Monday, November 24, 2014

Before There Were Owls, There Were Whales and Trolls (On Justin Hocking, David Sedaris, and Ann Patchett)

If you think I left the house last week, you'd be mistaken.  It snowed for days.  Our gutters dripped rich crystalline icicles.  (It must have looked great because the local news filmed our yard one morning).  I made soup and cinnamon rolls and one little sweet potato that my daughter devoured.  Then I did what I've been doing for months now: I went to church in the spines of my books. 

With that, I give you the program you've all been waiting for: Kara's Book Talk!  For this program it's best to picture me holding a microphone and a coffee cup, hair in an effortlessly chic, messy tumbles.  Whatever you do, absolutely do not pan down to the slippers on my feet or the snoozing child in the swing behind me.  

All right, let's get started.  Up first:

1. The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld

I cannot recommend enough Justin Hocking's glorious memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld. From its whale-laden cover (that shimmers in the glow of a headlamp if you read it in the dark) to its stories of geography, surfing, recovery, Moby Dick addiction, New York City, friendship, and everything in between, I was in heaven on almost every single page.  The writing is electric, the focus is roving, the narration both grounded and mystical.  Plus, parts of it take place in the place in Colorado from which we just moved.  What are the chances?!  Reading scenes in our previous Mexican restaurant was pretty fun - although it wasn't our preferred restaurant.  I would like to shake the hand of any writer who sets stories in our favorite Mexican place, as it was pretty authentic.  The Virgen de Guadalupe was draped in Christmas lights all year long, if you know what I mean. 

To which I say, yes please.  

2. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

I haven't actually read this David Sedaris book but we went to hear him read this fall, and by "we" I mean Samantha included, despite the aggressive disapproval of one troll-like usher who did everything she could to discourage us.  When, at the program's close, I unearthed a rosy-cheeked, milk-sated infant, everyone seated around us said, "A baby!  I had no idea..." 

Thank you, thank you very much!  For my next trick, I give you...actually, I haven't come up with my next baby trick yet.

All I could think as I listened to Mr. Sedaris and laughed until my face hurt was, What a freaking pro.  It was a treat, a treat!, to watch this man perform.  There was a petite awkward moment when he extolled the virtues of Ann Patchett's collection of essays This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and dissected his favorite piece in the book.  On the other hand, it was fun to hear his thoughts as a writer, to hear his thoughts as a fan.  In fact, so much of his performance was an education in the choices a writer makes. 

3. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Ann Patchett's book has been out for a year now and I liked it for all the reasons I like Ann Patchett: her discipline, her belief in art, her dogged commitment to writing.  In an interview I read online (it might be this one with Elizabeth McCracken? I read the interview long ago, when Samantha was weeks old.  I was probably on Percocet.  How could I possibly be asked to remember the source?), Ms. Patchett talked about how she is a plot-driven, not language-driven, writer and this is my main complaint with the book.  However, her ideas are large and she wrestles them with humor and self-deprecation.  She makes me envious - always a good sign - and I am still thinking about her essay about trying out for the LAPD, a year after reading it, which is no easy feat.  

In a case of I don't know what - it's not exactly life imitating art or maybe it is - Tim and I both checked out copies of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage at the same time when it came out (library geeks!) and brought them on a weekend getaway when I was pregnant.  Gag me with a friggin spoon, we spent a night curled up reading our twin copies on a condo sofa, in between excursions into Rocky Mountain National Park for failed moose hunts.  (We hunt with binoculars, fyi, in case you were alarmed or suddenly felt you never knew me.)

Well, that's a wrap for Kara's Book Talk this month!  (Camera drifts to empty milk glass, tangle of modem cords next to sofa, a glaring yellow cover of The Real Mother Goose.)  Oh and, talk to me in Spring 2015 but I love all this snow.  If anyone has job connections in Alaska, please send them my way, as well as favorite recipes for brie.  I bought a little wheel on a whim this week and want to consume it festively.  In that case, maybe I'll just drape it in white lights and mount an effigy of it by our front door? 

Our Marge Simpson post
Finally, my friend Amelia Morris' book, Bon Appetempt: A Coming of Age Story (with Recipes), is available for pre-order.  I absolutely cannot wait for this book to come out!  I tested a couple of the recipes in it and gobbled up the results as well as some sample prose I had the utter privilege of previewing.
And my very talented friend Corinne Manning has launched a literary magazine called The James Franco Review.  Check it out!  I particularly recommend the FAQ page. While the logo does include a deliciously arch black mustache, the project is as real as can be.  If its mission calls to you, go for it and submit your very open-hearted best.   

Happy Thanksgiving!