counter on blogger

Pickle Me This

November 24, 2017

Feather, by Remy Courgeon

So I’m not exactly blazing a trail here, singing the praises of Feather, by Remi Bourgeon, which is included on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017 list, but it’s a book we’ve been falling in love with more and more every time we read it.

It’s an incredible exercise in minimalism, an entire novel so perfectly condensed into a few hundred works. Paulina is growing up in France, child of a Russian father who works all night driving taxis. Her mother, the reader assumes, has died, leaving Paulina the only girl in a household with three older brothers. She’s not just the youngest, but she is also the smallest—they’ve nicknamed her “Feather”—and when they end up fighting over household chores, she always loses, and ends up having to cook and do the laundry and she’s left with no time for her favourite occupation: playing the piano.

One day, after getting punched in the face and sporting a mean black eye, Feather announces that she’s quitting piano to take up boxing. No one can get her to change her mind, and she’s just as determined in her training as a fighter. Courgeon’s illustrations are fantastic, full of detail and action, and are so excellently married with the text in that the first letter of the first word on every pages is also a picture: see the L as the flexed arm below, the T in the t-shirt above, a J that is a cat’s tail dangling from the top of the piano, and an S that is a skipping rope. (And credit to translator Claudia Zoe Bedrick for making this work in English!)

As Feather devotes herself to training, her brothers are forced to take on a greater load of the household chores, but mostly just because Feather starts winning the fights over who has to do them. “Feather’s killer left gave her confidence. She even called Ivan ‘Blimp’ once. She had to run for it, but running was part of her training, after all.”

Before every match, Feather gets ready by reciting “the names of women who had bravely made a place for themselves in the world: Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Nellie Bly, Anna Lee Fisher, Sally Ride… She always ended with Nina Simone, because she had played the piano too.”

The book’s climax is the moment before the big fight, when Feather discovers notes from her brothers and her father hidden in her boxing glove, cheering her own. Her father has left a photo of her mother with a note on the back: “We’re with you, Paulina! Love, Dad.”

She wins, of course. You knew she would. And things do change around their house—she’s learned the respect of her rough and tumble older brothers But the surprising twist in the story is that she gives up boxing after that, and goes back to piano. “Fists should be opened and fingers should fly,” she explains, the last illustration showing a grownup Paulina playing piano with a baby on her lap and a boxing trophy on display.

The book’s final image is a boxing glove in the endpapers being used as a vase for flowers, and I love that idea. This is a fantastic book with a strong feminist message, but like all the best feminist things that message is not singular. This is a fun engaging book first and foremost, but it will also leave its reader with questions and things to think about, and a million other reasons to reopen the book and start reading gain.

November 23, 2017

Mitzi Bytes in the World—and under the Christmas Tree

For a person whose book came out a whole season ago, I had a pretty busy fall doing bookish things, and I realized I’d forgotten a few of these here. The first was my event at Word on the Street in September, which was a day so overwhelmed with exciting things that I kind of lost my mind, but still. I did a fantastic event on literary outcasts with Jonny Sun and Shawn Hitchens, and our tent was packed and I had the very best time.

And in October, we had the most glorious weekend away in Stratford, taking in the goodness of that wonderful town and a showing of Treasure Island—but the whole reason we were there at all was for the Stratford Writers’ Festival. I arrive on Saturday morning and did my blogging workshop for a fantastic group of people at the library.

And then later that day I got to be on a panel on feminism with Scaachi Koul, which was hilarious and invigorating, and she was lovely and exactly as smart and biting as she in her book. It was a great conversation, and it was very cool to see Mitzi Bytes discussed in the context of Koul’s work and her book, and how both books informed each other. It was such an honour and a pleasure to take part in this event.

And I finally, I really think that Mitzi Bytes would make an amazing holiday gift for all your loved ones. (Of course I do!) If you’re going to be giving Mitzi Bytes for Christmas, drop me an email at kerryclare AT gmail DOT com and I will mail you Mitzi Bytes bookplates personally autographed to your gift’s recipient. Because books always make the best gifts and they don’t even require batteries.

