Quit cooking, start reading
Even as a nonfiction writer, I’ve already managed to lie to you before I even start. Quit cooking, start reading is not quite true — I pretty much never stop reading. Not to eat, brush my teeth, not even when cleaning the kitchen or taking a walk. I read my way through the winter hibernation and through the summer vacations. Whenever I fly, I carry 2-3 books on the plane with me because I’m too cheap for an e-reader and because I’m likely to get through at least two. The back problems are totally worth it.
One of my professors sent me the reading list for my fall literature class ahead of time so that we can go ahead and get started. A cooler person than me might have been dismayed, but it made me thrilled to start school. Partly, I was psyched because I’d already read some of the things on the list, which made me feel educated as hell. And that meant I could reread them, actually remember them, and maybe think of some smart shit to say ahead of time in class. (But not too many smart things — no one wants to be THAT girl, and I don’t want to be shunned at the after-class happy hour.) I’ve already started rereading Nabokov’s Lolita, and have been keeping a list of the beautiful and inventive language he uses so that I can try to learn something while I limp along in my novicehood.
For example: “. . . a poplar playing its liquid shadows all over the local Honor Roll” (p. 137); the backyard with “apple-green light” (p. 31); Lolita with “all four limbs starfished” across the chair (p. 174). Oh dear, I got too Englishy. But if you can’t appreciate the gorgeous prose, then I probably can’t appreciate you. I’m also excited to reread Raymond Carver’s short stories “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” and “Beginners.”
I expect to probably be cooking much less when I’m in school, and writing to you about the best ways to jazz up rice and beans, writing a treatise on the various forms of caffeine, or on the best way to discreetly drink wine during workshop. But before I do all of that, I’m headed back to Michigan with my dad’s side of the family and Charlie to go up north to one of my most favorite places.
We all spend a ton of time reading up there, moving from the hammock to the dock, to the pontoon, to a lawn chair, and back to the hammock again. My dad reads exactly one book a year. He always reads it up north, and it’s always about music. Last year I let him borrow my copy of Steve Almond’s book Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, with its companion playlist. The year before that, he read Keith Richards’s Life, and read aloud anecdotes about prostitutes and drug cocktails. The year before that, it was Alice Cooper’s book Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict (which is actually pretty hilarious).
For me, I found a used book at the lovely Green Apple Books called Not for Bread Alone: Writers on Food, Wine, and the Art of Eating, edited by Daniel Halpern. It’s a collection of food writing from well-known writers, including Wendell Berry, Charles Simic, Joyce Carol Oates, and Francine Prose, among others. Before I get started with classes and get buried under class readings, I’m bringing that one up north, along with Julia Child’s My Life in France, which was given to me as a gift and I MUST READ before I lose all steam.
Reading while lying in the sun and/or eating is one of the things I enjoy most. I wish you all a happy summer, and happy reading!