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!


Jeane said...

Glad to hear your eye is somewhat better. And that your bookstore is still there! I have to drive a bit for a bookstore- there's a new one fifteen minutes one direction, and a very nice used one twenty minutes the other way- both in different towns. Not far, but far enough that I don't go often. I recall once visiting folks in another state and went to a wonderful bookstore and wish I'd bought more books- found out as I was leaving they were all discounted because the store was closing. Owner was very elderly, and couldn't find anyone to buy the business. He asked me to come shop again before they shut for good- but it would have been an eight hour drive to do so!

I ought to read me some more David Sedaris. Although sometimes his humor doesn't sit well with me, other times it cracks me up. I don't know if it's the book, or my mood hasn't matched in the moment.

raidergirl3 said...

I loved that the worst thing Ron could tell about himself was that he dreamed he took cocaine. Just dreamed it, lol. Great read and family!
It reminded me a bit of Alex trebek’s book- so much is attitude and not wallowing. Ron Howard had the same positive attitude.

Bybee said...

I know what you mean about David Sedaris. Since he travels so much, he's dealing with people who work with the public, and sometimes he comes off as spoiled and entitled. But just as my hackles start to rise, he does or says something to indicate that he knows he's being a jerk, and then I'm laughing and shaking my head again.

I loved Alex Trebek's memoir! That's a good comparison with The Boys.