Saturday, December 18, 2010


So this is supposed to be about the how, and when, and why, and what of reading--about the way that, when reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning; and how, when it's going badly, when books don't stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you'd rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph, or reread the last one for the tenth time. 'We talked about books,' says a character in Charles Baxter's wonderful Feast of Love, 'how boring they were to read, but how you loved them anyway.' Anyone who hasn't felt like that isn't owning up.
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree
Nick Hornby

A collection of monthly columns Hornby wrote for the Believer about his reading (and book purchasing) habits as opposed to writing about a particular book. A fun read and a great resource. CA loves Nick Hornby's books, but couldn't get into this one. I love words and reading; I get Nick Hornby's reading habits.

The fun part of this book is that I bought in Paris at Shakespeare and Company--full price, because I was short on reading material. I saved this one for the last bit of our time in Paris and the flight home. I smiled a lot, and used a highlighter (!) to note books I need to check out at the library and on Amazon.

I find the paperback cover photo on Amazon's offering rather off-putting. Sorry, Nick, but a full frontal facial isn't the best marketing tool. The British version of the paperback cover is definitely more subtle...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


"The trouble with these divorces," Ernest said as he put the tea tray on the packing case, "is the refurnishing. Look at that . We're not going to find another one like that. Wasted on her, of course."

Simon Shaw looked up and watched one of the moving men packing the Hockney in bubble wrap. As the man bent over, he displayed the traditional emblem of the British labourer, the buttock cleavage revealed by the separation of t-shirt from grimy, low-slung jeans. Ernest sniffed and went back to the kitchen, picking his way through the piles of expensive relics that were destined for the ex-Mrs. Shaw's bijou cottage in Eaton Mews South.
Hotel Pastis
Peter Mayle

Amusing and captivating. A great vacation read--lighthearted and fast moving. Especially good when read while traveling in Provence and Paris...

Friday, December 3, 2010


I saved this trilogy for our travels in Europe. So much has been written about these books, and then there are the movie versions...

My curiosity was with Stieg Larsson's untimely death at age 50. A heart attack before any of these books were published.

I do recommend these books, although it took a very long time for me to feel any compassion or understanding for Lisbeth Salander. I find it very interesting that Larsson reportedly based her character on a grown-up Pippi Longstockings-type...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sunday, December 23rd , the present
12:40 a.m.

The bullet tore into Cotton Malone's left shoulder.

He fought to ignore the pain and focused on the plaza. People rushed in all directions. Horns blared. Tires squealed. Marines guarding the nearby American embassy reacted to the chaos, but were too far away to help. Bodies were strewn about. How many? Eight? Ten? No. More. A young man and woman lay at contorted angles on a nearby patch of oily asphalt, the man's eyes frozen open, alight with shock-the woman, face down, gushing blood. Malone had spotted two gunmen and immediately shot them both, but never saw the third, who'd clipped him with a single round and was now trying to flee, using panicked bystanders for cover.

Dammit, the wound hurt. Fear struck his face like a wave of fire. His legs went limp as he fought to raise his right arm. The Beretta seemed to weigh tons, not ounces.

Pain jarred his senses. He sucked deep breaths of sulfur-laced air and finally forced his finger to work the trigger, which only squeaked, and did not fire.


More squeaks could be heard as he tried to fire again.

Then the world dissolved to black.

Malone awoke, cleared the dream from his mind-one that had recurred many times over the past two years-and studied the bedside clock.

12:43 a.m.

He was lying atop the bed in his apartment, the night stand's lamp still on from when he'd plopped down two hours ago.

Something had roused him. A sound. Part of the dream from Mexico City, yet not.

He heard it again.

Three squeaks in quick succession.

His building was 17th century, completely remodeled a few months ago. From the second to the third floor the new wooden risers now announced themselves in a precise order, like keys on a piano.

