Words to live by: A poem (kind of) by a saint

I’m often accused of being judgmental, but what do those bastards know, amIrite?

I can be grumpy and testy and, well, just like the grumpy, testy people I come across every freaking day. Perhaps I get a bad rap because I don’t suffer fools easily and patience is not one of my virtues.

But I’m trying to be better — I will need people around in my old age to wipe my bum — and this poem, by St. Teresa of Calcutta (better known as Mother Teresa) is a place to start. I printed it out a couple months ago and taped it up on the wall next to my desk at work. I  find myself turning to it regularly throughout the day when incompetent idiots think I will drop everything I’m doing to solve their stupid problems. I mean, of course, when I find myself mildly vexed by the questions of coworkers.

Hey, no one said this would be easy or quick.

Continue reading “Words to live by: A poem (kind of) by a saint”

Advertisements

A big dump, just to get things moving again — 4 reviews of so-so books

One reason I stopped posting to this blog is because I ran into so many books that were not good but weren’t crap, either, that I found myself uninspired. Why should I waste your time or mine writing full columns about mostly forgettable books? I found myself blocked.

But then I thought, I’m here for you. The mission of Shelf Improvement is to steer you away from crap and I read all those books. So consider this a good dose of fiber meant to bring on a good dump.

Continue reading “A big dump, just to get things moving again — 4 reviews of so-so books”

Feeding the beast: Two books explore my favorite hobby — eating

ate.jpegSo here are two terms I have never heard before: “culinary historian” and “historical gastronomist.” They both sound like the same thing, but what do I know? I’ll tell you what I know: If I saw this job when I was taking aptitude tests in high school I would have been on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich. It sounds like fun and, hey, eating is involved.

I recently read “What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women & The Food That Tells Their Stories” by culinary historian Laura Shapiro, and “Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine” by historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman and have been yapping about them nonstop ever since.

flavors.jpeg“Come on,” I said at holiday gatherings, about one drink shy of completely embarrassing myself. “Guess the eight flavors.” And when we weren’t playing that game, I was discoursing on all the bizarreness that was Hitler’s lover Eva Braun and Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown’s pathetic slavishness to staying thin.

There are certain family members who have stopped taking my calls.

Continue reading “Feeding the beast: Two books explore my favorite hobby — eating”

I’m back, whether you want it or not, with a poem about fried bologna

bologna.jpegIt has been exactly six months since my last post.

That’s pathetic. But, as usually happens, vanity projects like these get put aside when every day is filled with necessary projects.

But, to coin a phrase, new year, new you, right? So I’m back. I’d like to say it was due to popular demand, but only three people asked if I had given this up, so it’s not as though there was a groundswell.

Continue reading “I’m back, whether you want it or not, with a poem about fried bologna”

Two novels about entitlement and something that sure isn’t love

I recently—and quite coincidentally—read two novels that, though very different, are nearly identical in theme, treatment of said theme and the ambivalent reaction I had to each of them.

marriage.jpgThe first of this not-really-dynamic duo was Jeffrey Eugenides’ 2011 “The Marriage Plot.” Eugenides said he wrote this novel as a way of determining whether novels using the what academics call “the marriage plot” could be written in a modern day setting. Well, not quite modern day, as it’s set in 1981, which he clearly remembers a little too fondly.

Continue reading “Two novels about entitlement and something that sure isn’t love”

The nearly insurmountable challenge of a 19th-Century novel

This post is a twofer. Two reviews for the price of one. This is because I have very little to say about the first novel I selected to fulfill the 19th-Century category of the 2016-17 Classics Challenge.

courage.jpgAfter living a month or so inside the head of the Rebels while reading “Gone With the Wind,” I thought I’d spend some time with the actual winners of the Civil War (though are there really any winners in war?) by reading Stephen Crane’s 1895 novel “The Red Badge of Courage.” I’d liked his short stories (especially “The Open Boat”) and was eager to read it.

I chose this book because it has been on my bookshelf for some 20 years and because it was short. It should have stayed on the bookshelf.

Continue reading “The nearly insurmountable challenge of a 19th-Century novel”

‘Water’ isn’t fine, but may still be worth a dive

water.jpgPaula Hawkins’ first book, “The Girl on the Train” benefited from the tailwind created by the huge success of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” Readers, it seemed, were anxiously searching for thrillers with major twists on the theme of women hating men.

Hawkins has a new novel out, a thriller with a major twist with the theme of men hating women. It’s not great (but neither was “Train,”)  and it’s way too long, but it’s summer and everything seems better when read by the side of a big body of water.

Continue reading “‘Water’ isn’t fine, but may still be worth a dive”