Reading Matters

 

I have been between books for a while now partly because I have a new job which has required a massive learning curve (and I’ve been steadying myself of an evening with the cozy perfection of Nigel Slater’s food writing) and partly, because I recently completed (she said, not without some pride) the entire series of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “non-fictional “novel” series.

Fortified, I then pressed onward with the entire Neapolitan volumes written by the hauntingly hard-to-read, hard-to-put-down, hard-to forget Elena Ferrante whose work I now admire immensely.

These books are like opulent, rich meals – with dessert – and beg to be savored not gorged, since they are certainly not easily digested afterwards. With Knausgaard particularly, it was troubling to decide if I applauded what he was doing (writing frankly about his life with no filter and thus exhibiting a total disregard for anyone else’s feelings) or despised it; however, what intrigued me most were his descriptions of the everyday and the banal which he chronicles from childhood to the present day; the expression of a cashier he might never see again; the certain feel of a day; the outside weather echoing what he felt within himself; his documentation of a parent’s sharp, throwaway, put-down which crushes him. Continue reading

The Other Martha

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I just finished listening to an archived interview with hard-boiled wartime writer and activist Martha Gellhorn on the radio and hearing her cultured, richly intellectual way of speaking casually expand on the exciting yet pugilistic life she led has made me feel  equal parts impressed, intrigued and unsettled.

Impressed and intrigued because she led such a fascinating, unpredictable and often dangerous life and unsettled because this is a heady cocktail of everything I am not.

I have none of her wanderlust, her confidence or that driving need to be combative (most recently I couldn’t even play a competitive board game at Christmas lest I offend the land occupiers who were good friends!)  yet I continue to pretend that had my life turned out differently, I might have been a kick-arse journalist.

Really. Really?  I need to shut this fantasy down and resolve to confine myself to writing at least half-way regularly at my middle-class desk where I can safely blog to an audience that rarely exceeds 2 digits … what the heck would Martha say about that …?

I cannot bear to think of it.

Strangely, it’s a truism about myself that I’m often extremely attracted to clever outspokenness as a trait in other people – Noel Gallagher,  Denis Leary, Richard Dawkins, The General – but I abhor it in myself; of course, I should also clarify that boorish, uncalled for outspokenness can veer very closely to let’s just say something else, and I have never found someone being a complete asshole even remotely attractive. Continue reading

Gardening on the Long Weekend

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I was reading lately that gardening fills a void for some women as they mature and become “empty nesters.” This is a term I personally loathe but it’s an economical way to get the point across. As I was kneeling in my garden today, gratefully breathing in the heady scent from my two lilac trees and allowing myself to pause, whenever I liked really, to admire the iridescent navy-blue throats of the grackles that everyone seems to despise but me or to visit with the tiny toad who crossed my glove and then became very still, one foot up, one foot down, in case I had seen him (which I had and was delighted) I thought how different this experience was from an earlier version of my-gardening-self some ten years ago when it was imperative to get those vegetables planted, perennials divided and seeds planted in a kind of dizzying Operation Desert Storm long weekend which bore no resemblance to the calm, contemplative, almost Zen-like experience I enjoyed today. Continue reading

Sometimes I Want the Cream

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I’ve been paying more attention lately to my female co-workers, friends and families and the way they talk and deal with the men in their lives and it is completely fascinating to me how men are still being revered and pacified (I use this word intentionally) so automatically and unconsciously. It’s been absorbed into our psyche and our culture to keep them on the content side of things.

(Or maybe it’s just anything for a quiet life since so many men are renowned for their tiny sense of tolerance and their quickness to unnecessary anger.)
Which has obviously worked for them during their tiny childhoods. Continue reading