Making Babies is a delightful book about mothering--not all flowers and grace--but a truthful and somewhat sardonic account about the joys and frustrations of new parenthood. Irish novelist Enright and her husband, Martin, a playwright, had been married eighteen years before having a child. In this book, she details the whole process, from the week she decided that they should try to have a child soon (when she was already pregnant) to the period after her second child was born.
Enright describes a photo of herself taking immediately after the birth. She looked “pragmatic and unsurprised,” but then later when they moved the baby to their room down the hall, she noticed that, “The child looks at the passing scene with alert pleasure…She is saturated with life, she is intensely alive. Her face is a little triangle and her eyes are shaped like leaves, and she looks out of them, liking the world.”
Contrast this with the chapter titled “Milk” where Enright discusses the absurdity of starting a new biological function in her late thirties. She also remarks that there’s no quicker way to clear a room than to begin breastfeeding there. It’s not the sight of the breast so much, as the loud raucous sounds coming from the infant. Read more »
Wife in the Northis Judith O'Reilly's memoir about facilitating her husband's dream of leaving London and moving to the countryside in Northumberland. O' Reilly, who is literate, urbane, and immensely funny decidedly fits the city girl mold. She likes richly-frothed cappuccinos, museum meanderings, and rides on crimson double-decker buses. Several years before the start of this journal, O'Reilly's husband talked her into buying a holiday cottage near the sea. He promised to never consider living there full-time.
But two and a half kids later—while she's pregnant with their third child--he does beg her to move there, and overwhelmed by hormones, she reluctantly agrees with the caveat that after two years, if she does not like it, they can return to London.
In a previous life, before having children, she was an award-winning journalist who covered national education issues and hobnobbed with leaders. She enjoyed her fast-paced life and her cosmopolitan friends. This book is one of the best I’ve read about a career woman immersing herself in and adapting to domestic life.
And what a hard adaptation it is. Although Northumberland has more castles than anywhere else in England it has few bookstores and no decent cappuccinos. But it does have rocky crags, deep forests, and best, a wild seacoast. In the first six months after delivering her daughter, Judith rails against leaving the city but still cannot help admiring Read more »
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,663 mile long trail reaching from the Canadian border in northern border in Washington, through Oregon, to the Mexico border in southern California. Hiking this trail can take 4-6 months and it purposefully avoids civilization. The Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains make for both difficult hiking and beautiful unspoiled scenery.
After a trying few years after the death of her mother, author Cheryl Strayed started her PCT trail hike despite her outdoor inexperience. Her book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail chronicling her hike came out this past spring and was well reviewed. I promptly put this book on my to-read list as doing a long hike lingers at the bottom of my life to-do list.
Looks like I will have to wait to read this memoir a little bit longer as this past week Oprah selected Wild as the first title of her new Oprah Book Club 2.0. As of this morning there were quite a few holds on this book, but I'm thinking the wait just might be worth it. Read more »
Before I became a librarian, I worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years. I learned to cook from my dad and had dreams of going to culinary school to become a chef. Career changes happen, but I am still drawn to cooking shows and spend a lot of time reading books about food, food policies, eating, and food history –think Bittman, Kurlansky, & Kingsolver. When it came out recently, I knew I had to read Blood, Bones & Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.
Hamilton is owner and head chef at Prune, a well-reviewed and established restaurant in New York. This book sets out her love of food from her parents to her on-the-fly education in New York City catering. Her path to recognition and establishment later in life is both gory and determined. Being a woman in this business can be ugly and Hamilton both investigates and dismisses this fact. What she does well is understanding the connection between food and family and what it means to be part of this process on both an intimate and grander scale.
OK. I confess. This book sat for most of its check-out period on my night table. I had read Didion’s excellent book The Year of Magical Thinking but I knew that this new memoir covered another territory of loss—not that of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, but of her daughter who had the wonderful name of Quintana Roo (a state in Mexico.)
And yes, Blue Nights is sad. As would be any book about losing your only child. But it’s also amazingly human, full of insights and many questions, some of which go unanswered.
First the title. It comes from those late June, early July nights where twilight seems to linger for hours until darkness finally comes. The light is soft; the world is warm and alive. Didion speaks of them as occurring only in the north, not far south in LA where she spent much of her life as a screenwriter, essayist, and novelist and where Quintana grew up. No, the blue lights happen in New York City where Didion now lives now and where Quintana died young at the age of thirty-nine from a massive infection. To make matters even more tragic, she first got ill only five months after her wedding.
The book covers other things as well adoption, meeting with biological family for the first time as an adult, parenting, the failures of parenting, and, in particular, aging. Didion writes with brutal honesty especially about this last topic. Read more »
This book describes my dream job, being a fire lookout out west. I could handle the wild creatures, the solitude, even the lightning strikes, but maybe not cleaning out the cistern after vandals pollute it. In the tradition of writers, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Edward Abbey and Norman Maclean. Philip Connors leaves his job as a Wall Street Journal editor and while on vacation signs up on the spot to detect fires for the National Forest Service, or as he jokingly calls it "The National Forest Circus." Read more »
How many times have you been distracted while driving and seen a cyclist jut into the road or a child chasing a ball, or even a scampering beagle? You brake and think, thank God. But for Darin Strauss, newly eighteen, setting out with friends for a game of Putt Putt on a warm spring day at the tail end of his senior year, things did not go that smoothly. A cyclist suddenly veered across a lane and a half--and as he braked all he saw was a yellow spoke reflector catch the light and a head crash into his windshield. For him, the worst had happened. The police cleared him, said it was not his fault. The local paper reported this, but Strauss has had to life the rest of his life with the guilt and pain of this accident. Read more »
At age 39, Australian Rachael Weiss takes a hard look at her life. On the plus side she's published one book; on the negative side, she works temp jobs, has no husband or significant other, and is just scrapping by. Though school counselors deemed Rachel the "gifted" one as a child, her younger sister is a very successful dentist who teaches fitness classes on the side. She's also raising a concert violinist and a miniature Beckham. Her brother achieved partnership in a law firm and has three beautiful, talented kids of his own. What's a gal to do? Rachel decides that a year hanging out in a Paris garret will help her pen the great Australian novel, plus find a handsome foreigner with high cheek bones. But alas, Paris does not fit her budget. Read more »
One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs begins with the lines,"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were talking so brave and so free." Patti Smith's memoir of her coming-of-age with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is partially set in this hotel with its unique history and cast of characters. Read more »