Cheating on the book I’m (still) reading…

January 29, 2013 § 8 Comments

night

Arti will  understand. I began reading ANNA KARENINA weeks and weeks ago, at the beginning of Arti’s book challenge. I don’t regret a moment of it, tho’I’ve lagged and lost in terms of meeting any deadlines. I still have 250 pages of that magnificent novel to go. And not allowing myself ‘to see the movie ’til I finish the book. Yes, people like to say to me, “But you know how it ends, don’t you?”  Sure I do, but it’s the getting there that’s so entrancing, so full of detail and delight in the million little things that Tolstoy does. Still when reading such a tome, one is allowed to have a break, to cheat on the book, to take in another book, as it were.

And so I picked up a picture book the other day at the library. That is, it’s made to look like one. Actually, it’s a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger. She’s quite the talent, she is. Those who have read THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and HER FEARFUL SYMETRY have an idea what she can do. I had no idea she could draw as well and come to find out, she’s done two other graphic novels, too.  But this one, the one I just finished titled THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE has the look of a child’s picture book and none of the angst-y edge-y appearance that many graphic novels of our time posess.

I read it, wondering how it would go, with some of the enchantment of a child, wondering, anticipating how it could unravel, what could happen, not sure what would happen.

Seems this story of hers was a winner in ZOETROPE, Coppola’s story magazine (which has since grown into writing workshops in his Central America rancho location as well).  So I read it, delighted, somewhat disappointed as I neared the end, due to the turn it takes.  I should have guessed it. Had I paid more attention rather than getting somewhat lost in it, I might have realized what Niffenegger was going to do.

Still  it was  a lovely break from ANNA, tho’in retrospect, yikes, they share a certain alikeness.  But I read it with a certain delight based on its shape and presentation, it’s faux return-to-childhood based on its looks.  At one point  I was turning the book on its side to see what novels and stories were pictured on the shelves drawn on the pages. (part of the fun!)

Now that I’ve had my little dalliance, I can return to the land of Anna and the inner turnings of the 19th century Russian mind which is, I suspect, somewhat different from that vast country’s thinking presently.

Oh, all that cold and  those grand layers of fine clothes and people stashed in huge country houses trying to live a high life, and hearts breaking and unbreaking.

But for her part, Niffenberger wasn’t humorous, either; her picture book is, in fact, a little modern-lonely, but worth the break from the usual  read to see what one can do with “story.”  (Note: the 3 images used herein are from Google images.) (Another note, hours later: I just corrected spelling of the author’s name; apologies.)

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Sunday…(or, how weekends run at breakneck speed no matter what you do)

January 27, 2013 § 6 Comments

newyorkerCurrent issues of THE NEW YORKER are starting to breed like rabbits around the house. I haven’t had time to read them all, much less in order.  HM tracked into our house some insidious little ice melters from the courtyard of the building where his office is found, and they hurt bare feet and yet break into pieces like little apsirins. I’ve been chasing them with the vaccum. Everyone in his building complained; the superintendent doesn’t know who put them down in anticipation of an ice storm, but it was discovered they’re not ice melters – they are, in fact, for breaking down grease. Someone got confused.

Meanwhile, the weatherman can’t get the weather correct, which ultimately is ok, because he’s so darn dire with forecasting sleet and slips-n-slides and rain and frozen temps, all stirred into one big weather pot so that he doesn’t actually appear to be wrong…and who cares? we have ourselves and our cars as winterized as possible with layers of hoodies and coats and fingerless gloves and scarves and scrapers, sand-in-the-trunk and big fat all-weather tires, so …bring it on.

Friends and neighbors have been quiet in the gloom this weekend, with everyone badly needing some rest and some unscheduled time.  Christmas is boxed, bagged and stacked in the tool room, everything labeled and the house has lots it glitter but there’s a certain uncluttered thing going on that’s not so bad. Greenery does perk a person up quite a bit though, even if only sticking one’s head out the back patio doors and breathing in the cold humidity and discerning among the many winter greys which branches are holding birds and the squirrels, all waiting to hit the feeder as soon as the human stops sticking her head out there, into their business.

Ya gotta love it, all the comforts of Sunday, wherever you can find them, as you teeter on the precipice of Work Tomorrow. While America is glad to have a job, sometimes the schedule just makes you want to put the typical time compendium on tilt and run it your own way.   As the dowager Countess in Downton Abbey says, “What’s a weekend?” I am intrigued by how such a character, if real, would actually measure time.

Perhaps not at all.

And that sounds like a fine idea to me.

Moving around…

January 12, 2013 § 7 Comments

The trouble with organizing stuff is that once it’s all in a nice tidy stack, on a shelf or in a drawer, so much thought and exertion went into achieving that cleaning-and-tidying that you feel finished with it and may not return to any of the now-organized matter…whereas a lovely old desk piled with tasks and treasures in a more casual manner, off to one side in such a manner if it’s a very large desk therefore leaving workspace, offers up treats, surprises and reminders as you muck through it, all the while aware of and ready to tackle whatever is the major task at hand.

