“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”—Marcel Pagnol (French Writer, Producer and Film Director, 1895-1974)
Petite Anglaise, by Catherine Sanderson (2008) is blogger’s memoir. She is a young English woman living in France who, on a lark, takes up blogging one day about her life in Paris with boyfriend, Mr. Frog, and their daughter, Tadpole. The blog becomes wildly popular and the book details how it impacted her life and relationships. Interesting because of the blogging experience, appealing to me also because she’s living in Paris. Nice.
Well, yes, author J.D. Salinger died just in the last two months and inspired the choice of this novel. It was published in 1951 and I first read it in high school (many years ago). It reads like an uncensored train of thought of the main character, Holden Caulfield, and that makes it interesting. Honestly, I couldn’t remember too much about it from high school. Then, I remember thinking Holden swore an awful lot; also, I couldn’t really relate to the teenage male stuff. Now, about 30 years later, the swearing doesn’t leave that much of an impression—of course, I am so much more desensitized these days. But he is a depressed character who appears way too critical of the people he encounters; frankly, one of the take aways is a note to myself to continue working to change my own tendencies to do the same. Knowing that Salinger was a famous recluse, I do wonder how much of the personality of the author is reflected in Holden. Can’t say that I really loved the book but definitely worth a read. The book was chosen on Time’s list of the 100 best novels of all time. Huh; I notice I only have 98 to go!
Food Rules, An Eater’s Manualby Michael Pollan (2009) is a brief, easy to read guide for anyone trying to eat better and simplify food choices. Many of us realize by now that the Western diet of over-processed food, meat, high fat and sugar content and refined grains is not healthy. He points out that our diet, compared to other traditional diets, is making us sick. Pollan, a journalist—not a nutritionist—has researched the food industry extensively and also authored In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
This little manual contains his acquired wisdom in answer to the questions: What should I eat? What kind of food should I eat? How should I eat? Though his basic answers to these questions are simple, (Eat food, Mostly plants and Not too much) he compiled 64 rules—one per page—to help you navigate the decision making process. And he is not vegetarian but advises meat eaters to ”eat animals that have themselves eaten well.” (Seriously the more you learn about the meat industry these days, the less you will want to eat it.) He has sensible advice to offer—he is not extremist and, for under $10, this guide is useful if you are reconsidering what to eat.
Some of my favorite rules are: #3 Avoid food products containing ingredients no ordinary human would keep in the pantry (eg., cellulose, xanthan gum, calcium propionate); #10 Avoid foods pretending to be something they are not; #19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t; #20 It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car; #52 Buy smaller plates and glasses.
Soldier of Love, just released last week is classic Sade R&B music with a little Reggae thrown in too. It’s been ten years since her last CD! I love the title song, which you may have already heard since she is making the rounds on the tv shows (she was on Ellen today and you can find the performance on the net). But also check out track one, The Moon and The Sky. She’s always easy to listen to, and she is one of my favorite picks for the Sunday morning playlist at breakfast, easing into the day with pancakes and the newspaper! Of course, in the evenings we also love sipping margaritas while watching her concert on dvd…
“What French Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind,” by Debra Ollivier (2009) is a quick and interesting read that will challenge your American cultural perspective. We can all use a little of that. Several times while reading the book over the course of this weekend I thought, now that is insight I could have used yesterday…Ollivier is an excellent writer with a sense of humor. For all my Francophiles out there, this is a must read.
Among other useful notions, French women like to break the rules, accept and embrace imperfection and, as Ollivier quotes journalist and social commentator Michele Fitoussi, “French women have a keen sense of the brevity of time and the immediacy of pleasure.”
Ollivier is an American who married her French husband, has two children and lived in France for ten years. She also wrote "Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl." I have the ancestral heritage, I know she’s in there somewhere. That book will likely be on my nightstand soon.