Friday, May 06, 2011

Springing Out All Over

Lilacs, dogwood, violets, ornamental quince, snakes, peepers, bees, morels, asparagus, chives, lemon balm. Mud. Peonies pushing up out of the ground like something being born hands first. The air blowing over us all night through our gloriously pried-open windows. Long evenings that expand my personality such that instead of 45 minutes after dinner in which to be cranky before I hustle everyone to bed, I have 3 hours in which to unfurl into the season of delight. Which is spring. It just is.

For Mother's Day, I wanted to share this photograph

of my mother, who continues to be a tremendous beauty. And me, who continues to be chubby-chinned, baffled, and listing off to the side.

And these books, which I have loved of late. Please share yours too, okay? 

I love Meg Wolitzer. Her book, The Position, for example, which is a fictional account of the children of the original Joy of Sex models--those hirsute pen-and-ink drawings that you probably knew pretty well at some point. This new one, The Uncoupling, is about a town whose high school puts on the Greek play Lysistrata, about women refusing to have sex until the war ends, and how all the women in town end up refusing to have sex. (I'm not sure why I wrote that like it was a fourth-grade book report. My book was called The Uncoupling. . . ) If it sounds like you won't like it, you might not. Here's this, about twin toddlers following their mom into the bathroom: "As she sat on the toilet, both boys observed her from a critical distance of a few inches. Brant  turned to Ryan and said, "Mama sits down when she wees. She sits down." "Why?" Ryan asked. "Why you sit down, Mama?" He stepped closer and placed an open hand on her bare thigh, peering into the shadowed slice of toilet bowl between her legs. ..The boys solemnly stood and listened and appraised her wiping style, and looked between her legs like grim nineteenth-century consulting gynecologists." Just retyping that made me laugh again.

I am halfway through In Zanesville right now but I also just read Jo Ann Beard's earlier book, The Boys of My Youth, while I was waiting for In Zanesville to get to the library, and not a page went by when I didn't say, "This is the best book I ever read." "You just said that about the Meg Wolitzer book," Michael reminded me, the same way he reminds me every morning that just the day before I observed that that was the best fried egg I'd ever eaten, so what can I say. But seriously? Both books--and they're similar, in a good way--are among the truly very best books I've ever read in my whole entire life. Here's one line from the new one: "In retrospect we probably should have quit band after the parade instead of during it." Oh, wait, now I'm adding this too: "My mother's own bras are large quilted things that I used to think were funny. Now when I see them on the laundry table, one cup folded into the other, I have a sense of impending doom. It's like being on your way to the Alps and knowing that when you get there you have to wear lederhosen." She does teenaged girlhood better than anyone else I can think of--and the stuff she remembers reminds me of all the stuff I've forgotten.

Speaking of which, there's this awesomely nostalgic anthology, Crush, that you should read while listening to ACDC or Pat Benatar or Men without Hats. Not to be coy, or anything, but I have a piece in there that my editor at Ladies' Home Journal said they couldn't run because it was "way too dirty." I'm just saying.

Happy Mother's Day, oh mothers of children and pets and brilliant ideas, oh daughters and sons of mothers everywhere.

xo

29 comments:

  1. oh catherine...i could read your words all day long. YOU write some of the best stuff i've ever read in my whole life.


    thanks for the book rec's....off to the library now

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  2. Thanks for the recommendations.

    I LOVED The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball - the memoir of a NYC freelance writer who interviews an organic farmer for a story and falls in love. Less than a year later they're operating a large "whole diet" farm that offers year round CSA's of everything: meat, dairy, eggs, veggies, flowers, herbs, dried beans, flour, grains, maple syrup, fruit.

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  3. THE BOYS OF MY YOUTH is one of my absolute favorite books ever, and I always love to hear that other people feel the same way about it that I do!

    If you're looking for something new, pick up Chris Adrian's THE GREAT NIGHT. I'm only about 50 pages in so far, but it's so lovely and funny and great...I hope you'll like it too.

    And CRUSH! I'm so excited!

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  4. I can't wait to look these up and I do agree that your words always make me smile.

    Happy Mother's Day!

