Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Appraising badminton rackets with an expert eye"

One night I was sitting in my apartment in Japan wondering what the NHK offerings would be when someone knocked on my door. It was Hara-san, the tea lady from work, and a young man about my age wearing a bandana around his forehead. Through an impromptu game of charades (due to my dismal grasp of the language), I finally figured out they wanted me to come play "soft-volley" or volleyball. It turned out the community gym was open Monday nights for volleyball and badminton. Not the garden variety that I played in my grandmother's backyard, but very competitive mixed double's badminton.

This came to mind as I was reading A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls. The main character, Brian Jackson, includes badminton on his college application in an effort to look more well-rounded. It's one example of his many attempts at humor that nobody gets. Entering his first year of university, he tries to reinvent himself by wearing a vintage donkey jacket, writing poetry, and competing on a television quiz show called University Challenge.

Although I haven't finished the book, I'm looking forward to getting back to the experience it evokes. That Monday-night-soft-volley feeling of laughing with oneself instead of at oneself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus

We arrived at this chapter of Little House on the Prairie the other night.

As the chapter opens, Laura and Mary have been peering anxiously out the window for days. It's December and there has been no snow in Indian Territory. No snow of course, means no Santa. On top of that, all the rain has caused the creek to rise, and so their one Christmas guest, Mr. Edwards, won't be able to make it either. Pa brings in the Christmas turkey, but even the thought of such a fat turkey for Christmas dinner isn't enough to cheer up the little girls. Ma does let them hang up stockings, and Laura thinks her mother mentions something about white sugar as she drifts off to sleep.

The next morning, Laura is startled awake as Mr. Edwards comes in with a big bundle. He tells the girls he met Santa Claus in Independence, and Santa has asked him to fetch the gifts for the girls. After he tells the tale, the girls are allowed to look in their stockings. They both receive a tin cup, peppermint candy, cakes made with white sugar (and white flour), and a new penny.

"There never had been such a Christmas," Wilder writes.

After the girls thank Mr. Edwards ("and they meant it with all their hearts"), Pa silently shakes Mr. Edwards' hand . And shakes it again. And Laura observes how all of the adults seem to be on the verge of tears.

Yes, they are.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Security Blanket

I'm hopeless when it comes to knitting, embroidery, or even sewing on a button. My daughter recently enlisted my help on a father/daughter project gone teary, and we made a teddy bear...a very long necked teddy bear. After that project, I could have used another kind of longneck.

So I find it sort of curious that when I'm feeling blue, I gravitate toward knitting novels. Having exhausted the Kate Jacobs' series and the Knit Lit books by Beth Pattillo, I picked up a copy of The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood this week.

Hood's novel follows Mary Baxter from scarf to sock to sweater. With each new project, Mary befriends another knitter who frequents the Sit and Knit. With each new stitch learned, she collects another story of lost love. Finally, Mary shares her own story about the death of her daughter Stella.

This novel is similar to other knitting yarns in that it follows a group of women who gather in the community yarn shop. The shop is warm, safe, and cozy with the bright colors of the wares and the tempting aromas of that week's shared dessert. Although the characters could almost be fashioned from the same patterns other books rely one (the aloof expert, the frazzled mother, the lovelorn artist), they too offer a kind of no surprises comfort.

Immersed in the knitters' gossip, I don't have to worry that my down jacket makes me look like an extra from an 80s John Cusack movie instead of the Land's End model mom I envisioned. I don't have to worry about brakes that don't work on ice so that swerving into the Bear Claw drive-thru is the only way I avoid plowing into a line of cars that ridiculously have Michigan license plates. All I have to worry about is getting to the library before it closes. I have The Shop on Blossom Street on reserve. With Christmas fast approaching, I'm going to need it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


There's a reason it's been years since I went to play pool. I'm terrible at math.

I've always suspected you needed to know something about geometry to be a decent pool player. However, for the heroine of Something Rising by Haven Kimmel, the game turns on physics. And hours of practice.

Every morning Cassie heads to the local bar and practices for three hours. There she doesn't have to worry that her dad has abandoned her. She can escape her mother musing about how her life could have been had she stayed in New Orleans. She can avoid her sister who feels more comfortable traveling to Ancient Greece than to the local supermarket.

