Friday, May 18, 2007

bess and books

Bess and I attended two author's readings this week: Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories, Interpretation of Maladies as well as the more recent novel, The Namesake. And Barbara Kingsolver who is author to many well-known works but was focusing on her latest book titled, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Jhumpa Lahiri was great and though I haven't read either of her books, I've heard nothing but wonderful things about her writing + my great friend, Suz, who lives in NYC, sent me The Namesake as a gift and I'm dying to read it.

Barbara Kingsolver was really, really incredible to see. She is smart, witty, insightful and overall completely entertaining. I hadn't read her latest book but had heard bits and pieces of the premise in which Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. What a wonderful idea! And a lot of hard work and learning. In the end she talked about the lessons her family learned in looking at consumption and food not as, "What do I feel like?" but rather, "What do we have? What is in abundance?"

Having grown up on a farm I have at times felt less cultured, behind the times and even out of place. Listening to Kingsolver I began to realize how fortunate I was to grow up in a world where my food came from our fields, our animals, our neighbors. Often times my mother would stop at a roadside stand to pick up corn-on-the-cob and vegetables ultimately helping some local farmer and giving us a most delicious dinner in the process. It feels so good to appreciate that and to be proud of where I'm from. I couldn't wait to move into the city and now I find myself wanting those same simplistic food principals when I choose many of the foods I do now. I'll end with an insightful passage from her book that changed the way I thought about big city and small town.

"Consider how Americans might respond to a proposal that agriculture was to become a mandatory subject in all schools, alongside reading and mathematics. A fair number of parents would get hot under the collar to see their kids' attention being pulled away from the essentials of grammar, the all-important trigonometry, to make room for down-on-the-farm stuff. The baby boom psyche embraces a powerful presumption that education is key to moving away from manual labor, and dirt - two undeniable ingredients of farming. It's good enough for us that somebody, somewhere, knows food production well enough to serve the rest of us with all we need to eat, each day of our lives.
If that's true, why isn't it good enough for someone else to know multiplication and the contents of the Bill of Rights? Is the story of bread, tilled from the ground to our table, less relevant to our lives than the history of the thirteen colonies?"

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