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Posts Tagged ‘Parnassus Bookstore’

Ann Patchett was sitting right in front of me last night at Parnassus Bookstore. We were listening to Meg Wolitzer read from her new book, “The Female Persuasion,” when Ann (I hope I can call her Ann since I see her so much around town) asked if the sum of a writer’s work isn’t simply an aria – one voice:

“aria, an elaborate accompanied song for solo voice from a cantata, opera, or oratorio.”

In other words, every book you write is saying something about you, about what’s really important to you. Your subjects may change, your place in time or your landscape may change, but your unique Voice, your Point of View comes through consistently, almost unwillingly.

And Wolitzer has written plenty of books, in fact this is her tenth novel. She notes that she actually started writing “The Female Persuasion” a few years before the #MeToo movement, but she has always been interested in female friendships, and the power dynamics in relationships. This book pivots around a college campus where a young female student, Greer with a streak of “electric blue hair,” is mentored by an older feminist writer, Faith Frank.

The audience last night was a mix of ages, young feminists with severely short hair, mixed in with my aging variety and a few men. One shop dog named Bear strolled around the room, while the smaller variety, Mary Todd Lincoln was cradled in a baby wrap on a bookseller’s hip. Wolitzer read from her opening chapter, where Greer is groped by an entitled frat boy at a party her freshman year. I wondered how many of us could relate to that!

I thought about a friend’s son, a quiet innocent boy, who went off to college only to be expelled after an episode with a girlfriend he dared to break up with – he was an unsuspecting sheep while she turned into a wolf. I thought about the UVA Lacrosse player who was killed in her dorm room by her off/and/on boyfriend. And that girl who was raped and left outside a garbage can at Stanford.

“Novels can be a snapshot of a moment in time, or several moments in time, and as a reader that’s what I really like, and as a writer, it’s what I’m drawn to also. It can’t be a polemic. I’m always saying, What is it like? That’s one of the mantras of writing novels for me. And then, in the game of musical chairs, the book is coming out now.”  

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/meg-wolitzer-doesnt-want-to-be-tied-to-a-moment.html

Wolitzer would call her publisher and ask her assistant first, a millennial, “Before you put me through, tell me, what was it like being a feminist at your college?” 

And that was my question. At my Boston college in 1966 we didn’t have the word “feminism” yet. We couldn’t wear pants outside our dorm, we had to wear a dress or a skirt once we left the brownstone. We didn’t have birth control pills or roofies or mind-altering drugs, yet. There was obviously no social media, if a girl dropped out, you assumed she got pregnant. We didn’t wear bobby socks, we wore knee socks. We had no recourse, no defense; we huddled together and traded tricks sneaking into the Beacon Street residence after curfew.

We had a phone booth in the downstairs lobby!

Strangely enough, Wolitzer hits her mark writing about today’s college culture, about those times in our lives when we meet someone who will change our trajectory. Her generation is just behind mine, a decade younger – the second (or is it third) wave of feminism. And she mentioned that another Nashvillian, Nicole Kidman, has optioned the rights to play her character Faith in the movie.

My first thought was, so Kidman is playing a mid-60 year old woman? And I immediately slapped that thought away as too judgmental, the opposite of feminist, after all maybe Helen Mirren is unavailable!

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What a weekend! I got my hair cut just a bit shorter a la Helen Mirren, and one of the Bride’s friends from medical school flew into town with her little boy. She is an Ob-Gyn physician who was recently certified to perform Sex Reassignment Surgery (“SRS -also known as gender reassignment surgery, gender confirmation surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, gender-affirming surgery, or sex realignment surgery).” I am so proud of her!

I remembered this feisty red-headed friend had always been ahead of her time – she started a group in school to push for LGBT rights, she once gave me a button to wear, “Straight but NOT narrow.” She writes the loveliest thank you notes. She and the Bride had (and still have) yoga in common, and if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you might recall when I helped her pick out a rescue dog!

Her adorable son played hard with my two Grands and it was sad to see them go home yesterday.

But sadder still was our Saturday sojourn to Parnassus Bookstore to hear David Frum talk about his new book, “Trumpocracy.” Frum was actually quite enlightening, it was the topic that reeks of despair. He called himself a Conservative, and deplored the dire direction Mr T has taken our democracy; we are a nation more divided than any time in the history of keeping statistics for such things. The one take-away for me was when he started to talk about “political language.”

