Ode to an Exceptionally Good Read

I’ve been up late reading. Well, I thought it was late. I decided I wanted to take a break from reading to write (I must admit, these are the joys of nights in the apartment alone, endless hours getting intimate with words). I got out of bed to retrieve my laptop and, when I pulled back the covers to get back in, glanced at the clock– only 11:48. Not as late as I thought. But then again, when it comes down to it, I’ve never been much good past 10 o’clock.

Anyway, it’s been a while since a good book got me into such a frenzy that I stayed awake reading. Not surprisingly, the last time was a food book, as is this one. Last time it was Adam Gopnick’s The Table Comes First, a heady, intricate volume that whirls you around in the head of one of today’s finest, and most hedonistically oriented, minds. I was in school in Portland, Maine at the time, and my nights looked one of two ways: I was either seated on a barstool at Empire, the dive bar next to our classrooms, with my indescribably phenomenal classmates at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies drinking bourbon and cheap beer, or home early, tucked into my Queen sized bed in my rented room in the blue house on O’Brion Street, half a block from Casco Bay, drinking mint tea and reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Well, until my first date with Trouble in early November. Then I more often had my phone pressed to my ear until one of us drifted off.

Those months in Maine were made for reading– I was studying and practicing storytelling, and surrounded by a group of people who practically oozed a soulful kind of love for interesting characters and for one another. But these days, I can barely make it through a book, or even a magazine article for that matter (I’m ashamed at the pile of Saveur issues that’s piling up, unread, under my new desk (This is perhaps my #1 reason belong to a gym. I used to only allow myself to read magazines while working out. The mounting pile of periodicals was always great motivation to get me to the gym, in order to have designated time to read glossies. Note to self: consider re-joining.). But on Tuesday I picked up a book at the library (I LOVE libraries, and am especially fond of the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Note to self #2: fodder for later post. Must talk about my unabashed obsession with the smell of musty paper and the glee that finding someone else’s pencil notes in a library book’s margins brings me). It’s Thursday now, and I’m about to be done. When, exactly, depends on whether I can make it past one A.M tonight.

There it is, the morning after. I did stay up to finish it last night after all.

It’s this book called A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette fame (I know, all the foodies are groaning about how that’s such olllld news! But somehow, I missed the boat when it was hip and current. Maybe it’s that I haven’t ever been much of a blog reader, though now that I’m writing one– and rather loving it, I must say– I’m beginning to think I should start laying eyes on my peers’ ramblings from time to time. I do remember that Pam, a friend of a friend, from whom I now happen to live half a block away, was excited back in 2009 when the publishing company she worked for was getting ready to release Wizenberg’s book. I didn’t take much note of it at the time. And I don’t know what made me stumble onto Orangette. But… well, it’s time to close these parentheses and start that thought properly). A few days ago, up in Massachusetts, I found myself perusing Orangette for the first time. There was a post about a bun in the oven, and a charming thank you note to her readers. There was  a recipe for a pistachio pound cake that a certain magazine editor called “the best cake I’ve ever had”, and how excited Wizenberg got about testing the recipe after reading that. That’s all I remember. Well, that and being absolutely smitten by the author’s voice. I immediately went to the Brooklyn library’s website and put a hold on the book.

It’s a delicious thing to spend a night reading (especially if I’m reading good food writing) in bed. It’s even more delectable, for me, at least, when I find myself practically howling with how much of myself I see in the author. In this case, most of the similarities are a little painful. Writing about losing a parent young, and the complete incomprehension of what grieving should or could look like (I’ve worked on these types of musings many times in the past few years, most recently in an essay I wrote for Leite’s Culinaria); the necessity of having a place to go when you need to be both lonely and deliriously happy (for Wizenberg, it’s Paris; for me, a friend’s house in Millerton, New York or Rio de Janeiro), and the cringe-worthy mistakes we made with our early-twenties relationships (both of us, apparently, when living with our exes, were so tightly wound and methodical that, immediately after grocery shopping, we would inventory the receipts to the cent, then divide by two, to make sure accounts were leveled out– I almost crawled under the bed with the shame of recognition when I read that one tonight).

Needless to say, I’m LOVING this book. Like, don’t want to do any work or hang out with friends because I’m busy reading kind of love. What a treat. (The other day, when Trouble and I were unpacking books in my apartment, I looked up at my groaning shelves and the motley collection of colorful spines– most of which I haven’t seen in a couple of years, as they’ve been keeping my step-mom’s attic company– and said, “I love books. I’ve missed having them around.” Trouble put on that irresistible half-smile-half-pout and asked, “You love books more than you love me?” I didn’t answer. And I maintain that’s a mean and unfair game to play!) Apparently, I’m not alone in my admiration for this book– it was a New York Times bestseller (cue envy rising in the belly), and Ms. Wizenberg got herself a second book deal out of it as well. If I wasn’t so taken with her and her writing, I might let the jealousy preclude my growing affection for this person that I’ve only encountered in print. Fortunately, that’s not the case. I can’t wait to read her new one when it comes out. I might even try to chase her down for a face-to-face meeting if she goes on book tour.

But more than anything, reading A Homemade Life has got me thinking about writing again. Generating ideas for posts, essays, pieces, the memoir proposal that’s been sitting dormant in a folder on my desktop since October (that was right about the time school got busy… and then I met Trouble. Yup, there he goes again, interrupting the safe, dull routine. Twice in one post. He won’t mind. He loves to poke fun at me for my penchant for routine and planning anyway.). Come to think of it, I’m so bursty with ideas at the moment, I might just start working on another post right now. Or get back to reading. Sometimes, I hate having to choose.