Next week marks the official start of summer and last summer’s book suggestions were well received, so we’re doing it again. Pour yourself a glass of iced tea or a crisp rosé and enjoy!
Part love story, part thriller, part cultural immersion, Saturday Comes, a first novel by our very own Carine Fabius, is magic. Her compelling characters, alive and otherwise, take you on a journey of love, loss, revenge and voudou. From the Haitian home of the bourgeoisie to the palpable humidity of Miami, this captivating tale transported me and the writing took my breath away.
Currently, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is keeping me up at night. This true story, written by science writer Rebecca Skloot, is another page-turner. In the 1950s, a poor black woman’s cancer cells were taken without permission and eventually used to develop the polio vaccine and numerous scientific advances. While her cells make others billions of dollars, the late Henrietta Lacks remains relatively unknown and her family impoverished.
Come to the Edge by Christina Haag. Imagine a Greek god descending from Mt. Olympus and sweeping you off your feet. Author Christina Haag captures the passion and tragedy of being loved by John F. Kennedy, Jr., the closest approximation to an Olympian who has ever walked the earth. Christina’s memoir chronicles the Kennedy inner-circle while revealing the flaws that brought this exquisite Icarus crashing to earth 13 years ago this July. Read more
Whether it’s Nook, Kindle or iPad, hardback or paper, library or bookstore — we can never get enough great stories. So as summer starts to wane, we at Fifty is the New share some recent good reads. What we did on our summer vacation, literary style.
This summer reminded me of my girlhood, when every Saturday I checked out 11 books (the maximum allowed) from the Pasadena Public Library, and returned them a week later for another near dozen. Two I liked:
Wesley the Owl: a Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and his Girl by Stacey O’Brien. Mandatory reading for animal lovers!
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: a romp through France’s bourgeoisie told by two razor-sharp wits whose lives collide in a fancy apartment building in the 5th arrondissement.
Summer for me means sun, sand, sea, and books, lots of books, and though I now live in the mountains I still make time for long, slow days and words that make my heart sing.
I am, for the dozenth time, re-reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This delicious froth of manners and misunderstanding within the Bennett family is a perfect summer distraction from our modern miasma.
I’ve also started Pompeii by Richard Harris, the historical fiction of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Sounds like a potboiler, yes? Read more
Can Carine gamble on insurance and not get burned?
Recent conversation with my vet:
Me: It’s been at least a year since I asked one of your people to fill out this “Release of Records” form and send it to my insurance company but they never did, so my last claim went unpaid.
(The insurance company needed two years’ worth of records to guard against any sneaky pre-existing conditions.)
Vet: Oh, no. We fill out all forms and fax them in immediately, but all our clients call back three and four times to complain that the insurance companies say they haven’t received it.
Me: So, I guess their thing is to wear us down in the hope that we will eventually abandon or forget the whole thing?
Vet: You know, insurance companies. (Shrug)
In case you’re still reeling over the news that I pay for something as elitist as pet insurance when there are people starving in America, all I can say is, well, yes, I pay for pet insurance. I’ve gone off the pet insurance crack pipe several times over the years, each time, succumbing to the guilt wrought upon me by the sarcastic and smirking voice, which tells me I’m a fool to fork over hard-earned dough to yet another insurance company when they always seem to find an excuse for denying my claims. Read more
Prudence shares an easy way to help millions of dogs and cats
Some days I get nothing done. Oh, I cook & clean up, chauffeur & scrub, fluff & fold, but I am not part of the solution to the manifold challenges our world, our society, our country faces.
This changed when my friend Marsha insisted I daily log onto Freekibble.com to help one of the six- to eight-million* dogs and cats languishing in shelters get their daily dose of kibble. I mean, if you are on death row, you still gotta eat, right?
And until we figure out how to stop the pooch & puss overpopulation problem that has as many as four million beasties euthanized annually*, the good folks at Freekibble donate ten kibble chunks per game for every person who plays the website’s super-fun and challenging Bow-Wow Trivia Quiz and Meow Trivia Quiz. The angelic sponsor of Freekibble appropriately named Halo, Purely for Pets®, that markets natural & nutritious pet food and is co-owned by none other than Ellen Degeneres.
So until these homeless shelter animals find “their forever homes,” Freekibble.com helps me get my daily good karma points, no matter how trifling the other parts of my life are.
*Humane Society of the United States statistics
Get a daily dose of uplift, courtesy of Melissa and friends
To keep my cheer flowing year-round, I find great daily joy in two free email subscriptions.
A Daily Poem
Hosted and curated by Garrison Keillor, The Writer’s Almanac can also be heard daily on NPR. I read the poem each morning while the coffee brews.
The Writer’s Almanac >>
A Daily Painting
I also subscribe to a daily painting by a noted Southwestern painter John Farnsworth. Having painted himself into a corner with horses—a subject he’d become known for—John hit a creative wall. To reignite his creativity, John began doing one painting a day and posting it on his website. Every day I am eager to see what John has created. Waiting to see the painting reminds me of the fifty-cent surprise bags we used to get as kids at the Trading Post when on vacation, only better.
A Farnsworth A Day >>
What lurks in the mind of Carine Fabius? Have you seen her?
Several themes have been dancing around inside my head lately. Tiptoeing like a ballerina is the power of art to transform us. A recent New York Times Magazine article on Estonian composer Arvo Pärt described his music as being able to “touch the soul.” It was also described as “…a harmonic stillness that conjures up an alternative to hectic everyday existence;” R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe said that Pärt’s music brings one “to a total meditative state.” The writer said he was surprised at how many of his acquaintances knew of the composer’s work and loved it.
I was similarly delighted to find that so many unusual suspects are fans of Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, whom we recently hosted at our gallery for a signing of her book of essays, Create Dangerously. The response was so enthusiastic I feared having to turn people away. In a world where most people need their culture fed to them in sound bites from celebrities, preferably on television, the author is wildly successful. While her lyrical prose defies conventional storytelling, its simple and gorgeous use of everyday language serves to inspire, horrify and, yes, touch the soul. I like that in a work of art.
I am working on a major exhibition of Haitian art that is scheduled to launch in 2012 and travel to important museums throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. The Haitian Cultural Foundation (HCF), which hired me to curate the exhibition, believes, like I do, that my beleaguered country’s art and culture should be an integral part of the recovery and reconstruction dialogue. Why?
When Prudence’s life is saved, she wonders, is it merely coincidence or celestial interference?
I am alive today because Eric, a man I never met, saved my life last month.
No, I am not filtering bodily fluids with Eric’s kidneys; nor pumping blood with Eric’s heart. Heaven forbid Eric should have donated any of his organs! After all, he died of AIDS 30 years ago.
But, according to Catherine, my son’s art teacher, Eric’s fingerprints are all over the recent life-saving business—although some may claim a mouse who nobly sacrificed itself, or that a journalist at the Brattleboro Reformer deserve just as much credit.
Perhaps. So, let’s give credit to Eric, the mouse AND the reporter. And my husband. And anyone else who wants to get in on the credit crawl. After all, once you’ve wriggled free from Death’s icy clutches, you feel a little generous.
Let me backtrack. Read morekeep looking »