Food and Fiction Meme

My friend over at Incurable Logophilia ran a terrific meme the other day about food and fiction, so I thought I’d copy. It’s a great meme. It really makes you think about how food and fiction can be intertwined. Please add your associations at the end! I love to hear other people’s literary memories. …

 Food from fiction that you’d like to sample:

 Right away, I think of being a child and reading about the maple syrup concoctions Laura and Mary Ingalls made in Little House on the Prairie (and Little House in the Big Woods, I believe). (I guess that might actually fall under the “nonfiction” category, but I definitely remember reading that item in a book and wishing I could sample.) The girls would pour syrup onto the snow in swirling configurations, let them freeze, then eat them like a cookie. I always thought that sounded fun.

 As an adult, though … hmmm … well, I still lean toward the sweets: In Chocolat, I remember the way they described the hot chocolate in the book – thick and foamy, with real milk and real chocolate – and I recall wanting to taste that so badly.

 A fictional meal you would like to have attended:

 For some reason, the first thing that comes to mind here is The Great Gatsby, and the characters all sitting out on the veranda, the first night Nick visits Daisy. I would like to have been there, drinking claret while the summer wind blew the curtains and Daisy questioned whether the candles should be lit. It was such a strange but romantic conversation, with so many secrets. I always wanted to help Nick sort through the lies. Continue reading

A Hero Protagonist with Some Energy

So last weekend we had our book club – The Namesake.

I really love Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing – all those long, lyrical sentences with clause after clause to string your thoughts along. But I was a bit disappointed in the plot. I felt the hero, Gogol, never really did anything. He simply waited for life to … well, happen.

His “goal” was to find his identity. Which isn’t a very creative goal, of course – I mean, that’s a basic coming-of-age story. But I’ll give Lahiri credit for throwing in the added complications of finding identity when you’re in a cross-cultural family and having a name that you never feel fits you properly in the first place. That was creative, and interesting. But the way Gogol goes about achieving his “goal” is to basically do … well … nothing. He just lets life happen and hopes for the best.

Yes, he changes and begins to find his identity, but not by any actions on his part. His awareness simply comes by way of circumstance (family death, etc.). I liked the book, but I wish the protagonist had some energy. I guess I like my protagonists to be heroes, and Gogol really wasn’t. I like heroes with courage. I like heroes who have to make excruciating choices. I think of Atticus Finch here. I think of Henry DeTamble (The Time Traveler’s Wife). I think of Jake Barnes (The Son Also Rises). In romance novels, I think of Kenny Traveler (Lady Be Good) and any of Laura Kinsdale’s fight-to-the-death-when-you’re-already-kicked-to-the-curb heroes (gosh, Jervaulx anyone?). I like my heroes with some “bite,” I guess.

How about you? What type of hero do you like? Who stands out in your mind?

Writing Weekend

We’ve had a nice, long President’s Day weekend, and I’ve spent most of it writing. It’s been nice. (It helps that it’s pouring rain here in So. Cal and no one wants to go out.)

I’m trying to catch up on some edits I needed to do for the second of my three books I’m working on. I sent the manuscript out to Harlequin for critique, and they sent back a really nice writeup with tons of encouragement and very specific recommendations. All very doable. So now I just need to … do.

I’ve been an editor my entire adult life, but I’m used to editing small chunks of material at a time. But editing your own novel — which is a full 100,000+ words (!) — is really daunting. (It takes me a whole weekend to skim 100,000 words, let alone ponder and edit each sentence!) I keep having to start over, tackling small sections. I’m not sure I’m doing this in the most efficient way, but I’m doing it in the only way I know how.

Anyway, I wrote a permanent page here on the blog called “Currently Writing” about where each book is in the writing and editing process. My very favorite stage is the “Fast First Draft,” and I have one book there that I love working on. But I have two at the last stage, awaiting their revisions, and I need to dedicate some time to them so I can finish. (That’s what I worked on this weekend!)

Drop me a line if you have any questions, any encouragement, or — absolutely — any recommendations for how to edit 100,000 words smoothly! I’d love to hear from you readers and writers!

Secret Society of List Addicts: Unite!

I’m in a link-love mood tonight, so I’m throwing out a little love to the Secret Society of List Addicts. …

Now, I don’t know about you, but any blog with the phrase “list addict” is going to get my attention. I’m a frenetic list-maker (the 27 Post-it notes strewn across my desk should convince any nay-sayers), and I can hardly imagine life without an endless series of lists: things to do, calls to make, e-mails to return, home improvements to tackle, gifts to buy, books to read, birthdays coming up, things to get at Target, things to get at the grocery store, places I want to go, possible weekend getaways, etc., etc. … The list (of lists) goes on. ….

But the fine ladies at the “secret society” have converted what feels like a crazy compulsion into something … well … fun. They’ve put together a blog that’s lovely to look at, fun to read, and really makes you appreciate some of the finer things in life – like your favorite album cover titles or the silly traditions you create with your significant other. Their list of “Things I Love About My Home Town” really made me think of all the loveable things about Placentia (the water tower, Rosa’s pizza, the 1920s adobe homes, the Bradford house, the old Music Plus, etc. …) and it just gave my heart a little lift for the rest of the day. And the list of “Things At My Desk” made me think about how all the little things you surround yourself with can really add up to tell quite a story about you …

So go on over and check them out! I think I’m going to have to join the society myself. I wonder if they’ll give me one of those cool little blog buttons. … (I’ll add that to my list of things to do today.)

What about you? Are you a list-maker? Give me a list of your lists. …

Lane Cake, Crescendoes and Atticus Finch

The Lane cake made its appearance somewhere around 9 p.m. It arrived after the vegetarian chili, but before the discussion about triathlons. And it was before the discussion of the 1940s in the 1950s house, but after the inspection of the dog bed for the cat. …

And thus went another book club. …

I love our book club. It’s one of those arrangements of people you don’t even realize, when you’re there in the thick of it, that’s amazing.

I had this experience a few other times – once with set of neighbors, from about 1996 to 1998; once with a group of kindergarten moms; and once with a group of coworkers at the newspaper. When you’re in the middle of things – in the middle of the everydayness of gathering around the coffeemaker at the newspaper or walking your babies or dropping your kids off at kindergarten – it’s easy to overlook the fact that you get along remarkably well with this group of people. You tend to think (in the everydayness) that you would get along with any people who were walking their babies, or that you’d laugh that hard with any gathering of coworkers who created weird collections of plastic cups in each other’s cubicles. But it’s only later – years and years later, sometimes – that you realize that … well, no. No, you wouldn’t have laughed that hard with another gathering of coworkers, or felt that connected to another set of moms in front of the swing sets. That was a special group. It was just the right personalities at just the right time who came together at just the right moment, when you all understood and needed and appreciated each other. It’s like the coming together of random band instruments on a street corner, all at the proper pitch and proper speed, to create the perfect crescendo. Continue reading

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