim is that they are geniuses, that they're drug lords, and maybe there was one other thing. Anyway, I had to read this list to Ian last night over the phone. When he speaks about the fellows with whom he works, he is often incredulous about claims of the same nature. Only on the railroad, it seems that the conductors, because that's who he mostly works with, are hit men or CIA agents or some such other nonsense. I figured that it was just a characteristic of a male dominated and identified workplace, but Ian replied that one of the women who works out there claimed that she was a stripper. Somehow, that's different. She's not with the program. She should have claimed to be a stripper/spy.
I'm having trouble with Woman Warrior which I started very soon after finishing the Greenlaw book. WW is Maxine Hong Kingston's autobiography, and it's received critical attention. I'm somewhere in the second chapter and the problem for me is that very little of it seems grounded in reality. But, that's sort of the point of the book. Kingston grew up in the U.S., but her Chinese parents filled her head with stories and myths, so much so that she lived in a ghost or dreamworld for much of her childhood. I have trouble with things that are not straightforward. And, at times, her writing seems too formal or awkward somehow. Anyway, this is not a fun book, but one that I assigned myself for my independent study. It seems that I'll be doing a lot of supplementary reading about this book.
November 15, 2004
Surprisingly two articles in this month's issue of Vogue captured my attention. Normally, I just buy it for the pictures, like the cover shot of JC in the fab LV dress, if I'm not mistaken. There was a laudatory book review of Harold McGee's classic On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which has been revised and expanded. It takes a scientific approach to cooking. Surely we would all be poorer without that. And Ann Packer contributed an essay about the development of her personal sense of style as a freshman at Yale.
Finished Name all the animals. It was good. Alison quit her job as the convent's switchboard operator to work in a library as a page. Instead of shelving the books like a good page, she hid and read during her shift. But really, there's much more to it than that. It was a lovely coming of age memoir. Then I moved on to Autobiography of a face which came out in 1994. Another memoir, this time about a girl, Lucy Grealy, who has cancer and half of her jaw is removed. She struggles with acceptance from her peers, survives thirty-some surgeries, and finally finds acceptance at Sarah Lawrence. Anne Patchett wrote the afterward, in which she talks about how Grealy intended for her book to be more of a literary accomplishment than just autobiography. And, I guess that is what it was. The writing did not get in the way of the story, which is so often the case with some memoirs.
last night I started On
Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a Small French Town.
I've wanted to read this one for so long, and I could have just bought
it, but I try not to spend so freely on books these days. This one is
about an American couple who bought a house in Normandy. They fixed
it up. She wrote cookbooks. And then she wrote about their experiences.
Actually, the first chapter or two talks about her experiences living
in Paris where she attended cooking school. Then she meets and marries
her partner, they have a child, and move to Normandy. It's quite good,
though somehow disappointing. I cannot put my finger on that just yet.
But, there are recipes!
November 12, 2004
Who knew that Dame Barbara Cartland was so prolific a writer? As I recall, I may have, in a fit of adolescent frenzy, actually read one of her love novels many years ago. She dictated them to six secretaries and upon her death had written 723 romances. Wow. There are another 160 coming.
Operation Homecoming, the NEA program which encourages returning G.I.s to write about their war experiences, is expanding due to its popularity. Wonder if we'll see the likes of Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and Hemmy like after the Great War?
If the covers for the National Book Award for fiction don't look awesome, then I don't know what. I might read 'em just for that alone. Maybe because they've been nominated, my public library may buy them after all. Often they lack prescience in their selection of books/collection building.
An article on breaking into academic publishing at The Chronicle. There are three key elements to having a successful career in the industry: publishing experience, love of the work, and "knowing where, and how, a Ph.D. can make a difference for your job prospects."
Now is as good a time as any to read Mark Twain. The Atlantic Monthly has made "A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard it" available online. Published in November 1874, it's the first of Twain's contributions to the periodical. While I enjoyed Tom Sawyer, I struggled with the thick dialect, and I'm a native to the region. This story is peppered with that style as well.
