Monday, January 22

It felt good to be sad and lonely

When winter settles in and a gray chill creeps into everything, an inevitable feeling of sadness comes with it. There are two courses of action to take when this happens. The first is to fight it. This involves things like drinking orange juice, wearing red, forcing bulbs, listening to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, watching something funny and redemptive like Groundhog Day or Enchanted April and perhaps going for a jog if the sun shines for a few moments at a time—anything to keep gloominess at bay.

The second course is to embrace the melancholy. You accomplish this by reading something in which the characters are hopelessly flawed, like Wuthering Heights, or unhealthily introspective, like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by eating large quantities of soup, knitting a sweater you will probably never finish, staying firmly ensconced on the sofa and by listening to sad music. I like to be prepared with music appropriate for any situation (I’m still working on this—there are gaping holes in my music collection), so I put together a little “Winter Melancholy” iTunes playlist. The links are free downloads.

Bleecker Street—Simon & Garfunkel
“The fog’s rollin’ in off the east river bank…”
Every Ship Must Sail Away—Blue Merle
This was an iTunes free download from way back.
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning—Carly Simon
A columnist for the Wall Street Journal said that Frank Sinatra’s album by this name was his best work. I’m tempted to hunt it up on eBay.
Sketches—Daniel Lanois
This sounds like fog, clouding your thoughts and sapping your resolution.
Sho Heen—Kate Rusby
She’s from England, where it is almost always cold.
First and Last Waltz—Nickel Creek
The music sounds far away, like spring.
Old Friends—Simon & Garfunkel
“Winter companions, the old men/Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset”
Gotta Have You—The Weepies
I mean, The Weepies…
Alice—Tom Waits
Death, a frozen pond, insanity, lost love: this is winter melancholy at its best.
Holland—Sufjan Stevens
So quiet and still, like a day when it’s too cold to move.
Dou Way Robyn/Sancta Mater—Trio Mediaeval
Another free download from iTunes.
Love and Loneliness—Wendell Kimbrough
Written in Maryland, where the sun shines even less than it does in Mississippi.
Mary’s Waltz—Over the Rhine
It’s been said that OTR’s music makes sad people happy and happy people sad.
The Survivor—The Normals
Maybe it’s just because there are bare tree branches and a gray sky in the album art, but Coming to Life has always felt like a winter album to me.

And no matter how bad winter is, at least I don’t have to deal with this.

So what would go on your winter playlist?

Tuesday, January 16

You get so hacked, that you pay no mind to the great big sign that says oversized load.

It happened while my brother and I were driving in the car. I had to spit. There was no swallowing, no other course of action to take; opening the car door and spitting was the only solution. I explained my predicament to Wendell, and at the next four-way stop I quickly opened the car door and spat on the street. Then I slid down in shame, trying to hide from the world. "I'm always so grossed out when other people do that!" I said to Wendell. "And now I'm doing it!" "Well, now you know how they feel," he said. "Next time don't be so hard on them."

This happened years ago, but I still think of it whenever I see someone spit out of his car. "You know how it feels when you just have to spit," I remind myself. There are so many situations I find myself in that I thought would never happen to me, so many things I thought I'd never do. Whenever I new one turns up I think of spitting in the car with Wendell and wish I hadn't been so critical.

For example, I'm reading Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie right now. It's a Tommy and Tuppence mystery, and they're just chatting away not so charmingly while the plot does little to advance. I was getting irritated until I discovered that this is the last book Christie wrote. It was published when she was 83. Now I see the whole thing differently and will return to it this evening with much gentler expectations. I also know now what it feels like to be so tired at the end of a 9 to 5 office job that you just want to watch TV. I used to be so disdainful of people who would only flop down in front of the TV and watch whatever is on just because it was on, but now I know why they do it. I still don't think it's a good idea, but I understand. When I told my mom this, she wisely said, "Getting older is pretty much a process of learning you were wrong to be critical of anybody about anything."

Last night I made Blackened Chicken Pizza with Yellow Tomato Salsa. It was good, but entirely too spicy--and I left off the jalapeno! The pepper jack cheese and cayenne pepper together was overpowering. I will probably make it again with half plain mozzarella and reduce the red pepper.

I also remembered another book I read last year and forgot to put on the list: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I really enjoyed it, although My Name Is Asher Lev was more interesting to me because of the art. He was a fascinating writer.

Thursday, January 4

Books Read 2006

Last year one of my favorite bloggers posted a list of all the books she had read in the past year. Even though she reads much faster than I do and finished over a hundred books, I was inspired by her example and decided to try for a modest fifty. I made my goal (only just), and looking over my year’s worth of reading I see that it is a very modest list indeed, including only ten nonfiction books and a great deal of children’s literature.

1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (reread)
4. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reread)
5. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reread)

6. On The Way Home: The Diary of a Trip From South Dakota To Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder
7. The Moon By Night by Madeleine L’Engle
8. Aunt Jane’s Hero by Elizabeth Prentiss
9. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
10. The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle
11. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
12. Holes by Louis Sachar

13. The Young Unicorns by Madeline L’Engle
14. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
15. The Giver by Lois Lowry
16. Camilla by Madeline L’Engle
17. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
18. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
19. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
20. Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

21. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

22. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)
23. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reread)
24. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (reread)

25. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reread)
26. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
27. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar (reread)
28. Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (reread)
29. Leaving Cold Sassy by Olive Ann Burns

30. A Southern Belle Primer by Marilyn Schwartz
31. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
32. Troubling A Star by Madeline L’Engle
33. Gilbert & Sullivan and Their Victorian World by Christopher Hibbert

34. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
35. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (reread)

36. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
37. From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
38. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
39. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (reread)

40. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
41. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
42. Mandy by Julie Edwards

43. The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
44. At Home in North Branch by Arleta Richardson
45. Beauty Evolution by Bobbi Brown

46. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (reread)
47. Lord Peter by Dorthy L. Sayers (reread)
48. Holiness by Grace by Bryan Chapell
49. The End by Lemony Snicket
50. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I’m not including rereads here, only books new to me.
Maniac Magee—Wrote about it here.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency—This was a simple and lovely little book.
A Prayer for Owen Meany—Probably my favorite book of the year.

I don’t usually read a book unless I’m pretty sure I’m going to like it, but sometimes I even I make a bad call.
Julie and Julia—I hesitate to put this on the list because it was an interesting idea, and I don’t regret reading it. Julie Powell turned to cooking to help sort out some of her life questions, but at the end of the year, she hadn’t come up with any really substantial or helpful conclusions.
Troubling A Star—Terrible. I liked most of Madeline L’Engle’s Austin family series until this point, but this was dreadfully boring. I wish someone had told me to skip it, since everything I needed to know was on the dust jacket synopsis.

I have no fixed plans for reading in 2007, other than my usual perpetual list. Do you have any recommendations? What did you read in 2006?