We’re in the shoulder season, enjoying warm days, cooler nights. My tomatoes are still producing, and yesterday my neighbor was raking. Moving into autumn stirs up so many feelings for me. Excitement about a new beginning, ready to bring out my sweaters, but also a tinge of melancholy. I love the summertime warmth on our deck at 10p, sharing laughs with pals, and oh, the blue August sky here in the Pacific Northwest. Holiday season will soon be upon us, both happy and fraught for all. The dog is older, so am I.
I’m reading two books right now, well three.
First, I’m so late to the party reading The Overstory. So far, I agree with Ann Patchett who’s blurb reads: “The best novel written about trees, and really just one of the best novels, period.” I don’t know what to say about my love of trees without sounding hokey, so I’ll say, reading Powers’ novel has me paying close attention. And my god, are we puny, in every way.
I am also rereading Beloved. Actually, I’m listening to Toni Morrison narrate, hence my walks are getting longer each day as I don’t want to turn her off. In case you need more of Ms. Morrison, and who doesn’t, check out her conversation with Hilton Als on the New Yorker Radio Hour, and an homage from Fresh Air.
The third book, which I’m also rereading, is Citizen, An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. I was inspired to pick up the book again after watching the post-match exchange at the US Open between Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka. I was inspired by Osaka’s grace and humanity. When she asks Gauff to share the stage in the post-match interview she says, “It’s better than going into the shower and crying. Let the people know how you feel.” I reached for Rankine who writes of the Williams sisters in her lyric. She writes of grace and anger in the face of racial indignities. “At the end of the day, I’m very happy with me,” says Serena Williams. So are we. Do you follow her IG?
Pals, I am nose down, working hard to finish this manuscript. Hence, my only teaching this fall will be my memoir class. All of us come to writing memoir, to telling our truths, for different and compelling reasons, but honestly, and don’t be mad at me, I believe the heart of the heart of telling our story is the desire to be loved. Love me, as I am, despite what I did, despite what was done to me. Isn’t that what every memoirist is saying? But does that make the act of writing therapy? I don’t think so. When I wrote Community Chest, about my breast cancer experience, it wasn’t therapy exactly. Though I did feel lighter getting words and thoughts and fears out of my body onto the page, I wasn’t purged. I felt part of a larger conversation, part of the world.
This essay, by T Kira Madden, takes a long look at what writing memoir does and doesn’t accomplish for writer and reader. My best hope as a writer of memoir is that in forging my experience into language, I deeply connect with a reader. As I reader of memoir, I want to nod my head in recognition.
If the trees are all connected and speaking to one another through their root systems (see how I did that…), then we can certainly consider stories our own intricate system of connection.
In case you’re interested, I’m also offering individual editing/coaching. If you’d like to explore working one on one, shoot me a message.
Made this cake, and loved it. And I mean loved it. Whatever you do, don’t cheat on the amount of mixing time the recipe calls for, the cake is so light and tender. I think it would be perfect with wine poached figs for a very elegant dessert.
Read this sweet piece from the NYer archives. Oh man, do I miss Nora Ephron. I loved all the cookbooks she describes, and I made the same entertaining mistakes she did. It was a sweet dive into my own cooking and growing up past. Remember Lee Bailey? I adored his cookbooks when I was a newly married woman. It wasn’t just the food, it was the zeitgeist of conviviality, and the draw of a life that was completely out of reach for me, financially. Oh the envy! (In the act of writing this, I just bought a used copy of Cooking for Friends. Now, this little pet project of mine is costing me money.)
I know I’ve said it here before, but it is worth saying again, I believe buying a cookbook is an act of hope. Cookbooks conjure joy, the meals, the people, the love. In the novel I’m working on, one of the characters is a food blogger with a large following. When she says, “Come eat,” which she often does, she’s really saying, “I love you.” All this yammering is a way of me getting to express my excitement over a new cookbook from Alison Roman coming soon. nothing fancy: the art of having people over, which, I guess, is the same as Cooking for Friends, no? The lack of capital letters in the title, does it make you relax? I’m here to say, it kinda does it for me.
And, here’s a recipe for a little snack I’ve been loving, in case you need something to do with the tomatoes in your garden, Mediterranean Baked Feta.