I had almost forgotten that I read Joan Didion's Fixed Ideas: America since 9.11 last night, but spying the words "Bush...popular vote...exploiting...deep ideological divisions in the electorate" reminded me. Basically I was in agreement with what she wrote, but she provided a bit of historic background for the causes of 9.11 of which I was only peripherally aware. Last week when I did a subject search in the LOC's catalog, I discovered that there were 813 titles under the subject heading September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001, way more than I expected.
Family history is something I'm interested in. My own, that is. It's a common thing that genealogists and family historians will spill their vast knowledge on you if you let them. I try to be interested, and for the first three minutes I am, but there should be a cap on how long one can ramble on about such things. Limit the exchange to just three things one could say. Mine would be: One of my earliest ancestress, Penelope van Princes/Princen/Princess came from Holland to N.J., where she was shipwrecked in 1620. Her husband was killed by American Indians; she was scalped, escaped, and hid for days before being rescued by friendlier American Indians. I may have other interesting stories, but then again, they could be boring. This is all to illustrate how excited I was to read Joan Didion's Where I was from. But, in reading about her lineage, I became bored. It's as much about California as it is about her family though, so it seems a good exercise, yet one that didn't appeal to me.
Lastly, before I fell asleep last night, I began Name all the animals by Alison Smith. Oh no. In searching for reviews of the book I happened upon a major spoiler, which I had suspected, truth be known. Anyway, its a memoir written from the author's fifteen-year-old perspective. That year, her older brother died, and her family mourned his loss, well, forever. I'm 55 pages into it now, and it promises to be excellent. Yet another gorgeous writer living in Brooklyn. What is with this trend? Excellent choice of cover; it shows a dollhouse illuminated from the inside, with portions of the facade cut/blown away.
November 11, 2004
I stayed up until, oh, 2 a.m. this morning reading an engrossing book that I simply could not put down. Women don't ask: Negotiation and the gender divide is the best practical feminist book I've read, ever. Most feminist writings turn me off because they're all about pointing out problems and constructing theories. And while those things are essential, few feminists transform theories into action. They don't provide the reader with ten easy steps to a world free from male domination. Perhaps the reader is supposed to arrive at those methods herself. Actually, my beef with this book is similar. In its introduction, the authors refer to chapters seven and eight as providing women with the tools for successful negotiation. But, my expectations were not met. I assumed that exercises and step-by-step suggestions would be included. Wrong. But, there were other titles mentioned, and so I may search for those. The importance of the book lies in its findings that because women don't ask, they don't prosper. Men are raised to negotiate and women expect to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work without tooting their own horns.
Mainly, it falls back to childhood socialization. Dozens of results of studies further illustrate the authors' points, so this is quite an authoritative work. It's so good that I'm running through women's names on my holiday list to figure out who would appreciate this book as much as I did. Also, the authors point that women and men's approaches to negotiation are different, and that also influences their success or failures. Women typically approach negotiation from a collaborative standpoint in which information is shared. Women are interested in a win-win situation wherein both parties receive some benefits. Men, on the other hand, see it as a competitive game in which there is a winner and a loser. They are only out for their own interests, other party be damned. Often this hurts them in the long run. Ending on a positive note, the authors feel that women's presence in the workplace cannot help but transform it for the betterment of all. It was no surprise that women own 40 percent of businesses; they get fed up with male hierarchies and ways of interacting in the world, and create a supportive environment of their own.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that the epilogue was very disappointing. Entitled "Negotiating at home," it talked about childcare, housework and condom wearing very briefly. How reductionist is that? I suppose there couldn't possibly be any other issues that need negotiating at home? However, the best part of the epilogue was in the authors' inclusion of one woman's enjoinder to her husband: "How are you going to care for your child while you are at work?" Right on, my sistah!
Whitebread shortlist results are in.
