The God of Nightmares

Hooray for Paula! Once again her words leave me feeling light and happy.
Shortly after news of her father’s death, Helen escapes the confines of her early life. She leaves her mother and upstate NY and travels to New Orelans to bring her aunt Lulu back to NY to help her mother run the cabin business. In New Orleans, Helen falls into a trance of soft humid Southerness, where she meets her future husband Len, and her close friend Nina. Also Claude, the gentleman who prefered boys, who ends up dead beneath the Dueling Oaks. And Gerald and Catherine, the couple with whom Helen boards. Gerald a poet who was beaten by his Cajun neighbors for exposing their way of life to the world. Lulu’s drunkenness and divorce from Sam Bridges, with whom Nina has an affair. Nina describing her life as ‘floating by’, and drinking from the “Colored” fountain out of mild defiance. Part 1 is full of violence and chaos, yet leaves no blood on your mind.
Part 2 fast-forwards 20+ years to the 1960s when Helen and Len are living in NYC and renovating her mother’s old house after her death. Helen runs into Nina in the city, then mentions it later to Len, who acts strangely and admits to having been involved with Nina back in the day. Ends very sweetly with Helen waiting for Len to wake up from a long sleep.

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Consider the Oyster

mouth watering prose about the joys of oysters. I have an undeniable craving to make an oyster loaf… M thinks I’ve lost it. Oyster stew anyone? She tempts me with her descriptions of the tastes. I’ve been reading this one on the bus every day this week and have caught myself licking my chops as I read.
Update: now finished with this lovely short glimpse into the head of a gourmand. I don’t even like the taste of oysters, yet MFK has me dreaming of gulping down raw bodies along with their liquid. I will be reading every book I can find that MFK has written: it is too much of a treat to my soul to pass up.

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Blueberry Muffin Cake

ingredients:
* 1 1/2 c. sifted flour
* 1 t. baking powder
* 1/2 t. salt
* 1/2 c. margarine
* 1 c. sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/3 c. milk
* 1 t. vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 c. blueberries, floured
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture alternating with the milk. Mix extremely well; the more you beat, the better the cake. Fold in vanilla and the floured berries. Pour batter into well greased 8 x 8 x 2 pan. Sprinkle with sugar (mixture?). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until center tests done.

Birds of America

Enjoying Mary McCarthy’s words… just stumbled across a section where one of the guests at Thanksgiving dinner is a vegetarian, and she trotted out her usual dialogue, and it was perfect, especially the focus on having to repeat herself three times at dinner with everyone asking the same questions. Peter is a freak but still loveable. Yea!
I finished this one today– McCarthy is an excellent writer and I’m about to dive head first into the rest of her work. The Paris/overseas section of the book was much more interesting than the American section; and the juxtaposition of both sections seemed a little forced.

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Expat

The unifying theme in this collection of women’s writings of living abroad is missing home. All of them yearned for the return to the US, with its sensible procedures and 24 hour groceries. While this idea was interesting in the first 20 essays, it became tedious toward the end. Yes, you live abroad and miss certain familiar things like Taco Bell or no smoking in restaurants. Blah de blah de blah. This theme was so prevalent that I wonder if the editor of the book asked each author to flesh the “missing home” idea out in each essay. If so, boo. If not, it’s a little strange that every one of these ladies brings it up. Still, useful information on coping with the change to life abroad, with the mysteries of plumbing and smallish cooking devices. There were some great stories in here, but overall they were lost in the swirl of sameness.

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Where we stand

Hmm. Maybe I was not in the right mood to read this. Because I did not find much of value in this tract on class and race. Luckily, my friend (whose book I was reading) had underlined the good parts, so I could just skim ahead until I found a good section to read. We had exchanged books: I gave her Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and she gave me Where We Stand. I think she came out ahead even though I hadn’t underlined any of my book.
The one useful section was when bh wrote about how class would come to the forefront for the middle class when housing became more and more unaffordable. Other lessons: make a budget and stick to it. Don’t go crazy on material things. Live simply.

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The widow’s children

Seagull imitations, drunken hotel gatherings, family deception. Paula Fox has mad skillz in the writing department. Clara’s mother, Laura, is in town with her drunken hubby Desmond, on the eve of their cruise’s departure. Clara meets them in their hotel room where they’re joined by Laura’s brother Carlos, and her good friend Peter Rice. Alma, Laura’s mother, has passed away that afternoon, but Laura refuses to tell anyone until later that evening, after freaking out and running through the streets getting soaked. Peter is called up to the unenviable task of letting Carlos and Eugenio know that their mother is dead. Clara is not to be told, but Peter relents and tells Clara about her grandmother’s death. Ends at the funeral, where Peter’s mind floats away gently into the good night. This book could easily be reduced into a three act play.

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Organizing from the inside out

I need to read these type self-help books every five years to remind me of what is missing from my reading life the other four years. Ack. Absolutely nothing is missing. Here are some of her tips to help you get organized:
Plan
Attack
Keep it up
Ok, and then there’s:
Sort
Purge
Find homes for stuff
Put in containers
Maintain the clean
This book could be boiled down to one powerpoint slide. But then, of course, we’d be missing the interspersed tales of clutter control that her “clients” experienced. Wow, “Charlotte W.” needed some file folders to get her organization system working? (This is incredible stuff.) “Maria M.” ran out of storage space, so she placed some items in off-site storage and promptly forgot about them. (Pass the Valium, please) Avoid this book and all others of its ilk unless you are completely buried under mountains of paper and have no idea about how to trash the things you don’t need.
Advice that I live by: If you haven’t used it in a year, toss it out.

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Gig

It’s a shame word.com is now defunct, if this collection was anything like their webzine. Fantastically edited interviews with hundreds of people about their jobs: what they liked, what they hated, what made them get up in the morning every day. The huge range of possible careers opened up before my eyes, making me reconsider my current job situation. I’m an organized person into spiritual and mental clarity, therefore I could be a clutter consultant! The enormous variety of people interviewed was staggering.

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High and Mighty

Keith Bradsher’s expose of the inner workings of Detroit’s Big Three colluding to keep SUVs free from the environmental and mileage requirements of automobiles (federal law put huge loopholes for SUVs to drive through, classifying them as light-trucks, when they weigh upward of 8000 lbs… the loophole originated out of a freakin’ chicken tax on imported chickens!)
WHAT CAN BE DONE:
NHTSA (Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Admin) should test the stability of new vehicles (lessen rollovers)
NHTSA should receive more funding from Congress to develop crash-compatibility standards (the raised hoods of SUVs plow right through car’s windshields in crashes, and are more likely to inflict death on the other vehicle)
make side air bags standard equipment
Write a letter to your insurer to ask that it use the widest possible adjustments by model for automotive liability insurance.
States should tighten the penalties for killing or crippling people with your auto/SUV.
Change state licensing, restricting 16 year old drivers to daylight driving
Ban steel grille guards within city limits
Regulate the headlight height and tilting of the beams so that any headlights mounted 30 inches high or more are tilted slightly downward
Close the federal tax loopholes which allow people to write off the entire cost of the luxury SUV because it is a light truck
Strenghten emissions standards for light trucks; under Clinton’s EPA, regulations were issued making SUVs weighing 10,000 lbs. to meet same standards as autos in 2009. Auto industry is filing lawsuits to prevent this outcome.
Increase gas prices
Better fuel economy in SUVs
Make the SUVs smaller; people can’t see past them to avoid accidents, they cause traffic congestion because of their large size

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