lisapeet 2021: Hangin' out

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lisapeet 2021: Hangin' out

Editado: Ene 1, 10:00am

Happy New Year and new thread for 2021!

I'm lisapeet, real name Lisa Peet—I know, very imaginative—and this is my fourth! year on CR. I'm a pretty much lifelong New Yorker, currently living in the Northwest Bronx, and I'm an editor and journalist covering news about libraries—public, academic, and special (but not K-12). I also like to bake, write physical letters, sketch, and I really hope to do fun NYC stuff again someday. I miss the galleries, restaurants, museums, stores, all that. I drive a very old car, my politics are left of center, and I like cheese a lot.

Otherwise I won't repeat my long intro, which is here.

I read widely and randomly. I don't really do reading goals, and am loathe to read for a count—I said it last year and I'll say it again, I feel like notches on a bedpost vs. just enjoying the experience. I read all the time but I'm not a fast reader, and I am a note taker.

I'm also not a resolution maker, but I would like to engage with this thread a bit more beyond my reading—include some of the art I'm looking at (mostly online these days), music I'm listening to, good things I'm cooking, etc., in the service of, maybe, some good conversations. Or just a narcissistic record of what was going on in my head—social media blurs those lines agreeably.


The painting at the top of the post is Four Friends by Salman Toor, 2019. Oil on plywood, 40 × 40 in. (101.6 × 101.6 cm). It's a debut exhibition at the Whitney, and I haven't seen it in person but it's up until April so I actually have a stab at catching it, and a friend who wants to see it as well (always a good motivator). I just loved the energy of it, that feeling of a small party with a few friends, where the only agenda is to have a good time.

Even though the name of the show is How Will I Know, a great Whitney Houston song that takes me back to a very specific time, when I look at this I hear Betty Davis's Hanging' Out—more my generation than Toor's, but that's what's fun about art.

Here's to a year of good reading and hangin' out, then.

Ene 1, 11:18am

Happy 2021! I am also so very much looking forward to spending time at the Met Museum and MoMA later this year.

Ene 1, 11:25am

Happy New Year, Lisa. I look forward to following your reading this year and adding to my already huge WL.

I love the painting.

2021 will be better, right?

Ene 1, 1:07pm

Dropping off my star for this year, Lisa. Looking forward to the books and chat. Happy new year!

Ene 1, 2:49pm

I love the painting, want more! Happy New Year Lisa!

Ene 1, 5:58pm

>1 lisapeet:

Ha, I was trying to date the picture and sending it at least a few decades earlier if not a full century (although the lamps looked a bit too 20th century for that). I love it! :)

Happy 2021!

Ene 1, 9:06pm

Thanks, all! I'm hoping for an engaged and engaging year.

>2 ELiz_M: Maybe we can have a meetup someday! I do love a museum date.

>6 AnnieMod: I know, it has a very timeless look to it, doesn't it? And yet also very contemporary. I'm really looking forward to seeing the exhibit in person.

Ene 1, 9:31pm

>6 AnnieMod: the mobile phone gave the rough time period away for me - and also added a lot of appeal.

Ene 1, 10:01pm

>8 dchaikin:

I did not even notice it when I looked at it earlier, not for a very long time anyway - once I realized the timing, it made sense and it jumped at me but it did not register as technology before that (maybe a photo he was showing? Something like that). The whole picture just did not look like something from this century... :)

Ene 2, 4:57am

Your plans for your thread sound great - look forward to following!

Ene 2, 7:55am

Happy New Year, Lisa! I also miss visiting museums and restaurants, in NYC and elsewhere, and I share your love of cheese. We'll certainly have to organize a NYC LT group meetup later this year, when everyone is fully vaccinated and things are back open again.

Ene 5, 5:48pm

Hello, found your thread! I hear you on missing the art--not the least reason I've taken to accumulating art books (AKA picture books for adults, as I sometimes guiltily feel).

Ene 5, 5:58pm

Hi, Lisa! I thought the clothing colors gave away the time period to me, but when I went back to look, I don't know why that would be true. A puzzle. I didn't notice the mobile phone.

Looking forward to following you.

Ene 5, 8:47pm

Hi everyone, and thanks for stopping by! Happy New Year to everyone, or hopefully at least happier New Year.

I'm back at work after nearly a week and a half off, which was wonderful. I didn't do a whole lot of anything other than read, sleep in, write letters, cook, and bake, which was fine with me. I did get our tenant apartment rented out as of January 15, which is a load off my mind. I was just getting ready to post it on Craigslist, which is OK but involves sifting through all sorts of craziness, when our old tenants sent someone to us—a couple of 20-something kids looking to get away from a roommate setup. They seem nice, and the guy's mom cosigned for them, and they already paid the first half month plus deposit, so I'm hopeful this will be a smooth tenancy. We've had great tenants so far—the place is priced cheap because we want folks to be happy to live there, and it's a perfect spot for a young couple. The last tenants got a good deal on a place and left in a hurry, with our blessings—they were a couple with a preteen daughter and a brand new baby, all in a 1-BR, and everyone knew that wasn't going to last much longer. But she was there for four years or so before that, and I'm hoping for a good run like that.