November 22, 2017

The books I didn’t read

Last month I wrote a post called “Where do my books come from?”, whose title was pretty self-explanatory. And I am curious to explore the ideas within it further, beyond the wheres of my book choices to the whys. That I read Guidebook to Relative Strangers because two friends (one online, one in the park) had recommended it to me in the same week; I read My Conversations With Canadians after seeing Lee Maracle speak at Word on the Street. But before I get to the whys, I want to finally write down a post that’s been on my mind for awhile, a post about the books I didn’t read. Which requires me to underline again that I receive books in the post almost every day of the week from publishers, in addition to the considerable number of books I purchase from bookstores, meaning there are always inevitably going to be books I didn’t read. Some will filtered out by my own biases: books about inspirational dogs, YA books about dragons, middle grade and YA books in general (though there are exceptions), books without women in them, books about regional politics, and books about academic theory, and paranormal erotica.

It’s not so much that there is anything wrong with these books or these genres per se, it’s just that I have so many other books to read and if I’m going to have dismiss some it makes sense to dismiss the ones that don’t interest me. If I were paid to read widely, then one might argue I have an obligation to explore all the literary avenues, but this is my blog and anyone who comes here arrives expecting to read about the books I want to read, not the books I’ve read by obligation. And yes, I know I will indeed miss out on some wonderful books by dismissing many so categorically—but the sad fact of the matter that I’m still coming to terms with is that I can’t read all the books in the world I want to read, so I’m hardly going to worry about the ones that I don’t.

Which is not to say that I’m not obligated to expand my horizons, of course, or to look critically at the limits of my reading experience. Once upon a time, ages and ages ago, I realized I was missing out on books published by small independent publishers, and for a while especially sought these out—but then very soon after I didn’t have to do the seeking because the whole thing had become habitual. Similarly, about five years ago it occurred to me that I was mostly only reading books by authors who were white. I was fortunate that I had this revelation at the same moment so many other people did, because suddenly there seemed to be a bigger spotlight on Indigenous writers and writers who were people of colour and I didn’t have to go out of my way to find these books.

And can I just mention that the reason I want to find these books is not out of some demonstration of virtue or social obligation, but because it’s kind of weird to live in a world populated by people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and realize that you mostly only read books by people who are white? Think of all the stories and voices you are missing. I don’t want to be that narrow as a reader. I also happen to find those stories and voices very interesting—and so these are the reasons by books by Indigenous writers and people of colour are less likely to be the books I didn’t read.

On the other hand, I don’t tend to read books by men. I have to be very diplomatic about this. I have to be diplomatic about this because someone I know recently posted such a statement on Facebook, to which someone respond with an angry tirade they then deleted and then they unfriended her. Clearly, this is a sensitive issue. And I address this by stating that I have piles and piles of books to be read, and it’s not that I don’t want to read the books by men but that I want to read the books by women first (because I find them more interesting) and if I’m ever through with the books by women I’ll get to the men books—but this hasn’t happened yet.

Also, the other night I was posting flippant tweets about reading books by men, and then later I considered the authors whose works my tweets were dismissing and I felt a bit guilty for potentially hurting their feelings. AND THEN. And then it occurred to me that (I am quite sure) not a single one of these authors felt obligated to read my book (if you are a man and you read my book, I know exactly who you are and I am really grateful to you, and I can also count the number of you on my fingers) so I stopped feeling guilty after that.

So just say you are a woman, or a Black man, and/or you’ve written a book that’s not about an inspirational dog, which is to say that you’ve just made it into my sacred reading lair—what might compel me to stop reading your book once I’ve bothered to stop reading? Bad typesetting, for sure. A hideous cover—book design is important. Typos. Allusions to an artist or philosopher I’ve never heard of is another—I really just don’t want to read the book you’ve written imagining 19th century polemicist Tomas Niskanovich Pornakarsky as a squeegee kid on the streets of Saskatoon. Once a few years ago I stopped reading a novel on Page 7 because the main character noted that he’d begun to find older women attractive and subsequently became overwhelmed by feelings of dread (which is another reason I don’t tend to read books by men, by the way).

Two weeks ago, I stopped reading a novel because it was 500 pages long, all the women characters were ethereal, and I hated the book more and more with every paragraph—and I’d already read to page 200. It was a novel that was desperately trying to be Fates and Furies, which I must admit was also a novel that tested my patience as a reader, but I had such confidence in its author that I persisted. Not so much with its derivative.

Often I put down a book determining, “It’s just not for me.” This, honestly, is not the same thing as determining, “This novel is a piece of garbage” (which, of course, is another reason I will put down a book, but wouldn’t you?). Sometimes I see the literary merit of a book but I’m just not very interested in the project. Can I bear to suffer through 300 pages of this? Possibly an inspirational dog has bounded in on page 27, catching me unaware. Maybe there is also a child narrator, which I have a really hard time with. Or the book is written as a series of paragraph-long chapter vignettes, and I decided I’m going to have as much trouble focussing as the book’s author apparently did.

