It’s still snowy and cold here, and I’m still hunkered down with my new son. It’s a weird mix of planning and looking forward to the holidays, and being so in to the ebbs and flows of the daily routine (or at least trying to establish what looks like a routine). Having a newborn is hard, and the difficult patches that come up are hard to predict and uniquely challenging. It’s both incredibly boring and frustrating when you’re trying to soothe a fussy baby. We’ve started to track Will’s sleep schedule to help him stay on track during the day with adequate periods of wakefulness and get some solid sleep at night. So far, there’s been ample time in the overnight hours to read a bit.
Here’s what I’m eating and reading this week:Weekly Menu Plan
Sunday: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas
Tuesday: Wild rice soup, warm baguette with butter
Wednesday: Sausage and broccoli pasta skillet
Friday: Take-out burgers
Saturday: foil-roasted salmon, rice pilaf
What I’m Reading This Week:
Who is fat enough to be called fat?
I’m so excited to start cooking and baking with my growing daughter, and I liked reading this mom’s take on Chopped Junior
Mario Batali’s weak apology mailed to subscribers – unbelievable that this was a real thing.
Title: The Burning Girl: A NovelThe Burning Girl
Author: Claire Messud
I was a big fan of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, and her latest novel didn’t quite do enough to dislodge that book from its place as one of my favorites. The Burning Girl wasn’t bad or boring, but it wasn’t spectacular. I think it had an extra leg up with me, too, as it takes place in northern Massachusetts, an area I’m pretty familiar with and good conjure up in my own mind as the narrative wound along. The story arc focusing on the friendship between the two growing girls, however, is only moderately interesting, a bit lukewarm.
There were a few passages I liked, two of which center on the experience of growing up through the middle school and high school years and the emerging awareness of others’ perceptions and expectations of who you are and where you fit in life.
On exploring the building of what was once a mental hospital: “What would it be like to have been locked up in one of those cells for weeks or months or even years, only to discover that you’d never really been a lunatic at all, and could just as easily — if only the world had been a bit different — have been home in your bedroom all along? That would mean that you couldn’t be sure about things. Better to believe that sane people were sane and crazy people were crazy and you could put the two types of people on opposite sides of the wall and keep them separate, clean and tidy. Without that, where would the lunatics go? Where had they gone? Were they among us? Were they us?” (pg 73)
“Sometimes I felt that growing up and being a girl was about learning to be afraid. Not paranoid, exactly, but always alert and aware, like checking out the exits in a movie theater or the fire escape in a hotel. You came to know, in a way you hadn’t as a kid, that the body you inhabited was vulnerable, imperfectly fortified… so you learn in your mind, that you body needs to be protected. It’s both precious and totally dispensable, depending on whom you encounter.” (pg 112)
“You get to middle school, and you think about these things. The world opens up; history stretches behind you, and the future stretches before you, and you’re suddenly aware of the wild, unknowable interior lives of everyone around you, the realization that each and every person lives in an unspoken world as full and strange as your own, that you can’t ever hope entirely to know anything, not even yourself. But just as the world is opening up, it’s closing too, and things reveal their previously unimagined shapes. Without it being said, I was treated as a kid with a bright future… without anybody saying so outright, I was being told that my path was the more valuable.” (pg. 113)
I think most readers will identify with the narrator of the story, as she observes and watches her friend grow up and their friendship fragment and drift apart. As I was reading the book and came across this passage, I reflected on the degree to which this expectation has been the experience of readers themselves and the layers of privilege that now surround our lives, propelling us through education, allowing us to pick up books for leisure.