Which meant someone was there.
The Paris Vendetta
Steve Berry

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Chapter 2: The Miracles of Art

My name is Renée. I am fifty-four years old. For twenty-seven years I have been the concierge at number 7, rue de Grenelle, a fine hôtel particulier with a courtyard and private gardens, divided into eight luxury apartments, all of which are inhabited, all of which are immense. I am a widow, I am short, ugly, and plump, I have bunions on my feet and, if I am to credit certain early mornings of selfinflicted disgust, the breath of a mammoth. I did not go to college, I have always been poor, discreet, and insignificant. I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendl—— though always polit—— I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

Similarly, it has been decreed that concierges watch television interminably while their rather large cats doze, and that the entrance to the building must smell of pot-au-feu, cabbage soup, or a country-style cassoulet. I have the extraordinary good fortune to be the concierge of a very high-class sort of building.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery

A delightful story--sweet and gritty; poignant. Redemption and romance. An especially good read when traveling in Paris.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down. And some days it stops altogether. The sky, gray and lowering for much of the year, becomes an ocean of blue, so vast and brilliant you can't help but stop what you're doing--pinning wet sheets to the line maybe, or shucking a bushel of corn on the back steps--to stare up at it. Locusts whir in the birches, coaxing you out of the sun and under the boughs, and the heat stills the air, heavy and sweet with the scent of balsam.

As I stand here on the porch of the Glenmore, the finest hotel on all of Big Moose Lake, I tell myself that today--Thursday, July 12, 1906--is such a day. Time has stopped, and the beauty and calm of this perfect afternoon will never end. The guests up from New York, all in their summer whites, will play croquet on the lawn forever. Old Mrs. Ellis will stay on the porch until the end of time, rapping her cane on the railing for more lemonade. The children of doctors and lawyers from Utica, Rome and Syracuse will always run through the woods, laughing and shrieking, giddy from too much ice cream.

I believe these things. With all my heart. For I am good at telling myself lies.
A Gathering Light
Jennifer Donnelly
British title for A Northern Light

Jennifer Donnelly is an exceptional writer, and I look forward to exploring her backlist and newer releases. As Dinah Hall, a reviewer for Sunday Telegraph so amusingly declared:

"Nobody got fed while I read A Gathering Light: if George Clooney had walked into the room I would have told him to come back later when I'd finished... Donelly captures period and place with almost supernatural skill, and even the most minor of characters are so vivid that you find yourself talking out loud to them."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


People never explain to you what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don't have time. Or the right words. But that's what books do. It's as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen you have to read a book. That explains it all.

Even if people in the book are invented?

Sure. Because they're based on what's real but with the boring bits stripped out. In good books anyway. Of my total understanding of human beings, which is perhaps not very great... I'd say half of it is from just guessing that other people must feel much the same as I would in their place. But of the other half, ninety per cent of it has come from reading books. Less than ten per cent from reality--from watching and talking and listening--from living.

A Week in December
Sebastian Faulk
p. 197

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It began, as it often does, with a woman putting her ducks in a row. It had occurred to Iris a few weeks back--at the height of summer when tourists jammed the post office with their oiled bodies and their scattered, childish vacation glee--that if what she thought were going to happen was going to, she ought to be prepared. She ought, really oughtn't she, to be ready to show Harry that though she was forty, as old as the century, he would be the first. The very first. And she had always put more stock in words set down on a clean white piece of paper than any sort of talk. Talk was...

The Postmistress
Sarah Blake

(I think this was from the book fly-leaf)
Blake traces the lives of three women in the months leading up to the United States’ involvement in World War II. One is the titular postmistress, one is a newly married doctor’s wife, and one is a radio reporter covering the Blitz under the tutelage of Edward R. Murrow. Can you doubt that the paths of these three are going to intertwine in life-changing ways? If so, you’ve never read a historical novel.

The Postmistress examines the question of truth-telling in wartime, and the fact that we can never learn the whole story, as the reporter takes her recorder on trains across Europe, interviewing the last wave of Jewish refugees trying to get out before the exits slam shut. The vitality inherent in that vocal record, fragmentary though it of necessity is, is the most resonant part of the novel.

Friday, October 15, 2010



We puttered out of the marina, under a bridge from which two black boys were fishing with what looked like homemade poles, down a winding canal flanked my mangroves. The knobby, twining roots rose from the water. I saw on a cushioned bench and Marse say in a captain's chair at the helm. She handed me a scarf and told me to tie back my hair, which I did. We passed an egret standing stock-still on a mangrove root, then emerged from the canal into the wide, open bay. The Miami shoreline stretched out in both directions...