What is the Giller Prize? Whew, that shows how ignorant I am of Canadian literature. Its a $25,000 prize awarded to illustrious writers.
Say it ain't so. R.I.P. The Women's Review of Books is no more. For some reason that GNR song "I used to love her, but I had to kill her..." springs to mind. Damn, this is just bad news all around. What a terrible was to ruin a perfectly good Thursday. Apparently lots of people used to subscribe to it, like me. It's just that the reviews were so heavy and ponderous and lengthy, that I couldn't stand to subscribe to it and not read the reviews. Maybe if the editorial staff had been more in touch with what readers wanted, then the Review would still thrive.
Jen Leo is always clueing me into fabulous things, like this writer's chronicle of the life, death, resurrection, and real death of a piece he wrote for Conde Nast Traveler.
November 9, 2004
Though sadly lacking in anything sexual, I got my Dan Savage fix filled this afternoon. And, I have to wait until 2006 to read J. Maarten Troost's new travel book, Getting stoned with savages. What is the world coming to? All this waiting and being unfulfilled is bonkers.
Last night I read Women's lives into print: the theory, practice, and writing of feminist auto/biography. It was about the same as several of the other books that I've read on the topic, however, these essays were different in that somehow, I "got" several things that I didn't get from the others. All this time that I've been reading about writing feminist biography, it seems that I've not quite understood one of the most essential elements of the trick: in writing the biography of another, the writer also writes her biography. Usually writers are drawn to certain characters for personal reasons and at some point in the process the subject sort of becomes "you." Most of the essays in this collection were British, and they were surprisingly jargon-free, sensibly written, and easy to understand. Funny that I need a Brit to translate all this USA-produced scholarship into something that I comprehend. One of the most fun parts of the book was the last essay, "The Swashbuckler, the Landlubbing Wimp and the Woman in Between: Myself as Pirate(ss)." In the last part, part III, in which it appeared, the essays were concerned with life-history writing. Each essay discussed how writing biography caused them to contemplate their life history. Jo Stanley wrote about a non-fiction book she wrote about woman pirates and how she dealt with questions like "Oh, do you want to be one yourself, then?" She answered yes and no but eventually after being confronted with the question so many times, she searched her soul and arrived at the right answer for her.
Two days ago I got what appears to be amazing book from my editor at Library Journal. They've cut back on the number of reviews, and so now instead of receiving one or two books every month from them, it seems that I'll get one every two or three months. That ain't right. Anyway, the one that I received is called Retratos: 2,000 Years of Latin American Portraits. Oh, how I adore portraiture. It is very coffee-table, is published by Yale, and has that marvelous glossy-page new book smell that I cannot stop myself from inhaling deeply each time that I turn its pages. Surely, this book-sniffing-turning move should be a yoga position given all those inhalations and nasal fingerings so regularly associated with the practice. Pity that the bottom edge has been dinged all to hell. I hate when that happens; a perfectly exquisite book, spoiled, courtesy of the evil United States Postal Service (which has been on my shit list all year for the dreadful things they do to books delivered to my home).
The other exciting
things received in the mail in the past two days are: DLB
303: American Radical and Reform Writers and Polaroid
International Photography, Issue 26. My essay on Ella Reeve
Bloor appears in the first. The publisher was so kind as to provide
me with a copy of the volume, which also includes interesting folks
like Jane Addams,
my personal hero Eugene V. Debs,
Gurley Flynn, and well, a fricking plethora of other radical/reform
writers with whom I am acquainted, but want to get to know better, wink
the TOC (.pdf).
November 9, 2004
Who knew that the "N.Y. Times list is weighted more to the "old-fashioned bookstore kind of market," whereas USA Today seems skewed toward mass merchants and wholesalers who sell to non-bookstore outlets?" It's all made clear in an article in the Washington Post.
Nevadans quibble with the qualifications of their poet laureate.
