Wednesday, December 01, 2021

So Long, November

Good news from the hometown! We were in danger of losing our only bookstore. The owners wanted to retire, and were having trouble finding a new owner. The store even put up liquidation signs. I would have had to drive an hour to Kansas City or an hour to Columbia just to go to a bookstore. Yikes. But all is well. The bookstore has a new owner and he takes over on December first. This feels like such a gift. 

Today is the last day of November. Yesterday, I had the funniest feeling: There was something about November 29 that I knew was significant, and I couldn't place it. You know when Peter Parker says his spidey-sense is tingling? Well, it was like that, except it was a bookworm thing. Finally, right before I went to bed, I got it: Mark Twain's birthday! What a relief.

Speaking of Mr. Clemens, the library has The Autobiography of Mark Twain in audiobook. Lots and lots of listening hours. I want to commit to it, but its so long and checkout times are so short -- only two weeks and you can only renew three times. I guess I could shrug off the overdue notices and turn it back in when I'm damn well good and ready, but I actually like being a good library citizen. 

So, anyway: Since I was last here, the angry scribble in my left eye (yes, it's called a floater, but that reminds me of what happens to your poo when you eat too much fast food) seems less pronounced, but it's always a cloudy day on that side. But the right side is nice and clear and I'm driving again, which feels wonderful. My time in the car with my audiobook is the coziest time of the day. Who says you can't get hygge with it going down the highway at 65-70 miles per hour?

What I read:

Fresh Off The Boat - Eddie Huang. Memoir. My favorite parts of this book were Huang's exuberant and evocative descriptions of food. Lots of energy in this memoir. I enjoyed it more than an earlier food-related memoir this year: David Chang's Eat A Peach.

Grandma Pottymouth's Fast as Fuck Cookbook - Peggy Glenn. Cookbook. Since I didn't learn to cook until I was an adult, preparing meals has always been about ease. The way I measure that is by how many swears I used to get the food from ingredient to table. Grandma Pottymouth delightfully plays into all of that. Her recipes are easy to follow -- I don't think any of them are more than a page -- and helpful ("Spread that shit on the cookie sheet") and she swears so I don't have to! I haven't tried all the recipes. Some feature pine nuts, and I don't go there. Enchilada Casserole was delicious. The inelegantly named Slop was all right. Even Granny herself admits that it's just okay the first night, but gets better in leftover form. I'm not sure about that. My very favorite recipe is Sweet Potato and Chicken Get Married on a Ranch (Dressing, That Is). Brilliant, unconventional combination of sweet potato, chicken pieces, onion, and a packet of ranch seasoning mix. Baked in the oven. Oh my God, the aroma. The taste. I want some right now!

Getaway - Zoje Stage. Novel. After I read Baby Teeth, nothing else would do but more Zoje Stage. Two sisters and their friend from high school go on a camping trip in the Grand Canyon. The younger sister and the friend have some unresolved baggage, and younger sister has also just missed being mowed down in a synagogue shooting back in Pittsburgh. The camping trip is meant to be a time of healing and reconciliation, but someone is following them and tampering with their supplies. Welcome to the camping trip from Hell. I really admire and appreciate Stage's writing. She works really hard to craft multifaceted characters and still keep the pace nice and brisk. She's also great at atmosphere. 

The Boys - Ron Howard and Clint Howard. Memoir. I devoured this memoir in happy, hungry gulps. Conversational in tone (much like a family reunion), The Boys details the meeting of Harold Beckenholdt and Jean Speegle, two theatre majors at the University of Oklahoma, who impetuously elope to New York to become actors. Harold changes his first name to Rance and the family name to Howard and in due time, they give birth to Ron and Clint who turn out to be quite literally, born actors. Jean gives up acting to care for the family. Rance gets bit parts here and there and the kids' careers go into the stratosphere with The Andy Griffith Show (Ronny, as Ron was then known) and Gentle Ben (Clint). Rance and Jean closely managed their sons' careers, but they weren't horrible stage parents, and Rance taught them how to act rather than just performing and parroting lines. There's just enough scruff on this memoir (swearing, Clint had problems with substance abuse, Ron clashed with his parents about his early attachment to his future wife, Cheryl) to keep it from being sickeningly wholesome. I enjoyed reading about Ron's early interest in what goes on behind the camera, and his development as a director. Damn good read. You couldn't go wrong giving this one as a Christmas gift.

