Miracle. All of it.

A life: thousands and millions of pages to be filled; all the insects that one has encountered or crushed, every blade of grass one’s foot has brushed against, every tile and slate on the houses one has looked at, the tons of food that one has eaten, that one first had to buy, pound after pound, quart after quart. And the faces, and the smells, and the smiles, and the cries, and the gusts of wind, and the rains and the seasons perpetually returning … Imagine telling the story of one’s life simply by remembering the colors one has seen, just the colors, the colors one has loved, or studied, or neglected.

Violette LeDuc, La Bâtarde in Dalkey


Notes:

  • Violette LeDuc (1907-1972) was born in France. She was the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl, Berthe Leduc and André Debaralle, the son of a rich protestant family who subsequently refused to legitimize her. Violette spent most of her childhood suffering from poor self-esteem, exacerbated by her mother’s hostility and excessive protectiveness.
  • Image Source:  themetapicture.com. Quote: via nemophilies.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

We all eat in pursuit of memories.

Amy-thielen

We all eat in pursuit of memories. The finely diced chives on my tongue are also the moments I snipped them from the grass in late spring as a child and put them in morning omelettes with my dad. A dry unsweet cookie is the sound of my great-aunt’s gravelly voice cautioning against the perilous use of sugar. Eating a bowl of ice cream is the slow methodical churn of my grandmother’s ice-cream maker that set the tempo for a Sunday afternoon.

Such sensory evocations, and the emotional tug they exert in one’s everyday life, are never far from the mind of Amy Thielen in “Give a Girl a Knife.” The memoir charts the beautiful winding path that led the author from rural Minnesota to high-stakes Michelin-starred restaurants in New York—in search of what she thought was culinary sophistication—and then back to Minnesota, and a cabin in the woods built by her artist husband. Along the way the author learned to cook Austrian, Chinese, French and even her native Minnesotan dishes.

~ Georgia Pellegrini, from Her Place at the Heartland Table in a book review of Amy Thielen‘s new book: “Give a Girl a Knife: A Memoir


Photo: Amy Thielen.com

It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

snail-elizabeth-tova-bailey

I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

He is running, running, running

spill-simmer-falter-wither-book-jacket

He is running, running, running. And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoof-rucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down dead. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock. This time, there’s no chance for sniff and scavenge and scoff. There are no steel bars to end his lap, no chain to jerk at the limit of its extension, no bellowing to trick and bully him back. This time, he’s further than he’s ever seen before, past every marker along the horizon line, every hump and spork he learned by heart. […]

He is running, running, running. And there’s no course or current to deter him. There’s no impulse from the root of his brain to the roof of his skull which says other than RUN.

~ Sara Baume, from the Prologue of Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)


Ray, a 57-year-old loner on Britain’s southern coast, adopts a one-eyed terrier. You can guess what happens next: Ray falls head over heels in love and is soon organizing his life around One Eye’s walks and feedings…Ray falls deeper under the spell of the damaged but joy-filled dog who has transformed his “squat, vacant life” and renewed his interest in his surroundings…This lovely book seems destined to become a small classic of animal communion literature, fervently handed along among friends and family…Early on, Ray asks himself a question that anyone whose life has been changed by a pet will recognize: “What did I use to do all day without you? Already I can’t remember.”

~ Sam Sacks, from his book review of Spill Simmer Falter Wither


One of NPR’s Best Books of 2016.  See NPR book review: For A Young Irish Artist And Author, Words Are Anchored In Images

It’s been a long day

spaghetti-pasta-cheese-dinner

If one day you become sick of words, as happens to us all, and you grow tired of hearing them, of saying them; if whichever you choose seems worn out, dull, disabled; if you feel nauseated when you hear ‘horrible’ or ‘divine’ for some everyday occurrence – you’ll not be cured, obviously, by alphabet soup.

You must do the following: cook a plate of al dente spaghetti dressed with the simplest seasoning – garlic, oil and chili. Over the pasta toss in this mixture, grate a layer of Parmesan cheese. To the right of the deep plate full of the spaghetti thus prepared, place an open book. To the left, place an open book. In front of it a full glass of red wine. Any other company is not recommended. Turn the pages of each book at random, but they must both be poetry. Only good poets cure us of an overindulgence in words. Only simple essential food cures us of gluttony.”

Héctor Abad Faciolince, from Recipes for Sad Women


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Ove!

frederik-backman

Fredrik Backman got tepid responses when he sent out the manuscript for his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove.” Most publishers ignored him, and several turned it down. After a few months and a few more rejections, he began to think perhaps there wasn’t a market for a story about a cranky 59-year-old Swedish widower… “It was rejected by one publisher with the line, ‘We like your novel, we think your writing has potential, but we see no commercial potential,” said Mr. Backman, 35, who lives outside Stockholm with his wife and two children. “That note I kept.”