After her mom dies, Cassie leaves Indiana for the first time and travels to New Orleans. There she discovers kind strangers and mean pool players. Picturing her mom's past, she has an eye for her own future.

What makes this a fascinating read is not the geometry or physics of the game. It's the chemistry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Some Amazonian kinkajous compiled this "personal" list for me. I like it.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Love's Exquisite Freedom by Maya Angelou

Zombies vs Robots: The Undercity HC by Chris Ryall

Absolute Sandman Vol. 5 by Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blood, Bones, and Butter

Every time I open a bag of tortilla chips, I'd love to reach for the homemade salsa we ate on our front porch in Woodburn. When it rains, I'd cry for the pan dulce we tried in Cuernavaca. Once I'm wandering hopelessly down the wine aisle in Kroger, I'd give anything to be drinking that wine poured in Due Santi.

I'm not alone in wanting to relive these food memories. There's a chapter in Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter where she makes a list. Among other experiences to savor in her new restaurant, she wants to dress the table in brown butcher paper, Cuban wedding china, and plates of her mother's recipe for veal marrow.

An accomplished chef, Hamilton has perfected the veal marrow. More importantly she has perfected the art of writing about it. She has pared her memories down to the essence. She takes us back to her first kitchen - her French mother's domain. She walks us through the drudgery of her early catering jobs. Finally, she travels to Italy and introduces us to her mother-in-law's Italian market.

Hamilton's reflection on her own childhood has inspired me to serve my children something more substantial than a reheated chicken nugget; we've been trying to be a little more adventurous. Perhaps one day they'll remember eating Mutsu apples they've just picked, spreading cherry jelly on their breakfast muffin, or sipping hot ginger-lemon tea on a cold, windy autumn day in Michigan. If they don't, I will.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Pig Wants to Party

Maurice Sendak has a new book. I've put a new link to an interview I heard yesterday under Audio. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not Starring Kirk Cameron

Setting a date for the Rapture is a tricky business. For the characters of The Leftovers, being left behind is even trickier. In Mapleton, the Sudden Departure has come and gone (Tom Perrotta has chosen October 14th if you're curious). Nora loses her two children and husband. Jill loses her best friend. Everyone loses Adam Sandler.

Those who remain struggle to cope. Some join cults. Jill's mom joins a group called the Guilty Remnant. Dressing themselves in white, they quit talking and take up smoking. Some follow YouTube prophets. Jill's brother Tom becomes a disciple of Holy Wayne and follows the movement to San Francisco. Some obsess over why they weren't chosen. Reverend Jamison circulates a vindictive newsletter revealing the sins of those who disappeared.

And of course others continue their annual pilgrimage to the mall for Christmas presents.

Though Perrotta's take on events is unique, he does fall back on a time-honored storyline. In the end, the salvation of at least one of his characters comes from a newborn under a starry sky.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

He Forgot His Wife

When my grandparents lived in Arkansas, we used to make the six hour road trip to visit two or three times a year. Our rewards for that much time in a car were afternoons spent listening to my grandmother's stories, a bag of Snickers in the produce drawer, and a coffee table stacked with magazines. My mom and I would settle in on the sofas catching up on Hollywood gossip and the latest his side/her side drama of the advice columns.

My fascination, some might say morbid curiosity, with marriage (troubled or not) led me to pick up a new novel by Carol Edgarian. In Three Stages of Amazement, we are thrown into the marriage of Lena and Charlie. And from the first paragraph, we are almost certain this marriage can't be saved. His failing startup, a baby with medical issues, and an ex-boyfriend (Italian ex-boyfriend) are but some of the factors pulling their relationship asunder.

The others? Well, you'd be amazed. And you might need a Snickers to get you through it all.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Going to Market

I've been trying to teach my kids about money this summer. So far my daughter has managed to learn the difference between a penny, a dime, and a nickel. What she has a harder time realizing is that you can't really buy anything these days with a handful of change. So we've left many a zoo gift shop/museum gift shop/gift gift shop in tears when she hasn't been able to buy something (i.e. a toy) with "her money." Since she's all about instant gratification, this first book was right on the money.