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  5. Just finished Shanghai s- horribly tragic and wonderfully written. Now on to The Space Between Us. Then in need of something up beat because hammock lounging days with a in hand are almost upon me!

    Happy Mother's Day!

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  6. My comment makes no sense since Girls and Beer were mysteriously taken out...hmmm...

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  7. Oh joy! I LOVE book recommendations on Catherine's blog!! Just put all of them on my library list, including the commented recommendations, so I guess I need to make one too ... finished Cutting for Stone a month ago and it's still with me, which is saying a lot. LOVED it. And just started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which is amazingly fascinating even though it's science. It's an incredible look at the people and lives behind some of the most critical research in history.

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  8. Anonymous3:31 PM

    Happy Mother's day to you too!

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  9. AnythingforBenBirdy4:54 PM

    6512andgrowing - your recommendation sounded interesting so I went to my library site to have a look, then tried to place a hold on it - I was rejected because I actually already have the book out on my card!

    I just finished The Pioneer Woman - Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, by Ree Drummond - similar type of story, kind of made me feel like my meet-my-husband story was so boring.

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  10. I was so excited to see the book recommendations. I am going to put them on my library list. I too feel like I should list what I am currently reading, but I suddenly feel the urge to fib... because I am currently reading a book that I don't love, but have to finish just because I'm that way.
    So I won't fib, I'll just adjust my answer. In the not too distant past, I read Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson. The book takes you through simple lessons taught in improv classes and suggests using them in your everyday life in order to enjoy the spontaneity and imperfection of life. My favorite lesson is: "Make Mistakes, Please".

    Happy Mother's Day!!

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  11. miryboo8:42 PM

    And a Happy Mother's Day to you, Catherine. You who inspire me to be a better mother every week!

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  12. I have The Uncoupling in my library bag RIGHT NOW!!

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  13. Thanks for the book recs. I'm currently reading A Visit From the Good Squad and enjoying it. Before that it was Tina Fey's autobiography which got off to a rocky start but finished strong. Favorite books of the year, Just Kids, The Imperfectionists, Room and Cutting for Stone.

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  14. Anonymous10:47 PM

    I just read When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin and thought his writing was really beautiful. Even the searing parts had this element of hope to them, somehow. And it also made me think that people don't quote enough (or at all?) to each other anymore! Also, one of my favorite books of all time--I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. A slim little book with amazing beauty about the fundamentals of life.

    I'm off to check out some of these recommendations. Happy reading, everyone!
    Kat

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  15. Oh I'm so excited for book recommendations! I love reading but no longer get the opportunity/make the time to peruse the library or Good Reads at my leisure, so I pretty much solely rely on other people telling me what to read. I know I will like this stuff- the excerpts were cracking me up.
    Happy Mom's Day!

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  16. Teafortwo8:48 PM

    I just finished a book I think you'd really like called "How To Be A Better Foodie: A Bulging Little Book For the Truly Epicurious," that my sister in law gave to me when she was here a few weeks ago. It's as if the author is channeling my very thoughts. I spent a good bit of the book in a state where I'd read a page and guffaw. I hope the people around me at the park and in carpool line weren't too offput.

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  17. I love when you do book recommendations! I have recently enjoyed Room, The Lonely Polygamist, and Bucolic Plague. I ordinarily like living in a small town, but I'm irritated that my library system had maybe two of the books you and others have recommended. I might actually come off the hip and BUY the book with your "way too dirty" piece in it since my library (of course) doesn't have it.

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  18. That image of the peonies emerging is beautiful. I see those curled up leaves on skinny stalks like little fists on reaching arms, now.

    Thank you for the book suggestions! Recently, I have loved The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and A Change in Altitude.

    I live in Oregon and also love Yumm sauce and nutritional yeast. I will try your recipe soon. My quick improv Yumm sauce has been sour cream mixed with nutritional yeast, thinned with milk. Not quite as healthy.