My terrible confession is this: there is an incredible correlation between the books I’ve started reading and abandoned for being not for me (or never bothered to pick up at all) and books that have gone on to be nominated for all the major literary prizes in Canada. I might have the very worst literary instincts in this country.

I tend to put books down if they feature a character whose best friend has died of cancer and that death has inspired main character to change the way she lives her life, particularly if I happen to have picked up this book when I am in the waiting period for biopsy results. Along those lines, I have never read The Bear, by Claire Cameron, because it came out while I was pregnant with my second child and terrified I was going to die of thyroid cancer, and so the premise of a book about a child whose parents die at the very beginning was too terrifying for me to contemplate. I have also never read The Crooked Heart of Mercy, by Billie Livingston, because it’s about a family whose child dies, and I seem to have turned into the kind of person who kinds such narratives too hard to ponder—but I think I am going to read it at some point, because I’ve heard so many good things about it.

I almost didn’t read Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, because I’d had a lot of trouble with her first book and Station Eleven was post-apocalyptic—but then I ended up loving it. I didn’t read Truly Madly Guilty, by Lianne Moriarty, when it first crossed my path because I’d read a dismissive review of it and thought it wasn’t worth my time, but then I read Big Little Lies and realized that Lianne Moriarty was a genius. So I’m not saying my system is infallible, but the point is that I did find my way to these books eventually, and more often than not I think my instincts are right about the kinds of books that work for me, and so I trust them. And why not? It’s not like there’s ever been a shortage of books that I am totally in love with.

I kind of insist on my right to not like a book, to hate a book even. To be uninterested in a book, or dismiss it without having read it. Because life is too short and the books are too long. I think this insistence has helped to me as an author to process and even appreciate those readers (I believe there were three and a half of them—poor souls) for whom my book was not their cup of tea. There really are so many books out there, and I’m glad that readers are free to plot their own ways through them, to pick and choose based even on the most arbitrary things. This kind of freedom is what keeps life interesting, and enables literary conversations to mean something when they happen.

November 20, 2017

Shut up, shut up, shut up

I’ve been thinking a lot about interviewing lately, mostly because I’d like to get better at doing them. Mostly because if I get better at interviewing, the proportion of time I spend listening to my own voice and wanting to die while transcribing will decrease, which is always a good thing. And because there’s a lot about being a better interviewer that is synonymous with being a better person in general, an ongoing project of mine. Becoming a better interviewer means becoming the kind of person that people want to talk to, which is always useful kind of person to be at dinner parties and other social gatherings (or so I imagine).

Before an interview I did last month, I asked a group of writers for any interviewing wisdom they might want to impart, and I received some excellent advice, including to go over your interviews very critically and apply that feedback to do a better job next time, and I think it really worked for me, because I did another interview on Friday morning which I’m about to transcribe now and there is a possibility I won’t want to die once while listening to my recording of it. It helped that the person I was speaking to was utterly fascinating and generous with her thoughts and ideas, of course, but it also helps that I really worked to obey the voice in my head commanding me, Shut up shut up shut up.

I am a pretty good conversationalist. And I am a downright superb monologist, for that matter, but that is very different from being a good interviewer, a good listener. Part of the problem is that I have to fight my reflex to crack a joke every time one seems readily available. Which that is also called interrupting. You don’t have to be funny, was something else I was telling myself on Friday morning, and it kinds of goes against my religion.

Not all my interviewing downfalls are symptomatic of my character flaws, however. It occurred to me while I was shutting up on Friday morning how much I feel compelled to interrupt as a kind of affirmation, an act of empathy. To say, Me too. Me too. I know exactly, and then proceed along a tangent with an anecdote to demonstrate just how much I do. I think the motivation here is genuine kindness as much as it is self-absorption, but it’s also such a faulty communication mechanism. Empathy has its limits, it does. Because we can’t ever really know exactly what another person is going through, and to suggest we can instead of taking the time and effort to genuinely listen and learn is ultimately counter to the project—if the project is connection.

And the project should always be connection.

