Archive for November, 2009

Better the next day

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving gluttony, I thought it might be important to get back to basics.  I have been altering this pasta salad recipe for the last few weeks, because I think it might be the most delicious food I have ever “invented.”  I am basically turning into your Italian grandmother.  Now, bundle up and consider this.

Like a family reunion

Measurements are, fyi, purely guestimation.

  • 3 uncooked C of pasta, boiled as usual
  • 2 C of bean assortment (any will do!  go nuts!)
  • 1/4 C of white onion, diced
  • 1/2 C artichoke hearts, diced (marinated or otherwise)
  • 1/4 C sun-dried tomatoes (in my heart, I want to tell you to go all out with these, but they are expensive, unless you have a dehydrater like we did when I was a wee one.  In which case they are expensive only time-wise, or if your child is something like I was and keeps stealing them off of the racks while they are dehydrating.)
  • black olives, chopped


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs spicy/dijon mustard (I accidentally used ball park mustard yesterday and was worried all afternoon that my salad might taste like a hot dog, but it did not.  Have no fear.)
  • healthy dose of oregano, basil and pepper (salt is extremely unnecessary)

Mix ‘em all up and refrigerate.  Like most things in my life, this salad is better the next day.  If I ever write an autobiography, that will probably be the title.  Yields 4-5 servings.  If you are not afraid of tuna, I suspect it would be extremely delicious in this.

I spent a good part of my long weekend being tired and, as usual, a little sad, but also a good part was devoted to Alice Munro’s new Too Much Happiness.  Munro doesn’t need praise from me, so I will just say instead that a few stories from this book coincided nicely with the reading I have been doing lately on memory and its effect on older adults (this naturally is juxtaposed with public libraries, and my dear idols at StoryCorps, but that is neither here nor there).  The story “Child’s Play,” while not necessarily a happy remembrance, jogged something strange in me every time I read it.  At a time when I am worrying more than ever about losing hold of stories I’ve been told or stories I might tell, a work of fiction like “Child’s Play” (as well as the title story) have this daunting ability to  frighten and confuse a reader like, well,  me.  This shouldn’t be a discouragement.  Munro is a force to reckon with, and these stories left me somewhat hopeful (again, this isn’t about her, or the world, or something, this is about me) that someone somewhere is remembering something.  I am not 100% behind this, as far as Munro’s compilations go, but the title story alone is almost enough for this book to stand on.  I want to recommend that story to every person I know who is familiar with her writing.  Because it’s unlike her, and it’s strong (which truly isn’t at all unlike her), and it is inspirational.

Also, school is almost over, which means my life is starting to look like this again:

suburbs 136Ah, to be thankful for Tina Fey, and dogs, and new warm hats, and quilts from grandmas, and other comforting things.  I need a hug.

Stranger Things Happen to my brain

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

This is a reminder to myself that I am going to kick this semester’s butt and I am going to finish school and I am going to get the heck outta dodge.  GO ME.

This is also a reminder to myself that I read (upon the entire world’s advice) Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link last week.  I felt lukewarm about parts of it, but liked the rest of it.  One of the stories was about a librarian (in her words, although in reality he was just a student worker who worked circulation, and I hate to mince words, but believe you me, this does not a librarian make) who has covert library sex on the regular, and I read part of this story on the bus next to a girl I know that knows that I work in a library, and the entire time I felt awkward thinking she thought I was reading weird fetishist stories about covert library sex on the regular, which I was, but which I do not do all that often.  I think Kelly Link has a weird and awesome brain.  It appeals to me.  I thought I had read another book of hers a few years ago that was full of jokes about math, and in this case, the joke was on me, because I didn’t understand any of them, but in retrospect I don’t think she wrote that book, and at this point it is totally evident that the end of the semester has completely taken its toll on me.  So okay, I like Kelly Link, and any complaints that I did have are forgotten at this point.  Basically, Stranger Things Happen went really well with my spooky suburban weekend in which I nearly had a brutal fight with three white-tailed deer and in which all I did was research Latin American literature and do a lot of walking in the woods with this little beastie:

suburbs 118In two weeks I will be a normal human being again, with a voracious reading appetite and MAYBE EVEN SOME FREE TIME.  Hang in there, kid.

ghosts of wounded knee

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Within December’s issue of Harper’s there is an article written by Matthew Power, with accompanying photographs by Aaron  Huey, titled the “Ghosts of Wounded Knee.”   I try very hard to not preach about my love of print media, but I have always very much loved the look of photos within Harper’s, as well as the font and the spacing and the style, blah blah, and Huey’s photos simply shine in this format.  This article is goddamn poetry.  I have always very much admired Power’s writing, but what was once simple admiration is now through the roof.  You, sir, are getting a letter from me.  The photographs are stark, and implying that they are telling does not do them justice.  My love of stories from the  Pine Ridge reservation is nothing new or surprising, but Power’s words & Huey’s photos churned my stomach all the more.  The interviews within are beyond hopeless, the stories are heartbreaking, and I can’t recommend it enough.