If you’ve seen the video of Marco Rubio dancing around the question about his willingness to take NRA money, you know what Frum was talking about. Politicians never, well almost never, give you a straight answer. They equivocate, they zig-zag, they dodge, they prevaricate. We might also say that lying has become a new normal, thank you Ms Conway. Look at all those indictments, thank you very much Mr Mueller. But what Mr T has done is cornered the market on plain talk. He gave Yes, and No answers, he “appears” to be truthful to his supporters. He got tons of free press, always eager for the spotlight. His appeal was his political ennui.

Perhaps the very darkness of the Trump experience can summon the nation to its senses and jolt Americans to a new politics of commonality, a new politics in which the Trump experience is remembered as the end of something bad, and not the beginning of something worse. Trump appealed to what was mean and cruel and shameful. The power of that appeal should never be underestimated. But once its power fades, even those who have succumbed will feel regret.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/frum-trumpocracy/550685/

Frum makes the case that we need Conservatives to survive, and I would have to agree, we do need their yin to our yang, pulling us closer to a middle way. Or maybe we need a third party? Finding consensus is our only hope, since patriotism is a bi-partisan emotion that is very different from the fear and anger spewed by a small percentage of white-nationalist-identity politicians.

Maybe the GOP would benefit from a little early morning healing, meditative yoga? Namaste.

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There’s no way around it, Hanukkah starts next week and shortly thereafter is Christmas. Great Grandma Ada told me she’s setting out for the mall to buy presents for all her little ones, and she needs some new makeup! I told her to be careful about “sale items” on the way to cosmetics, they can pull you away from your shopping goal.

“I don’t shop for myself anymore,” she said, “I shop my closet.”

“Ha, I shop my Pod!”

Or at least I wish I could shop my Pod. Almost every day that little Pod creeps into my conversation. I went to make chili, but my can opener was in the Pod. My super duper deluxe meatloaf pan from Williams Sonoma is in the Pod, not to mention my winter boots, hats and sweaters. Our mountain home sold so fast, Bob had to return for the final Pod Casting last summer, so I’m hoping all these things are in my Pod.

I never thought we’d be one of “those people” with a storage unit. Listen to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on these wonders of the modern age; we Americans have so much crap we have to rent space just to contain it all! He called our homes “garbage processing centers,” and warned that once something leaves any part of the house for the garage it’s never allowed back in.  http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/videos/jerry-seinfeld-standup-tonight-show-20141224

I really really hope that no one accuses Jerry of sexual impropriety…

Sure the people who bought our home wanted the furniture, but that left all our personal belongings, including artwork, that would never fit in this tiny town home. Bob and I had packed for a month’s stay, thinking we’d go back and forth to Cville this winter. And I admit, we’ve been living the minimalist lifestyle pretty happily until now. The weather has changed and I’ve been missing my vintage blue Dutch Oven along with winter clothes. Although to be fair, we did visit the Pod once this Fall.

We had to schedule an appointment because presumably our Pod is stacked very high in a warehouse of similar Pods, like a sci-fi storage unit of astronauts in suspended life forms floating through space. It was one of those 90+ degree days and a crane dropped our Pod in the middle of a sunny, melting asphalt parking lot. We could only dig maybe a quarter of the way in, before heat exhaustion got the better of us – winter coats were salvaged along with some shoes and a chair or two.

And so there it sits, our poor little Pod, among thousands of similar Pods, waiting for us to find a beach house.

And while I extolled on the wonders of online shopping to Ada, who hasn’t tried Amazon yet, I drove myself over to my favorite independent bookstore, Parnassus, to pick out some special books for my little ones. Hint, if you have a three year old, she will love “Escargot!” Here is their gift list for children this season: https://parnassusmusing.net/2017/12/06/big-gift-list-2017-kids-teens/

Next, I walked over to a local designer pop-up boutique. Then down the street to our antique shop, where I can always score something fun and unusual. I found a beautiful silk and cotton scarf imprinted with an abstract guitar that was a perfect birthday gift for Aunt Kiki there. And I’m planning a visit to our amazing friend Robin’s pet boutique, “Come, Sit, Stay!” Because we only buy gifts for children during the holidays, and the occasional rescue dog. IF they’ve been good.

This December, I’m praying for a friend who broke her leg in too many places while saving her small son from drowning in TX. I’m sending positive vibes to a friend whose son is about to get a cardiac work-up in AL. And I’m wishing all those LA fires would just plain stop, and that our family and everyone on the Left Coast stay safe. And I wish Mr T would just resign already, instead of singlehandedly setting the mideast on fire with this Jerusalem business.

