Archive for the 'reading' Category

Solace in Nature (and Solitude)

January 6, 2014


When you work in a large city, and you work with people every day and then ride home on a crowded train, I find it is often easy to dream of being alone.

This is when I start planning holidays in my head spent walking the cliffs of Dorset or Cornwall, or spend whole days longing for my parents’ coastal farm in New Zealand.  I dream of landscapes without people, and start to feel some peace.  But when I can’t actually get away and go to such places, sometimes a narrative containing an exploration of solitude and wilderness is just as restorative.

So, my comfort shelf: the books I turn to when I’m looking for that wild and quiet place.

Plainwater by Anne Carson

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean

Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Consolations of the Forest by Sylvain Tesson

Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills by Neil Ansell


Where I Settle for a While

November 15, 2013

Double Bay Library

I started a new job recently in a beautiful old public library building surrounded by gardens.  There are kookaburras in the trees outside my office, and I can walk barefoot down to the beach at lunchtime and go for a swim.

So my life for the next few years will involve sunshine, trees and other greenery and sand between my toes.  But also new fiction, interesting and quirky non fiction, book clubs, poetry performances, picnics, author talks, artists and architects, and morning teas.  Not a bad way to spend my days.

a year of reading

January 3, 2012

in which our heroine discovers romance novels and steampunk…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tara (with butter)

December 6, 2011

One of my favourite reading finds this year was Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.  It’s a Romance novel and an Action novel, but mostly it’s a novel about food.

Agnes is a curvy food writer who lives in an old plantation mansion in Georgia.   It’s her dream house, just like the house in Gone with the Wind, only better… because it comes ‘with butter’.  There is so much cooking and food in this book, mostly breakfasts and cakes.  I don’t know why Agnes has so much food in her fridge/pantry, and who does the washing up.  But she feeds everyone.   It certainly made me want to cook for a crowd.

And Tara (with butter) has become a bit of a mental touchstone for me.  Having a huge mortgage on a big old house is pretty stressful for Agnes (she’s about to default on her mortgage payments, has to host a wedding for inlaws from hell, oh, and everyone seems to want to kill her), but the essence of the idea of Tara (with butter) is, for me, having somewhere to settle, somewhere to call home, with enough produce and supplies on hand to be able to eat well.  Really well.

At the same time as I have that dream, I also dream about vagabonding and going on a long adventure (knitting in iceland, bicycling my way through tuscany, learning french in paris, hitting the chicago blues festival, walking the high line in nyc).  And you can certainly eat well on the road.  But I also carry that idea of this place with hummocky paddocks, higher hills in the distance, a bit of a house to bang around in, friends who come visit, a cat on the porch and a long narrow twighlight.

With butter.


October 29, 2010

I have loved William Gibson’s last three books. There’s something really fanciful about each that makes me just laugh, but some of the spook stuff is probably spot on, and they are, indeed, (as Gibson himself has described them) painfully contemporary, to the point of self-conscious kitsch.

But one of the things that I really love about them, that has pulled me in and made me obsess, is the attention to detail – especially sartorial detail – a fidelity to an iconography and corporeality – a satoris even, that is beyond fashion. There is a focus on things that are just made really well, and work. I like this quiet, pure sort of design. These are the kind of clothes that I would like to make and wear.

Gibson said it well in this interview with GQ about his latest, Zero History, which I just finished this morning.

“We live in a world of shrinking resources and one in which the use of energy is an increasingly crucial factor. Something like the high street shop where a fashionable young woman would wear a dress once is lovely in its way, but it’s scarcely sustainable. My position is more or less like my character Meredith’s. I don’t think she’s operating from a conservative impulse – she just doesn’t want her sneakers to fall apart, and in the course of pursuing that she falls in love with the knowledge required to build better sneakers.”

This is my new mantra.

I think I’m going to take a pattern making course.

I feel she’s loaned to me. We’re veiled in flesh. That’s all.

February 5, 2010

I don’t have time this week for anything other than a brief post collecting some random moments.

When Andrew Bird tells me not to worry about the atmosphere, it eases my heart in so many other ways.

Last night I stood in a dark, dripping room and found myself grinning ear to ear.  It was like some sort of time slip.  Silence, just off a busy street.  So exhilerating.

I took a break this week from the 800+ page novels I have been trying to read over the summer in order to dip into something comforting: In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje.  I am in love with giant engineering feats at the moment, and beautiful prose.  I just want to disappear into the deep snow of upper america and the streets of Toronto for a little while.

Fresh raspberries.  Figs.  Plums.  Homemade Baba Ganoush.  Beetroot with leeks in cream sauce.  This week has been a good food week.  I want to eat like this all the time.  Just fresh, slow food.  Or sometimes just fresh, instant food.  Did you know there’s a vulgar way to eat a fig?