November 19, 2017

Baby Cakes, by Theo Heras and Renne Benoit

When Harriet was three-years-old, I read Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman, and loved it mostly because it affirmed all the things I already believed about raising children and therefore I got to feel sophisticated and European, which is always nice when you’re only Canadian. And what I remember mostly about the book, apart from the fact its author had previously published an article in Marie Claire about giving her husband a threesome for his fortieth birthday, was the chapter on baking, and the recipe for yogurt cake. (There was also a chapter on babies sleeping through the night. That chapter didn’t work for me.) French children, according to Pamela Druckerman, bake all the time, and thereby learn about fractions and chemistry, plus stirring and pouring and patience and not spilling things. All of which were things that I could get behind, and so we made that cake, and we made it over and over, in addition to so many other cakes we’ve baked in all the years since. And that I’ve still yet to lose the weight from my last pregnancy suggests Druckerman may have omitted an essential detail in her text, which is that French mothers possibly don’t eat the food their children bake. But then where’s the fun in that?

We have a photo of Harriet from the first time we baked together, sometime in the months before she turned two, and she’s standing on a chair wearing an apron and holding a wooden spoon, and I tweeted the photo with some kind of caption like, “Basically I only really had children in anticipation of this moment.” Because I also remember standing on chairs while wielding a wooden spoon, and have such visceral childhood memories of baking, and I wanted Harriet to have to her own. Plus I wanted cake, of course, and so we baked, but it wasn’t always easy. My frequent admonishments of, “Don’t put your hands in the flour,” “Don’t sneeze in the batter,” and “Goddamn it to hell, you’ve just poured vanilla all over the floor” usually went unheeded, and we began to consider a baking session successful if I’d kept my swear words to a minimum of three. Baking with kids was often not as fun as it was made out to be. But I persisted—in addition to math and chemistry, I told myself, my children were learning about human fallibility (mine!) and also expanding their vocabularies.

The very best thing about having children, however, (which is also the very worst thing) is that you basically get a new child every two weeks or so. Which is to say that everything changes, all the time, and the things that seemed impossible once upon a time eventually get to seem easy. Harriet sneezes in the batter hardly ever now, and when she and Iris sit down to baking they’re actually quite capable. And when I’d recently read Iris Baby Cakes, by Theo Heras and Renne Benoit, she’d declared, “That’s such a good book, Mommy.” Mostly because she’s obsessed with cupcakes, but still. Plus there was a recipe for cupcakes in the endpapers; I said, “We’ve got to make these.” And so on Saturday night, we did.

This book would make a great Christmas gift from 3-5-year-olds. With simple vocabulary, a brother and sister would together to make cupcakes (with the unhelpful assistance of their pet cat). The story lists the equipment necessary—”Here are a big bowl and measuring cups and spoons.”—and goes through the recipe, “Sprinkle salt, but not too much.” And “Creaming the butter is hard work.” And is it ever! The recipe inside makes for a nice extension of the book, bringing the story to life and inspiring the reader to  try something new. That the brother and sister in the story bake together without the help of grown-ups (except for with the oven) inspires independence. Plus, the cupcakes were delicious. Obviously, I ate one. Because I am not French.

November 15, 2017

In the middle of a reno

The novel as a house is one of my favourite metaphors, and one I’ve used often to explain my experience of working with editors—the way they can open a door and show you that your house has a whole wing you never knew. But right now as I’m at work on my new novel’s third draft, I’m thinking of the metaphor in another sense: I’m in the middle of a reno.

Chapter Two, and a lot of the furniture has been moved move out, put into storage (i.e. into a word doc on my desk top). And we’re knocking walls down, putting in windows and skylights—and basements, ever digging deeper. Raise high the roof beams, carpenters! I have actually, literally, installed a hearth. Lifting up the floorboards to see what’s underneath them, and inside the walls—all the parts of the structure that have been present all along, just waiting for me to find them. The process is fascinating, almost mathematical, the way all the pieces have to fit together, the necessary strength of the structure underlining it all. Knock, knock. Is there integrity? Is this a supporting wall? And if it isn’t, would it matter if we ripped the whole thing down?

There is also a dumpster on the lawn, for all the inevitable detritus. Delete, delete. All the lines I wrote in order to understand what I was thinking, but now that I know, I don’t need them anymore.

November 13, 2017

The Prisoner and the Chaplain, by Michelle Berry

An interesting thing was that I started reading Michelle Berry’s novel, The Prisoner and the Chaplain, on the night the clocks went back, which meant I ended up reading most of it on a day with an extra hour in it. The extra hour significant in light of the novel’s treatment of time, counting down the final twelve hours of a man’s life before his execution. Even for those of us for whom the future is not so limited, a twenty-five-hour day serves to underline how much every hour matters. And such a day is useful too, particularly when one is reading a novel as difficult to put down as this one is.

