The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?
—Salter, Light Years
I started 2016 with the itch to read Light Years (again). And again I loved it. LOVED it. Which prompted me to pick up A Sport and a Pastime. It is intense yet beautifully written. And because I still wasn’t ready to part with Salter, All That Is.
If you haven’t read Salter yet, what are you waiting for? In case you need convincing, read an interview with him here, another here, his short story “Sundays” which became part of the larger A Sport and a Pastime can be read here.
Hello friends! February already? It doesn’t seem possible that Mardi Gras is tomorrow and Lent is already upon us. And yet, the calendar, the Japanese magnolias in bloom they tell me it is indeed February. I guess when you keep your head down long enough—immersed in living, in learning, in work—time roars right on by.
A few things I’ve loved lately:
Thinking about urban tribes
This poem by Alina Stefanescu while putting the final touches on her book
Zadie Smith declares motherhood is not a threat to creativity
We have been memorizing Shakespeare together thanks to this book
This on low has been great background music for working
This candle makes my house smell divine
To continue on with the great December reading binge of 2015, I must confess to no longer being able to resist the hype surrounding the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. I must also confess that one of the things that put me off the novels for the longest time was the unattractive covers. Really and truly. I do just books by their covers and these were just, well, let’s say lacking.
I worked up my nerve and cracked the cover on the first one, My Brilliant Friend, not sure I really liked it and then found myself plowing through the remaining three novels, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child—still unsure I really liked them. I enjoyed them and I’m still perplexed as to why. At a sentence level, the writing doesn’t appeal but reading along, watching the drama unfold…therein lies the appeal. The way Ferrante writes about women, especially friendships between women, is what kept me turning pages.
My first read of the new year was Kate Morton’s latest, The Lake House. This one took a little while for me to get into but in the end, it was typical Kate Morton with an intricate plot, secrets revealed, a grand manor.
Brooklyn is quite possibly my favorite Colm Tóibín novel yet. Set in Ireland and Brooklyn in the early 1950s. Eilis leaves Ireland for Brooklyn leaving her mother and sister behind. The novel focuses primarily on her strength and resilience and gives a credible look into this young woman’s mind.
I usually fly by the seat of pants when picking my books, culling through my stacks of books to be read to settle on one which looks promising at the moment. But this year, I have a plan (sort of). At least through the first few months I have a plan. More on that soon.
What are you looking forward to reading this year?
Hello from late January.
I’m not big on making resolutions and such with the New Year but rather as my birthday approaches, I tend to think more and more about the year ahead, my dreams, my goals. I’m waiting for those to solidify into something, to take shape if you will as now they’re like vapor coming into view, backing away. I know they’ll appear, fixed and clear in my mind, when the time is right. Until then, I wait. Patiently. All the while I write, I read, I wash dishes, I do my work, I shuttle kids to and fro, kiss little toes, and silently say hallelujah every night when the kids are tucked in, the wine is poured, and the house is quiet.
“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.”
—Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace
When the going gets tough, I make a nest in the corner of the sofa where I curl up under an old quilt and read myself blurry-eyed. December 2015 merited drastic and prolonged escapism.
I began with Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and The Story. I was thoroughly enjoying it when I went to a friend’s where I was sent home with Gornick’s Fierce Attachments, Bartok’s The Memory Palace, and Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows.
Little did I know a storm of epic proportions was brewing with my family and that reading these stories of mothers and daughters would be a life raft of sorts while I sat nestled in the corner of the sofa. These books—handed to me on a whim—were balm for this wounded soul.
The last six months have been some of the most difficult of my adult life. I withdrew. I worried. I read. I journaled. I regrouped. After a hiatus of sorts, I am ready to begin anew in this space which I have cleaned up (am still cleaning up), simplified. Ready to add my voice to the conversation, to hear from you, to feel connected again.
More soon. Until then, a blessed and happy 2016 to you.
I’m writing you while sitting in the dim glow of Christmas lights, a baby asleep in my arms. I have yet to purchase a single Christmas gift nor hang a stocking but there is still time.
I’ll be quiet in this space until after the New Year. I have a stack of books waiting to be read and some editing and writing to do if I can tear myself away from my own reading. My goal is to ride out the rest of this year in a relaxed manner—reading, to wrapping myself in the comfort of my family, putting pen to paper. See you in 2016!