Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

May 30, 2021
by jenniferpuryear

Summer Reading 2021: Pure Imagination 🌈

I’m dreaming of Dandelion Wine and Tokyo nights; of rock bands and robots; of love. I’m dreaming of happily ever after; of journeys, and childhood, and home. I’m sailing to a world of pure imagination in these Top Five Summer Reads… please join me!

Top Pick: Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury

From the Wall Street Journal:

…[W]hen we asked our news­letter sub­scribers to name a sin­gle book that cap­tures the fleet­ing magic of child­hood sum­mers, one ti­tle came up again and again in emails: Ray Brad­bury’s “Dan­de­lion Wine” (1957), a novel-in-sto­ries in which a boy’s sum­mer ad­ven­tures in an Illi­nois town (…based on Brad­bury’s child­hood mem­o­ries) are tinged with fan­tasy and a halo of art­ful nos­tal­gia. Dou­glas Rush­ing re­marks that it con­jures up a sea­son of “dan­de­lions, friends, monarch but­ter­flies, warm days, dogs, and more.” And as Joseph Marr wrote: “I know of no bet­ter book that de­scribes the joy and in­tro­spec­tion of boy­hood.

I wonder how the “joy and introspection of boyhood” may be different from the joy and introspection of girlhood. I wonder how that differs across generations as well as genders. I can’t wait to read this.

As a girl, I loved the Olympics. I watched every moment that I could; I cut out newspaper articles and made scrapbooks. I can’t wait to hear if the Tokyo Olympics are happening… either way, this novel appeals…

All flowers in photos from my meadow/garden/yard

Tokyo Ever After, by Emiko Jean

From the publisher:

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in – it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi – or Izzy, because “it’s easier this way” – and her mom, against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess…

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself – back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

From the blogger at The Quiet Pond

MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Tokyo Ever After is one of the most fun and blissful books I have ever read. Fun, hilarious, and the right kind of silly and sweet, Tokyo Ever After is the fairytale-like story that feels like a soft pillow after a hard day, gentle in its affirmations and fierce in its celebration of love.

Tokyo Ever After is marketed to a YA audience. Klara and the Sun, by contrast, lives on the opposite end of the spectrum – high literary fiction. My friend Sean Kinch loved it, and I love Ishiguro’s other works, so I will read it. 

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Here’s what Sean Kinch, intrepid reader and teacher, says:

Voice, vision, scope – Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels sound like no one else’s, reimagine the world in brilliant ways, and subtly touch on enormous swaths of experience. Klara and the Sun, ostensibly about the relationship between an AF (artificial friend) and her teenage partner, charts the sentimental education of a robot who becomes entangled in the dramas of an American family in the not-distant future. Moving, thought-provoking, disturbing, Ishiguro’s latest is also a beautiful work of art.

Next up is my couples’ book club selection for June (chosen by Caroline and Gary Shockley)…

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, by Dawnie Walton

Some thoughts from Maureen Corrigan at NPR:

“I knew from all the buzz about The Final Revival of Opal & Nev that it’s a work of fiction by first-time novelist Dawnie Walton. But after I started her book, I had to stop and double check to make sure that this wasn’t a true account of a real-life rock duo from the 1970s. That’s how authentic this odd novel feels, composed, as it is, out of a pandemonium of fictional interviews, footnotes, talk-show transcripts, letters and editor’s notes.

To say that The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a sly simulacrum of a rock oral history is to acknowledge only the most obvious of this novel’s achievements. Walton aspires to so much more in this story about music, race and family secrets that spans five decades.”

I would never say that a book is a “sly simulacrum” of anything because I don’t know how to pronounce that word and I’m not entirely sure what it means.

It’s an imitation or simulation, I assume. Mating with a crumb cake.

Either way, I’m all in for this groovy summer read.

Finally: What Comes After, by Joanne Tompkins, a novel set in small-town Illinois that involves murder, community, and Quakers. I don’t think it’s too heavy for a summer read. I hope not. 

I love the headline of the NYT review…

How Do You Rebound From Tragedy? Begin by Welcoming the Future

In JoAnne Tompkins’s debut novel, “What Comes After,” a town reeling from unimaginable loss opens its doors to a pregnant stranger.

“What Comes After” opens with a quote from Thomas Merton: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not.”

Oh, how our imagination shapes us! In the immortal words of Willy Wonka…

“There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be…”

*      *     *

BONUS PICK (sent to me by my friend Jack Barnwell):

Dear Jennifer,

I am writing after happy hour and a steak dinner with a tres bon vin rouge, so my memory on why I sent you Lessons From Lucy is not as clear as it might be. As well as I can reconstruct the reason, it is because you were a bit, or more than a bit, blue at the time, and I thought his humor could cheer you up. I think Dave Barry is one of the best humorists of his time. He doesn’t pretend to be sophisticated; he doesn’t use dry wit; he doesn’t play with words.

I am at the Lake, and my copy of the book is in Raleigh, so I can’t quote the text of those lessons.

The serious parts of the book, the lessons, are more applicable to old age (he and I are only months apart in age) than to young middle-age folks like you. Of the six lessons, and I think they are so good that I have them tacked to the closet door in my study, the one that hit me the hardest is this (and I don’t have the exact language): “Pay attention to the people you love; listen to them now, not later.” I am working on that, and I think I am doing better.