Pigs Go to Market: Fun with Math and Shopping by Amy Axelrod and illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally

With their Halloween party guests arriving any moment, the pig family realizes they are out of candy (Grandma Pig got a little carried away). Arriving at the store, they find themselves in a frantic shopping spree that leaves them exhausted....and hungry. A helpful chart at the end will help your listener (or more advanced reader) count all the candy the pigs gobbled on the way home. Your older child can figure out how much the candy weighed.

Max Goes to the Grocery Store by Adria F. Klein and illustrated by Mernie Gallagher-Cole

Your beginning reader can follow Max and Zoe on their quest to compile all the ingredients they need for a special movie snack.

My Favorite Foods by Dana Meachen Rau and illustrated by Grace Lin

Read about loopy noodles, tangy juice, and chilly ice cream in this engaging reader that stresses counting, containers, and adjectives with crunch. I liked the parent's page at the end that suggests a grocery store scavenger hunt.

Added 9/9/11

I just found this great resource and had to add it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

These Boots

E has boots on the brain. Rain boots, snow boots, cowboy boots. Every day he wants to wear a different pair. So with that in mind, (and to give him a little practice counting), I made a rain boots grid game. We roll the dice and put buttons on the same number of boot squares.

We also read some books about rain, snow, and rainbrellas:

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse and pictures by Jon J. Muth

For those days that "sizzle like a hot potato," parch your plants, and leave you wishing the rumble of every truck is really thunder. Muth's watercolors in funky perspectives capture both the wilting heat and quenching rain.

Jamaica and Brianna by Juanita Havill and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien

Jamaica hates wearing her brother's old boots. Her friend Brianna doesn't make things any better. When Jamaica finally gets to show off some brand new boots, what will Brianna say? This book is about living with the choices we make and helping our friends understand those choices. It's also about a pair of really cool cowboy boots.

The Rainy Day by Anna Milbourne and Sarah Gill

What happens when it rains? A group of friends take a walk outside to explain. Their brightly colored clothes pop against the drizzly background.

One last thing. My mom recently told me about a fun online reading resource for kids. Click here to find it. And then click on the blue button that says TumbleBooks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Persistence pays off. This is not just another book about a working mother attempting to raise three kids (with the help of a husband and nanny), succeed at her high pressure job, and justify keeping her weekend home in Vermont. Well at the beginning it is. Keep reading. Terrible to say, but the novel improves after this do-it-all/be-it-all mother (Sarah) is in a terrible car accident.

The accident damages Sarah's brain and leaves her with left neglect. She no longer has awareness of anything on her left side. Curiously when she does normal things like apply make-up, she only applies make-up to the right side of her face. However, her brain processes an image of herself fully made-up. So she really isn't aware that anything is amiss until someone tells her. She can no longer trust the reality of what she sees - or walk, or dress, or do anything as she did before the accident.

What we see is a character that reconnects with those she neglected before the accident. And is happier for it (mostly). And for a few days at least after reading this novel, we are hyper-aware of all those things we've neglected whether they are on the left or not.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Tax on All Your Closets!

The title of this post refers to an interesting fact I learned while on a tour of this local historical site. The tour guide claimed that a lot of houses of the 1800s didn't have closets because you were taxed for the number of rooms you had. (And due to the fact you sewed all of your clothes, you probably didn't have that many to store anyway). The closet-less house we toured stayed in my mind as I finished reading The Mother Who Stayed by Laura Furman.

Divided into three trios of related stories, Furman examines friendship, different eras of domestic life, and the life of a poet.

Opening the book is a set of stories about a group of families that summer together but don't manage to socialize much when they return to their city lives.

In a story in the second trio, we travel with the biographer of a writer named Marian Foster Todd as she seeks to uncover her lost correspondence. Any story that includes a setting in the library archives has me hooked. I know. I'm weird that way.

In the last set of three stories, Furman references a journal of a mother and wife of 1874. My to-do list for today (go to Kroger, empty the dishwasher) is laughable when compared to a woman who not only canned berries and finished sewing a winter coat but also killed the pigs. And that was just Monday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Object of Beauty

I couldn't help picturing the opening credits as I was reading Steve Martin's latest novel- An Object of Beauty. Like Martin's Shopgirl (starring Clare Danes), this novel features a beautiful woman yearning to live richly (but not worrying to much about her eyelashes).

