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What are you reading/cooking/watching/listening to today, Wednesday, October 12th?
These days, we are sleeping with the windows wide open in my house, and just took a stack of vintage woolen blankets to the cleaners: two old Hudson Bay Blankets, and a vintage Navy blanket. The cold weather cookbooks have come out: Diana Henry’s oven-to-table book, Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, Dishoom, Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford’s Flatbreads and Flavors. The mums are about to give up the ghost, and will be planted for next season as the perennials they (apparently) are. We’ve already had our first frost, and if you haven’t already figured it out, this is my favorite season. I’m a Cancerian (June 29th) and therefore a hunkerer, and the hunkering has begun.
What I’m currently loving?
1- I’m doing a deep dive into the work of Annie Ernaux, recently award The Nobel Prize in Literature. Ernaux writes from the intersection of intimate history, estrangement, the passage of time, and the workings of memory. I ask all of my memoir students to read her work and to understand why mundanity in a world that expects exceptionalism and noise is at the core of the human experience.
I am also doing a re-read of my dear friend Katherine May’s beautiful Wintering. Even as I sit in front of a high spectrum light box every morning (I live with seasonal affective disorder), this book reminds me that much of experience has to do with perception and perspective. Other autumn readings: W. S. Merwin’s The Moon Before Morning, and my father’s World War II flight log (he was a Navy night fighter pilot), so that I can find the night in 1944 when he, at twenty-one, had a little too much of the juice at his officer’s club because the weather was bad, and then was called to fly with gin in his belly. (He made it home.)
2- We will be cooking a lot of Heidi Swanson’s extraordinary Chana Masala this weekend — enough to eat, enough to freeze and reheat on busy nights when I’m teaching and we need a quick meal with a bowl of rice and some flatbread. I have made a lot of Chana Masala — one of my favorites is from Dishoom —- but this recipe is so good that I crave it year round.
I was delighted to provide formal words of support for Andrea Gentl’s new (her first!) book Cooking with Mushrooms, which means I read and cooked from it months ago. Andrea is an extraordinary artist — half of the “masters of light” photography team Gentl + Hyers with her husband Martin — and when she appeared in one of my residential workshops at Fine Arts Work Center, I was astonished: she is as phenomenal a writer as she is a visual artist. Buy. This. Book.
3- Ever since we lost him at the beginning of Covid, John Prine has been on my mind and in my music feed almost every day. I’ve been listening to him for a long, long time, and as a musician, covering his songs for as long as I can remember. Last weekend, a group of musicians you know came together in Nashville to perform his music on what would have been his 76th birthday, and in support of his work. I’m waiting/hoping/praying for a complete video, but in the meantime I will just listen to his gorgeous words over and over. Here’s a clip (with thanks to Brandi Carlile and Bonnie Raitt.
4- Years ago, when I was working in Soho at Dean & Deluca, I was introduced to the work of Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, who died this year at the age of 84. Miyake’s work was extraordinary, as was his life as a creator and a survivor: born in Hiroshima in 1938, his mother and family were killed when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. How does one create such beauty out of such treachery. I ask this of anyone who produces art: how do we turn anguish and loss into beauty? This is a wonderful short film about Miyake’s work, which I loved and continue to love.
There are still a few spaces open in my Fine Arts Work Center memoir workshop, which begins on October 24th, and is conducted on line. It is asynchronous, so you can be located anywhere. If you are an intermediate/experienced writer, please sign up for Permission and the New Memoirist here.
I am honored to have been made Barnswallow Books’ Writer-in-Residence and will be working in Rockport, Maine this January 2023.
I am deeply grateful to have been awarded a month-long residency at 100 West, The Corsicana Writers and Artists Residency, and will be working there to finish my next book, On Permission (Godine 2024) this spring.
That’s all for now —- See you next week.