There was nothing there but sea and sky, but then a few matchbox shapes formed on the hazy horizon. They grew larger and I saw that they were houses, propped above the water on pilings. Ii counted fourteen of them. As we neared, I saw that some were painted, some were two stories high, some had boats moored at the docks, and some were shuttered and still. They stood on cement pillars, flanking a dark channel along the rim of the bay, as if guarding if from the open ocean.
Susanna Daniel

Monday, October 11, 2010


It was indeed a long time since she'd spoken to Prue, she reflected, starting to unpack her bags. Her career as a biographer had been on hold for eighteen months or more, following the abortive ending of her last project due to murder and a legal minefield her publishers were unwilling to enter.

While she regained her balance, she'd reverted to her secondary--and, up to then, spasmodic--work as a freelance writer for the glossy monthly Chiltern Life. But, incredibly innocuous pursuits such as writing-up eight-hundred-year anniversaries, tracing birth parents, and researching the history of local firms had also resulted in death and disaster. Even befriending her nest-door neighbors had proved a perilous undertaking.
Unfinished Portrait
Anthea Fraser

Seventh in a series of Rona Parish mysteries. Well written in the English murder mystery genre. Not sure I'll read more in the series, but I may...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Before dawn on the day she would finally see his first real film, Beth Cappadora slipped into the guest room and lay down on the edge of the bed where her son, Vincent, slept.

Had she touched his hair or shoulder, he would not have stirred. When he slept at all, Vincent slept like a man who'd fallen from a relaxed standing position after being hit on the back of the head by a frying pan. Still, she didn't take the risk. Her relationship with Vincent didn't admit of nighttime confidences, funny cards, all the trappings of the sentimental, platonic courtship between a mother and her grown boy....

Beth asked only a minor redemption--something that would stuff back the acid remarks that everyone had made about where Vincent's career of minor crime and major slough-offs would end, because it had so far outlasted the most generous boundaries of juvenile delinquency. She wished one thing itself, simple and linear: Let Vincent's movie succeed....

Only long months from that morning did Beth, a superstitious woman all her life, realize she had forgotten that if a wish slipped like an arrow through a momentary slice in the firmament, it was free to come true any way it would. Only fools thought its trajectory could ever be controlled.
No Time to Wave Goodbye
Jacquelyn Mitchard

I could have read this book in one sitting. I came close. I read it straight through with as few interruptions as possible. Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean is one of few books that has remained whole and clear and fresh in my mind. Probably because it vividly sets out a mother's (family's) worst nightmare. A disappearing child. One small lapse of caution and a beloved child is lost--forever?

What is really true about The Deep End of the Ocean is that two children were lost and 20 years later still not completely found. While the kidnapped son, Ben/Sam, is drawn with care and understanding, No Time to Wave Goodbye is Beth and Vincent's story. Vincent because he lost his childhood more than Ben--Ben grew up as a well-loved child while Vincent grew up with guilt, distant parents, and palpable grief. Ben gets to choose who he truly loves while Vincent aches for but cannot accept his parents' unconditional love. And, this is Beth's story as she grieves for sons lost and finally found.

No Time to Wave Goodbye is Vincent's gift to his mother and a personal catharsis. Vincent has finally stepped up and taken life defining steps. He has come into his own.

For a few brief months the family is closer to healing than seemed possible, and then the unthinkable, unimaginable happens. The family is sucked into a drama so severe and heartbreaking that all ground is lost. Fears and emotions rule and destroy.

This is a story of redemption--hard won, but truly found.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Later, I couldn't think whose idea it had been to visit the Tate that day. I did remember we'd been talking about going for ages, months even, and how pleased I was when Mickey finally took a rare day's holiday to spend with us. I remembered that we thought we should do something more interesting than trotting round the local park behind Louis's pushchair for the millionth time that month; that I was happy it would just be us three for once as we caught the train into town.

So whose fault did that make it when my whole world fell apart?
Claire Seeber

Every mother's nightmare. Well written.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


You may be tempted to ignore these words. Do not. You were not chosen to receive this at random.
Do not discard this note. At some point in the near future, you will be desperate to reach me.
Do not share the contents of this message with anyone. I commit to you that the consequences of breaching my trust will be more severe than you wish to endure.
Blue will indicate that I am content. Orange will show my disappointment.
What do I want? I cannot answer that.
What do you have to offer? Give that question some thought.
When the time comes, we will reach an understanding. Despite all appearances, I am a reasonable man.
The Siege
Stephen White

I'm a huge Stephen White fan, and also a fan of Alan Gregory. The Siege is a compelling read--a great storyline. That being said, I found White's writing to be stilted more than a few times in this book.