No good "campus novels" from the point of view of the students? Wacky Tom Wolfe thinks that as a seventy-something geezer, he can tap that pulse? Did he hope to relive "madcap episodes going on in that field that might be fun to write about"? Apparently the campus depicted in I Am Charlotte Simmons resembles Duke. The Chronicle characterizes the whole exercise as Peeping Tom episode.
November 8, 2004
Now that my need for travel writing was sated by No touch monkey... no wait, it was not sated. I need more. That's not to suggest that it wasn't satisfying, because it totally was. It's just that I need more. Lordy, this woman travels the globe, and the reader trots along behind her, carefully scooting backwards on bridges in the nighttime to avoid rapid dogs in....Sumatra? Bali? I can't keep the places straight because I've not been there and I didn't have a map to hold as I read the book. Most of the places Halliday visits are tropical, but it's well balanced by colder climates, too. Her new book, sure to be just as, or even more fascinating than NTM, Job Hopper comes out next spring.
Reading travel essays/writing is addictive. Once I finish one, I crave another, instantly. And, poo, I don't think I have anything else at my disposal right now. Will have to hunt through bookshelves at home to see what I have. Oh, I'm crazy anyway. I have at at least two dozen books checked out from the public library and a whole list of books that I still need to read for my independent study. No doubt I'll be able to finish them all in two weeks when I'm vacationing in Fla. under the specter of the mouse. But yet, that's a lot of pressure. Okay, I'm cursing because I'm going to miss the Miami Book Fair International that is happening this week. Crap. Timing is everything.
And I just flipped myself in the eye with an errant finger. What gives? I'm normally not so spastic. It's Monday, dreadful Monday. And I can't find my sunglasses anywhere. Almost wish it'd get all rainy and dreary again so I wouldn't miss using them so much.
The book that I'm two-hundred-ish pages into right now is called The new south 1945-1980: The story of the south's modernization. The first two chapters were awful. I hate to read about politics. The rest of the book has been okay though. It covers integration, bus boycotts, etc. While I'm learning a lot, the writing style is standard academeeze, a.k.a. dry. It's okay, really, but not the kind of writing I easily engage with. That would be Ayun Halliday's (of no touch monkey fame) writing. Surprise, none of my local libraries have any of her books, except the one that I just read.
The so-called election was good for book publishers according to a NYTimes article. Writers, pundits, and bears (oh my!) are scrambling to write tomes explaining what went wrong.
Happy birthday Mr. President... oh, wrong song. Happy twenty-fifth Granta! And many more. Yeah, sorry. I couldn't resist. I'm in the planning stages of a Marilyn Monroe impersonation project, so frequently if there's a MM connection to be made at all, I do it. The other option was a Willie Nelson impersonation project. Just don't think I can pull it off quite so well. As, I'm not a man, I have very little facial hair, and I have these things called boobs that cannot be strapped down. I've tried.
If reading about my book-loving life is not enough, why you oughta browse this little thing called Potlikker that I'm working on.
More about New York Dog, the "cosmo for canines" and magazine that every dog whose anydog will want in their doghouse.
Can't resist a short story published in the Atlantic Monthly in which a "section of the bookcase slowly swung out into the room—a secret door, straight from a monster movie." Sounds like something Nancy Drew! Oh, hurrah.
November 5, 2004
Ah, I remember the days of devouring Nancy Drew mysteries. In fact, that is what one of my mother's friends recalls fondly about my childhood. Whenever they would travel together for fun or business, Maggie mentioned that my mother would always stop in a bookstore to buy a ND mystery for me. How she kept track of the ones I had read, I'll never know. Maybe she didn't. I don't think I was too picky, and probably would re-read them. Re-reading was something that I did a lot as a pre-teen. I read Wifey several times, and there was a great Norma Klein book, Domestic arrangements that I bought at least three copies of, at the same time, as they had been discounted at Woolworth's, and all sported leavings from a marker along the top of the book's spine. Though I didn't read each copy, I'm sure that I read the book three or four times, at least. Few "adult" books that I read now capture my attention in the same manner. I can't recall the last book that I wanted to read again as soon as I finished it. As a child though my conception of time was different; there was plenty of it in which to re-read every book several times. Now, time is short. There are tons of crappy books to wade through, and too many good books to discover.