The novel begins as part philosophy—a treatise on faith, belief, on the nature of self—and part bildungsroman. There are two men in a room, a prisoner who has committed a heinous crime and the prison chaplain tasked with being with the prisoner in his final hours. The chaplain is young, inexperienced. He’s only there at all because his mentor has become ill and no one else can do it. And the chaplain wonders if even he can do it, if he’s up to the task, considering his inexperience and also the violence in his own past. What will these hours make of him?

The prisoner though, he just wants to talk. To tell the story of how he got from there to here, and he begins with his childhood, his mother’s abandonment, his brother’s violence, his father’s alcoholism, his sister’s descent into addiction. Petty thievery leads to larger crimes, one thing leading to another, this story told in chapters interspersed with those set in the present, which is ever encroaching upon their limited future. And here the chaplain reflects on his own violence, the events leading up to it. How is he different from this man before him, the chaplain wonders? Why is this man and not another the one who deserve to die?

It’s as intense as you’d expect, this story, the intensity growing stronger as the hours count down, as the prisoner gets closer and closer to revealing his crime. I read this novel right after Alison Pick’s Strangers With The Same Dream, which was similarly intense and had overlapping thematic concerns (certainty being one of them) and on Sunday night I had such a troubled sleep, and the next book I chose from my shelf after that would have to be a slim little volume called Calm Things. But still, it is a testament to the novel and a mark of its success that it’s just so unsettling. It’s not every book that creeps into your head like that, gets right into your dreams.

By its conclusion the novel has also become a thriller, and it’s here one sees the connections between The Prisoner and the Chaplain and Berry’s previous novel, Interference, which was similarly genre-blurring and feature and underlying current of violence, a sinister edge. Contributing to the unease of The Prisoner and the Chaplain is that the prisoner’s story never quite lines up with the one the chaplain knows is on the official record, although he’d been warned about this by the warden. That the prisoner would try to get under his skin, to get him onside. And is this what has happened when the hour for the execution is imminent and the chaplain is quite sure the prisoner didn’t actually commit the crime he’s being punished for? Or is this really the case of an innocent man who’s about to die?

The novel’s momentum starts strong and just keeps going and going, and then the ending packs a wallop. Make sure you set aside a good block hours before you start this book, because you’ll be needing every one of them.

November 10, 2017

Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things

Full disclosure necessitates I tell you that I had lunch with Sheree Fitch yesterday, although possibly I’m just telling you that because I’m still marvelling at the fact that I had lunch with Sheree Fitch yesterday. Sheree Fitch, whom we travelled to Nova  Scotia to see this summer on the day her seasonal bookshop opened. Sheree Fitch is the most extraordinarily generous brilliant person I’ve ever known, a woman whose books have been the framework of my life as a mother and remember when a tiny Harriet crashed the stage to read with her at Eden Mills years and years ago? Although I was one of hundreds upon hundreds of people who traveled to River John, Nova Scotia, to see Sheree Fitch this some, because she is the sort of person who inspires such a gesture.

Even fuller disclosure: Everything Sheree Fitch touches is more than a little bit magic.

Although in the case of her latest project, the anthology Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things: Atlantic Canadian Poetry and Verse for Children, co-edited with Anne Hunt, she’s not the only magic-maker. Credit belongs too to the designer of this gorgeous book whose cover art is absolutely enchanting, along with delightful leafy end pages, borders, and yellow ribbon to hold one’s place. And to her co-editor too, with whom Fitch has selected these works, and to the poets too, some of whom—Fitch herself, Jennifer McGrath, Kate Inglis, Al Pittman—I’m familiar with through their words for children, and others—Lynn Davies, Kathleen Winter, Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, E.J. Pratt, Alden Nowlan—I know if a very different context.

So how do you use a book like this, a pretty book with a ribbon, a book that isn’t a picture book because there aren’t any pictures? Which is to say, how does one awaken the magic within, the whispers of mermaids and wonderful things? And the answer, of course, is to read it. To take book off the shelf and leaf through at random, see where the pages fall open or where the poem catches your eye. To make a ritual of it, a poem before bed, perhaps, or first thing in the morning, like a vitamin. To revel in the words and rhymes, and share that wonder with the people around you. Let beginning readers have a chance to read these poems too, to experience the pleasure saying their phrases, how the words feel in their mouths.