During my time off I baked chocolate-espresso crinkle cookies, banana bread, and an enormous chocolate cake on Sunday that we'll be eating all week. A bunch of good meals, too. Took two cats to the vet for shots, did a bunch of little household chores, drew in my sketchbook.

And now, happily enough, I feel pretty recharged. This week I'm writing a fairly boring feature for the issue that closes next week, a recap of our annual Budgets & Funding survey that I do every year, but I was good to myself and got the hardest part written before my PTO started. January me appreciates December me very much.

Ene 5, 8:52pm

The cake looks both lovely and delicious!

Ene 5, 8:56pm

>14 lisapeet: Any left?

Ene 5, 9:03pm

Lots left, come on over! Really, that thing is too huge for two people. But I guess we'll manage.

Editado: Ene 5, 9:05pm

My first finished book of 2021 was The Best American Short Stories 2020, which was fine but didn't knock me out as a collection, though all the stories were well done. Maybe there were too many variations on a similar theme, a lot of drifting young adults and teenagers, and a few adults, who just seem a bit unmoored from life. Standouts for me were T.C. Boyle's "The Apartment," because it was just such a T.C. Boyle story; Michael Byers's "Sibling Rivalry," because it was a totally believable sf story all by itself in the collection; and Elizabeth McCracken's "It's Not You," because she's always so good. Looking back through them, I actually liked almost all of them—there was just nothing that left me going, "Wow, how'd they DO that?" Which is probably an awful lot to ask of a writer, I know.

Now I'm about to start Joan Silber's upcoming Secrets of Happiness, which I'm reviewing for Library Journal.

Ene 5, 9:55pm

Is there any cake left? I'm drooling. Joan Silber has a new one out? Off to check it out.

Ene 6, 9:33pm

>19 BLBera: It's not out until May, unfortunately, unless you're a galley acquirer.

Ene 6, 10:17pm

Nope. I'll have to wait. I do have other things to read.

Editado: Ene 8, 4:49pm

Wonderful painting Lisa! Wishing you a good reading year and dropping off my star to follow you again!

Ene 9, 5:11pm

Looking forward to following you again this year Lisa.
I'm really interested in art too, which is one reason I liked to visit my kids in NYC pre-covid. It's been awhile tho' (with my husband's transplant sidelining us for a year pre-covid as well). Several years ago (or more) a group of friends and I began meeting weekly to study art history together, and a couple of years ago we traveled to London and Paris to visit some museums together. Since I've left Seattle, we are continuing our weekly sessions by Zoom. Right now we're doing an in-depth study of Fra Angelico. We want to take a trip to Italy together in a few years if we're still around.

Ene 10, 8:58am

>23 arubabookwoman: Oh, that sounds really fun. I took a lot of art history many years ago—in art school, so it was a bit more of a requirement than a choice, but I liked it anyway and appreciate having that base through which to look at current art. I'd love to hear more about your art travels, even the virtual ones.

And hi and welcome, everyone! Glad to have you around the joint.

Editado: Ene 16, 2:34pm

I listen to podcasts on my morning walk, and one of my favorites is Backlisted—they pick good books to revisit, and the conversation is lively. Last weekend I finally listened to their Christmas podcast, which I'd been saving and rubbing my mental hands together over. It was about Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, a deep deep favorite of mine from childhood, and it didn't disappoint—cohosted by Robert Mcfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris, with clips of Cooper herself speaking at a lecture a few years ago, and lots of great music. Recommended, if anyone here is a fan (and some of you must be).

I dragged my paperback copy out for my husband, who was interested after I was telling him about it—I guess they didn't read much wintry British fantasy in North Texas—but I'm not sure if he's into it.

And I did dig out a review I wrote of it in 2015, for Open Letters Monthly's Summer Reading issue, which apparently focused on books featuring cold climates:

If you’re going to read cold, read cold that stays with you. I first read Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising close to its publication in 1973, and that kernel of frozen fantasy has stuck with me like a sliver of dry ice in my literary DNA. It’s a classic good vs. evil story; in this case the Dark vs. the Light, or rather the Deep Cold of Endless Winter vs.—well, it’s England, so let’s say the Merely Dreary.

On his 11th birthday, young Will Stanton discovers he’s the last of the Old Ones, a race of ancient magical beings engaged in battle with the forces of the Dark for the fate of the mankind, and must prove himself through a series of quests. Pretty archetypal stuff, and in fact Cooper’s book doesn’t break any radical ground when it comes to action, plot, or characters. But her imagery, drawn heavily from the natural world and English mythology, is marvelous, and has remained etched in my brain for more than 40 years. Maybe if I’d grown up in 1970’s Britain with a storytelling grandparent, I might not have found Cooper’s visuals so striking—but for a little New Jersey kid, images of Herne the Hunter with his stag’s head bounding through the skies with his ghostly hound pack was irresistible.

