Saturday, July 22, 2006

"so ugly and so glorious..."

I tried not to feel glad that my kid came down with strep throat yesterday, but since she did and since she slept a lot of the day, I was able to finish The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. So I'm offsetting the downer guilt for being a crummy mom with the invigorating oomph that a really fine book produces. This is a difficult book to write about--a phrase like "The power of the human spirit" sounds incredibly trite, but frankly, I can't think of a better way to express the mash of feelings that this wonderful, quirky, intense, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic book inspired in me.

I think the best I can do is quote a line that captures the essence of the story:
"I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

I read the last 100 pages with tears streaming down my face, but despite the fact that the narrator is Death and the subject matter is the Holocaust, the book is incredibly life affirming. It reminds me of one of my other favorite books, Everything is Illuminated (which also devotes a significant amount of its plot to the Holocaust) and The Book Thief is going to join the company of Everything is Illuminated by bumping Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott off of my Top 10 list (which is still a mighty fine read, mind you, but now that both of my kids are potty trained, the daily relevance of the "shit storms" that Lamott writes about has decreased).

If you are on my regular list of gift-book recipients, please be advised that you will most likely, be receiving a copy of this book from me when the appropriate celebratory occasion comes around. I gotta tell you, it is great to know what you'll be giving everyone for Christmas on July 22nd!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rampant Reading

It's a good thing that comp grading is over for the near future and I finished my canoeing piece for the Community Observer because, people, I got some reading to do! There are times when I feel I make no progress on my reserve list at the AADL. One of the nifty new things about their website is they let you know where you stand in the queue for a book; right now I happen to be # 16 of 22 requests for Monica Ali's new book, Alentejo Blue (yes, I put in a request for it despite the fact that I didn't like or finish her other book, Brick Lane...This one sounds kind of promising).

For some reason, I hit the jackpot in the last week on the reserve lists and received numerous e-mails telling me to hightail it to the library to pick up a ton of books.

First we have the three books that I have already started:

From Top: Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (about 100 pages left, so-so read but not so bad that abandonment is immanent), Bad Twin by Gary Troup (about 50 pages left, a trashy gimmick novel tied to the TV series "Lost") and Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (only just finished the first chapter but looks very promising)

Then we have the four books that might soon be making me even more of a book polygamist:

From top: The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich (next book group book), Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi (whose Homestead is on my Top 10 favorite books), The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue (ok it has been publicized up the yin yang, but I like the subject matter) and Brookland by Emily Barton (which sounds like my kind of historical novel).

and the four books that are a part of a a little Michael Chabon crush I'm having since finishing (and raving about) The Final Solution:

Werewolves in Their Youth (by Chabon), McSweeny's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (which Chabon edited), A Model World (by Chabon) and The Classic Illustrated Sherlock Holmes (to try and tap into Chabon's thoughts and why he wrote The Final Solution)

And don't forget the two books that wait for my continued reading of young adult fiction which has been encouraged of late by how much I loved reading Fly by Night:

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (recommended on some blog recently, wish I could remember which one...) and Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (which A Fuse #8 Production--she who led me to Fly By Night--gave a very good review)

I ask you, why does the bounty of books descend upon me in the midst of decent weather and in prime produce season (which means I must spend some time away from my beloved couch being outside so I don't get seasonal depression in the middle of the summer, and, when inside, preparing numerous fruit pies and freezing enough pesto to get me through another winter....)?

So people, where the hell do I start?

Pesto Delivery Device

I have discovered the finest Pesto Delivery Device and it is called:
The Radiator.

This is the first noodle I have found that delivers an appropriate amount of pesto to my mouth--that is to say, a ton. Basil season is upon us folks, better go get yourself some radiators.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Simple is good

With the heat index in the 100 degree range and the air so think that I feel like I'm treading water when I'm just standing up, the amount of energy I have for cooking is pretty minimal. Last week I made a strawberry rhubarb pie
(yes, it really was that fluorescent red orange color and mighty tasty too)
but this week it seems insane to have the oven on for that long. Hopefully some cooling breezes will come along because I'm taking Fiona blueberry picking at the Dexter Blueberry Farm on Thursday morning and I'd really like to be able to make a pie with them.

In the meantime, we are eating cold around here. Today for lunch I made the simplest and, in my humble opinion, the best potato salad. I had some cooked redskin potatoes left over from dinner over the weekend. I mixed up a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh dill. Then added about a quarter of a diced Vidallia onion and the potatoes. Done! Of course I would probably eat a brick if you doused it in a salty, lemony dressing...
I also had a tuna sandwich with slices of fresh farmer's market cucumbers (a completely different vegetable from the waxed supermarket variety and a fine excuse for having The Best Damn Summer Beer Snack every evening) and spicy sprouts. And you see a few baby carrots that Fiona wouldn't finish from her lunch which, in my role as the Human Garbage Can, I felt compelled to finish. (I alternate the role of Human Garbage Can with those of the Human Napkin and--reluctantly--the Human Snot Rag.)

We'll be doing some main course salads later this week, most likely another grilled tuna salade nicoise now that my green and purple beans are growing in the garden. And I might be able to stand turning the stove on just long enough to make these mango blue cheese quesadillas that I read about over at Weekly Dish (the small people will get their regular beans and cheese quesadillas) because they sound like a lot of flavor for little effort or btu's.

What are you eating in the heat?