Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May recap

This is my first post for the month of May, which was a somewhat cruel month for reading and writing—just not enough time. It took me nearly a month to complete a 300-page mass market mystery. So I thought I'd touch base here and resolve, again, to get into a better writing groove.

Leading into May, I traveled to New Orleans on the last weekend of April to meet my friend (and former Holtzbrinck co-worker) Krista for Jazz Fest. A few notable items about the trip:

1. reading for hours, uninterrupted by the needs of children, on the plane (Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead, which I highly recommend)

2. listening to hours of incredible music at The Fest—Dr. John, Charmaine Neville (sparkling), Trombone Shorty (brass-tastic), Bonnie Raitt (wailed), Van Morrison (still has it), New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars (had a packed audience doing circle dances), Terence Blanchard, Norah Jones, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, to name but a few

3. eating amazing food—pig at Donald Link's Cochon; crayfish boil (crayfish, potatoes, corn, juicy kielbasa-style sausages); raw oysters, crawfish Monica, pheasant-quail-andouille gumbo, and red velvet cake at The Fest; beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde; softshell crab at Crescent City Brewhouse

4. drinking—hurricanes and hand grenades on Bourbon Street; French 75s at Arnaud's elegant French 75 Bar; sazeracs at Cochon

5. not drinking absinthe (my liver thanks me) at the pirate bar

6. walking, shopping (Hove parfumerie, art galleries on Royal Street, a fantastic cookbook store), touring (the National Park Service ranger station offers an interesting—free—walking tour of the French Quarter)

Since returning from NOLA, I've attempted to prolong the experience. John and I threw a dinner party for some friends and served French 75s, jambalaya, and red velvet cake, among other Southern food items. And, I read the first book in Julie Smith's series set in New Orleans, featuring Skip Langdon, New Orleans Mourning. Vivid descriptions of the French Quarter and Mardi Gras transported me right back to this steamy, exotic city. Depictions of a rigid class structure, a compelling mystery, and a likeable sleuth rounded out the pleasure of this book. Yesterday, I read the first chapter of House of Blues, another book in the series.

Another high point this month was hearing Michael Chabon talk about and read from his latest book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, as part of MPR's Talking Volumes series. I may write more on this later, but it was a really satisfying evening despite the annoying host/moderator. Chabon is smart and funny, nerdy and sexy—just like Mr. Bibliotonic! He cited Pride and Prejudice as one of his ten favorite books, which just may inspire me to pick it up again soon.

Son Number One and I are working our way through Beverly Cleary's masterpieces, starting with the books featuring Henry Huggins (Henry Huggins, Henry and the Paper Route, Henry and Ribsy). When Simon's teacher heard we were reading Cleary, she let him bring home Ramona the Pest. I knew my love for Mrs. Cochran was boundless! Reading Ramona took me right back to when I read the book, at eight. I remembered Susan's boing-boing curls, Ramona's crazy Qs that had cat's ears and whiskers, and the Dawnzer Song.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that one of my Mother's Day gifts from Simon was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's new book. In it, Kingsolver details a year spend growing and raising the food her family ate. Simon could tell by the cover that the book was about food, and he knew I would like it. By golly, I am raising him right!

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