And the deep winter called up by the Dark is perfectly scaled to inspire awe in a smallish person: the snow falls and falls, and Will’s delight in it turns to horror. As the roads become impassible and supplies are cut off the residents of his small town gather in the local manor house, all stone walls, tapestries, and enormous fireplaces. The snow shrieks outside, battering the windows, the Dark Rider circles the manor on his huge foam-snorting black horse, and young Will fights the forces of evil with all his 11-year-old pluck and ingenuity… you get the idea. The snow is, in fact, by far the better villain. But it’s a compelling one, and you’ll want a good hand-warming cup of tea after you’re done reading, triple digits outside or not.

Ene 16, 12:06pm

>25 lisapeet:

Wow, sold! I was aware of it as a children's classic but this is the first time I see a really compelling description. Sounds as if it would fit nicely with the Anglo folk horror tradition (in books and film), Alan Garner etc.

Ene 16, 1:23pm

>25 lisapeet: Wonderful comments, Lisa. My son loved this series. I think we read the first ones together and he continued on his own.

Ene 16, 2:40pm

>26 LolaWalser: I love Anglo folk horror, tales of the Green Wood, etc., and I know it's all thanks to Susan Cooper.

>27 BLBera: I think I read the whole series, but this is the one that stuck with me. I'd like to read at least a few of the series, though.

Fun fact: Susan Cooper was married to the actor Hume Cronyn until his death—her second marriage, I think, and his third after he was widowed after his long marriage to Jessica Tandy.

Ene 16, 5:11pm

>28 lisapeet:

Ha, how deliciously random! Hume Cronyn! He's in my favourite Hitchcock, his first role no less--it's not even clear that he ever wanted to be an actor?--IIRC the commentary said Hitchcock just liked his face and forced this 20-something to play an old man in his movie.

Hey, I have one for you. Know Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (If not, this will fall VERY flat.) Know the actress who played Professor Walsh, the militaristic android whisperer, in the fourth season? She was married to Friedrich Dürrenmatt!

I don't know, I find that unexpected. :)

Ene 16, 5:46pm

>29 LolaWalser: Ohhh, sorry to disappoint but I've never seen Buffy. I'm not big on TV-based stuff. But just from your description of the players, it sounds like a good factoid.

Ene 16, 5:48pm

>25 lisapeet: Backlisted is pretty much my favourite podcast as well. So many great books get mentioned that I would never otherwise hear of.

Ene 16, 5:51pm

>30 lisapeet:

Oh no biggie--one could say that's the point!--it's HARD to find people who intersect on Swiss political theatre and American teenage TV. :)

Ene 16, 6:03pm

>32 LolaWalser:
"'s HARD to find people who intersect on Swiss political theatre and American teenage TV. :)"

Undeniable, I would say!

Ene 17, 3:05am

Happy New Year, Lisa (better late than never). I look forward to following your thread again this year, and I love the sound of your ideas for it. The Dark is Rising was a big favourite of mine (a girlfriend of my dad’s gave me a box set when I was 9 or 10), and just reading your review made me feel the old excitement again. I’ll certainly have a listen to that podcast - thanks.

Ene 17, 10:24am

I used to listen to podcasts when I walked and somehow got out of the habit. I need to start again. "Backlisted" sounds like one I would love.

Ene 17, 1:09pm

>25 lisapeet: I will have to check out that backlisted episode, as I am a Susan Cooper fan as well. Maybe this afternoon when I walk my dog.

Editado: Ene 25, 9:40am

Backlisted is dangerous. Love your comments on Dark is Rising. I didn’t know anything about it except that it’s a title that pops up a lot and I had assumed fantasy.

Ene 19, 3:36am

>25 lisapeet: Fantastic review of Dark is Rising. I've shown it to my 11 year old daughter. She's on the last book in the Harry Potter series, so she might really enjoy this.

Ene 20, 5:07pm

>14 lisapeet: That cake looks soooo good! This month I've baked cranberry orange bread, an apple coconut pound cake and double chocolate zucchini bread.

Looking forward to stopping in from time to time to see what you are reading...and baking.

Ene 20, 11:18pm

I love baking, too, especially cakes, but we have such a small household that I have started to make all my layer cakes as 6" rounds--that seems to work well for 1/2 a recipe.

For my birthday in September I invented a new cake--raw and crystallized ginger layers, with a fresh grapefruit frosting. That was almost all flavored with grapefruit zest, of course. The cake turned out so good. I used some coffee in it, too, to darken the flavor, but no spices. I didn't want it to be a gingerbread flavor, just ginger. I adore fresh ginger. And the icing was subtle but fresh-tasting. I've never heard of a cake like it. How about you?

Unfortunately, I am trying to lose a fair amount of weight, and I can't afford to bake often, because I eat it all. I do make a seed bread breakfast loaf as soon as we run out, because it is the best breakfast with raspberry jam, and about 1/2 canister of yoghurt. Lemon is the best with the raspberry and the seed bread. It makes a beautiful loaf, too. One of my sons said it looks "artisanal", and it does! Usually I do the mixing and kneading, and set it to rise, and my husband does the second rise and the baking. That's about equal time for the two of us. What's your favorite baking?