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This is how far I’ve gotten…all the stuff that was on this desk is now covering a quarter of the office floor. (Yes, the desk is dusty. Yes, I like pencils though I don’t write stories with them. I use them for making lists.)

And this is not even one of those heirloom desks with drawers, cubbies, pigeon holes and open-out space. It’s a little black build-it-yourself Swedish design though I’m sure that if you examined it closely, there could be a made in china allusion.

Ah, the other issue with organizing (no, it’s not a new year’s resolution) is that it’s procrastination, keeping one away from the blank page that needs filling.

TIP: Get something on that first page, whether it’s a zentangle, one word written in large letters, a postcard pasted there or an arrow pointing you to the next pages! Then you can begin on the second page.  (this tip, paraphrased, comes from the book RAW ART JOURNALING by Quinn MacDonald.  Art and writing – so intertwined.)

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crushing cuties into potion…

January 6, 2013 § 3 Comments

They were left on the counter, having somehow escaped the holiday feasting madness…five little cuties…all alone…one of them was rather hard, it’s juice having gone somewhere, seeping through its skin maybe, I dunno. But it was rock hard and refused the juicing I was about to give the other four…because there’s magic in that juice…and writers can always use a little magic.
(photo by DCL)

DSC_0542Planning to jump into Laurie Colwin’s HOME COOKING this evening. Just a little taste of it. Have other books to finish but…just for a little taste.

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Still de-decorating…

January 5, 2013 § 8 Comments

Putting away all the holiday decorations should go quickly.
Should.
I dwadle.
Yes, many decoration are still up because we traditionally wait ’til Little Christmas.
Most things have been moved to one table to next be tissue-wrapped and put back into the Christmas boxes.
One by one, surfaces are cleared and returned to Pottery Barn-type minimalism.  (No, we do not have Pottery Barn decor. We’re still on the “this-and-that” plan – we like this and we like that,  including old pieces from our families.)
But I’m leaving the greenery (not pictured) along the back fence. The critters like it, and so do I when I’m in the kitchen and look out into the back yard.
Below, before and after on the piano.
But the “after” is gonna get even more uncluttered. (You know what I mean; it’s something about this time of year. Form and Function, those things combining both, are put at the top of the list and remain, while anything considered “clutter” gets relegated to a closet…or a waste bin.)

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It was back to work this week…

January 4, 2013 § 13 Comments

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bring on the bean…

January 1, 2013 § 6 Comments

 coffee1COFFEE…

It appears that Writers like a cornucopia of things that start with “c,” though be assured  the following are not in any particular order nor is the list by any measure complete:
coffee (the “think drink”)
cats (I don’t have one and am concerned that this signifies something in terms of writing success)
consideration of others (of our writing time)
crowds (to get lost in and for observeation)
curiosity
corks (from wine, really good wine)
cute journals
calm (in which to write)
cool pens
carbon paper (yes, it still exists) (zen spot)
clarity
candles

A favorite on the above list is Coffee, which does indeed pertain to my resolution list:

  • Drink it slowly (no pre-work drink-on-the-run)
  • Treat it as a luxury ( it is)
  • Have it in lieu of junk food, stress snacks, or sugar bombs of any sort
  • Enjoy with a friend as a catalyst to whatever else is going on and as a focal point, something to stare at thoughtfully while listening and formulationg thoughts and maybe even for toasting!

All over the place…

December 31, 2012 § 21 Comments

books

The post-year wrap-up is all over blogworld and a great topic ‘specially for those of us (prob’ly just me) who hem and haw ad hilarium on what to write.  

And so I turn to books, more specifically, my top reads from 2012 as topic. Note: This list could vary, (as any bookreader will understand), depending on the day it’s assembled.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
So now we have a new classic literature romantic couple:  it’s Celia and Marco. Sure, sure, sure, there’s also Isobel and Tsuchichi (or something close to that) and Poppet and Lainie and a cast of dozens and Bailey, the “real” boy and the twins and illusion, illusion, illusion.  I’m not gonna say “magic” per se: this book is not just abracadabra. It’s about creating and maintaining illusion, and two “battling” illusionists (oh, darn and now you’re thinking of those movies from a few years ago including THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE but this book bears little resemblance to those stories.
Further, do not mistake my enthusiasm for this book as a dictum to run out and get it; it’s not gonna be a hit with everyone.  It just happened to be the right book at the right time for me. And the storytelling is fluent – no bumps, no flaws, not missteps, no over or under telling.  It’s about a competition between two illusionists set in a competition from a very early age and the circus that becomes their platform as well as a number of characters who run in and out, populating the pages in some unforgettable scenarios.  Placed in the late 1800s western Europe and east coast USA, the book hits  so many right notes, you gotta love it. Well, you don’t “gotta” love it, but it’s worth a look, a try, a page…

2. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
Long, long long storyabout an American with Irish roots who returns to build a huge honking hotel in a quiet village of his parents birth and the uproar it causes among young and old. This is a perfect  book to read on the road; it goes and goes and goes and you keep reading it because Binchy can do that with her characters. Lotsa fluff, lotsa humanity and charming overall tho’  this one has a few hard edges. Still we cheer for the little family who owns the pub by the bridge. And some of us read anything by the Binchy, whose work we will miss going forward.

