reading: Didion, Chandler, budget style, Proust, cookery


The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion — Joan Didion’s account of the year after her husband’s death. Interesting reflections on grief and loss, memory and love. She writes about being lucidly irrational, maintaining certain habits as if her husband might come home at any minute, analyzing her mourning (and researching the human experience of mourning, grieving) while being at a loss to stem or manage it. Compelling reading, especially as I think our culture does a poor job of establishing social and emotional structures/traditions/protocols around grief, despite the fact that grief is universal and visits all.

The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler — A collection of short stories I picked up after seeing [Agatha Christie’s] Ms. Marple reading it in the (I think very good) 2004 BBC series.  Entirely worth it if only for the essay of the same name that serves as a prologue to the collection (I am exponentially more likely to watch a detective story than to read one, but I am interested to read about the writing of them. Go figure.). Full of the kind of dry humor I love, and interesting besides.

“…the good novel is not at all the same kind of book as the bad novel. It is about entirely different things. But the good detective story and the bad detective story are about exactly the same things, and they are about them in very much the same way.”

“I have known relatively few international financiers, but I rather think the author of this novel has (if possible) known fewer.”

“The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.”

“The story is this man’s [the detective’s] adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

Good, right?

Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less, Anna Johnson — There are a lot of memoir/advice books about style, and I have read quite a few of them (I will not say how many, but many, many). I regret to inform you that most may be categorized somewhere along the spectrum between useless and awful. Or plotted on a grid where the x axis goes from useless to awful and the y axis goes from trite to mind-bogglingly dull, the intersection of which axes is pure, unalloyed vapidity. Some can be skimmed quickly enough that extracting one or two redeeming ideas makes the whole business worthwhile, others cannot even boast this. I still keep hoping though, that they are going to have fruit for me, and I keep checking them out of the library. Well, finally, one with some sense. This is not badly written! This is not bad advice! I am going to check out her other books!

Seriously, though, if you are trying to get more mileage out of your fashion budget, or trying to approach fashion practically without sacrificing a sense of luxury (and can tolerate the odd short anecdote), this is a sensible little book. She touches on food, entertaining, home decor, travel, and other contexts of style as well. Not too bossy about ‘every woman should have x in her closet’ kind of stuff, either, which can be hard to stomach. Really incredibly less bad than the genre would lead one to expect.

The French Slow Cooker, Michele Scicolone — I got a slow cooker. If I understand correctly, my mind is about to be blown.

And I’m back to reading Swann’s Way, from which I’d been distracted for a while.