I love making pies, too.

Ene 21, 10:49am

That seed bread breakfast loaf sounds goooood. Would you mind sharing the recipe?

Ene 21, 11:31pm

Breakfast Seed Bread Recipe This is one we made, and it is half the dough. We
are generous with seeds.


1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons honey plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 cups warm water divided
1 cup old fashions oats
3 tablespoons ground flax (Grind about 1 1/2 T)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups white flour or bread flour plus more for
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
1 cup mixed pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, black and/or white sesame seeds and flax seeds)

1. The night before baking the bread make the preferment. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the flour, water and yeast until a smooth paste forms. Cover the bowl and allow the preferment to ripen at room temperature overnight. The preferment will double in size and become bubbly on top as it sits.
2. The next day measure out 1/4 cup warm water in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Add the yeast and honey. Mix to combine and then allow the mixture to sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is foamy on top and smells like bread. During the same time, add the remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water to a bowl. Add the oats and ground flax. Allow this mixture to sit 5 minutes.
5. After 5 minutes add both the yeast mixture and oats mixture to the bowl with the preferment from the night before.
6. Add the whole wheat flour, bread flour and salt. Using the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed for 4-6 minutes. If the dough seems extremely sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons flour. (It's better if it is baked when slightly sticky.)
7, Now add in 4 tablespoons of the mixed seeds. and mix until combined.
8. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead with your hands on a floured surface for a minute or two.
9. Grease the bowl you mixed the dough in and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish-towel and place in a warm area for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
10. Once the dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a 5-quart, or larger, cast iron dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid in the center of the rack. You may also use a baking stone, but I have found the the dutch oven with a lid works the best.
11. Punch the dough down with your fist and then scoop it out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times with your hands and then form the dough into rough oval or circle shape (if needed, you can divided the dough in half and make two loaves We do.)
12. Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise 20-30 minutes.
13. After 20-30 minutes, brush the dough with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the remaining mixed seeds. Using a sharp knife, gently make a small slit down the center of the loaf. Drizzle the the seeds with 1-2 teaspoons honey.
14. When the dough is ready to bake, carefully remove the hot dutch oven from the oven using oven mitts and remove the lid. Very carefully, pick the dough up by the parchment paper and lift into the hot dutch oven. Using oven mitts, place the hot lid back on the pot and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Using oven mitts, remove the hot lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep, golden brown, about 15-20 minutes more. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven. Carefully lift the bread out of the pot by the parchment edges, peel the parchment from the bread, and place it on a rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Don't slice into the bread right out of the oven, the bread continues to cook as it cools.

*If you do not have stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand on a flour surface. Here is a great tutorial | on how to knead dough. **If you do not have a dutch oven, the dough can just be baked on a cookie sheet. Just be aware that the cooking time may very slightly and you may not get the some crusty on the outside soft on the inside results. ***The dough can be divided in half for small loaves or to be frozen. Bake in two dishes, one for each loaf. We do divide ours, and freeze the second loaf until the first one is too small to cut. Do not put the sliced bread in a toaster, but toast in a toaster-oven. I use raspberry or mixed berry jam. Just so you know, it is also good for lunch or with dinner. I have tried it as avocado toast and as blue-cheese toast. Elegant!

Sorry for using your thread, lisapeet. Should I have put the recipe somewhere else? Sally

Ene 22, 11:44am

Hi everyone! I'd be interested to hear what you think of The Dark Is Rising if you do read it—I know my fondness for it is inextricably tied up with the fact that I read it at 10 or 11 and it's become part of my inner symbol system. And yeah, Backlisted is a great—and sometimes dangerous—podcast. I have a big wishlist just from listening.

>39 avaland: Mmm, that all sounds good. I made a cranberry crumb cake around Thanksgiving that I need to do again with more orange in the cake part—this one. I have some King Arthur Flour fiori di sicilia extract that I think would work well there, because even two oranges' worth of zest didn't quite hit the right amount of orange flavor.

>42 sallypursell: That looks terrific. I think all my yeast is expired—I haven't made yeast bread since last winter, I think, when a friend and I did bagels and somosas one afternoon. I'm going to put that one on my list (and I think posting recipes here is a good idea because that way I can find them).

I love all sorts of baking. I used to do specialty decorated cookies and cakes as a side hustle and almost started up my own business, but then decided that was a bit too much like going into pro sports in middle age—it's really physical work, and kind of grueling. I was in the best shape of my life when I was in food service. Now I sit on my ass all day writing, and I feel like I may need to cut down on baking for a while after the holidays because I'm definitely feeling the fact that there were not enough folks around to help us eat all these fine treats. Though my husband has a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, and I may make him a little cake or something.

Ene 22, 11:50am

I enjoy baking as well, Lisa, but with just me, it is too unhealthy to have it around. Now that classes have started again, I do have three male colleagues who eat up any baked goods I take, so that may be a good outlet for me. In our entire office suite, there are only four of us there regularly, but the guys can really go through a lot of baking!