And, I have some questions for him...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Seymour Ira Spencer of Manhattan and Southampton was a class act. Hey, the last thing you’d think was “movie producer.” No herringbone gold chain rested on a bed of chest hair; there was no fat mouth, definitely no cigar. If you could have seen him in his plain white terry-cloth bathrobe (which he was too well-bred to have monogrammed), standing on the tile deck of the pool of his beachfront estate, Sandy Court, sipping a glass of iced black-currant tea, talking softly into his portable phone, you would have thought: This is what they mean when they say good taste.

I’ll tell you how tasteful Sy Spencer was. He actually might have hung up, strolled inside and picked up a Marcel Proust book to reread. Except just then he got blasted by two bullets, one in his medulla, one in his left ventricle. He was dead before he hit the deck.

Too bad. It was a gorgeous August day. I remember. The sky was a blue so pure and powerful you almost couldn't look at it. Who could take that much beauty?...
The Magic Hour
Susan Isaacs

As I read the latest blog entry in French Word-a-Day, I was reminded of how for a number of years in the past Susan Isaacs was my favorite novelist. I think this book was my introduction to the phrase, the magic hour. Now, I'm loving the blue hour.
... The blue hour, the magic hour... crepuscule, twilight... the hour between daylight and night when the sky's luminosity draws artists out of their studios to see light's last glimmerings.

And, from Wikipedia: "The phrase is also used to refer to Paris immediately prior to World War I, which was considered to be a time of relative innocence."

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Elizabeth Bard knows the power of a first paragraph...

I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date. I say halfway because we had finished lunch but not yet ordered coffee. It turned out to be a decisive moment, more important for my future happiness than where I went to college, or years with a good shrink. The question was posed lightly. It looked like rain. We could sit it out in a café or, since his apartment was not far, he could make tea.
Lunch in Paris
Elizabeth Bard
reader's guide

And a great throwaway line when you feel someone is reaching beyond their station in life,
"Tu pètes plus haut de ton cul."
p. 58

An idiomatic phrase that means literally, "To fart above your ass." Or, slang for "Too big for your britches."

Friday, July 9, 2010


There's a hill covered with olive trees that nestles around our house like the strong, safe lap of an infinitely patient grandfather.... The tiny stone house sits tucked into the side of the hill so that tour bedroom window isn't exposed to the early rays of the sun, but that morning I was up with the first soft light in the sky. I had slept the sleep of the sated. Perhaps the three glasses of grappa at the end of dinner had helped a bit with that. Along with the bottomless pitcher of the local red wine that went down so easily with the wood-grilled lamp and the fried potatoes. God, those potatoes. Maybe it was all a dream; I never eat potatoes after a big bowl of pasta. Not in the same meal. Not in real life...
Living in a Foreign Language
Michael Tucker


It seems we never had time to get things done because our days were filled to the brim with lingering. Breakfast became a longer and longer linger.
p. 95

Great quote! This book is about food and meals and great wine, i.e. Italy, and specifically Umbria. The Tucker-Eikenberry contingent has found a way to live life to the fullest, to reap the benefits of their early labors. An inspiration.

video interview

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


The pilot paused at the edge of the wood, where already it was dark, oak-dark at midday. He propped himself against a tree, believing that in the shadows he was hidden, at least for the moment. The others had fled. He was the last out of the pasture, watching until they had all disappeared, one-by-one, indistinct brown shapes quickly enveloped by the forest.

All, that is, except for the two on the ground, one dead, one dying.

*  *  * 

Claire knelt beside the airman. She took her scarf from her head, opened her coat. In the candlelight she could see the man's face for the first time. He looked oddly peaceful, as though he were merely sleeping. He was twenty-one or -two, she guessed. The light made shadows of the bones of his face, the shape of his mouth. There were cuts on his forehead and cheeks, and his mouth was badly swollen. Briefly, she ran the back of her fingers along the side of his cheek. As she sometimes had for the others, she wondered who might be dreaming of this man even then, which mother, which woman loved him, prayed for him, received his letters, counted the days until he might come home.