This is a book that will make an extraordinary holiday present for (or from!) anyone with an affinity for words or poems, or an affiliation with Atlantic Canada. It’s such a beautiful object, a treasure, and then you open it up, and there are worlds upon worlds inside to explore.

November 7, 2017

Euclid’s Orchard, by Theresa Kishkan

One of my greatest claims to fame was that I once tied for second place in an essay contest with  Susan Olding—whose collection is the wondrous Pathologies: A Life in Essays—and that the first place spot went to the magnificent Theresa Kishkan, who would soon after publish Mnemonic: A Book of Trees. In terms of literature, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in finer company, and I don’t think I properly appreciated this in the moment. Seven years later, I look back and can’t believe that really happened, but I am glad it did—mostly for how it brought me to these authors’ work.

In the years since then, Kishkan has published two novellas, and now a new essay collection, Euclid’s Orchard, which I read avidly over a couple of days last week. It’s a book I’d been looking forward to for a long time and whose genesis I knew a lot about and had kind of born witness to as an avid reader of Theresa Kishkan’s blog. Which is also how I knew that these essays, while they explored many of Kishkan’s usual preoccupations, had been written during a particularly trying time in her life, when she was awaiting a scary medical diagnosis, confronting the weight of her history (so much of it left unknown with her parents gone), and contemplating the wonders of her own children coming up in the world, and becoming a grandmother.

The title essay comes at the end of the collection, referring to her son’s proclivity for mathematics, which came as a surprise to both his parents. She writes of trying to understand the codes and languages of her mathematical son’s mind, and of trying to map such understanding onto her own experiences through quilting. But she is also writing about fruit, and grafting, and the orchard she and her husband planted when they arrived at the place that would become their home, and orchard that would be abandoned for reasons the essay delineates. Which is to say that the fruits they would harvest weren’t the fruits that they were planning on—and isn’t it always the way? There’s not a formula for that. Nor for keeping out the coyotes and the bears either. Kishkan is writing about patterns, and functionality, and parenthood, pollination, and Fibonacci numbers, and coyotes singing:

They were our names, our bodies under the heavens, all of us singing together in different voices to tell the story of our orchard, our time here, in this place we have inhabited since—for John and me—1981, and the only way to shape the story is through connotation, not ordinary discourse, though I praise the literal, the specific, but by reaching up into the starlight to parse what lies beyond it.

Reaching up into starlight (figuratively speaking) is also the only way left to search for answers to the gaps in Kishkan’s parents’ histories, particularly as historical documentation has proven elusive and misleading. In two essays, she tries to make sense of these gaps and the documents, as she searches for her mother’s birth parents—her mother had been born to an unwed mother and raised as a foster child—and as she explores the history of her father’s family, immigrants from what is now the Czech Republic who become homesteaders near Drumheller, AB, although some sleuthing reveals her grandparents had been squatters whose petitions to own the lands they lived on had never been successful. And what do they mean, all these pieces and gaps in her history. As Kishkan writes, “the only way to shape the story is through connotation,” and Kishkan does this masterfully.

In the other pieces, she writes directly to her remote father who always seems disappointed in his sons, who had never properly regarded his daughter. On what to do with a fifty-year-old bottle of her mother’s perfume. She writes about the landscapes of her childhood, places firmly etched on the map of her mind. About trees and flowers, cuttings the history and stories of gardens—and this book is a nice complementary read to Helen Humphreys’s new book, The Ghost Orchard, which I read not long before it. Euclid’s Orchard is a collection of fascinations and astonishments, of the world as it is and was and is ever becoming.

November 6, 2017

The Intricate Properties of Teacups

“How well we artists and writers know the chances of our work sinking into the abyss! And yet how grateful we are to be able to make these marks, to live a life that risks blooming in the bracing cold, that can offer tender furled messages, indecipherable traces. A life that has allowed us to sink into the knowledge of the real and difficult abundance, while merely sitting before a white teacup on a table. It is something, as well, to pay attention to traces of these fine eruptions of gratitude that escape into paint. For we have much yet to learn about how souls connect, let alone about the intricate properties of teacups, their simple gleaming.”

Calm Things: Essays, by Shawna Lemay, “Of Coffee Pots, Teacups, Asparagus and the Like”

« Previous PageNext Page »

Mitzi Bytes

Sign up for Pickle Me This: The Digest

Best of the blog delivered to your inbox each month!
Twitter Pinterest Pinterest Good Reads RSS Post