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  19. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Okay, it is Monday morning, I am grumpy and drinking my coffee, and then "chubby chinned, baffled and listing off to one side"!!!! I am alone in the house and laughing OUTLOUD! Catherine, you slay me. I must read that first love stories book just to read your dirty story. (Am I the only one who has the sneaking suspiscion (how do you spell that word?!) that Disney did NOT like your post where you talked about the room where you practiced having your children?!! "Premarital sex?! Is she kidding me?! In a recipe post?! about food?!" hee hee, they suck, the lost big time losing you, and they already know they regret it!!! smooches to you. Just a few minutes ago, I said, outloud, on driveway, to myself, "Man, May is awesome!" I hear you. Hugs. P.S. I adore you. Oh, right, you already knew that. For, like, 8 yrs now!! xo (from Liz C in NJ)

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  20. Ohmama-200710:51 PM

    Sooo, Catherine, you're asking for book recommendations? Ah, I have been waiting for this!!! I know that you lean towards the poetic and beautiful, and sometimes I can read books like that too! I just finished one called Cutting For Stone, that was amazingly beautiful, packed full of strange medical arcana, and riveting. But, most of the time I can't read those books, because they inevitably make me cry, so the rest of the time I read books that are lighter. My favorites, that are light, but oh so well written, that make me want to travel, read more jewish philosophy, and get to know Sherlock Holmes better (are you still following me?) is the Mary Russell series by Laurie King. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first one, and I would send it to you if I knew your address, along with my favorite homemade jam (huckleberry?). But, even without creepy fans mailing your home, these books are worth checking out! Still love you, love the new recipes, even if I haven't had the guts to try the nutritional yeast one :-)

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  21. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Everyone should read "Cutting for Stone" - you enjoy reading it and then you alk around thinking about it and then read it again and have a new perspective on it- amazing.

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  22. You've seduced me (again) with your promise of "way too dirty." Can't wait. I must ask, though, and it may not be your cup of tea, but have you read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson? It's old now, I guess, but I just discovered it recently (well, a couple of years ago), and it's wonderful and sad and smart and funny in that weird mix of emotions that I always like.

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  23. Krista3:30 PM

    I am in the middle of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, seems I'm not the only one recommending it! It's fantastic so far. Also, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, which you've probably already read...it is beautiful and heartbreaking.

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  24. I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea what I read last. I never take the time to read any more, and I hate that. Your post did inspire me to grab something off my own bookshelf just to say I'm reading, and that book happened to be Brave New World. I never had to read it in school, but I feel like I should have.

    I looked up most of the suggestions from your list and those in the comments and I can't wait to start reading more. My library doesn't offer a "wish list", so I save them all in Amazon.

    I did destroy my house recently looking for Waiting for Ben & Birdy because I'm pregnant with #2 now. I must have passed it on to someone else, so I'm buying a new copy.

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  25. I just realized I wrote Ben and Birdy in the title of your book! Sorry, I'm just remembering their names together from the Babycenter blogs.

    My word verification is freon. That's the most boring verification I've ever gotten.

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  26. Janine9:22 AM

    Recently finished Catherine's earlier recommendation--If You Follow Me by Malena Waltrous. So good. Now reading No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene. LOVE this author. Love her family MORE. It's the story of how Greene and her husband build their family through international adoption. Four children by birth, five by adoption. Amazing family! So well written--touching, funny, eye-opening and true. Even reminds me a bit of Catherine and how she so perfectly captures kids, childhood, the parent-child interaction...I could go on and on. Please try it. You won't be disappointed!

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  27. Anonymous10:52 PM

    I read The 10 Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer and I loved it (it came out a few years ago). So many scenes from that book have stayed with me. My favorite book as of late is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. It is sheer poetry - it just flows - and the characters and the story leap off the page. I also liked Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra. It is a bit dry in the beginning, but what an amazing woman! I had only basic knowledge of the Egyptians and Cleopatra before, now I have a great appreciation for a civilization so far ahead of it's time (and the woman who helped it advance). Amazing.

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  28. AnythingforBenBirdy3:20 PM

    I must comment even though it has been so long since you posted this. When you first posted I looked and found no recommended books at my library. This week I received a tablet and have been trying for the past 2 hours to figure out the e-books from my library only to blank on a book - so I clicked back here and lo and behold I just downloaded my first book - The Uncooupling, as well as another book by a different "Wolitzer" author!

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  29. Catherine, I think you'd like What's Not to Love? The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer, by Jonathan Ames. Funny, touching, embarrassing if anyone reads a few lines over your shoulder kind of book.

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