Lacey Yeager moves to New York to break into the business of art. She begins in the basement of Sotheby's but soon rises to work with upper level art dealers and collectors.. After coming into a mysterious financial windfall, Yeager is asked to leave the auction house but finds employment with a lucrative gallery. After charming clients and maintaining a transatlantic relationship with a French art collector, she achieves her dream of opening her own gallery.

Martin's cinematic style sets this book apart from the typical girl makes good in the big city tale. There's the narrator providing the voice over - he's a friend of Yeager but admits that some of what he is telling is gossip and some of it is imagination. There's the visual- photographs of some of the paintings are interspersed throughout the book. There's the dialogue - snappy, smart, and polished yet believable. Finally, Martin also includes an element of suspense. We're not sure how Yeager has financed her endeavor, but we are eager to see how the narrator will reveal it to us.

And we probably will coming to a theater near us soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

True North

True North by Jim Harrison takes place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

How apropos you might say.

Josephine and I signed up for library cards last week and after deliberating quite some time between the Clifford and Strawberry Shortcake DVD, we had only a few minutes in adult fiction where I grabbed the thickest book I saw (one-handedly since I was also carrying a very heavy, sleeping Elliott). But I digress...The thickest book happened to be True North.

In True North, the narrator fishes, ruminates on religion and philosophy (what he calls his "daffy trances"), and tries to atone for his father's (and grandfather's) beastly behavior. Set mostly in the U.P., the scenery enchants with verdant summers and stark winters. The narrator, David, moves somewhat restlessly in both seasons. As an adult, he has made the study of his family's decimation of the Michigan forest his life's work. Along the way he attracts women both fierce and soft, but he often requires no more company than his dog Carla. He worries there is something inherently wrong or damaged in this. Thus he tries to figure out how to (or if he should) forgive his parents who may have inflicted the damage.

While reading this book, I was reminded of W. D. Wetherell’s short story “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant.” I guess I'm charmed by the musings of awkward teenage boys and the introspective adults they become.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Soon I Will Be Invincible

I stole this book (by Austin Grossman) off my husband's bookshelf and stuck it in my purse for the long wait at the Secretary of State's office to get my driver's license. Flashbacks to my driver's ed class in high school had me so nervous by the time I got there, I couldn't focus on more than a few pages. Luckily Michigan only requires a fee, proof of residency, and a snip off your old license and you are good to go.

That over with, I can settle down in front of the open window (78 degrees is the high today) and indulge in this novel of superheroes and evil geniuses.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

State of Wonder

During college, I spent a week in Ecuador with the Rostro de Cristo program. I remember walking to buy fresh bread in the morning, playing games with the neighborhood kids, and fighting off hoards of hungry mosquitoes.

Many of these images of South America came back as I was reading Ann Patchett’s book State of Wonder. In her latest book, Patchett writes about a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company. She has been sent to a remote jungle of Brazil to uncover the cause of her colleague’s death and assess the status of the development of a new fertility drug. Bullet ants, deadly snakes, and the unconventional doctor who heads the study are but a few of the foreboding obstacles she faces.

Again I’m writing about a book I haven’t quite finished. Its menacing tone was a little off-putting at first, but the intrigue has kept me itching to turn the pages. But that may just be those pesky memories from before.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Well, my young friend. Do you remain uncurious?"

"SeƱor, I confess, I maintain that position with increasing difficulty."

Like the protagonist of Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, I remained somewhat indifferent to seeking out this novel. But the other day, the bold yellow and blue of its dust jacket beckoned. I've been in Rivera's Mexico ever since. Told in diary entries, the story follows Harrison Shepherd from his childhood with his Mexican mother, a short stint at boarding school near his American father, and his young adulthood working for Rivera and Kahlo and subsequently their house guest - Lev Trotsky.

As for what happens next, I'll have to let you know since I'm only about halfway through.

But maybe not giving away the ending is a good thing. I've found Kingsolver's work is best when discovered by chance. More than a decade ago, I came across one of her earlier works in the English section of a Japanese bookstore. Starved for anything in English, I grabbed it mainly because of its thickness. My plan for stocking up on reading material backfired. Instead of savoring it slowly over the next few weeks, I greedily finished it in a few days.

