July 25, 2009

Muddling Through

Elsewhere on the web:

-->Jehanne's post on settling in in Chestertown, combined with my time in Wyoming, fills me with a desire to try living in a smaller community. Not just a Charlottesville-sized burg, but something even more centralized. The only problem is that I'm not willing to give up my DC identity to do it. Hmmmm. I suspect that in New York City, people solve this issue by reducing their "town" to their borough or part of Manhattan.

-->A great little interview with Laurel Snyder, in which she gives an honest (really honest!) account of her workday.

-->Courtesy of Leslie's "Guests in Progress" feature, Kim Roberts of Beltway has announced a Summer 2009 Snail Mail Challenge. I agree with her central premise: that real, actual mail at an art colony is a mystical thing. Brother, can't you spare a stamp?

-->My friend Kevin Wilson is probably crazed right now with serving as Secretary for the Sewanee Writing Conference. If you go to Sewanee or any conference, never forget that the staff is all rock star writers/lovers of writing too. Exhibit A: Kevin's book, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, which got awesome reviews everywhere from The New York Times to BOMB.


I am struggling with an application that asks for a sample of my "best, finished work." The problem: this application is entirely focused on a nonfiction project, and uses nonfiction-writing recommenders. My strongest published work to date is probably from the poetry world. We're talking a substantial number of pages requested--too many to satisfy with just a handful of Washington Post columns. What to send? Do other cross-genre authors struggle with this?

In a similar vein, earlier in the Spring I sent out my first of these nonfiction-focused applications. I just found out I did not win the fellowship, but the person I lost to...is a onetime professor of mine. That's a loss I'm proud to take.


Shopping at Trader Joe's seems to be all about learning which fresh produce they handle well, and which is consistently meh. Bluberries? Yes. Stir-fry greens? No. Carrot juice? Past expiration. Daffodils? Yes. Dahlias? Dead by day 3. Sliced turkey breast? Absolutely. Avocado? Unripe as rocks.


I have not read a book since returning home. I miss reading! Does anyone have recommendations from the realms of 1) food writing, 2) memoir, or 3) funny or surreal short story collections?

(Reminder to self: must put up additional book shelving in my office.)


giulia said...


I can't think of what-to-do about the application. Brain is fried & I sit surrounded by mountains of books but imagine you've already read:

My Life in France (J.Child & nephew)--it's really funny. Having lived there (not in Paris,though) & a slight acquaintance, I just put it off as one more, blah blah. Sorry that I did so. I started reading it two days ago & having a good time. Yesterday I laughed out loud--in public. The horror. JC lived here, you know, for a bit & so there are some DC references for a bit of additional fun.

Have you read any MFK Fisher? You probably have the collected works...but if not, she's it.

There's an interesting blog, Tomatoes & Gherkins (?) Food history, recipes, & extensive label/index for reading & so on. I would look there for recommendations (or ask author).

Funny/surreal short stories/memoirs (except JChild's). Have bag of new & used books purchased over last two weeks & I can't remember a single title..I've had to wait so long to buy some that the list was long.

So that's my cue to get to market for 1) flowers before all the good ones are gone; 2) coffee; 3) food. Brain will come back to life. I hope.

Cheers & good weekend.


giulia said...

Sorry. Just checked. Blog is Gherkins & Tomatoes. Named after a painting. Very clever.


nathan said...


The first book that comes to mind is Aimee Bender's "Willful Creatures," as far as funny and surreal short fiction goes. I thoroughly enjoyed her collection. "The Meeting" and "Fruit and Words" are particularly good stories. Hope that helps, and hope you are doing well.

Martha Silano said...

Hi Chicky!

Not sure how to help with your "best" conundrum; maybe try not to sweat it too much and hope they recognize your name and its association with amazing talent!?!?

As for books, I have many to recommend:

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter

Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager

Twinkie Deconstructed (though I can't vouch for this one; I am about to begin it on the stationary bike . . . )

Anonymous said...

For food writing, my sister loves Anthony Bourdain. If his prose matches his commentary on his TV show, it should be a good read.

Surreal or funny short stories? I'd recommend:

Amy Bloom's A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You -- funny

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Leaf Storm and Other Stories (how can you resist a collection with a story titled "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"?) -- Definitely surreal

Banana Yoshimoto's Asleep -- surreal and funny

jeannine said...

I'm a huge fan of Kelly Link's short stories (her latest is "Pretty Monsters" - her first, "Stranger Things Happen" is still my favorite) and Haruki Murakami's short stories (my favorite collections of his are "After Dark" and "After the Quake.")

Kim said...

I love Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life--memoir about food/family and includes recipes too tempting not to try! Satisfying and delicious.

Maggie May said...


new edition of Hemingway's ' A Moveable Feast '

' Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight ' Alexandra Fuller

' The Big House ' forget author but LOVE this absolutely delightful book. i felt like i found a hidden treasure when i read it.

Leslie said...

Food writing: I love Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. She died waaay too young.

I read an interesting food memoir by a British writer: Toast by Nigel slater.

I second Anthony Bourdain and A Moveable Feast.

Honestly, if I were reading for a grant application in NF and found poetry as a sample, I'd be very taken aback. I know that's not what you want to hear...sorry.

Valerie Loveland said...

You can add peaches to their list of terrible fruit. They smelled so good, I fell for it and bought them.

I like Murakami's short stories a lot.

Steve Rogers said...

Try Jim Harrison's The Raw and the Cooked - good food writing with a good dose of memoir.

Emily said...

Try 'Food and Loathing', it's a fabulous memoir about living with an eating disorder. I can't recall the author's name for the life of me, but it's funny as hell, smart, and a super fast read.

See you on Project Verse!!

Emily said...

Also, Anthony Lane has a collection of his New Yorker reviews called 'Nobody's Perfect' and about halfway through he reviews the top ten cook books from the 1940s. You wouldn't think this would be comic gold, but it is.

Collin Kelley said...

If you're looking for a fantastic memoir, Jessica Handler's "Invisible Sister" is amazing.

Maggie May said...

The wonderful Vicki Forman's memoir was just released- it's called This Lovely Life. she's on my blogroll and a wonderful woman with a story to tell, and she told with with passion and skill. Salon just reviewed/interviewed her too.. I have her link on my site.

denise said...

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler