Posts tagged ‘books’
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A real book. The kind of book you always hope to find. A can’t put it down, stay up until 2am, fall asleep with your glasses still on your face sort of book. The storyline is epic and sprawling, there are tons of characters (but you’re never confused about who is who), the writing is lush and visual with no “literary trickery” says one reviewer I always trust, and the book is long, which is good because you don’t want it to end.
It’s a great book. I liked it so much, actually, that I closed another book the other night before I finished reading it. Not good enough. I love books, I read a ton of them, and I try to choose carefully. It’s a rare thing for me to abandon a book, but I think my standards have just gone up. There was a great article in the National Post recently by Keir Lowther, a PEI author who was guest editing the Afterword section. He talked about the importance of telling a good story and not just generating literary drivel, which, I have to say, is my assessment of that half-read book I’ll be shuffling back to the library this weekend.
The Night Circus was a Christmas gift last year. I put it on my wish list because I was inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s pep talk for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, and because it sounded like such a great story: a night-time circus. How magical. The Night Circus, a debut novel which has become a bestseller, began its life during the NaNoWriMo challenge, which happens each November. 46,991 words is the closest I’ve come to reaching the 30 day-50,000 word goal. This year will be the fourth time I’ve participated.
There are only nine days left in the challenge and for a variety of reasons I’m off to a late start: a day in, a mere 1,727 words logged. The little word tracking chart on the NaNoWriMo website makes it look like I’m at the bottom of Everest, and I suppose I am, but I didn’t want to break my tradition of participating. Only 48,273 words to go. Every attempt at a novel brings you that much closer to actually completing one, right? Better late than never, and better to fail than not try.
I believe that books find you at the right time and place in your life. If I own them, I tend to wait for them to call out from the shelf instead of reading them the moment they arrive. When November came along and I found myself thinking about the challenge but not actually participating yet, I decided to read The Night Circus. I loved it and now I’m using it to justify this ridiculous decision to try to write 50,000 words – not in 30 days (which sounds so easy now!), but in nine. By the time I was a few pages into The Night Circus, I thought, I want to write a novel just like this some day. Imaginative. Page-turning. Magical. Fun. Something a reader can’t wait to get back to and can’t wait to begin again.
Happy NaNoWriMo, writers. There’s still time to start!
The Self-Completing Tree, a collection of poems by Dorothy Livesay caught my eye this morning. Its green and white spine seemed brighter than normal today, and the book was calling to be pulled from the shelf.
The Self-Completing Tree is an old friend, discovered years ago in a Canadian literature class in university. I loved it then, as I do today. Livesay’s poems have passion and spark – politics and feminism, life and death and love are her frequent subjects. Her work is nuanced, but also easy to read: Livesay wrote poems for real people, not just other poets and academics, and she lived a fascinating life well worth knowing: student, social worker, mother, grandmother, poet, seer of tumultuous times, lover of men, women, children, music, art, pear trees, geraniums. She died in Victoria, BC in 1996.
Livesay has a way of making stillness seem whole and full of being. Plants leaning on windowsills looking for the light can be found in the quiet corners of this book. Poems like this are the ones I appreciated most when I stepped back into Livesay’s words today:
Bartok and the Geranium
She lifts her green umbrellas
Toward the pane
Seeking her fill of sunlight
Or of rain;
She has no commentary
Blows out her fubelows,
Her bustling boughs;
And all the while he whirls
Explodes in space,
Never content with this small room:
Not even can he be
Confined to the sky
But must speed high and higher still
From galaxy to galaxy,
Wrench from the stars their momentary notes
Steal music from the moon.
He is dark
She’s heaven-held breath
He storms and cackles
Spits with hell’s own spark.
Yet in this room, this moment now
These together breathe and be:
She, the essence of serenity,
He in a mad intensity
Soars beyond sight
Then hurls, lost Lucifer
From heaven’s height.
And when he’s done, he’s out:
She leans a lip against the glass
And preens herself in light.
Tarragon is a new ingredient in my kitchen. It’s a leafy green herb that reminds me of the licorice-like taste of fennel combined with the strong, verdant aroma of fresh basil. After tasting it in this creamy tomato soup I will definitely search it out for the kitchen garden we’re planning for our new patio.
This recipe is adapted from Rebar Cookbook. It’s easy to make and relatively quick – everyone at our dinner table loved it. If you don’t have tarragon I’d recommend fresh basil or chives as a substitute.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup tarragon, sliced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cans (28 oz) whole tomatoes with juice
1 cup whipping cream
Saute onion in oil for about five minutes until onions soften. Stir in salt, garlic and chile flakes and saute for another five minutes. Stir tomatoes and half of the tarragon into onion mixture. Break up tomatoes, add stock and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Remove bay leaves, blend soup in batches and return to pot. Stir in cream and remaining tarragon and serve.
Since summer I’ve been re-reading books by some of my favourite authors, including Carol Shields, Alice Munro, Patrick Lane, Sharon Butala, Isabel Huggan, Jan Zwicky and Marilynne Robinson. Now I’ve come to one of the best yet: Virginia Woolf.
I read Virginia Woolf’s books when I studied English in university, and To The Lighthouse is the one I would recommend most. It’s about the fleeting moments of happiness that spring up in our lives, experiences that may last only for a short time but linger on as memories that shape our lives and perspectives for much longer. In the case of this book, that moment is a dinner party where the main character is surrounded by family and friends. Appropriate for readers of food blogs I’d say! (more…)
Homemade pizza is a beautiful thing. It tastes so good. It’s infinitely customizable. It’s the perfect food to find leftover in the fridge at the end of a long day or when you’re looking for an agreeable and easy lunch. I’ve become an even bigger fan of homemade pizza since finding a quick and easy recipe for pizza dough. It can also be frozen to keep you a step ahead of the game, so be sure to make a double batch next time if you find you like it as much as I do.
The recipe below is adapted from Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes. I’ve added in some dried herbs and flax seeds to increase flavour and health benefits.