In hindsight, that critique seems wildly, comically off base. Four years later, “A Man Called Ove” has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide…Translation rights have sold in 38 languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Latvian, Thai and Japanese. Mr. Backman has gained a passionate fan base in South Korea, where the novel became a huge best-seller. “No one really knows why,” Mr. Backman said in a recent telephone interview. “Not even the Korean publisher understands what the hell is going on.”

In the United States, “Ove” got off to a slow start. For months, it sold steadily but in modest numbers. Then sales surged. It landed on the best-seller list 18 months after it was first published and has remained there for 42 weeks. Demand has been so unrelenting that Atria Books has reprinted the novel 40 times and now has more than a million copies in print. […]

A college dropout, he once worked as a forklift driver at a food warehouse, taking night and weekend shifts so that he could write during the day…Mr. Backman said. “I’m not very socially competent. I’m not great at talking to people. My wife tends to say, your volume is always at 1 or 11, never in between.”

Mr. Backman started writing blog posts for Cafe about his own pet peeves and outbursts, under the heading, “I Am a Man Called Ove.”  Mr. Backman realized that he had the blueprint for a compelling fictional character, and the novel began to take shape. “There’s a lot of me in him,” he said of Ove. “When we get angry, it’s about a principle, and we get angry because people don’t understand why we’re angry.” […]

Mr. Backman still hasn’t adjusted to the life of a famous author.  “Everyone keeps telling you how great you are and what a great writer you are, and they want selfies, and that’s not healthy, because you start liking that,” he said. “You still have to write like you’re writing for 20 people, or you’re going to freak out.”

~ Alexandra Alter, The Man Behind ‘A Man Called Ove’ 


Notes:

 

A Whole Life

a-whole-life-robert-seethaler

According to his birth certificate, which in his opinion wasn’t even worth the ink on the stamp, Egger lived to be seventy-nine years old. He had held out longer than he himself had ever thought possible, and on the whole he could be content. He had survived his childhood, a war and an avalanche. He had never felt himself to be above doing any kind of work, had blasted an incalculable number of holes in rock, and had probably felled enough trees to heat the stoves of an entire town for a whole winter. Over and over again he had hung his life on a thread between heaven and earth, and in his latter years as a tour guide he had learned more about people than he was able fully to understand. As far as he knew, he had not burdened himself with any appreciable guilt, and he had never succumbed to the temptations of the world: to boozing, whoring and gluttony. He had built a house, had slept in countless beds, stables, on the backs of trucks, and even a couple of nights in a Russian wooden crate. He had loved. And he had had an intimation of where love could lead. He had seen a couple of men walk about on the moon. He had never felt compelled to believe in God, and he wasn’t afraid of death. He couldn’t remember where he had come from, and ultimately he didn’t know where he would go. But he could look back without regret on the time in between, his life, with a full-throated laugh and utter amazement.

~ Robert Seethaler, A Whole Life: A Novel 


Notes:

 

 

What is the most important thing that happened yesterday?’

marion-milner-diary

Eternity’s Sunrise explores Marion Milner’s way of keeping a diary. Recording small private moments, she builds up a store of ‘bead memories’. A carved duck, a sprig of asphodel, moments captured in her travels in Greece, Kashmir and Israel, circus clowns, a painting – each makes up a ‘bead’ that has a warmth or glow which comes in response to asking the simple question: What is the most important thing that happened yesterday?’

~ Introduction to Marion Milner‘s, Eternity’s Sunrise: A Way of Keeping a Diary

 

 

A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart.

la-et-ms-keith-richards-announces-first-solo-album-in-more-than-20-years-20150709

In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people.

To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack.

And you listen to some of that meticulous Mozart stuff and Vivaldi and you realize that they knew that too. They knew when to leave one note just hanging up there where it illegally belongs and let it dangle in the wind and turn a dead body into a living beauty.

~ Keith Richards, Life


Notes:

 

Walking Cross-Town. With a String of Pearls.

pearls

What’s the significance of words strung together like gleaming pearls lassoed around your neck.

a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

I roll them around my head like a handful of marbles in my right hand, glassy, smooth, and manufactured in absolute perfection.  My Marbles. Mine.

As Firth read Thomas Wolfe’s passage, it was lightning, an electric current, the body shivering from a forced seizure.

I grabbed the remote control to pause the streaming. There was Firth, in the frozen frame, holding the pages of the manuscript, waiting patiently for me to catch my breath, to digest the words.

Yet there’s been no digestion. I float down a slow moving river that loops, bathing in the beauty of the words, the rhythm of the passage and the mystery of their meaning.

…a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

What unfound door?

What forgotten faces?


Notes:

Thomas Wolfe: Who better to talk to than the man who created something immortal. More and more I trouble myself with that. ‘The Legacy.’ Will anyone care about Thomas Wolfe in 100 years? Ten years?

F. Scott Fitzgerald: When I was young I asked myself that question every day. Now, I ask myself, “Can I write one good sentence?”

 

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