Ene 22, 12:10pm

Editado: Ene 22, 5:33pm

>43 lisapeet: And this ("cookies and cakes as a side hustle and almost started up my own business") is another reason why you should read Ducks, Newburyport.

Editado: Ene 22, 8:46pm

>40 sallypursell: While that seed bread looks delish, what I want is the recipe with fresh ginger & grapefruit in the frosting!

Do we need to start a kitchen thread for 2021?

Editado: Ene 22, 11:10pm

>47 markon: I'll see if I can dig that up. I modified a gingerbread cake recipe on the fly, without knowing whether it would work. I hope I did enough notating. If you make it, I want you to cite me. ;)

I meant to add that there is a kitchen thread this year.

Ene 23, 8:29am

I'm happy to have folks post recipes here too, since they're part of the conversation. Sally, I meant to say—I've seen a few recipes for baked goods that call for ginger and grapefruit together, but have never made one. It sounds divine to me, but neither of those are my husband's favorite flavors, so I'd probably end up eating most of whatever I made myself (though I've never seen him turn down something sweet, come to think of it). I'd love to see yours.

>46 ELiz_M: Oy, another person encouraging me to read Ducks, Newburyport? Well, it's definitely sounding more and more like something I'd like.

Ene 23, 9:55am

I've been eying Ducks, Newburyport as well, Lisa. I'm thinking it will be a summer book for me.

Editado: Ene 23, 12:08pm

Maybe we could make it a group read? I would like to read it too but am slightly daunted about picking it up given the length.

Ene 24, 5:42pm

I read The Dark Is Rising books as a kid, and was sufficiently obsessed with them that I memorized the little prophecy poem. I think I can still recite the whole thing! I've got an omnibus volume of them I've had on my shelves for ages and ages and ages, intending to re-read them sometime, but I keep not getting to it, I think partially because I'm always wary of revisiting kids' books that I loved, for fear of finding they've been visited by the proverbial Suck Fairy. I really should get to them at some point, though.

Ene 24, 10:04pm

>51 wandering_star: There was a Ducks, Newburyport read here last year, I think toward the beginning of staying home days. I was reading Wolf Hall at the time and didn't feel to inspired to pick up another doorstop. But I may yet—y'all have piqued my interest in a big way.

>52 bragan: visited by the proverbial Suck Fairy
Oh that's wonderful, and I know exactly what you mean. I haven't reread any of the others in the series, and don't remember much about them. But The Dark Is Rising still thrilled me when I read it again a few years ago.

Ene 25, 8:30am

>53 lisapeet: Will be interested in your thoughts on Ducks if you get to it. At times it feels like a bit of a marathon and I wouldn't rush to a re-read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Editado: Ene 25, 12:36pm

🦆 🦆 🙂 They’re calling to you, Lisa. (And we finally caught up to you and started reading Wolf Hall)

Ene 25, 10:55am

>53 lisapeet: I can't take credit for the phrase "visited by the Suck Fairy." Jo Walton came up with that one. But, boy, does it describe an all-too-familiar phenomenon all too well!

Ene 25, 11:35am

I love the way Jo Walton writes about books. Her book What Makes This Book So Great is a favorite of mine.

Ene 25, 12:41pm

>53 lisapeet: Thanks, I'll look for that.

Ene 25, 12:49pm

>57 sallypursell: That’s a favourite of mine as well.

Ene 25, 3:32pm

>57 sallypursell: I enjoyed that one, too. Her tastes and mine don't always align, but even when they don't, her opinions are usually interesting. And she did add some books to my wishlist, as I recall.

Ene 25, 7:00pm

>50 BLBera: Ducks, Newburyport was probably the most interesting book I read in 2019, and rather easy once I got over the basic structure. I did a read along with the Two Month Review Podcast that was spread out over 12 weeks.

Ene 25, 10:50pm

You all are very convincing on the Ducks, Newburyport front. I may just bite.

I don't know Jo Walton's work at all—where would be a good place to start?

Ene 26, 12:04am

>62 lisapeet: Start with Among Others. It won the Best Novel Nebula award, Hugo Award and the World Fantasy award. And in addition, I loved it.

Ene 26, 11:20am

>63 sallypursell: Agreed, Among Others is lovely, especially for those of us who grew up with a love of reading and fantasy/science fiction.

Ene 26, 2:43pm

I think I've only read one by Jo Walton that I really liked. I'll check to see which one it was. I am not generally a SF or fantasy reader.

Ene 26, 2:59pm

I read only two of hers. Contrary to expectations (what with not being into fantasy, romance, or dragons) I totally loved Tooth and Claw.

Ene 26, 9:53pm

I'm looking forward to Jo Walton's book Or What You Will. Before it was out I sent her an email query about that title, and she answered my email with one of her own! That's the only time I corresponded with a famous person.

Ene 26, 10:26pm

OK, thanks—that gives me something to go on, and my library has a few of those (though not What Makes This Book So Great, unfortunately, a title I love). I'll definitely keep her in mind when I feel like trying a new-to-me author. Thank you, everyone.

