Nearly three seasons have turned since I last sat here, in the mid-morning light, completing a post. I can easily blame this lapse on real life getting in the way… because it certainly did. But daily life has been more or less normal for months now, and still I’ve barely tried to write. Or even to read the blogs I love to follow. The hurdles just seemed too high.
I’ve gone back to writer Anne LaMott’s sage counsel—“bird by bird”—over and over again in my head. For a writer, that means one word at a time. No luck. I’ve accused myself of laziness. I’ve sulked. I’ve insisted I had nothing to write about. We hadn’t gone anywhere, we hadn’t done anything (thank you, COVID, and other intervening variables). I love to write about food and cooking but, despite a near obsession with cooking videos during the lockdown months, the bloom was off the rose. For a significant chunk of this year, I wasn’t even reading. Thankfully, just as the roses began to bloom, I got over that hurdle—see a few recommendations below.
Eventually, I realized that my head needed some house cleaning, and I’ve been working on that. The “plate of worries,” as Hubby and I once christened it, remains full, for now (and maybe beyond, real life being what it is), but at least some light is getting in. (Thank you, Leonard Cohen.) And here I am, writing. Early days, for sure.
Now that I’ve kinda/sorta explained the black hole, time to get on with it. I owe you a book update. My absolute favorite read of the last few months was Adriana Trigiani’s The Good Left Undone, a truly beautiful story (rooted in truth, as all of hers are) set in Italy and Scotland before, during, and after World War II. If you read my previous post, Adriana Trigiani’s Italian-Americans, you know how much I admire Adriana, and how important I believe her chronicles of the Italian immigrant experience are. She tells stories that would otherwise have disappeared. But beyond the superb storytelling, her books always have a beautifully turned out redemptive element. The Good Left Undone is truly among her best, and it was fascinating to learn about the Italians who settled in Scotland—a chapter in our shared history that was entirely new to me. Interesting note: a friend and I were lucky enough to see Adriana in May, when she was on tour, and a woman of Scottish-Italian heritage was in the audience. I can barely imagine what this book meant to her.
Another novel I really enjoyed was Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Comic relief is a good thing, but this book isn’t just funny—it’s a very well crafted debut novel with a very clear point of view. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single misstep.
My nonfiction favorite was The Olive Route, by Carole Drinkwater. Carole was an actress perhaps best remembered as Helen in the original All Creatures Great and Small. She later moved to Provence, where she became an olivier and launched a second prolific career as a writer. The Olive Route is a chronicle of her solo, and often daring, journey along that 2200 mile route, with brilliant glimpses into the ancient civilizations for which the olive and its light-giving oil were priceless treasures.
Quick video update: Please don’t miss Darby and Joan on Acorn. If you remember Bryan Brown in The Thorn Birds, or Greta Scacchi, in Room with a View, they’re every bit as marvelous now as ever. And don’t forget that the third season of Somebody Feed Phil–easily the best show on Netflix and, in fact, the only reason I subscribe—is coming in October. That show literally oozes hope, joy, and good humor. Phil Rosenthal, if you happen to be listening, you are the very, very best.
I’m going to wrap this now, and call it a post. This was a good hurdle to climb.