Nod to November

What happened in November? I finished physical therapy. But really, PT is not finished with me. I signed up for a 5k in order to keep the running alive. As soon as I did that I needed x-rays for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my hip and groin. Like stabbing, electrocuting pains. Diagnosis? More sclerosis and fusing. Yay, me! In defiance of that diagnosis I then signed up for a 21k. I am officially crazy.
Here are the books finished for the month of November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB/print)
  • The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Series continuations:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher (finally finished!)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel
  • I Will Bear Witness: the Nazi Years, 1942 – 1945 by Victor Klemperer

Early Review for LibraryThing: nothing. I jinxed myself by mentioning the book I was supposed to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived. So I never finished it. Ugh.


Gastronomical Me

Fisher, M.F.K. The Gastronomical Me. New York: North Point Press, 1989.

Reason read: November is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month.

This is a series of essays written about Fisher’s life between 1912 and 1941. She covers a wide range of topics; from the first time food became significant to her as a teenager in boarding school to her adventures as a newly married wife living in France. When she said goodbye to her Californian-American palate and encountered French cuisine it was like having an epiphany for Fisher. Her ears (and taste buds) were open to a whole new way of experiencing food and drink. Sprinkled throughout the stories are glimpses of Fisher’s personal history. Her relationship with sister Norah and brother David, the demise of her first marriage with Al, the slow death of her second love, Chexbres, and her awakening to a different culture in Mexico. At times I found Fisher’s language to be overly dramatic. I wondered if she spoke like that in real life.

Confessional: I found Fisher to be a bit snobbish. Every time she called someone stupid or simple for whatever reason, I cringed.

Quote I cared for, “Everyone knows, from books or experience, that living out of sight of any shore does rich and powerful things to humans (p 40).

Author fact: Fisher has written over thirty books. I have already read A Considerable Town for the Challenge and have two more to go. Another more basic piece of trivia is that M.F.K. stands for Mary Frances Kennedy.

Book trivia: Gastronomical Me has been called Fisher’s most autobiographical work and has been considered her best.

Nancy said: M.F.K. Fisher “expresses her love of good food and its importance in the lives of families and communities” (p 91).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).


November Pain

The running – oops – I mean the training is officially over. I don’t know where the run will go from here. I am toying with a 5k for Safe Passage next month. To hell with toys. I WILL run for Safe Passage next month! But really, I don’t even want to think about that right now since PT has ended. For now, I still have the books. The list is long because we aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving. Here’s to four days off with nothing to do but read, read, read. Here is what’s on tap for November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB) ~ in honor of November being the best time (supposedly) to visit India (AB / print). Confessional: I think I would like to remove the category of “Best time to visit fill-in-the-blank.” How am I to know when is the best time to visit a country when I have never been there myself? I’m getting a little tired of saying “supposedly” the best time to visit.
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay ~ in honor of Kay’s birth month
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem ~ in honor of Lebanon gaining independence in November

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K.  Fisher ~ to recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month

Series Continuation:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher ~ to continue (and finally finish) the series started in August in honor of Idaho
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents month
  • I Will Bear Witness/To the Bitter End by Victor Klemperer ~ to continue the series started in October in honor of Klemperer’s birth month
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel ~ yes, I am still reading this. Just tying up loose ends.

Early Review for LibraryThing IF it arrives (so far it hasn’t):

  • Jam Today: a Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got by Tod Davies

If there is time:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love (fiction) by Michael Malone ~ in honor of Malone’s birth month
  • The Edge of the Crazies (fiction) by Jamie Harrison ~ in honor of Montana becoming a state in November.
  • The Caliph’s House (fiction) by Tahir Shah ~ in honor of November being the month Morocco gained independence.

 


A Fresh Start for June

May is ending with disappointment. The caboose of the story (instead of the whole train) is that due to work obligations Kisa & I were not able to make it to Maine for a long weekend over the holiday. As a result I had to burn two vacation days at home. June will be a better month. But, to be fair – May wasn’t so shabby for books:

  • Brilliant Orange by David Winner
  • Bold Spirit by Linda Hunt
  • Jordan by E. Borgia
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn
  • Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher
  • All the Rage by Martin Moran (ER)

ADDED:

  • Arab and Jew by David Shipler
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by  David Chbosky

DNF:

  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

For JUNE, here are the books & why:

  1. Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada by Zoe Valdes in honor of Caribbean Heritage Month
  2. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill to continue the series started in May
  3. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich in honor of her birth month
  4. The Millstone by Margaret Drabble in honor of family month
  5. A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan in honor of World War II (D-Day)

June is National Short Story Month:

  • from Birds of America by Lorrie Moore:
    • Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
    • People Like That are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk
  • from Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger:
    • The Orphan
    • Outside the Eastern Gate
  • from Nine Stories by JD Salinger:
    • A Perfect Day for a Bananafish
    • For Esme: with Love & Squalor

Two Towns in Provence

Fisher, MFK. Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Reason read: to finish the collection started in April in honor of Paris.

