I grew up on my mother's family farm in Guilford, Connecticut. I have fond memories of rushing to the breakfast table to pour the cream off the top of the milk and into my cheerios. Most of what we ate came from what we grew or raised or what we bought from the neighboring dairy farm. We typically sold the best cuts of meat, so our freezer was full of tongue, liver, horse meat and other bits-and-pieces that you'd probably rather not think about. My father's family was from Brooklyn, and my great-uncle served in the OSS with Julia Child. My grandmother loved foods with butter, sherry and spices she brought home from her travels. Is it any wonder food made such an impression on me?
“She was twelve and a half in actual years, which is eighty-seven in dog years .”
Reading Steven Rowley’s debut novel, Lily and the Octopus, was an emotional experience. I started out a skeptic, then fell in love with the story of Lily, a twelve-year-old dachshund, and her neurotic and endearing human, Ted, before rolling my eyes and, finally, dissolving into tears and forcing my cat to endure an extra long snuggle.
“It was only then, raising my water glass in his name, that I knew what it meant to miss someone who was so many miles and hours away, just as he had missed his wife and daughters for so many months.”
Published in 1999, Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Winner of both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, I picked up a copy several years ago. It promptly took up residence on the pile of books by my bed and stayed there. Had friends not recommended it as part of my endeavor to read and write a review of thirty books in 2018, it would probably still be on the pile of good intentions.
“[A]s adults, we have come to see that her autobiographical novels were not only fictionalized but brilliantly edited, in a profound act of American myth-making and self-transformation.”
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is the fascinating and sometimes frustrating biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and, in almost equal measure, her daughter, Rose Lane Wilder. Written by Caroline Fraser, editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, it is meticulously researched.
“There are certain words that draw back, that refuse to be uttered, because they are too laden with significance for our word-weary ears.”
Every once in a while, you read a book that stirs your imagination long after you read the last line. Skylight by José Saramago, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is one of those books. The story is not complicated; in fact, the plot is rather weak. It is, instead, a series of intricate character studies. The nuanced portrayals of ordinary people engaged in mundane tasks—such as darning socks or sewing buttonholes into a shirt—is breathtaking.
“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.”
The books we hold dear shape and define us. They provide us with different perspectives and put events in our lives into a larger context. Some books are like acquaintances, and the moments we share add an almost imperceptible layer to who we are. Other books are dear friends we visit time and time again. These books shape us in a deeper and more sustained way. Still other books are great social engineers, introducing us to people whose response to the book was similar to or vastly different from our own.
"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."
These days, the dust of everyday life accumulates quickly. Hatred, bigotry, racism and misogyny are no longer lurking in the shadows but are on public display, buoyed by an administration that has embraced the ideology of white supremacy.
To counteract the negative effect of this constant bombardment, my friend Anulfo Baez launched the #museumswithanulfo project. Each week, he visits a museum with a friend to talk about art, life and how to move forward.
I love good writing, especially when it focuses on New England's food, art and culture. So when I first heard about Take Magazine, and flipped through its glossy, well-designed pages, I fell hard and fast. The publication is beautifully done. The photography is breathtaking and the writing is superb.
But they don't deserve my patronage.
I grew up playing with frogs, chasing after salamanders, building hay forts and riding on the tractor with my grandfather as we collected sap to make maple syrup. I wore dungarees, played sports and knew how to clean the scales off a freshly caught fish. I could throw a bale of hay almost as far as my cousin. And I understood the entire process whereby the cute baby farm animals would become ingredients for my dinner.
In short, I was a tomboy.