Meanwhile, Nancy turns 75 next year. "Nancy Drew's Father: The Fiction Factory of Edward Stratemeyer" appearing in the New Yorker, chronicles the ND phenomenon.
Yet another book that bashes working mothers, blaming them for the ills of society and condemning them for putting their happiness above that of their children. From reading the review of Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes, it seems that although the author tries to take the parents out of the equation by examining how kids are screwed up, she still blames the parents; mostly mothers. Wonder whether she examines how it's really our crappy government, big business, and advertisers who are to blame for mounting violence in schools, obesity in children, and the use of psychiatric medicines in young children. Frankly, I'd hate to think of what kind of person I'd be if my mother had not worked.
Stats from part of Tues., Wed., and Thurs.:
Number of interstates
traveled on: Six (26,81,40,640,75,275)
November 2, 2004
My mama went to Memphis and I all got was a Memphis Cook Book. I asked for an Elvis cookbook, but they didn't have those on display at the Junior League shindig she attended. Joining the JL is an ongoing dilemma and thus far my decision has been to put it off. Mother says that I wouldn't like those sorts of women, and to be sure, she is correct; we have completely different values.
Yeah, it's a food week, so far. Maybe a food month. Over the weekend I salivated at the sight of shelves of cookbooks and food writing. Must have them all. Jamie Oliver has a new book, as does Nigella Lawson (the US cover is evermore so lovely than the UK edition); I know what I'll get for christmas. And then there were a gazillion collections of food essays.
Didn't have time to read more in the short story collection set in the Lowcountry. But, I read sections from Nell Irwin Painter's Southern history across the color line (yet another excellent book from Chapel Hill). And then I read relevant sections from Laura F. Edwards's Gendered strife and confusion: The political culture of Reconstruction. The Edwards book is so good that I may buy a copy for myself. This reading is for a paper I'm writing on lynching in upper east tennessee.
I'll be in the semi-foul Knoxville for two days and hope to get lots of reading done as I sit in my car in traffic for hours. Too bad I won't have the newest book to explore the French woman's mystique, although that has nothing to do with sitting bumper-to-bumper in Tennessee's bellybutton. Shall I bother with Fatale: How French Women do It? Here's the first blurb I've seen describing it: their mystique is analyzed with insight (and humor) through historical portraits of famous French women and a commentary on the French woman’s distinguishing qualities (including self-reliance, lingerie appreciation, and discretion, to name a few). The book is as charming, graceful and attractive as its subject and is enhanced by pertinent black and white illustrations and photos throughout. Yeah, the more I think about it, French women are not so special. It's just the illusion of specialness that they pull off.
As if anyone needs a real reason to go to Toronto: The 25th International Festival of Authors kicked off Saturday. Okay, it's the seven Danish authors in attendance. Seems that attendees were confused about whether the Danish was edible or not. Too early in the morning for attempts at humor.
Completely forgot about books that I bought at the school's fall festival this weekend. While there are too many to name individually, the three that I'm most excited about are: Two towns in Provence by M.F.K. Fisher, On mexican time: A new life in San Miguel by Tony Cohan, and The complete guide to modern knitting and crocheting (1947). The latter needs a little work; a new endboard, glue, and maybe a small page repair or two. Ha ha. I got it for under $2 and it sells for $17.95 online! I would have paid more for it.
Incidentally, I came across Cornell's home economics archive, and the images are charming, all leafy and acorny. How appropriate for fall. And then there are readings on the history of Home Economics available at another nifty site. Super cool. I know where I'm spending the next few hours.