Curious? I hope so.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mermaid Vs. Panda

As I was doing an inventory of the kids' books the other day and making sure we didn't accidentally pack any library books, I realized to my chagrin that my daughter owns not one but FOUR books featuring Barbie. With an endless cast of characters who have names ending in -liah and at least one magical puppy, these books are painful to read out loud.

Luckily in my hunt, I unearthed a book from behind the bed that is more interesting to read and will capture even a two-year-old's attention. Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth features a panda named Stillwater. His nephew Koo has come for a visit. Together they picnic with Stillwater's friends and help comfort the neighborhood curmudgeon who is under the weather. She softens under the kind attention and teaches them how to make apple tea.

With its beautiful illustrations and compelling storyline, this is one book that will not get lost in the move. As for Barbie...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Take That, Read This

All it takes is a little sibling ribbing to resume. To recap my reads for the last few months - Anthony Doerr.

I started About Grace while on a plane. I don't remember a word of the safety spiel or what flavor the peanut was I dropped between the seats. Instead I remember snowflakes and floods, Caribbean heat and Oedipal fear. Doerr's substantive details withstand the busiest of reading environments. It can be somewhat of a nail-biting read, but the landing is spot on.

Next came Memory Wall, a book of short stories dealing with memories and loss. Disturbingly well-crafted.

Then I arrived at The Shell Collector, another collection of stories. A boy loses his sight and is turned on to the fascinating textures of sea life. A wilderness hunter travels into civilization to marvel at his wife's magic. (Drunken) fishermen vie for the biggest fish in Europe.

Finally, summer reads to feel good about. I should know. This book and this one are waiting on my nightstand.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Playing a Part

A saxophone teacher becomes the confidant for

the sister of the student

who is scandalized by the senior band teacher

and the outcast who befriends the sister.

A drama student becomes involved with the sister

while rehearsing for a play starring the scandal.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton provides a unique script. The reader turns player if only to figure out who is being fed their lines, who is improvising, and who is playing whom.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer

When the book jacket reviews include those by the author of Loving Frank and Glamour, I’m going to pick it up. Then when I read the inside summary and learn the main character is a Life photographer working in the 1940s, I’m sold.

Clare Shipley is assigned a story on a new wonder-drug, penicillin. She falls for the doctor on the case and is resigned to a long-distance romance when he accepts a government job in Washington. She diligently follows up on both the romance and the story. But when her father, a millionaire, buys into a pharmaceutical company, Clare learns how cut-throat the industry can be in guarding lucrative discoveries.

After pinning up my hair in a Victory roll, I’m going to be spending the afternoon rifling through old magazines. Then I might look for some of the reference books Belfer cites in her notes: The Enchanted Ring by John C. Sheehan, The Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel, and No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Vindictive Meter Maids"

She is dressed in "wishy-washy" clothes. He has a "funny smell."Such are the first impressions of two who meet in a cemetery.

In Katarina Mazetti's novel, Benny and Shrimp, the characters alternate telling the rise and fall of their relationship. Desiree is a librarian and recent widow. Benny runs a dairy farm single-handedly after his mother dies. Differing on everything from decor to politics, they find themselves a surprising match in bed.

Humorous, off-putting, and familiar, this book will have you reading far into the night. Pickled herrings are meant to be eaten as a midnight snack, aren't they?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In the Beginning

Your mother is always right. Well, at least mine is. She's been recommending Ahab's Wife forever. And I keep relegating it to the bottom of the to-read list. But then I came across Sena Jeter Naslund's new book, Adam and Eve.

Lucy is a recent widow. Her late husband was a physicist studying extraterrestrial life. His work threatens those who believe proof of alien life forms would debunk their own creation myths. Just before his death, he leaves Lucy his flash drive containing his latest proof. Shortly thereafter, one of her husband's friends recruits Lucy to fly an ancient codex out of Egypt. Her enemies now have two reasons to find her.

Adam is an American soldier living in Eden. Having survived a brutal beating, he has made a primitive home for himself in a lost corner of the Middle East. His prayers for a companion are answered when Lucy's plane crashes into his midst.