Editado: Ene 26, 10:33pm

So I had a hell of a time writing a Library Journal review for Joan Silber's upcoming The Secrets of Happiness. If it had been any other review venue I could have dived in happily—this was a humane, philosophical novel that was more than the sum of its parts, starting with the fact that you need to read the title and keep it in mind as you go. But LJ reviews are not necessarily about the intricacies of subtle storytelling—or rather you can say that that's what you get with this book, but you have 200 words to say it in and the purpose is for a librarian to decide whether or not to order the book. With most of what I review for them that's a pretty easy task, but this was not—just a bit too much going on under the surface. So here's what I finally came up with:

What do we need to be happy? Love? Money? Work? Family? Joan Silber takes on the question with her usual deft touch here, though without ever addressing it head on. Beginning with Ethan, a young Manhattan lawyer who discovers that his father has a second family, Silber unspools a web of lovers, siblings, parents, and children, from Greenwich Village to Bangkok, whose searches for fulfillment ripple outward in unexpected ways. From the entanglements of Ethan’s half brothers in Queens to his new boyfriend’s dying ex, whose sister watches them care for him warily even as she rekindles an old flame, to a young filmmaker living with her mother’s regrets and her sister’s capriciousness, each set of choices—infidelity, caretaking, the rejection of parents’ values and money, the work to build an extended family based on love and loyalty—affects the others in ways both subtle and large. Silber moves easily in and out of her characters’ heads; the novel is deceptively airy yet, given a reflective reading, has an ethical center without the shortcut of easy morality.

Now I'm reading Sylvia Townsend Warner's The Corner That Held Them for my book club next week. It's about nuns during the time of the Black Plague; it meanders along like a little stream and is very, very archly funny.

Ene 27, 5:29am

>61 gsm235: Thanks for the link to the Two Month Review podcast.

Agree with the recommendations for Among Others and Tooth and Claw (Trollope, but with dragons!) - and I would add the Small Change series (Farthing, Ha’penny and Half A Crown) - country house mysteries, set in an alternate history where the UK reached a peace agreement with Nazi Germany.

Ene 27, 2:16pm

>1 lisapeet: What an intriguing piece.

>18 lisapeet: T C Boyle is definitely one of the best short story writers around, says this huge fan of his.

>69 lisapeet: Maybe it was wrong time, wrong place, but I seem to be one of the few disappointed by The Corner that Held Them, although I still remember it well. If that's a mark of a good book, I'm not sure why the connection wasn't there. It was funny as you say, and had great character development, set in an interesting period, but something was missing. Maybe I should try it again.

Ene 27, 7:30pm

>69 lisapeet: You've certainly kindled my interest with that brief review!

Ene 27, 9:23pm

>71 SassyLassy: Oh yeah, I'm guessing you definitely have to be in the mood for The Corner That Held Them. It's such a weird little book. This one is for our Iris Murdoch Fan Girls Book Club—we're branching out from Iris for a bit—so that drily funny, meticulous English humor is what we're after in the first place. Plus it's hitting the right notes for me of something simple plot-wise (as in, no real plot to speak of) but atmospheric and funny and unexpected. It really is like taking a scenic boat ride—things just drift by. But neither is it fluff.

And yeah T C Boyle. I was just looking at a big anthology of his I have on the shelf that I haven't cracked, no idea why (other than the fact that I have too many books to choose from).

Ene 27, 10:07pm

I am hoping my library gets a copy of The Secrets of Happiness; I am a Silber fan.

The Townsend Warner sounds good, too. I like weird.

Editado: Ene 28, 5:02am

I would also put in my recommendations for Among Others and Tooth and Claw. Tooth and Claw is broadly based on Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (but with dragons): I read it first, so when I eventually came to Framley Parsonage I couldn’t help wonder where the dragons were ...

Editado: Ene 28, 8:31am

Happy reading with The Corner that Held Them I really enjoyed it.

Ene 29, 10:02am

>40 sallypursell: That sounds like quite a cake! I'm fairly boring in comparison.

The Silber novel sounds good.

Editado: Feb 2, 12:35pm

Finished The Corner That Held Them just in time for my book club. It's a strange and lovely book, very drily funny and really hits a sweet spot between current events/politics (the Black Plague, Peasants' Revolt) and everyday interpersonal life. Beautiful descriptions of the natural world, as well. There's no plot other than that corner of the world and its history, but that's enough, honestly—or else I was just in the mood for that kind of narrative that feels as though you're floating by in a boat taking note of the details. Unlike anything else I've read in a while, and I have a feeling bits and pieces will keep surfacing in my head at odd moments.

Now on to Robert Gipe's Weedeater, the second in a trilogy of illustrated novels that starts with Trampoline, which I fiercely loved when I read it in 2015. They're set in contemporary Appalachia, and this one continues the story of Dawn Jewell, who's a punky, out-of-place teenager in the first. There's a third, too, Pop, coming out later this month. I decided last-minute I want to talk to him for Bloom about his political work with a local theater company, so I want to get as to much of the new two as I can before next week. (I wasn't kidding about the last-minute part.)