And I’m hoping when (or if) I’ve lived for nine decades, I’ll still think it’s a good idea to buy some new make-up!

So if you’re shopping for kids from 3 to 93, don’t let the holidays get you down ladies! Shop local, drink wine while baking cookies, and maybe splurge on a new winter hat! With pompoms, cause that Pod, you know. Thanks http://fannyandjune.com/shop/ Nashville!

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The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Billy Collins was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This may have been one of our country’s most fragile times, when more people sought peace from poetry. And he is a poet who gets us, and last night Bob and I had the distinct pleasure to listen to him read some of his poems at Salon 615. Everyone of a certain age has picked up a book in rapt anticipation, only to find a few pages down the line that it’s something we’ve read before. I admit it, and Collins makes it bearable in his poem “Forgetfulness.”

Like that moment when he realized he was older than Cheerios, at the age of 70, and so wrote a poem about it. He scatters serious sonnets in among his readings, so last night’s audience gasped and laughed in unison. Because poetry is “…a megaphone.” Because he loves to make up new words, like “azaleate” – which loosely translated means we’ve arrived at a place just before, or after, it’s signature event. Oh, it’s too bad you’ll be missing the peak leaf season here in Vermont, let’s say. Or:

Bob and I azaleated the lavendar blossoming in Provence this year. 

Collins writes about cats and dogs from their point of view. And he even writes about Tennessee Fainting goats! This type of goat freezes and keels over whenever it is startled or feels panic. It’s something I may be catching here in loud and noisy Nashville 🙂

What brought me nearly to tears was Bob’s reaction; he didn’t fidget or head for the bathroom. He actually loved listening to Collins, we poked and prodded each other at yet another small truth that bounced between the two of us. It was like going to Jacob’s Pillow when we were young and discovering that he enjoyed the ballet almost as much as I did!

Then, towards the end of the evening, he turned to that ultimate question all couples must grapple with, “Who will go first?” The universal hope that “…you will bury me.” But is that really true love, to want to go first and save yourself from grieving. Bob has told me so often that due to his genetics he will most likely go first, and I almost believe him.

But what if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow? A very real possibility in this busy city. He would still buy peanut butter and jelly, he would still drive like someone from NJ. Maybe he wouldn’t search for a beach house, or maybe he would?

Collins recommended a book, one that had inspired him in his youth, by a philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.” And I remembered the Bride showing us her Public Policy building at Duke, the light pouring in through modern-Gothic arches. And just last year, pointing out her son’s little hidey-hole inside his closet in their new home.

In the first and last days of life, it is the cosmos of the home that takes on the full weight of human habitation, as retreat and space of belonging. Bachelard’s greatest work remains a compelling reflection on the enduring human need to find psychological refuge in familiar places and spaces, though its author admitted that poets and story-tellers got there first. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-poetics-of-space-by-gaston-bachelard-1673212.html

Here he is reading from his book, “The Rain in Portugal.”

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My favorite living author, who also happens to own a bookstore in Nashville, asked her readers what the title of their autobiography might be; “What would be the title of your life story?” The graphic on Parnassus’ Instagram account was a cartoony book titled “Can I Get Extra Cheese On That, a Memoir.”

Now I have nothing against cheese, in fact a day without cheese is like a day without a squeeze! But since that title was taken, I thought for maybe a split second and wrote “Victory Gardens.” That title means so much to me, and I realize it probably makes you think of the push to grow our own food after WWII, if you are of a certain age. But if my foster parents hadn’t scooped me up in Scranton at ten months of age and planted me in Victory Gardens, I might have been heading for an orphanage.

In that tiny, four room cement house, in the “temporary” development built to support the war effort at Picatinny Arsenal, I was surrounded by enough unconditional love to grow  strong. You remember the ice cream truck, and the doll house Daddy Jim built from the ice cream sticks; my trips to town and free samples of everything, especially bologna at the butcher shop.

Yesterday I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air in the car and I was rooted to my seat. I couldn’t leave the car and face the oppressive 96 degree heat – plus the topic spoke to me. Two culinary historians were promoting their book about food during the Great Depression. The authors were talking about their grandparents, but we Boomers grew up with parents who lived through this period, so our childhood kitchen tables reflected that period of time perfectly. And don’t forget, I had two mothers.