What I DNFed:

How To Change Your Mind - Michael Pollan. Nonfiction. But I don't really mean it as a DNF. Just a "Well, it was overdue and I had to turn it back in to the library, and I'll take it up again later."

What I'm reading:

A Carnival of Snackery - David Sedaris. Diaries. Audiobook. I would read anything by David Sedaris, and his diaries are most certainly better than most. I love that Tracey Ullmann is reading the entries from England while David reads all the others. Still, these compilations of diaries make me uneasy. It's like Sedaris is getting rid of everything. Cleaning out his closets. Swedish death cleaning. I'm laughing, but also feeling an undercurrent of sadness.

Wonderland - Zoje Stage. Novel. This one is crazy with atmosphere. Kind of like Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House.

Kings Row - Henry Bellamann. Novel. Getting those enjoyable Peyton Place vibes.

What I want to read:

Taste - Stanley Tucci. Memoir. WANT

Where I want to go: 

Fulton, Missouri. Apparently, Kings Row = Fulton, MO c.1890s. The good people of Fulton were reportedly pissed when they read Kings Row and started recognizing people and locales.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Zoje Stage's books all feature Pittsburgh in one way or another. Her love for her city shines through.

What I'm watching:

The Office Season 5

And now, it's the first day of December. I can't wait to look back at all the good books I've read this year. So many great discoveries. And cheese!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Reading Roadblock: The Angry Scribble In My Left Eye

 I don't know any three-year-olds right now, so I haven't been hanging out with any lately. How then can I explain the dark scrawl, the angry scribble in my left eye? The scribble on top of flyspecks on a dirty window on a cloudy day.

Here's what the ophthalmologist believes: Some of the vitreous fluid (it's like jelly, baby) in my eye broke off and is floating around. There's also some blood in the eye. Eventually, the floaters will calm down and/or my brain will learn to ignore the scribble. I can't wait. 

This really puts a crimp in my reading. Really been struggling to finish Fresh Off the Boat, but if the book were a song, my eye would be the static drowning it out. Eddie Huang, I loved your funny, savage footnotes, but not so much anymore. Can barely see them.

Audiobooking? Yeah, not so much. I listen to audiobooks in the car, and guess what? I can't see well enough to drive. 

Speaking of audiobooks, funny story. The one I was listening to (before this eye thing happened allofasudden on Sunday afternoon) was How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. It's a historical view of LSD, magic mushrooms and the like. I was into the book so much that when my eye went wonky, I thought for a fleeting moment that I'd been so strongly influenced by my reading that I'd somehow sent myself on a trip. First cheese and now...this??? But alas, no mind-bending experience for me. Instead, it's like that Dorothy Parker anecdote in which the bartender asks her, "What are you having?" and Dorothy Parker replies, "Not much fun."

I can still watch television. Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam, Kelly, Meredith and the rest of The Office are still hilarious through my scribbled-on eye.

I spy with my little eye the ophthalmologist again on Monday. Meanwhile, I remain blurrily, cloudily, speckly, and scribbly your Blue-Hearted Bookworm on pause.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

October: Booktober, Rocktober

 October was such a great reading month; it was so good, it gives me shivers. Octobrrr! Here's what happened since I was last here with my watering left eye and bulging, pounding left face:

What I read:

Peyton Place - Grace Metalious. The last time I read this was in the ninth grade. I had a copy of the first paperback edition. How did I end up with Peyton Place? I don't remember, but I think I spirited it from my grandmother's or maybe my aunt's bookshelves during a summer visit. As always, not the same book decades later. Still riveting reading with frank discussions in even franker language that resonate even nearly 70 years after Metalious wrote the novel. The version that appeared in bookstores was considerably toned down from her original manuscript, according to her biographer, Emily Toth. I'd love to read that version. I think. Because there is some problematic stuff. One character, who actually turns out to be a really nice person (not from Peyton Place) gets violent with his partner during some non-consenting sex and this is the key to unblocking her frigidity and towards morning, she is smiling. Ugh. A vile and a stenchily overused trope, even back then. There's the gratuitous use of the n-word. Ugh. And there's this really twisted chapter involving a man's affections towards his heavily pregnant wife, a troubled boy, a corpse, voyeurism, a cat, and the promise of an enema that initially had me saying ugh, but also, another part of me was recognizing that this was Grace Metalious working at full power, unrestrained, burning down her typewriter, and my ugh turned to damn, girl!

Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious - Emily Toth. I'm glad that Toth was able to give the finger to all the academics who sniffed at her for wanting to write about the author of Peyton Place. I'm also glad that she was able to get interviews with many of Metalious's family, friends, and contemporaries. However, the end result feels a little muted. There's something about Toth's writing style, earnest as it is that just doesn't match up with the sad and squalid train wreck that was Grace Metalious's short life. It's like she's trying to fit it into a tidy framework, and there was nothing tidy about Grace Metalious. Framework? F that, I can almost hear Metalious saying. Get me another Canadian Club and 7Up. But like I said before, I am glad, fiercely so, that Toth took on this project. After all these years (Inside Peyton Place was published in the early 1980s) I wonder if anyone would be willing give a new biography a go.

Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage. This novel was my audiobook for late October, and it was the perfect read-listen for the days leading up to Halloween. I love an unreliable narrator, and in Baby Teeth's two main characters, 7-year-old defiantly mute Hanna and her overanxious, perfectionistic and chronically ill mother, Suzette, it seemed that I had two. Or did I? Baby Teeth kept me guessing. I loved everything about the novel. I can hardly write about it because I loved its setting, characters, creepy factor so much that I want everyone to read it so we can talk. The ending feels like there's the possibility for a sequel, although it's perfect the way it is. 

What I'm Reading:

Fresh Off the Boat - Eddie Huang. This memoir, which inspired the TV show about a family from Taiwan who emigrates to the United States and settles in Central Florida in the early 1990s is poignant and pungent. I'm enjoying it, especially the multisensory descriptions of food.

How To Change Your Mind - Michael Pollan. This is my newest audiobook. Just got started, but know that I'll like it. I've been a Pollan fan since The Botany of Desire.

What I Want to Read:

The Boys - Ron Howard. This is a memoir by director/actor Ron Howard about Ron, his younger brother Clint, and their dad, Rance, all actors. A friend of mine bought this book, and I'm trying to figure out what is the polite amount of time to wait before I start demanding that he hurry up and finish reading so that I can read it. So far, it's been about 4 days.

Cheese, Sex, Death - Erika Kubick. It's finally published! Looks gorgeous.

Everything by Zoje Stage!!!

What I'm Watching:

Just finished Season 3 of The Office.

What I Cheesed:

The Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar is but a fond memory. I'm low on Butter Kase. No regrets about pitching the goat cheese. I want to go back to The Cheese Store, but I still have a brick of Garden Bruschetta waiting in the freezer. [Edited to add: Forgot to mention my sweet Bourbon Maple Cheddar, a wonderful dessert cheese. A decent-sized chunk left.]

What I Halloweened:

Every year I tell myself I'm going to be Miss Havisham, then I let planning time slip away. At the last minute I borrowed some of the cat's toys, pinned them in my chaotic just-rolled-out-of-bed hair and went as "what the cat dragged in".

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Mid-October, 2021: Books, Cheese and Sinuses

 Hello and Ow. I have a blog and I must write but my left cheekbone is beating with sinus pressure. It's a familiar feeling, though, synonymous with fall and abrupt temperature change. Kind of like Homecoming except there's no tiara and the marching band is doing its formations on my face. The first time this happened, I was a 10th grader, and I couldn't imagine what was going on. My reading at the time consisted heavily of novels and memoirs about teenagers who came down with fatal diseases and died (Sunshine, Eric, Death Be Not Proud, Echoes of a Summer, A Summer to Die) so naturally that's where my mind went. I, too, would be brave and stoic for my family and friends, but first I had to have some relief for my exploding cheekbone, eye socket, and upper gums. Did I go to the school nurse? No. I went into the girls' bathroom and knocked my head against the wall next to the paper towel dispenser. It actually helped for a couple of minutes. Years later, I saw an episode of House in which House breaks his hand (I think it was on a bathroom wall as well) to get his mind off the pain in his leg. These days, I just take some NyQuil.