Anita Shreve

Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris blog post today reminded me of this book and how much I enjoyed it--both times I read it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Standing on the white lady's back porch, I tell myself. Tuck it in, Minny. Tuck in whatever might fly out my mouth and tuck in my behind too. Look like a maid who does what she's told. Truth is, I'm so nervous right now, I'd never backtalk again if it meant I'd get this job.
The Help
Kathryn Stockett
p. 30

RvH passed this easy read on to me, asking for my opinion. I'm ready for an easy read after Ian Rankin and Charles Baxter. Not that those are difficult books, but this is an emotion-filled, family-duty week and I need mind-candy.

I enjoy the book and the care that Kathyrn Stockett takes with drawing me into the life of the early 1960s in Jackson, MS. Many middle class homes have help. Prejudice and segregation are the rule. A new day is dawning, slowly. Thank God.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I dreamed I had my wish:
                                  -- I seemed to see
the conditions of my life, upon
a luminous stage: how I could change,
how I could not: the root of necessity,
and choice.
Frank Bidart, The Golden State

He was insufferable, one of those boy geniuses, all nerve and brain.

Before I encoutered him in person, I heard the stories. They told me he was aberrant ("abnormal" is too plain an adjective to apply to him. He was given to public performative thinking...

He performed intellectual surgery using hairsplitting distinctions. At the age of nineteen, during spring break he took up strolling through Prospect Park with a walking stick and a fedora. Even the pigeons stared at him...
The Soul Thief
Charles Baxter

Like Saul and Patsy, Baxter again just ends this book like he's run out of story. No resolution.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I'm not finding a memorable first paragraph or pithy quote... I just know that I really like this book--a book written early days by Ian Rankin, before the John Rebus series made him any serious money. He needed more of an income and his publisher liked releasing just one Inspector Rebus book a year. His small family had just moved to the Dordogne in France--the cheapest French country home they could find--and renovations were required.

Rankin decided to write under a pseudonym, choosing his son's first name and his wife's maiden name--Jack Harvey. I like that he explains that falling in the middle of the alphabet Harvey insured that book shoppers would more likely find his books. There were three Jack Harvey books before the Rebus series began requiring more time and yielding more of an income. Witch Hunt is the first of the three.

Interestingly, there is not one main detective character in this novel--one could argue for Dominc Elder, but really there are several almost equally strong characters--Joyce Parry or Michael Barclay or John Greenleaf or even Hardman Doyle. Elder is the one who comes with a back story.

Early on I make several guesses regarding twists in the story--thinking that Joyce will be uncovered as Elder's ex-wife and that Witch will be their long-lost daughter. I'm wrong on both, never guessing the actual twists Rankin has interwoven.

These days Ian Rankin is the #1 best selling mystery writer in the United Kingdom, so no need for pseudonyms or extra income.

From the Forward:

The  female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Rudyard Kipling
The Female of the Species

If woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some think even greater.
Virginia Wolf
A Room of One's Own

A woman's desire for revenge outlasts all other emotions.
Cyril Connolly

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I AM ABOUT TO BUY A HOUSE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, I wrote as I began my memoir Under the Tuscan Sun. A simple, declarative sentence--but for me crux and crucible. From such easy words, fate branches and transforms. Bramasole, an abandoned country house beneath the Etruscan city wall of Cortona, became home. And more than home--bull's eye, heart's needle, center of my private universe.

At the moment I turned the heavy iron key in the door and stepped into my Italian life I could not have pictured myself here, two decades later, could not have foreseen the pleasure, the complexity, hassle, frustration, joy, or my intense love for Bramasole, a place in time that took over my life.
Every Day in Tuscany
Frances Mayes

Listening to the unabridged audio version of this book made our drive from Omaha seem a short one. CA and I are loving every word, friend, meal, event depicted. We've only barely been in Italy, but Frances Mayes is truly Italy's finest ambassador. We'll visit Italy and especially Tuscany soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


A year after they had rented the farmhouse with loose brown aluminum siding on Whitefeather Road, Saul began glaring out the west window after dinner into the unappeasable darkness that pressed against he glass, as if he were angry at the flat uncultivated farmland for being farmland instead of glass and cement. "No sane Jew," he said, "ever lived on a dirt road." Patsy reminded him of Poland, Russia, and the nineteenth century. then she pointed down at the Scrabble board and told him to play. To spite her, he spelled out "axiom" over a triple-word score, for forty-two points...
Saul and Patsy
Charles Baxter

