Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year's Best F/H, and How To Eat

It's so cozy outside! I wish we had a fireplace (like the one at Adagia, below)... that would make it perfect.

I just returned The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology (1999), and I just finished reading (as much as one can read a cookbook) How To Eat, by Nigella.

The anthology was good, but I must confess that I didn't read the whole thing. I read the extensive summary of 1999's books, graphic novels, movies and TV shows, and then I read a few of the short stories and excerpts. I am just not a fan of short stories. I know lots of people are, but I don't get it. They're always too... well, short. I read a nice (if confusing) piece by Neil Gaiman; it was like it barely got started before it was over. I know short stories are supposed to be an art form all their own, but I always feel cheated. Maybe it's because I read quickly. I like to read big novels because I get emotionally invested, because they transport me, because it's a good long distraction. Short stories are like only one handful of popcorn -- it's good, but you just want to keep eating the whole bowl, and it feels chintzy to only have a single handful.

The summary was interesting, though. I wanted to make notes about all the books I wanted to read. And it was fun to see which ones I've already read.

How To Eat is, as are all of Nigella's books, lovely and conversational and full of recipes that I want to make right then. I'm going to make her madeline recipe after I finish writing this entry. All the recipes for roast chicken and beef stews almost made me miss eating meat regularly... but not really. Those things always sound so good in theory, but in reality, there's gristle and bone and bloody packages to deal with, and then beef always gets stuck in my teeth and you always find a vein in chicken. I swear, those are the biggest reasons why I don't eat meat. It's just... yuck.

I returned my previous stack of books to the library and then got lost in the aisles for awhile. I feel so happy to have rediscovered the library (especially since the new library at Alameda is so nice). I was remembering all the reasons why as I browsed aimlessly. First, there's no commitment. You don't have to be really really sure you're going to love the book (because it's your $24.95 on the line)... it can just sit by your bed for three weeks while you read everything else, and then you can return it, no harm done to your pocketbook. I did this last round; I checked out Peter Straub's Hellfire Club because it looked pretty good and I couldn't find his Ghost Story, which I've wanted to read for awhile. Once I got it home, however, I didn't really want to read it. I totally lost interest. However, no guilt because I knew it could just go right back to the library.

The other reason why I love the library (well, there are many more reasons) is because of the quirky selection... there are rows and rows of Danielle Steele books, but then there are also little small-press one-off books by unknown authors, side-by-side. I can check out an author that I've never heard of and toss it in the bag, just for kicks. The library usually doesn't have everything I'm looking for, but that just makes me expand my horizons and look at books I would never look at in a bookstore. If I really, really want to find a certain book, of course I can just find a used copy online. But then I have to pay for it. I read really quickly, so it's hard for me to buy fiction books which I know I will devour in a weekend, and then what? It goes on the shelf, until I give it to the thrift store. I only feel good about buying books that I know I will keep, like reference books or certain classics that I will go back to time and again.

Another thing I noticed while wandering the stacks with my head tilted at an angle is that libraries feel like home, like the art room feels like home, like walking at twilight feels like home. These are things that are so me -- not borrowed in any way. I'm not trying it on to see how it feels. I love books and I love libraries, period. No explanations, no reasons needed. When I sit at my art desk, I feel like I know exactly what I'm doing, even when I have no clue what I'm going to make. I love cooking, but it still feels a little like an experiment, like something I acquired in adulthood, not intrinsic to my own self. But books, art, evening walks... these things feel essential. They are mine.

The more I go back to the things that I know feed my soul, truly feed my soul (not just the things self-help books suggest), the more rooted and secure I feel in myself. The more my path feels comfortable and right. The more I trust myself. How did I forget these things? When I stopped going to the library (for various reasons) I lost a big piece of soul-food. I feel ecstatic to have it back. My new selections are very exciting; stay tuned for reviews!

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