3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The book got better and better as I went along. This is the first one in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Yup, a Holmes afficionado can love this “take” on Holmes’s life after Doyle stops writing.  If you love a British-y book, and Holmes and some mystery with a strong female character mixed in (and no, she’s nothing like Irani Adler), then ya gotta try this one.

4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Water. I kinda have a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s not scary, but it is.  And uncomfortable sometimes. And curious. And because it’s a book, it’s fiction, you think yeah, well, maybe everything will work out.  Ha.

5. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.  Just sit down and read it. The writing is great, balanced. Not too this nor too that. The story borders on myth but not like fantasy or anything. The story never lets up. Something on every page will make the reader sigh. Yeah, this doesn’t tell you anything. Just read it.

 6. Crossing to Safety– Wallace Stegner. Don’t know what took me so long to get to this book. I love it. I might not read it again, but I might. Everything about it was right, from the setting, the culture, the people and the story (ok, ’til the end, but honestly, what did I think was going to happen?), from the language and familiarity with some of the settings,  to its themes, it was a great book. It will always be a great book. I still muddle over the title and the story and the many meanings in the former relating to the latter.

 7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I danced around this one for ages. Then an author I met at a reading mentioned See as one of her favorite writers. And Lisa D also spoke highly of the See books. Then Snarl gave it to me for my birthday. I always take his gifts so seriously, honor them knowing he thought about choosing them and then searched it out. So the book was a surprise, a pleasant one (tho’the story is full of things that are tough to take not being familiar with Chinese culture at the time it covers, nor even now, come to think of it.) Anyway, if you love reading stories for character and a glimmer of cultural insight, this one is a must.

8. The Flight of  Gemma Hardy – Jane Eyre meets Cinderella. But I read it and it wasn’t half bad. And I”m putting it on this list so you’ll know that I try to read currently current stuff, too!

9. Bond Girl – forgot author’s name but she’ll be back. She wrote a good book and I liked it. Bright, chirpy and set in NYC finance world, it’s hip and entertaining.

10. The Book Thief – Yeah, I was late to the party on reading this one, but after all, even when I thought I didn’t like it cuz I just didn’t like the narrator, it was  a fabulous book, for its ending as well as every one of its pages prior to the ending.

11. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani – I LOVED it. Long, descriptive, plenty of good characters, turn-of-the-century time period, set in Italy and NYC. The plotsweave in and out, rather idealistically, to dish up a really good story which was right up my alley tho’ likely not for everyone.

12. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.  I don’t remember when I became a Nora follower/admirer/respector. Maybe it was after “when Harry met….” or maybe it was after I read her “Crazy Salad Days” or maybe it was after I saw a film clip of her praising Meryl Streep. I dunno. I miss her, that’s all. And this book was her goodbye. I didn’t realize ’til I was finishing it. It is a great little book, with humor and insight and stuff about writing and writers and NYC…I’m so glad to have it on my shelf rather than a library lend. Highly recommended.

I read 34 books this year – doesn’t it make you wonder about the other 22 not listed here? The complete list ranges from lite lit to writers-to-learn from and stuff in between.

Here’s to books and here’s to a fine if not fabulous New Year!

Easy holiday edible…

December 30, 2012 § 7 Comments

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Short prep time, long enjoyment time…take a bag o’ organic cranberries from Whole Foods, stir into 4 Cs boiling water to which  1/2 C sugar has been added and reduce after a minute’s boil to cook for  8-10 minutes… or just follow your intuition. While northeast coasters may be more savvy about cranberry sauce, all will enjoy the value, compliment and use thereof regarding the charismatic cranberry.

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They’re great spooned alongside holiday roasts, they’re pretty on the table and the cran sauce also makes an excellent sandwich condiment!

 Note: The uncooked crans look great on a tray surrounding any larger food presentation (sorry, no picture – just trust me…we spread them around on the white turkey platter…looks yum….)

when snow is a good thing…

December 29, 2012 § 6 Comments

DSC_0498 It snowed last night. We all came out of a restaurant and into a transformation of the trees, the holiday lights, the shop windows and the ground underfoot! Nor took off her shoes to get to the car but HM hurried ahead and charged through the lot to get the car to rescue all of us from the slippery slopes that normally would be nothing more than easy pavement.

With no camera at hand, there was nothing more than memory to capture the moments of the snow: the delight as though we were in a huge carriage; the gladness for a warm coat; the reflections from fogged home-y windows sporting wreaths and lit garlands; the silence of the snow as tho’ all were paused, listening for the sound of snowflake on  trees; the quick memory of snow as a child and the wish to rush off and find a sled; the way laughter sounds in the thick white air; the “hush” that comes with holiday giving us time, giving us some sort of shelter in which to ponder all that is good and all that can be good.

This picture, taken from our front porch, doesn’t capture the tiny flakes and  swirl. Imagine.