While browsing through Travel + Leisure, I've learned to despise those special advertisement sections. If I had a personal assistant, I would have him excise the offending pages from all my subscriptions, as well as those bothersome subscription cards and other detachable inserts. Advertisers are so obnoxious. This issue (nov. 2004) has a special women's travel section. Page 234, very obnoxiously called "chick lit," lists inspirational and road-friendly paperbacks: Travels with myself and another by Martha Gellhorn; The nomad edited by Elizabeth Kershaw, America day by day by Simone De Beauvoir, A winter in Arabia by Freya Stark, Four corners by Kira Salak, M.F.K. Fisher's Gastronomical me, Beryl Markham's West with the night, Tracks by Robyn Davidson, and Jan Morris's Destinations.
November 1, 2004
Snakes nest, but do literary magazines? London Review of Books turns 25 this week.
NYT's travel guide to Paris.
Over the weekend I read two of the first essays compiled in A Slice of life: contemporary writers on food. The one by M.F.K. Fisher was interesting: how to seduce a man with food. Stay away from alcohol, and don't serve anything too strange. But, she wrote, if a man refuses to eat avocado or something else that she prepared for him, she'd write him off anyway. What kind of foodie is he? The author has collected perhaps three dozen essays written by a range of authors; some expected, some not. It's pretty thick, too. This may be somethign to purchase and then dip in and out of as time and interest allow. Still, a very promising book.
Oh, I started this book about weddings, but it was disappointing. What turned me off from the get-go was that there was no introduction. All dressed in white: the irresistible rise of the American wedding seemed like it would be somewhat interesting, that is, as a history of the wedding machine in America. And there was a bit about Lady/Princess Di's wedding, so it's not limited to the U.S. It also hurts that I'm already married, so my interest in the ceremony and industry is low.
What else? It seems that there was another book that I started this weekend, but it didn't suit me. Joanna Catherine Scott's Cassandra, Lost didn't do it for me, either. Set in the colonies in the 18th century, it's historical ficiton based upon the life of a real person. Against her parents' wishes, she runs off with a Frenchman. They elope to France. She births two children. She remains estranged from her parents. Somehow Jean Lafitte enters the picture, and she's lost at sea in 1815. From the beginning, the prose was far too thick for my tastes. Sometimes I'm in the mood for historical fiction. This was not one of those times.
Finally turning my attention to Strangers and sojourners: Stories from the lowcountry, I discovered palatable themes, lovely writing, excellent characterizations, and one of the most amazing voices I've read in a long while. While there is an overarching sense of the writer's style, each story that I've read in the book thus far is markedly different from the one preceding it. The first story, "Queen Esther Coosawaw," is told from the perspective of a one hundred year old African-American woman; she sketches her life for the new doctor who is about to examine her. In this story, and another one, the reader is immediately drawn into the story because she become the doctor, or the police officer, who has come to make sure that Rhader T. Avant, the town's simple man, doesn't bother the man who owes him one hundred dollars (this is from "Let them big animals come back," in which my book mark rests). Mary Potter Engel has created a highly authentic voice for the character. "You got to learn to read things right" is about a psychic mother who is trying to convince her Jesus-freak daughter that the preacher man is filling her head with lies. And then the last one that I read, though there are many, many more to come, "All that we need," is about a father who drags his thirteen year old son along while fulfilling his first assignment as a street preacher by screaming from his truck bed in front of the only store owned by Jews in his town. Each of the stories has strong religious themes, which I assumed would be the case, but indirectly, as the author is a theologist. However, it's not preachy. And each story has dealt with themes of faith, belief, and grace in a different manner. It's very sophisticated underneath the southern twang; quite satisfying. I'm excited to be reading this collection, and cannot wait to leave work today so that I may again immerse myself in those incredible voices.
October issue of Southern
Living has an article about Thorncrown
Chapel in Eurkea Springs, AR. I was in a wedding in that church
about seven years ago. It's one of the loveliest spaces I've even been
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