In Victory Gardens, Nell would proudly tell anyone within earshot that she was really good at opening cans, then her face would light up like a Christmas tree at her own joke! I remember dinners that consisted of canned hash with a fried egg on top. A vegetable side would mean a sliced tomato. Frozen foods were a novelty, so in this Catholic house we ate frozen fish sticks on Fridays. One day a week we ate out at the diner. And for a very special occasion she might make her specialty, stuffed cabbage, a Slovakian miracle simmering in sauerkraut.

But the Flapper, in her old Queen Ann house in town, would cook! She simmered meatballs in sauce she made herself, and even though she was working ever day she managed to get a delicious hot meal on the table every night. She taught me how to shop for the freshest ingredients by season, and how to save a few pennies here and there. Of course I’ve told you about her Depression-era Mac n Cheese, the kind with bacon because they could not get real butter. One of both Moms’ favorite stories was how as a young child I could tell the difference between butter and margarine. Later I learned they had to put yellow food coloring in a Crisco-like substance in the 30s to approximate butter. And ps, I have never purchased margarine in my life!

So while listening to “Creamed Canned and Frozen” yesterday, one author spoke about  bologna and mashed potato dinners. I had to smile since bologna was a staple at my cement house too. With the Flapper we made delicious ham sandwiches on rye bread with real dill pickles we picked from a barrel.

But the funniest thing the authors Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe said was their children would not eat the food they were preparing during the writing of this book, since it didn’t look like food to them! And thinking back, canned hash does look like something maybe the dog didn’t like…http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/15/489991111/creamed-canned-and-frozen-how-the-great-depression-changed-u-s-dietsta The Flapper, however, cooked creatively with spices, and spicy food believe it or not was deemed suspicious in the 30s.

Spicy foods were [considered] stimulants. They were classified as stimulants, so they were on that same continuum along with caffeine and alcohol all the way up to cocaine and heroin. And if you started with an olive, you might find yourself one day addicted to opiates. It put you on a very slippery slope — watch out for olives!

Today we are asked to learn where and how our fish were harvested, what the cows have been eating before we buy a steak, and how sustainable is the farm growing our produce. Would the Flapper pay more for organic milk, like I do? It’s a wonder panic doesn’t set in the moment we think about getting a meal on the table! I wonder how or IF the Love Bug will cook, maybe she’ll use a replicator a la Star Trek? I remember how she turned her nose up at the first chicken nugget I offered her, after all, it doesn’t look like chicken!

So even though I grew up in a bland house that referenced a garden without an actual garden, where a tinned tuna casserole made with soup was considered nutritious, I managed to become a fairly inventive home cook imho thanks to the Flapper. And the real victory was when the Bride asked for all my recipes when she was setting up her own kitchen after college.

While Lee and Al were visiting I made stuffed eggplant; a recipe I made up as I went along, sauteing garlic and mushrooms, mixing with the eggplant, and of course baking with cheese sprinkled on top! This was right before they went in the oven, Bon Appetit!  IMG_4981

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It turns out, you can sometimes teach old dogs, and penguins, new tricks. Although I’m not sure you could teach me, or the Bride, exactly how to blink!

While I was trying to blink, my email was getting out of control; organizations seem to be sending me messages I don’t read, stores send me their latest advertising gimmicks, and I could care less. Political pleas for money are driving me crazy! Rarely will I get a message in my inbox I’d actually like to read, it’s become one big nuisance. And I’m not alone, because when I mentioned my little email problem on Facebook, many people sympathized with me and gave me some good advice. Currently I have 996 unread messages! Then one morning I heard about an App that could change my life! I know, I sound like an infomercial, but you guys….

It’s called Unroll.Me. and.it’s.free! http://www.businessinsider.com/the-companies-who-send-the-most-email-spam-2016-2

(When you) download the free app Unroll.Me. you can unsubscribe from unwanted emails, consolidate sales/newsletters/listserv emails into a convenient daily digest called the Rollup, and keep the rest in your inbox.

It took me awhile, since I’d forgotten my Google password and had to reset it, and also I think the App was clogged with new users. In this techno-wizardy time, when Apple is fighting with the Justice Department over encrypted passwords and emails, I gladly gave this App all my info just so it would help me clean house. Bob was skeptical, but eventually it started working and I’m loving it. Of course it didn’t clean up the previous emails, the 996 clogged arteries my Gmail was experiencing before I changed my password, so I still have to dust that history. But what a sense of relief!

