Lent Reads #6 and 7 or the Day my Coffee Looked like a Pink Fish

I’m rusty this morning. It’s been a long two weeks with hard days but many fun things. Work that put writing off, so I grabbed a book as often as I could.

I reread To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, I hadn’t since university. It amazed me (shouldn’t have) how relatable it was, how it’s themes are prevalent in so many books not to mention what I’m writing now. Women and what they have and what they want and when guilt and ambition that mash up against each other. The night when Mrs Ramsay wants so much to go to the beach with the younger people but feels torn and ends up staying home because she feels she should. I wanted her to go. I wanted Lily to paint more and not worry about Mr Ramsay. There is so much there and my thoughts are still whirling.

I’m also still recovering from not enough sleep; turning the clocks back but more from staying up way too late to watch the Grammy’s with Rory (totally worth it, they were amazing!), and then another really bad sleep. But the days are longer and it’s Spring and I choose to fully accept what that means. High temperatures and the possibility of snow in a month. New rainboots and chilly walks in my forest and having to juggle mitts and the dog leash to get at the mini eggs I hid in my coat pocket. It means perfect sun in the kitchen while we make dinner and being surprised when it’s already 8pm even though it’s still light outside. It means bursts of energy and making plans that might not come to fruition. This year is means signing up for Mama Earth Organics to deliver to our door every Wednesday, something I’ve been meaning to set up for years. Spring, so far this years, has so many thoughts of ‘has it really been a year.”

But it means time is passing and bringing us closer to vaccines and family visits and school in person! It means the latest and last Trickster book is out and that the new Lane Winslow will be out soon! It means for a few hours a week I open a window and will soon put the flannel sheets away. It means tomorrow we get to celebrate another anniversary of when we got together – this years it’s 23 pink fish for us. It means radlers and lighter blankets and finales of our favourite shows and thoughts of new fun takeout and ice cream. It means making plans, but taking things slow because that’s what we need and that’s always ok. For me, it’s going to be about finding a good balance between the guilt (worry) and reasonable ambition to get to my own lighthouse, as much writing as I can do in the upcoming months.

Lent Read #5

Oh the day last week when I read the short story Vittorio by Shirley Hazzard! There was no covid, no distance learning, no thoughts about what to have for dinner. Just me on a terrace somewhere in Italy in the sun, perhaps smoking my first cigarette.

I was watching an online event last week with Lily King and Ann Patchett and they reminded me of everything I love about books – talking about them! They got so excited getting to share their favourites titles with each other, and that’s when they started talking about Shirley Hazzard who I’ll admit, I didn’t know. Lily keeps Hazzard’s Evening of the Holiday on her desk at all times and when she squealed and held it up to show Ann and hugged it to her face, I immediately put in an order for it at my book store. Then Ann got so excited and talked about her favourite, The Great Fire with such joy that now I have it out from the library along with a gorgeous new collection of Hazzard’s short stories with an introduction by Zoe Heller. I am working my way through them and each time I open the covers it’s like sunshine pouring out from within. The details, the dialogue, the descriptions of Italy and spring in England make winter and everything else right now melt away. Her characters, the unspoken drama she leaves to be interpreted by the reader! Talk about spring fever!

It’s so wonderful to be reminded that lovely surprises can still happen at any minute.

Best Book Club (Lent Read #4)

Lily King’s The English Teacher has strong Olive Kitteridge vibes.

I’m deep into Lily King’s backlist. Now that my back is better, I’m not reading and quite the rate I was when I spent the day in bed. We are in a lovely routine right now with every one working on school the first half of the day while I’m writing. Lily King’s books are gorgeous and exactly the books I need to remind me why I love reading and writing so much.

One of the highlights of every day is still talking to my Nana. I’d recently sent her a picture of my new little office, beside my bookshelves in front of a sunny window. Her reaction was “how many books do you have!?” and she said she loved seeing that picture because it made her realize how I’m still the same kid she used to take to the library and the bookstore and we’d spend hours picking out the perfect thing to read next.

Our conversation took off and we talked about how, like so many woman my age, read Flowers in the Attic too soon. She told me she secretly read it while I was which I didn’t know and made us laugh. We talked about Judy Blume and how Blubber had made me cry because I hated how much the main character was teased. We talked about how it couldn’t be possible that Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret? is now more than 50 years old and that we want to read it again.

We talked about the gaps in our reading that we want to fill. Agatha Christie and more Jane Austen. She wants to read Jane Eyre. She told me that when she worked at the Whitby Public Library, despite the author being from Whitby, it took years for staff to order Dixon’s Hardy Boys or Keene’s Nancy Drew series because they were so badly written. Nana had to fight for finally get them on the shelves.

She told me – and I loved this – that when she moved to the new library – the library that is now the Whitby library – they had their first Young Adult display. She turns 94 next week and I’m going to buy her Gabrielle Moss’ Paperback Crush, as is described on the front as “the totally radical history of ’80s and ’90s teen fiction. I love my copy and it’ll be great to go through the pages and titles together during over calls and see which covers and authors she remembers. What stories they bring up.

We talked last night about how she was always tripping over me during my Harriet the Spy phase (which I like to think has never ended) and how she always knew by a certain joyful laugh that I was reading Anastasia Krupnik. We talked about my love of stories that took place in boarding schools and how my aunt in England would send my the Enid Byton Malory Towers series. How I would bawl over Jean Little’s sad stories of other kids with CP. It was the perfect sort of conversation you have when everything falls away and you’re flying, same feeling I get when I’m writing. It makes me so happy to be reminded that I have been so very lucky to have this consistent goodness in my life, books and writing, since I was so small. And that I get to share it all with her.

Lent Reads #3

Oh this book! This writer! I have her entire backlist on hold at the library. I am probably late to this party but I don’t care. This is the kind of reading I love.

I read Writers and Lovers when it came out last year and it was easily on my favourite of 2020. This one is so different – except for the love triangle – but also so, so good. I know, my book reviewing skills are rusty which is odd because this is a blog supposedly about things I read. I don’t care. Onward.

I’m trying to read as many books as possible during Lent. I took Instagram off my phone to read and write more. I miss it already but I’ll stick with the plan. I’ll start to read my fourth book today – New Book Day as well call is here, the day you are lucky enough to finish a book and start another. Such a good day.

I love books, like Euphoria, about women and science. I loved Ann Patchet’s State of Wonder (of which Euphoria is very reminiscent) and Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted. I loved Melissa Barbeau’s The Luminous Sea and Lauren Groff’s The Monster of Templeton and Chemistry by Weike Wang. The lives fighting to maintain their identify, their passion for their work often in danger of being sacrificed for the other part of their lives, loves, family. It’s the passion for their work that I love reading about, their tenacity, and why it’s so important to cling to – as if don’t already know.

**Added – The Signature of All Things buy Elizabeth Gilbert. I will forever love moss because of this book.