Before anybody says anything practical, it’s one freaking day. Screw health and good sense and eat what you want. Lean close and snort up that aroma. Close your eyes, let it linger on your tongue, and savor how good it tastes. Hell, roll in it if you want to. Life it too short not to celebrate with good things.
This week I’ve been exploring Golden Age mysteries and discovered that Ngaio Marsh has been vastly underrated (by me) and Dorothy Sayers has been vastly overrated (also by me), although Murder Must Advertise is still a great book. The rest of them, you can have. Marsh, however, delights even when her mysteries suck because her characterization is so sharp. Which is a lesson to us all (us being writers). Also, Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar is the best Golden Age mystery I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of Golden Age mystery. After Tey, it’s Allingham, Marsh, and Gilbert, tied for second. I knew you’d want to know my opinion this.
So in your opinion, what’s a good book to read this week?
I’m still working on cleaning up my kitchen and my novel. Both are progressing, but slowly. I also need to do something about my garbage; the bears keep mugging it. I can hear them outside my bedroom window on garbage nights, and while I am against their ripping up my bags, I’m also against me going out to yell at them in case they rip apart me. I don’t think they would, in general they’re mellow bears, but I don’t want to get between them and my expired spaghetti. (In case you’re wondering, bears go insane for past-sell-by sour cream but will not touch old mushrooms.) I’m thinking contractor bags and duct tape this week. Let’s see how they deal with that.
I have been working on this book WAY too long. At this point, of course, I think it sucks and am wondering why I ever thought I could write in the first place, but that’s just normal. The problem is, I can’t just say, “The hell with it” and send it off because the cuts I made actually made the book worse, so I have to go through it one more time. That banging sound you hear in the background is my head hitting the keyboard over and over. ARGH.
But I did find my Mother’s Day present. I get myself something nice on Mother’s Day every year because Mollie tends to send flowers, which is lovely but I want someTHING. This is what I went for this year and it arrived yesterday and it’s fabulous:
The lids have magnets in them so you can stick them on the side of the fridge or on a wall if you get a metal plate. They’re gorgeous and practical and they make me happy.
I will return to writing better blog posts as soon as I’ve wrestled this damn book to the ground. Which will be soon or I’ll lose my mind and just stare at my spices all day.
I’ve been collecting Mexican folk art for years, especially alebrijes (wood animals) and Josefina Aguilar’s clay figurines (the one to the right is my favorite). There’s something about the wild abandon of folk art, the refusal to bow to any academy or rigid criteria, the sense that anything goes as long as it fills the artist’s soul with joy, that makes me happy.
It’s probably fitting to talk about that on Cinco de Mayo since the date celebrates an improbable victory over a sophisticated invading force (the French this time) that led to renewed confidence and joy in the defending army. Cinco de Mayo has been co-opted into an American drinking holiday that a lot of people think is Mexico’s Independence Day (that’s Sept. 16) so there’s the whole appropriation problem again, but if we think of it as a time to raise a glass to indomitable spirit and the great joy of freedom, a kind of folk-art-as-history holiday, I think we’re okay.
Also, in case I didn’t make myself clear, Mexican folk art makes me wildly happy. What made you happy this week?
I’ve been doing a massive reread of Ngaio Marsh. I hadn’t read her for decades, so most of the time I don’t remember who the murderer is, which is fun, but the best part is her characterization. Inspector Alleyn leaves me fairly cold, somewhere between Miss Marple (my gold standard) and Peter Whimsey (I like him but only in small doses), but her casts of characters are stellar. There are usually five to eight of them in a small village or on a ship or in a big house, the contained community thing, and she has such sharp skills for writing vivid characters who combust when they’re together. I’m enjoying the hell out of Ngaio Marsh.
I’m clearing out my kitchen. I’ve been doing it forever, but this week, I’m getting serious about it. I have lovely pots and pans, but there are too many of them, so my daughter is getting some Creuset and All Clad. It pangs me to part with them, but how many braisers does one woman need? So that’s my work for the week: a lovely, clean, well-organized kitchen. Okay for the month, that’s my work.
What are you doing? Did you make anything? I need to make something.
The antagonist often gets short shrift, especially in a romance where the lovers are united against him (she gets the main plot, he gets the subplot, the antagonist is the same for both). In that kind of book, the juice is in the lovers and the antagonist shows up to create pain which creates stress which creates adrenalin which spurs attraction which creates lust . . . . Yeah, the antagonist really should not be there as a sex toy, he or she should have a complete plot all to him or herself.
Or cute little cippolini onions. Or a really gorgeous tomato, bursting out of its skin. Or a purply shallot with its papery skin coming off. The thing about fresh food is that it’s gorgeous. And good for you of course, but let’s spend a little time admiring the firm white and green of bok ahoy, the cheerful curliness of dark green spinach, the luminous orange of a carrot that’s just been peeled, the deep frosted blue of blueberries, the sheer riot of nature trying to feed us, seducing us with all that color and texture. And that’s before we get to corn still in the husk (is there any prettier yellow-and-green than that?) and peas popping out of their bright little pods and the ridiculously flashy red of strawberries . . .
Produce makes me happy. I don’t even have to eat it, I just want to look at it.