What I read:

American Cheese - Joe Berkowitz. I finally finished this tasty tome. Speaking of tasty, have you ever noticed that tasty and nasty look like rhymes, but they aren't? Towards the end of American Cheese, the author takes a test to demonstrate exactly how proficient he's become in the language of cheese during the year he's been actively studying. The test involves tasting several cheeses that have gone off in some fashion or another, and he must explain precisely why they have turned from pleasing to punishing. A spit bucket is thoughtfully supplied, and foul descriptions festoon the next couple of paragraphs. Not suitable for lunchtime reading. I found this out the hard way. But still: Damn good book. More about my adventures in cheese below.

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s - Andy Greene. An enjoyable labor of love for fans from a true fan. Some of the chapters seemed a little repetitive, like how everyone (especially the producers, directors and writers) got burned out during the last season. And yes, Steve Carrell is a comic genius, but how many bouquets can be thrown at him before it gets tiresome? In my own personal Office journey, I am now finished with Season 2 and ready for Season 3.

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling. OH MY GOD, I loved this novel so much. I didn't want it to end. It's like the perfect meld of Middlemarch and Peyton Place with a hint of Dickens thrown in. Excellent audiobook. This book has inspired me to do a deep dive of novels about picture-perfect small towns with seamy undersides. 

What I DNFed:

Warhol - Blake Gopnik. Although I think of it as more of a "Not right now; see you later," rather than a flat DNF.

What I'm reading:

Inside Peyton Place - Emily Toth. It's a biography of Grace Metalious, written in the early 1980s. I'm already tired of all the references to The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. They feel stale. More about Grace! And: Toth describes all these photos of Grace, but there are no photos in my hardcover edition. Imagine my displeasure.

What I want to read:

Peyton Place - Grace Metalious. The Spawn told me that my library copy is on the way.

Kings Row - Henry Bellamann. An  ancestor of Peyton Place and The Casual Vacancy. Written in 1940.

Who Was A.A. Milne? - Sarah Fabiny. Please mention Eeyore, please, please, please.

What I cheesed:

I tried really hard to make friends with the goat cheese, and thought that I was getting close when I paired it with grape jelly on a cracker, but in the end, just...no. There's something about the taste and texture I just couldn't manage to like. It's like cream cheese has an ugly stepsister. Although I know I'm losing Gourmet Palate points for this, I DNFed goat cheese. So much for my late in life ambition to become a cheesemonger.

On the other end of the taste spectrum, I blew through the Steakhouse Onion Cheddar within 10 days. This called for another trip to The Cheese Store. The manager regretfully informed me that the supplier has discontinued it. Steakhouse Onion, I hardly knew ye, but you were part of one of the best grilled cheeses I've ever had in my life. I consoled myself with some of the Bourbon Maple Cheddar that I passed up last time. It's good, but it's no Steakhouse Onion.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Early October: More Cheese Than Books

 What I read/am reading:

In printed books, there's not much change from last week here at the Bybeeary: I'm still under the spell of American Cheese by Joe Berkowitz, and laughing my way through Andy Greene's hilarious series survey The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s

Warhol by Blake Gopnik still sits reproachfully on the table, judging me for not picking it up for nearly two weeks now. I really don't want this to be a DNF, but I'm starting to feel the time constraints of library-booking.

What I'm listening to:

I'm happily engaged with a new audiobook: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. Not at all what I was expecting from this author. Rowling's examination of the small English town of Pagford following the unexpected death of a beloved city councillor, gives me yummy flashbacks to Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. 