I also succumbed to suggestibility and got All Systems Red, the first in Martha Wells's Murderbot series, from the library. It so sounds like not my thing, and everyone who knows me says that it so is. So what the hell, it's short.

Feb 2, 1:59pm

>69 lisapeet: fun to read essentially two different reviews.

>78 lisapeet: noting. : )

Feb 2, 4:09pm

Hi Lisa. I’m very late getting to everyone’s threads this year. I’m dropping a star. I’m sure you will add to my wishlist as the year moves along.

Feb 3, 10:41am

I realise I have not left any post here since the beginning of the year, but I've been lurking now and then.
>78 lisapeet: I've read a Sylvia Townsend Warner book at the end of last year, which I enjoyed, so noting this one.

Feb 3, 11:22am

Hi everyone new! And welcome to my hot-and-cold random thread.

>81 raton-liseur: Which Townsend Warner did you read? I have Lolly Willowes on my pile, and now want to get to it sooner than later after this last one.

Feb 3, 12:32pm

>82 lisapeet: I did read Lolly Willowes and really liked it, so sooner sounds good to me.
It will be interesting to see how you'll like it after The Corner that held them (what a strange title, and the French translation is very different and as strange: Le Diable déguisé en belette!). According to your review, there are some similarities on how the novel is constructed (plot vs atmosphere), so I'll make sure I'll read your take on it if you decide to read it.

Feb 3, 2:35pm

The Corner that Held Them sounds like one I would like, Lisa. Noted.

Feb 4, 9:31am

>78 lisapeet: I quit All Systems Red early on, but keep on hearing praise for it, so I will wait eagerly for your review in case it's worth giving it another go!

Editado: Feb 8, 8:16pm

>42 sallypursell: I hope you don't mind, but I posted a link to this recipe in the newly created La Cucina 2021 thread.

Feb 9, 12:58am

>86 ELiz_M: No, of course not. The more the merrier.

Feb 14, 9:11am

Last week I finished up Robert Gipe's Weedeater, which is the second in his Canard County trilogy. It was a sweet, offbeat book about the many ways you can't save the folks you love—and also the shifting currents of motherhood and friendship, whether art or politics can redeem a body, class, drugs, community—the book is set in early 2000s Appalachia—and unrequited love. Along with the story itself, Gipe does a fantastic job with both the dialogue/dialect—no easy thing to do well, and he nails it—and the wonderful, fourth-wall-breaking, deadpan illustrations that help move the story along. This is way different from anything else I've read lately, compassionate and quirky without ever being cute, and I liked it a lot.

Feb 14, 9:12am

I also read the very short All Systems Red, the first in Martha Wells's Murderbot series. It hadn't sounded like anything I'd like, but a few friends sang its praises to me, and they were right—it's science-fictiony enough to be entertaining in that vein, but also whimsical and action-packed. Plus Murderbot is really charming. Much as I don't love series, which always seem to run out of juice as they go, I'll probably try some more of those.

And speaking of series, I'm about halfway through the third in Gipe's trilogy, Pop: An illustrated novel, and while I'm not sure I have the same degree of love for it as the first two—there's more action, more new characters, and the interiority I liked in the others isn't quite there—it's still a lot of fun. I talked to Gipe for a Bloom piece that's going up in a couple of days, and he's really interesting... one of those cases where talking with an author augments the book for me, much as I always try to keep those things separate.

Feb 14, 10:27am

>89 lisapeet: I've had a similar reaction to the Wells' series, Lisa. I'm waiting for a copy from the library. It seems to be very popular. I'll give it a try.

The Gipe books do sound like ones I would like. Off to check my library.

Feb 14, 12:05pm

I've read Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner. I liked it in that it surprised me. It seemed at first that it would be a typical novel about a slightly bored, wealthy housewife and mother. But it ended up going somewhere quite different. I didn't like that there was a Jewish character and many stereotypes were applied to the character. It's true of many books of the time, but still isn't something I enjoy reading.

Editado: Feb 14, 2:34pm

I really liked The Corner That Held Them a couple years ago. I thought the plots and power plays over the decades was fascinating (and probably very realistic), though I had to keep a running list of which nuns were in which positions. I enjoyed the dark humor. Not sure that the economic and social changes the aftermath of Black Death ushered in can be understated.

Lolly Willowes was a kind of revelation. I don't know why it isn't read more. (Feel the same about Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) If I could figure out where Lolly's village is, I would go there and live right today.

Murderbot--have not heard of that series, but I like series reads for summer, so will put it on the back burner.

Feb 16, 8:13am

>90 BLBera: Beth, you have to have a taste for sf to enjoy the Murderbot books—there's a bit of space opera to them, at least the first—but they're much sweeter and more humanistic, ironically, than the title would have you think.