... Something about her facial expression does not match what she is saying; her glance has become shrewd and inquisitorial, almost gleefully full of hatred. She is a woman who knows how to exploit her unattractiveness and unhappiness. She has all the considerable resources of the weak: the rags, the incompetence when dealing with catastrophe, the unendurable face, the incorrect tone, the addictions, the cluelessness, the echoing footsteps out of the ravaged town.
pg. 172

Charles Baxter... Can that man write! First The Feast of Love and now I'm reading Saul and Patsy. I look forward to reading everything he's written.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Mike saw it happen. There were two doors next to one another. One of them seemed to be permanently ajar by about an inch, except when someone pushed at its neighbor. As each liveried waiter brought trays of canapes into the salesroom, the effect was the same. One door would swing open, and the other would slowly close. It said a lot about the quality of the paintings, Mike thought, that he was paying more attention to a pair of doors. But he knew he was wrong: it said nothing about the actual artworks on display, and everything about him.
Doors Open
Ian Rankin

I'm loving this very clever, non-John Rebus book. I loved John Rebus--more his spiritual searching, possible redemption years than his last few. But, as John grew tired and disillusioned I think he drew me down with him. He was ready to go, at least for a time. Ian Rankin is obviously a very, very talented writer. He's imbued Mike Mackenzie with a very winning personality. I'm rooting for him, even if he is a morally-compromised semi-bored wealthy, white man.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The resonse to my invitation was overwhelming. One after another, in e-mails, on the phone, and in person, in a matter of weeks, two dozen fiction writers said yes, they wanted to contribute to this anthology. Some days I would hear from two or three or four people, saying yes, count me in. Of course, I was delighted--and slightly flabbergasted by the wellspring of enthusiasm. I seemed to have hit a nerve.

Several knew right away whom they wanted to write about--Mary Gordon on Elizabeth Hardwick and Janice Thaddeus, Jay Cantor on Bernard Malamud, Lily Tuck on Gordon Lish, Jim Shepard on John Hawkes....
from Introduction
Mentors, Muses & Monsters
Elizabeth Benedict

Friday, June 4, 2010


When all else fails, I cook. Some people go out after a god-awful day and slam a tennis ball around, or jog their joints to pieces on a fitness course. I had a friend in Coral Gables who would escape to a beach with her folding chair and burn off her stress with sun and a slightly pornographic romance she wouldn’t have been caught dead reading in her professional world—she was a district court judge. Many of the cops I know wash away their fears with a bear at the FOP lounge.

I’ve never been particularly athletic and there wasn’t a decent beach within reasonable driving distance. Getting drunk never solved anything. Cooking was an indulgence I didn’t have time for most days, and though Italian cuisine isn’t my only love, it has always been what I do best.
Patricia Cornwell, or maybe Patricia Cornwell as Kay Scarpetta
Food to Die For

You can't read Patricia Cornwell without getting hungry--even with death, murder, and mayhem. Kay relaxes with cooking and she always has a well-stocked larder. It's such fun to have a compilation of the recipes. And, each chapter quotes from the particular book and context where the recipe occurs.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


So. My head will keep on racing throughout this, I have no doubt.
Racing and running away.
Going a game with itself.
Which may well be a sign of weakness. Before I turned up I did need to consider my weaknesses and strengths, how best they'd be accommodated. In here I will have to be able to second guess myself, but that won't be a problem--I've been doing it for years, because it is the key to any comfort.
Given that I want a happy time.
What Becomes, stories
Saturday Teatime
A.L. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


There is no one who comes here that does not know this is a true map of the world, with you there in the center, making home for us all.
Brian Andeas