Naslund's description of Adam's awakening breathes new life into the story as old as Genesis. Other authors have tackled the subject, but placing the characters in a future world reminds us we probably always strive for the forbidden fruits. And after we've taken the first bite, a mother will be there to say "I know." Then you will listen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Under the Wire

In college I worked for the newspaper. My feature "Long Necks and Longer Hours" raised a few eyebrows at my conservative Catholic campus. But I did get to cover more serious subjects and even interview a few notables. Well, one notable. My senior year, I also interned at a local television station. Upon hearing my boss say something along the lines of "sell the sizzle, not the bacon," I decided TV news wasn't for me.

Despite getting most of my news via NPR these days, I'm still fascinated by the newspaper newsroom. "The Room" as it is called in a novel by Lorraine Adams has my attention this week. The Room and The Chair is presented in short scenes - jumping from a military plane crash to a news desk to a dinner party of Washington intelligentsia. The story ventures further afield to Iran and Dubai and back again to the American intelligence agent masterminding it all.

Part thriller, part social commentary, part The Way Things Work, it has a little something for everyone.

Ah, the thrill of just making the deadline.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fresh Out of Library Books

The ice storms have me feeling lazy. I'm also out of library books. Time to make more requests. Here's a list I'll be using.

In the meantime, I'll be reading this blog I stumbled across while trying to find out more about this book.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Glued to Your Sun-Lounger"

Sometimes you are in the mood for HBO. Sometimes, it has to be Lifetime. So, having finished Nicole Krauss' Great House, I was ready for something a little more Emily Giffin.

As I was headed for the "G" section of the library, I was sidetracked by a book by Lisa Jewell. I had read several of her books a few years ago, but I found one from 2007 called Roomates Wanted. Set in London, it stars Toby Dobbs who lives in a ramshackle Victorian with strays he's picked up over the years. Singer-songwriters, quick-change artists, and air-hostesses all share quarters, but don't know much about each other's lives. When Toby's oldest tenant dies, he meets the girl-next...well across-the-road. She inspires him to start making some changes. What results is not only a remodel of his house, but of his heart.

Can't you just hear the voice-over now?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How To Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu

I finished this book two weeks ago and still haven't made up my mind about it. Parts of it gave me a headache. Parts made me nod knowingly. Parts reminded me of students I've had in my classes. Parts forced me to close it and go for a walk. Which part relates to the title, I'm still wondering.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stamp of Approval

Flavia's passion is poison. Most days she's hunkered down in her chemistry lab recreating experiments she studies in old chemistry texts. With her mother dead and her father wrapped up in his stamp collection, she's left to her own amusements - aggravating her older sisters, avoiding the housekeeper's custard pie, and solving murders.

Following a trail of clues that includes a snipe, a penny stamp, and a schoolboy prank, Flavia doggedly stays on the case to vindicate her father and satisfy her own curiosity. She is, after all, eleven.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is just one of the books I found out about here. I'm eager to read the others. On a related note, I'm also salivating over a new set of postage stamps. Although it's highly unlikely I will ever be a chemist like Flavia, maybe I'll turn out to be a philatelist like her father.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Awkward, At Its Best

It's when you put your coat on inside out on a first date. And run two stoplights. And babble on about "The Rules" while saying goodbye at your front door instead of letting him kiss you. It's when you give a giggly wave instead of a smoldering glance.

It's Gilbert dipping Anne-with-an- e's pigtails in ink. It's Darcy scorning an indignant Elizabeth. It's Inman garnering an introduction to Ada.

Despite the dark violence, Cold Mountain is a love story at its best. Perhaps because, in much of the novel, the two are apart. Inman is trying to make his way home from the war without permission. Ada is an educated woman who doesn't know the first thing about managing a farm. Moments other authors might romanticize, Frazier leaves as is. Goodbyes are honest instead of heartfelt. Letters are left crumpled on the floor, unsent. And a much anticipated reunion is clever in its clumsiness.

Oh, and the end might make you may cry even if it's the fourth time you've read it.

So trip rather than swoon. Tango across the room...badly. You'll have a funny, even romantic, story to tell your grandkids.