>91 japaul22: >92 nohrt4me2: I'm interested in both Lolly Willowes and Summer Will Show now that I've seen Townsend Warner flex a bit with The Corner That Held Them. I have a copy of the first and my library has the second. Has anyone read The Element of Lavishness: : Letters of William Maxwell and Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1938-1978? I write a lot of letters and love collections of correspondence, and am a fan of Maxwell's letters—I dip in and out of What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell from time to time, if only to get a sense of what you can write about when there's not much news (in their case, roses).

Feb 16, 9:14am

I was catching up on your thread and thinking about your interest in art, and I wondered if you had read What we see when we read : a phenomenology, with illustrations by Peter Mendelsund. He talks about a lot of different books and our mind's eye pictures. I really enjoyed it, as I am one of those people who "sees" what she reads to the extent that seeing the movie after reading the book is a bit shocking when the characters, etc don't look like they "should". I would be curious what you think, if you ever read it.

Feb 16, 10:34pm

>94 labfs39: I remember seeing that book when it came out and thinking it looked neat—yes, that's definitely my kind of thing, and thank you for the reminder. My library has it, too, so on the list for later it goes!

Feb 17, 3:04pm

>91 japaul22: Summer Will Show seems fairly similar in its structure to Lolly Willowes. I'm intrigued with this twist in the first one, and how it differs or not to the one in the second.
I'm not sure anymore what I'll read next from Sylvia Townsend Warner, it seems there are too many options (almost exclusively in English, translations in French are few and most are out of print.).

Feb 20, 3:10pm

Finished the final installment in Robert Gipe's Canard County trilogy, Pop: An Illustrated Novel last week. I didn't love it as much as the first two, but that was a lot of love to live up to. This one's more sprawling and less intimate than Trampoline and Weedeater, but a fun ride—there are ghosts and visions, teenage entrepreneurs, a murder, and at least one surprise reveal. If there's a lesson here, it's that things are not always what they first seem (except for the guy who gets killed), and it's good to approach what you think you know—people, regions, and politics—with care and attention. And the illustrations, as always, are top notch. I suspect this is Gipe's last Canard County book, and I'll genuinely miss the cast of characters.

I interviewed Gipe for Bloom and he was so fun to talk to—he had a lot of really interesting stuff to say about writing and activism, and was generally a lot of fun to connect with.

Now I'm reading a book for LJ review, Enchantments: Joseph Cornell and American Modernism—I love Joseph Cornell and I'm always up for an ambitious chunk of art theory, but this one's going slowly—probably because I'm reading it in the evenings when I'm totally bleary from sitting in front of a screen all day. I should have some nice reading down time this weekend, though.

Much more suitable to bedtime reading is the gorgeous Telephone Tales, a super thoughtful gift from a dear reading friend—dreamy little bedtime stories and fab illustrations on thick creamy paper, with inserts and foldouts... just the thing for my tired and jaded eyes.

Feb 21, 5:37pm

I'm glad you're liking Rodari! Not a mean feat for a children's book.

Feb 23, 7:42am

>98 LolaWalser: Rodari wasn't on my radar at all before this. What else has he written that's been translated into English that I should be checking out?

Feb 23, 12:32pm

Ah, I thought this was were we talked about Rodari recently... I guess it was Reading Globally. Hmm, looking at his Author's Page here, there's practically nothing else in English, sorry... So I guess, whatever you may yet come across?! I'm not familiar with The grammar of fantasy, I only read him as a kid. Everything was a fave--"The adventures of Cipollino" (Le avventure di Cipollino), "The cake in the sky" (Torta in cielo), "Gelsomino in the country of liars" (Gelsomino nel paese dei bugiardi)...

Editado: Feb 26, 7:59am

>100 LolaWalser: Interesting... I'll read up on him a bit. The book is super deluxe, and I'm parceling out the stories—at bedtime, as they're meant to be read—so they last.

My reading of the PDF of Enchantments: Joseph Cornell and American Modernism is still poking along—not that I don't like the subject matter, or that it's badly written, but it's very academic and dense, and the PDF is annoying because I need to enlarge every page to read and then ensmallen it again to turn to the next, plus since I do most of my reading at the end of the day I tend to fall asleep. Work is kicking my ass, as usual. But since I have a bit of a grace period—my two week review turnover doesn't start until the print book shows up, and it hasn't yet—I started Jess Walter's The Cold Millions, since my library hold showed up. And that one is very engaging indeed: two brothers of Irish descent in 1909 Spokane, labor disputes and the Wobblies, all set against the old Pacific Northwest.

Had a relatively cheap car repair, a relatively expensive (but proactive) boiler repair/upgrade, and lunch outside with a friend in town to do her taxes last week. Our snow is thawing, though, and I'm ready to order my seeds for this spring/summer's garden. And I got my husband an unexpected vax appointment near our house this weekend! Hope springs eternal, as they say.

Feb 26, 1:20pm

>101 lisapeet:

Since you read The New Yorker, you probably already saw the article by Joan Acocella I linked to in December, that's what started the Rodari convo in Reading Globally (just for reference):

I imagine the Cornell book is illustrated? That's tough in a PDF format (at least would be for me)... Good luck with the vaccine.