At the same time, Bob heard about a new company, that basically acts as a health wholesaler for prescriptions. Some enterprising young entrepreneurs  started BlinkHealth.com: https://www.blinkhealth.com as a cure for high drug prices. They ignore insurance companies, let you pay online for your drugs, and pick them up at your local drug store – the savings is almost as good as taking a bus to Canada! Bob is certainly not endorsing this company, but I think he’s willing to give it a try.

Blink Health has recently become the number 1 medical App in the country! http://finance.yahoo.com/news/blink-health-hits-number-one-184500377.html

And I couldn’t complete a story about blinking without mentioning one of my favorite blogs, “I Miss You When I Blink.” I found this wonderful woman writer when she started editing the Parnassus Bookstore blog, Musing. Her take on life is whimsical, humorous, and uplifting all at once. “Mary Laura Philpott is an author whose work is featured regularly in major media. She is also the creator and illustrator of the quirky humor book PENGUINS WITH PEOPLE PROBLEMS; the founding editor of MUSING, the online magazine produced by Parnassus Books; and the co-host of the literary interview program A WORD ON WORDS.”    http://marylauraphilpott.com/2014/01/07/humor-blog/

Now it’s supposed to be in the 60s this weekend, and Bob is currently outside pruning our trees and shrubs. Here is an example of my overgrown Viburnum from last year, one of the first trees to bloom. So I must have blinked, because Spring has arrived! We are shedding emails and branches by the dozens! Have a wonderful weekend y’all!     IMG_2527

 

 

 

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I’ve never heard of a book getting so much pre-publication press. The Bride sent us the NYTimes Book Review and pre-ordered it from her fabulous Nashville bookstore. Bob pre-ordered it on his Kindle. Then right after Parnassus uploaded Ann Patchett’s new year book recommendations on their blog, Musing, she sent out another special edition to sing the praises of a previously unknown author http://parnassusmusing.net

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi – Ann said

I’m making it my personal mission to urge everyone to buy it and read it, in part because the author isn’t around to do his own promotion, and in part because he’s left behind a wife and a young child who should get the royalties. I want everyone to read this book because it’s a brilliant piece of writing and a singular and profound piece of thinking, but it’s also more than that: When Breath Becomes Air makes us stop and think about how gorgeous life is, how heart-wrenching and brief and amazing. Paul Kalanithi’s life was short but utterly essential, as our lives are, in very different ways, short and essential.

From what I hear, every store in the country has sold out of this book!

Dr Kalanithi was a neurosurgical resident at Yale when he began to feel the symptoms of his disease. Metastatic cancer had flooded his body, his lungs were peppered with tumors. Time stood still. Should he and his wife have a baby? Would he ever be able to practice in a field he’d spent nearly half of his life studying and preparing for; could he learn how to die in such a short time. He had been a student for so long, obtaining two BAs and an MA in Literature at Stanford. Then still searching, he received another MA in Philosophy at Cambridge. Finally medical school, with a residency in Neurological Surgery, followed by a post-doc Fellowship in Neuroscience.

We know what this life is like, the Groom is in his last year of a Fellowship in Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine. They have been waiting to buy a house, waiting for that academic posting, waiting.

Dr Kalanithi was almost finished with his training, when he would have to reverse course, and become the patient. But from everything I’ve read, his writing is sublime. He takes us on the adventure of his life, from being home-schooled in Arizona, to his first introduction to a cadaver in medical school. Witnessing both birth, and death in the same day. Not every doctor can craft a perfect expository essay, but it seems his steep background in literature uniquely prepared him to write his own biography. He started typing during chemo.

Knowing how this will end, normally I’d pass on this book. I’d say no to the pain of reading what happens around us every day. Aunt Sue died of lung cancer last year, Bob became a patient last Fall suffering complications from spine surgery. The Groom’s mentor at Vanderbilt succumbed to pancreatic cancer right before Christmas – a physician who was so loved at Vandy, his nurses stayed at his bedside round the clock for weeks before he died. My brother Mike and Brian. And then there is my own Father, dying at 47 from brain cancer, when I was seven months old.

But I’ll be next to pick up Bob’s Kindle. Maybe I’ll learn how to live each day as if it is my last. I’ve always wondered what that phrase would mean to me. Would I start trying to squeeze 20 or 30 more years into the time I had left, check off my bucket list, or would I relax and simply enjoy each moment? Accepting the fact that we will all die, and choosing to live life with grace in spite of that, is our highest calling.

I only have a picture of my Father on my desk, Dr Kalanithi’s daughter will have so much more.

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