Two Towns in Provence contains two shorter geographical portraits, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town. Confessional: I read them backwards: I thought Considerable Town was first until I received Two Towns in Provence.
There is no doubt a love-hate story within the pages of Two Towns. Fisher’s connection to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille couldn’t be clearer. In Map of Another Town Fisher focuses on Aix-en-Provence, France’s capital. Her stories weave around her time bringing up two small daughters, renting an apartment, and observing people and their culture. She spends a fair amount of time having imaginary exchanges with the locals. Most striking were the lessons on society and class: no matter the level of distress a person should not accept help from someone of a lower class and getting a child vaccinated was a process.

Quotes I’d like to quote, “It pressed upon my skin like the cold body of someone unloved” (p 17), “I wrapped myself in my innocence” (p 125), and “He was a man of the same indescribably malnourished twisted non-age of all such physical jetsam being helped by government benevolence…” (p 200).

Author fact: Once I am attuned to a language I seem to latch onto it. Words like evil, dangerous, hell, shabby, grotesque, dirty, desolate…Fisher complains for a lot of Map of another Town. I don’t know what it was about her tone, but she came across as bitchy to me. Fisher seems uncomfortable with the sick or elderly, always hurrying away from the dying. She seems easily annoyed by those around her.

Book trivia: Map of Another Town has wonderful illustrations by Barbara Westman. In the midst of this coloring craze, I could see someone filling in the black and white drawings with a little color.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 187).


May I Read

I never recapped April nor predicted May. For the first time ever, April books are still being read. To be fair, the Lyndon Johnson series started in February so technically these leftovers are not specific either April nor May.

April was an oddball month in that my reading was all on the fly. I trained for another half marathon and that took a lot of my time. Not nearly as much as the full mara, but still…

Here are the Challenge books finished in April:

  • King Lear – Shakespeare (not scheduled)
  • Guernica – Van Hensbergen (not scheduled)
  • Grand Tour – Tim Moore
  • Green Thoughts – Eleanor Perenyi
  • Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot
  • Considerable Town – M F K Fisher
  • Don’t Eat This Book – Morgan Spurlock

Here are the just for fun books:

  • Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
  • Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (not scheduled)

Here’s what on tap for May:

For the Early Review program through LibraryThing:

  • All the Rage by Martin Moran

To celebrate May:

  • Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner ~ in honor of the tulip festival in Holland
  • Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt ~ in honor of Just ‘Cause and their 60-mile walk (although this year it’s in June).
  • Jordan: Past & Present: Petra, Jerash & Amman by E. Borgia ~ in honor of Jordan gaining independence in the month of May
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn ~ in honor of Russia’s Victory Day (may 9th, 1945)
  • Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill ~ to celebrate Laos Rocket Day (already read – this took me less than a day)
  • Chosen, the by Chaim Potok ~ in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (AB – already read)
  • Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher ~ to finished the Two Towns book started in April
  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro ~ to finished the series started in February in honor of Presidents’ Day.

Considerable Town

Fisher, M.F.K. A Considerable Town. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.

Reason read: Dual reasons: April is food month and Fisher is a food writer. Also, does anyone know the song, April in Paris? Need I say more?

The first thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that it is not a travel or guide book. The first time Fisher visited Marseille the year was 1929. She is back again…only it’s 1976 (yes, you read that right). A Considerable Town was published in the same year but is full of observations of a city Fisher had obviously fallen in love with. Reading this in 2016, some sixty years later, felt a little dated and left me wondering how much, or how little, Marseille had changed in all that time. Fisher noted changes between her 1929 and 1976 visits.
The other thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that Fisher takes you on a journey that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Her observations of people, places and events bring Marseille alive so much so that she accomplishes the opposite of a tour/guide book. Instead of preparing the reader to visit the region, she makes the reader feel as though he or she has already been there.
Probably the most touching part of A Considerable Town was towards the end when Fisher is trying to make her two young daughters feel at “home” in Marseille at Christmas time. Decorating the tree was especially poignant.

Quotes to quote, “During the market hours there, men sold their catches too, but it was the women who dominated, at least in decibels” (p 67), “Sobriety is a rare and dubious virtue, if that at all, with people under heavy stress like cabbies, cooks, and even politicians” (p 115) and “Every kitchen and winery has its own share of idiots, rascals and wretches” (p 120).

Author fact: Fisher spent some time at the University of Dijon in France.

Book trivia: A Considerable Town and Map of Another Town make up Two Towns in Provence. Don’t be disappointed but there are no pictures of Marseille in A Considerable Town.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Florence and the South of France” (p 187).