What I watched/am watching: 

I watched Season 1 of The Office. Seeing how they all got started was great. What really struck me was the sickly lighting and the even more sickly expressions of the characters, dealing with their boss, Michael Scott. In particular, Pam, played by Jenna Fisher, actually looks like she might throw up. Yes! That's what people look like at work! The Spawn has put Season 2 on reserve at the local library, and I'm especially looking forward to the episode "The Injury" in which Michael burns his foot on his George Foreman grill. He keeps it by his bed so he can wake to the smell of bacon frying. Meanwhile, Dwight, while rushing to Michael's rescue, has a minor car accident which results in a more significant injury, apparent to everyone but Dwight himself. "The Injury" was written by Mindy Kaling. I'm so ready!

Maid, based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Stephanie Land, dropped on Netflix on October 1, and I watched the first episode. It's well-acted and intense. I felt extreme anxiety, and have had to pause for a few days before going onto the next one.

Where I went, what I ate, and what I bought:

The week seemed to drag by, but then finally it was Saturday, and I was off to The Cheese Store in Sweet Springs. I really didn't know what to expect, but I had hoped for a large selection of cheese (Check!), numerous samples of interesting cheese (Check!), and friendly, knowledgeable staff who would discuss the cheeses with me and make helpful recommendations (Check!) I tried several samples, and the one that I regret not buying was a cheddar called Bourbon Maple that started out cheesy and creamy and ended with a delicious flood of maple flavor that intensified. It's been more than 24 hours, and I can't get it out of my mind. 

Meanwhile, here are the items I brought home:

Cheese and jalapeno summer sausage. It's made by a local company called Alwel's, which always blue-ribbons at the Missouri State Fair. Ooooh, so gooood. I almost bought their buffalo summer sausage, and I regret leaving this behind as well as the Bourbon Maple cheddar.

Goat cheese. I bought this without tasting a sample, propelled by memories of Heidi, and I must say that I am full of purchase-regret. Aside from the slightest tang reminiscent of Chobani's plain yogurt, it's pretty bland. I might as well have bought a block of Philly cream cheese. I've been busy scrolling, looking for pairings that will make it more interesting. Suggestions welcome! Today I put some on a baked potato with bits of the aforementioned summer sausage. Not bad, but lesson learned: I need my cheese to be marvelous on its own.

Steakhouse Onion. Another cheddar, shot through with bits of toasted onion and in some sort of delectable alchemy, a taste like rich beef broth. THE WINNER for the day. I ate it at the store, I ate it at home with some Townhouse crackers, and I slid a little into my baked potato/goat cheese/summer sausage lunch concoction. I would eat this anywhere, including at this computer, for I just went to the refrigerator and got another sliver, so as to properly convey its awesomeness. 

Butter Kase. A simple, mild cheesy buttery cheese, a favorite for many years, since I was a little child living in Germany. Sentimental taste buds. I have to admit that I squealed like a fangirl when I saw that it was available.

Bruschetta Jack. This solid, flavorful cheese has tomato, garlic, onion, parsley and basil in it, and it's good, but I would swap it out for that Bourbon Maple in a do-over. 

Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar. Another winner! I love its spicy sweetness and can't wait to try it on a taco. Cranberries, chilies and a subtle smokiness. It's also the most eye-appealing of the group. 

I'll finish this post with a cheese-y memory: 

When I was in high school, cheese fondue was a big deal at parties, and you could usually find my little introvert self hanging over the pot, looking down into that tasty melty Swiss/Gruyere elixir, my long fork with its cube of bread carefully dipping...yeah. Flash-forward a few years, and I began dating a guy who announced that he would be bringing fondue to a party. I couldn't wait. I watched as he unpacked the pot, the long forks, the spirit lamp thingy, and...what the hell!? Oil? Tiny strips of raw steak??? This wasn't fondue! But it was. Apparently I had never learned that there were *two* kinds of fondue. My disappointment knew no bounds. For years, I referred to it as "imposter fondue" or "fon-doo-doo". The guy enthusiastically lowered his meaty fork into the hot oil for the umpteenth time as he caught my eye. "Pretty good, huh?" he said. I nodded. Now bring out the real fondue, I didn't say.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Late September, 2021: Hold The Phone

 What I'm scratching my head about:

I recently overheard The Spawn tell someone that he was 6 months ahead on his blog posts. What the hell?! Here I am, always running behind on my posts like someone with a broken-off heel chasing the last bus. And he has SIX MONTHS of bloggy freshness and goodness in the can??? That's half a year!!!