Louis and I see you nearly at the same time. In the woods, through the bee trees whose heavy, sweet smell will forever remind me of this day, I see flashes of your pink summer nightgown that you wore to bed last night. My chest loosens and I am shaky with relief. I scarcely notice your scratched legs, muddy knees, or the chain in your hand. I reach out to gather you in my arms, to hold you so tight, to lay my cheek on your sweaty head. I will never wish for you to speak, never silently beg you to talk. You are here. But you step past me, not seeing me, you stop at Louis’ side, and I think, You don’t even see me, it’s Louis’ deputy sheriff’s uniform, good girl, that’s the smart thing to do. Louis lowers himself toward you, and I am fastened to the look on your face. I see your lips begin to arrange themselves and I know, I know. I see the word form, the syllables hardening and sliding from your mouth with not effort. Your voice, not unsure or hoarse from lack of use but clear and bold. One word, the first in three years. In an instant I have you in my arms and I am crying, tears dropping many emotions, mostly thankfulness and relief, but tears of sorrow mixed in. I see Petra’s father crumble. Your chosen word doesn’t make sense to me. But it doesn’t matter, I don’t care. You have finally spoken.
The Weight of Silence
Heather Gudenkauf

Mama, can this lady write! I am looking forward to her next book. I totally recommend this. I could hardly stand to put it down.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I am the author of Ivory Fields, a novel. I wrote it soon after I came home from Vietnam. Not many have read the book. After thirty-three publishers turned it down, I lit a fire in a trash barrel behind a rented house in Iowa and burned up all my copies of the manuscript. Years and years went by, and the book became part of my distant memories of being a soldier, memories that would creep up on me when I was washing dishes or turning a key in a lock, memories that I wished away. Then one morning another copy of the novel arrived in the mail from an old friend who was cleaning out his files, and I realized I was glad to have it back. From time to time I look at it and I think.
My Detachment
Tracy Kidder

We listened to this while driving to the beach, and both CA and I were mesmerized. This is a perspective on Vietnam that you don't usually find. Kidder was an honorable soldier, even though he dealt with uncertain feelings about being a soldier and the war itself. He is self-deprecating and modest, to a fault. A wonderful read. We are recommending it to our son and son-in-law and other friends, as well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Up with the bloody lark? she murmured. I don't hear the little bastard among that lot. He's still sat on the nest, sensible bird that he is.

She was on the move so early that the dawn chorus was still singing at full volume; robins, blackbirds, wrens, pigeons and even the occasional seagull, all doing their best to wake the elegant old grey city from its slumbers.

And, a very interestingly worded dinner invitations on pg. 5.

Hi Randy it began. Bob and I are finally holding that informal dinner party for four that I asked you about. You said you might manage an evening off next Thursday; 7:30 for 8, ambulances at midnight. We hope that you and Denzel will be able to join us. Nothing fancy on the table, nobody posh around it, just the four of us. Cheers, Aileen.
Quintin Jardine

Saturday, May 15, 2010


What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person... In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression... The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.
John Boorman, film director
quoted on the opening page of
True Colors
by Kristin Hannah

I've just started reading this book, but this opening page knocked me out.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I was on the edge of something dire. All it took was a little push. That was when I realized what needed to happen. I can take it all and no one can stop me. And there was nothing left to do afterward but get the hell out of town.
Jami Attenburg
The Melting Season

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Every relationship has at least one really good day. What I mean is, no matter how sour things go, there's always that day. That day is always in your possession. That's the day you remember. You get old and you think: well, at least I had that day. It happened once. You think all the vairables might just line up again. But they don't. Not always. I once talked to a woman who said, "Yeah, that's the day we had an angel around."
(Chapter Two first paragraph)
The Feast of Love
Charles Baxter

Thursday, March 11, 2010


They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet. The simple truth of this only struck Annie when they were actually inside it: apart from the graffiti on the walls, some of which made some kind of reference to the toilet's importance in musical history, it was dank, dark, smelly and entirely unremarkable. Americans were very good at making the most of their heritage, but there wasn't much even they could do here.
Juliet Naked
Nick Hornby

And, another line I particularly like...

It had taken her about a minute and a hlaf to work out that, if Duncan every looked at the fridge, he would have not idea who he was staring at, and the ironies of that were good enough and large enough to eat with a knife and fork, on their own, with no accompanying bitterness.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The saddest thing about life is you don't remember half of it. You don't even remember half of half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth. I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he'll write it down. The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories. He's the only guy I know who remembers his life. He said he captures memories, because if he forgets them, it's a though they didn't happen; it's as though he hadn't lived the parts he doesn't remember.
Donald Miller


Writing a story isn't about making your peaceful fantasies come true. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn't think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it's conflict that changes a person.