From an interview:

We’re Lakota warriors, and we should be able to take care of ourselves, but all we get is just the VA checks.  A VA check won’t even buy you a house.  I don’t know what’s going on.  I don’t care.  I hang out with all my homeless veteran buddies.  I’d rather be up here than be a burden on them.  I’d rather beg for food than beg them for food.  Soemtimes I see some of my friends, and they’re so very hungover.  See, we drink and we get drunk, and we sing, we take turns to sing military songs, we sing cadence or we sing Lakota songs.  Then we go to sleep.  Next day we do it again.  We don’t have no family anymore.

If nothing else, at least stop in Borders and flip through these pictures.

(disclaimer: on love)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

So where do we start?  Love may or may not produce happiness; whether or not it does in the end, its primary effect is to energize.  Have you ever talked so well, needed less sleep, returned to sex so eagerly, as when you were first in love?  The anemic begin to glow, while the normally healthy become intolerable.  Next, it gives spine-stretching confidence.  You feel you are standing up straight for the first time in your life; you can do anything while this feeling lasts, you can take on the world.  (Shall we make this distinction: that love enhances the confidence, whereas sexual conquest merely develops the ego?)  Then again, it gives clarity of vision; it’s a windshield wiper across the eyeball.  Have you ever seen things so clearly as when you were first in love?

Taken from pages 231-2 of “Parenthesis,” within A History of the World in 10 and 1/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes.   I usually turn to Barnes to make me laugh, and that is why this essay was so shockingly gorgeous the first time I read it a few years ago.   I find something new, enchanting and quotable every time I glance at it.  Sometimes a girl just needs to cry at a lovely essay, right?

And, of course, it just wouldn’t be proper to quote Barnes without revealing just how fucking funny he is, so:

Should love be taught in school?  First term: friendship; second term: tenderness; third term: passion.  Why not?  They teach kids how to cook and mend cars and fuck one another without getting pregnant; and the kids are, we assume, much better at all of this than we were, but what use is any of that to them if they don’t know about love?


A thing I’m glad I took the time to read

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I have always meant to read Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) but always got side-tracked by other things.  Probably Buffy.  I finally did, and let me say, I’m glad I did.  I can’t do this book, or Ishiguro, justice.  I don’t even know how to describe it.  It’s kind of about clones who exist only to be organ donors, yet it’s kind of not at all.  Ishiguro handles this odd subject with a hell of a lot of quiet grace.  Half of the time, this book reads like a reflective memoir, and then the other half it’s fucking scary sci-fi.  Hell yes.  Loved it.

Recommended to: people who are hesitant to read sci-fi (I think this could act as a subtle introduction), people who are interested in dystopian fiction, people who are okay with laughing at uncomfortable things, people who can take the time to appreciate pretty little sentences.

p.s. Nova Scotia is amazing.  My new favorite place:Peggy's Cove

varieties of observances, y’know

Friday, November 6th, 2009

I read a large part of Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis while flying over the patchwork of New England and the Atlantic Ocean and maybe New Brunswick.  I don’t know.  When I am flying I like to try to guess where I am (for a good ten minutes I was convinced I was looking at Cape Cod, at that ubiquitous spit curving up into the ocean) but I think I’m usually wrong.  Although that probably really was Cape Cod, thinking about it.  Reading Lydia Davis is not unlike this: it’s rare for her to name a location, a time, a season, or any identifying specifics about a narrator or character.  While Davis’ characters could literally be anyone (you, me, the girl next to me on the airplane), they are also distinctly no one.  For the most part, this is appreciable.  Davis has swiftly created a kind of universality that most authors would shy from.  Her characters are mysteries, and simultaneously, they’re not–because in the world Davis invents, it doesn’t matter who these people are, where they are, or what they are.  It kind of just matters that they are.

Davis tells stories in one or two sentences, in lists, in short vignettes, in jokes about grammar (!), an index entry (the entirety of which is: “Christian, I’m not a.”) and, most appealingly, in studies–as in “We Miss You: A Study of Get-Well Letters from a Class of Fourth-Graders,” which is-surprisingly and hilariously-exactly what it sounds like.  The fact that she can, and does, make a story out of one little sentence is exciting to me, in the way that I get excited about a pun or a joke between close friends that I understand.  To her credit, the wild variety of format and content within this collection make it utterly re-readable.  I have a feeling I will turn to this book again and again.

Davis is a talented observer, and this spoke to me as I sat in airports and simply watched people.  There is something to be said for noting your fellow travelers and passengers (and, well, also assigning them personalities and stories just for the fun of it).  This book is, frankly, excellent.

Now, I am off to eat chowder & snuggle.  Halifax ftw!