So yeah, I know eavesdropping is a bad habit, but The Spawn knows my flaws as well as anyone, so I asked him:

Me: [skipping the niceties] How the hell did you get six months ahead with your blog?

Spawn: [startled] What? I'm not six months ahead.

Me: [feeling uncomfortable, wondering if I'm going to have to give up eavesdropping because my hearing has gone bad] Oh, I thought you said --

Spawn: I'm two months ahead.

Me: Oh! Two! Again, how the hell...?!

What I read:

September is nearly finished, and it looks like it's going to be just three books completed this month: 

The Andy Warhol Diaries - Andy Warhol, Pat Hackett, ed.

Who Was Frida Kahlo? - Sarah Fabiny

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver

Two of the books (The Lacuna and The Andy Warhol Diaries) were pretty chunky, to explain my low book count for this month. I also blame my newfound ardent fangirling of The Office and some new involved reading projects. If I'm being absolutely forthcoming, I should also cite my time on the phone as a reason. However, I did hit my dinger on Goodreads! I pledged to read 60 books in 2021, and The Lacuna put me at 62. 

What I'm reading:

Warhol - Blake Gopnik. I'm starting to worry because I haven't picked this biography up in almost a week. Every page is so very dense with information. Andy is still in art school in Pittsburgh! I can't go on/I'll go on.

American Cheese - Joe Berkowitz. Enjoying it immensely, but slow going. This is because some tasty information will strike my fancy and I'll stop reading and start down as many rabbit holes (Hello, Phone!) as there are holes in aged Swiss. My latest detour was to Erika Kubick's mouthwatering blog Cheese Sex Death It was there that I discovered her nationwide list of places to buy cheese, and guess what??? There is a place practically in my backyard, a mere 20 miles away in Sweet Springs. It's called, appropriately enough, The Cheese Store. Time to go a-fromage-ing. Lastly, here is a list of cheeses I've eaten this week: Sharp Cheddar, Baby Swiss, and Blue Cheese. 

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s - Andy Greene. I absolutely love how this book about my new favorite show is put together. There's a short introduction at the beginning of each chapter, then it goes into interviews with writers, directors, and actors reminiscing about the show. It starts right from the very beginning, the utterly true beginning with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant going back to when the UK Office was merely a glimmer of a brainchild. The documentary style of presentation is perfect since the show is a "mockumentary". Do I still have to put that in quotes, or is it a part of the language by now?

What I DNFed:

An audiobook, and I really don't want to admit to it, because it's by a distinguished literary presence who recently died. I've read several of the author's other books and admired them, but this one didn't click for me at all. To make matters worse, the author was the narrator and their voice was raspy. Sentences would fade towards the end. I didn't even make it to the end of the first CD. It's back in the library now.

What I'd like to read:

Cheese Sex Death - Erika Kubick. Hope there's loads of pictures.

Nightbitch: A Novel - Rachel Yoder. I can't resist a title like that.

Blind Man's Bluff - James Tate Hill. Memoir.

Cack-Handed - Gina Yashere. Memoir. 

What I need:

Another audiobook!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mid-September, 2021: Way Late To The Office Party

 A few days ago, I became acquainted with the concept of "batch blogging". It's like "batch cooking", but with blogs. Apparently, it's a thing. Apparently, closer to home, The Spawn does it with his comic book blog. Now I feel as if there is a lack in me because I can't squeeze out multiple posts at one sitting to be scheduled at tidy intervals. Just getting one blog entry out is like warring with the last smears of toothpaste at the end of the tube. Is it because I have nothing to say? No, of course not. I am intrigued, and think I might try out the concept with a mini-post. Okay, enough with all this throat-clearing!