*     *     *

You cheered me by sending it, Jack. And I so look forward to reading it.

Happy Summer, Bacon friends! Xoxo

May 15, 2021
by jenniferpuryear

The Curse of Jonah (Or: Two Tales of Colonial Gas)

 

Sometimes I am really late to the party. Will someone please text me when there is important breaking news?

I didn’t realize until Wednesday afternoon that Colonial Gas supplied Nashville. When my younger daughter told me, we drove to the Green Hills Kroger and filled up (only regular gas available, and not at every pump). We were due to leave for Atlanta the next day for her older sister’s college graduation – attendance NOT optional!

It was fine. Everyone was civil. The lines weren’t too long.

I did have a moment of aggravation when the woman in front of me filled her car’s tank and then filled a paper grocery bag. She looked like she’d just come from a yoga class.

Jack Barnwell stops in at Bacon today with his reflections on hoarding, beach vacations, and curses…

May 13

Barnwell family visits to the beach seem cursed. During the last mother-daughter trip to the beach that Beth and Leigh took, a teenage driver making an illegal turn slammed into Leigh’s little Honda Civic, rendering it undriveable. I had to rush down to Ocean Isle to bring them home and arrange to have Leigh’s car towed back to Raleigh. In 2012 or so, Beth and I decided to have a quiet, intimate celebration of Thanksgiving at the beach. She found an ocean-front rental house on Hatteras Island, which is not densely populated. The house was advertised as “pet-friendly.” Unfortunately, the steps leading up to the house both from the driveway and the beach were so steep that our poor Belle, then about ten years old, could barely get up them. We got very little sleep in that cold, poorly insulated house with the wind howling all night. We bailed the next morning and made the long drive from the beach to the known and welcome refuge of our Lake Tillery house. One obvious lesson from the doomed Hatteras trip was to board our pets rather than take them with us.

Most of our beach trips have been to the southern Outer Banks, especially Ocean Isle. Last year we decided to go to a place on the northern Outer Banks, to Duck or Corrola, both of which are rather pricey locations. Beth’s internet searches tend to be more thorough  and successful than mine, and she found a condo in Duck that promised privacy, modern amenities, and a view of Currituck Sound. In  January or February of 2020, we made the required deposit. In March the Coronavirus hit with full force, and we cancelled, ending our hopes for a beach trip that year. In view of the raging pandemic, the owner of the condo kindly refunded our deposit.

This February, both of us fully vaccinated, we looked forward to travelling again after a year of self-imposed isolation. We rented the condo in Duck for the second week in May. We arrived there on Monday, the 10th, and were very pleased to find it exactly as advertised.  The place was extremely clean with modern furniture and a picture window in the living room giving us a lovely view of Currituck Sound:

Looking forward to the days ahead, we dined on seafood and went to bed early. The next morning, we drove up Highway 12 past Corolla to the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, a place I had read about in The North Carolina Birding Trail, Coastal Plain Trail Guide, a book Beth gave me for Christmas.

The boardwalk there is an ideal place to spot wading birds, and warblers and songbirds can be seen and heard in the surrounding maritime forest. A Great Egret, a.k.a. American Egret, was feeding as it waded in the sound:

 

Adjacent to the Center for Wildlife Education is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Dating from 1875, the lighthouse is 162 feet tall, and the “First Order Fresnel Light” at its top can be seen from 18 nautical miles away as it rotates at 20-second intervals.

Beth and I were aware before we started our trip that the Colonial Pipeline carrying three million barrels of fuel per day from Texas up the East Coast to New York had been hacked and forced to suspend operations until the malware implanted its computer systems could be cleared. News reports indicated that because of gasoline already stored there would not be shortages at filling stations unless panic buying began. I was foolish enough to believe that consumers would heed that assessment and advice. How many times can I be wrong?

We had planned to go to Dismal Swamp State Park the next day to do some more birding and to hike along the trails there. But on our drive back from Corolla, we noticed that panic buying had depleted the pumps at all but one station along Highway 12. The line to get into that station stretched for blocks. We had taken Beth’s Honda Civic for the trip because it gets about forty miles per gallon on the highway. Nevertheless, with the gas remaining in its tank we did not have the range to make it back to Raleigh. When our week-long lease of the condo expired, we would not only be stranded but also without a place to stay. Our beach trip had to be abandoned. The question for the afternoon became this: do we search for gas along U.S. 158, the  four-lane highway running from Manteo northward through Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk before it intersects with North Carolina Highway 12, or do we save what gas we have and hope to find a station tomorrow before we run out of gas on our drive back to Raleigh? We opted for the first choice. It was lucky we did. We found a station with a long line of cars stretching from it. After a wait of probably thirty minutes, we reached a pump. Blessedly, it still had fuel. Along the two hundred, fifteen mile trip home the next day, we saw exactly one station that appeared to have gas.

We should never invite friends to join us on a beach trip. We must have the curse of Jonah upon us, and I have no confidence that we would be saved from the belly of a whale.

*      *      *

Sunset at Lake Tillery, May 2021 (all photos in post copyright Jack Barnwell)