What I Read:

Who Was Frida Kahlo? - Sarah Fabiny. Biography. Kahlo figures prominently in my current audiobook, The Lacuna, so I wanted to read more about her. Fabiny paints a portrait of Kahlo that is as rich and emotional as Frida's art. She does a great job of discussing the symbolism in Kahlo's paintings, and is candid about Frida's health and relationship struggles. The illustrations by Jerry Hoare give this volume in the series an added richness and cohesiveness. So glad I bought this!

What I DNFed:

What She Ate - Laura Shapiro. Nonfiction. This was such a clever idea, combining women's lives with the food they ate, but it just didn't come together for me. I read three out of the six profiles: Dorothy Wordsworth, Helen Gurley Brown, and Barbara Pym. I struggled to the finish with Pym, and decided to take What She Ate off the table. I like the concept and can't stop thinking about it. I wonder if there is some way someone else could give this idea a try.

What I'm reading:

American Cheese - Joe Berkowitz. Nonfiction. I'm not very far along yet, but enjoying every cheese-filled reference. Joe B. has just had his Eureka! moment at the fancy cheese-tasting, and now he's branched out into making his own cheese at home with mixed results: So-so, needs improvement and distinctly horrible. He's also sampling the best and building his "cheese memory palace" cube by savory cube. I'm relating to this book remarkably well, considering that my own cheese tastes are beyond unsophisticated and I've only been in one cheese shop in my entire life. This was in The Netherlands in the 1970s, and my parents sampled several cheeses before coming out of there with a small wheel of I know not what, but remember that it was unpleasantly pungent and we ate it for months. Anyway, can't wait to take another bite out of American Cheese.

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver. Novel. This book may turn out to be my favorite read for 2021. I love the panorama of disparate settings in the United States and Mexico and I'm in awe of how Kingsolver wove together a story that encompasses world events stretching from the 1920s revolution in Mexico to hideous McCarthyism in the 40s and 50s. Like Zelig, Kingsolver's main character, Harrison Shepherd is a witness to all of it. I'm also fascinated by her creation-within-a-creation -- Shepherd's historical fiction novels, set in long-ago Mexico. Her "book reviews" of his work are so convincing, I found myself wanting to put them on my wishlist. As I mentioned above, Frida Kahlo features prominently in The Lacuna, and she does something so memorable and heroic for Shepherd and his art while he appears to be doing the same for her and her art, that when it was revealed, I nearly burst into happy tears while driving down the road. I'm not finished with The Lacuna yet, and I'm not sure I want to be.

Warhol - Blake Gopnik. Biography. Not going to lie; this one is hard going. Gopnik did an incredible amount of research -- so much so that his end notes couldn't be published in the print volume because it would tack on hundreds of more pages to this already hefty tome. He seems determined not to let any of the research go to waste, jam-packing tangents, incidentals, and minute details into the story of Warhol's life. There is also a fair amount of speculation about Andy Warhol's inner psyche followed with sensible realizations that there is always going to be a barrier that even the most thorough biographer can never cross. For even the most devoted to biography fans, all of this is daunting.  I'm not giving up, though!

What I Want To Read (And Watch!):

Billy Summers - Stephen King. Novel. I'm hoping to audiobook this one.

I am so so late to the party, but after reading Mindy Kaling's book Why Not Me? last month, I finally became interested in watching The Office. One night after work, I found it on Comedy Central. The network typically runs shows all evening until ten o'clock. The first couple of episodes I watched didn't thrill me. Then, in the middle of a season 3 episode, Jim pranks Andy by hiding his phone (with its annoying ringtone of Andy's a cappella rendition of Rockin' Robin) in the ceiling, and it hit me. Now I love the show, and have been sporadically working my way through the series. At some point, I'll go back and start at the beginning. The Spawn found a library book about The Office in our local library system and it's on the way, so I'm eager to read it. My thoughts so far: The Jim and Pam romance doesn't really interest me, although I like both characters individually, especially Jim's never-ending arsenal of workplace pranks. I'm drawn to Dwight, Andy, Michael, Kelly, Meredith, Stanley, Phyllis, Oscar, Kevin, and the HR guy, Toby. Oh, and Angela, the crazy cat person. As for Ryan, played by B.J. Novak -- not sure about him yet.

 I could go on, but I really need to click this post into existence, warts and all.