Thursday, November 20, 2014

We've moved!

Come visit my new blog here.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Romance Atheist

Amazon readers warned me about Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon.  "Huge, tough book. . . . very clearly a masterpiece."     "Talking dog. . . . Mid 18-century prose style."

I mean, the size alone:

Sheesh!  Eight-hundred or so pages!

I dug in anyway. I found it delightful, got right into the pirate-era lingo, had no trouble "hearing" the two famous surveyors joking with each other.

At least until page 18 or so, when the talking dog entered at stage left.

And I couldn't do it anymore.

So, what else is out there?  

Well, since I've dipped my toe into the self-publishing ocean, maybe I should take a look at who else might be swimming around, particularly those paddling in my same little cove, the bay of LDS fiction.

I found a string of possibly delightful offerings and saved them to my wish list.

First try goes to The Husband Maker by Karey White.

Before we look closer at White's book, let me clear up a thing or two  This book is a romance. I can no more write a romance than I can sing a solo, which is to say that if I tried, people would beg me to stop, please, you're hurting us..

I couldn't come up with a Love Interest. Romance books are liberally supplied with men pretty enough to make your palms sweat and your mouth say inane things. Rich enough to buy their own islands. Interested enough to ignore entire sororities dressed in short shorts while you make up your mind whether you want them around or not.

Oh, and available.

Has anyone ever seen this creature?

Me neither.

And if I cannot see it with my own eyes, hear it with my own ears, I cannot believe in this . . . this being who dwells somewhere out there in the ether, and makes the earth move. Which makes me, I guess, a romance atheist. 

Not that books full of impossible characters can't get themselves sold. Weren't we just discussing a talking dog?  And don't we know that books full of wizards, vampires and aliens fly off the shelves? 

But in the end, all fiction is, um, unreal, right?

So I swallowed my prejudices and opened White's book and met Charlotte, a mid-twenties graphic designer in San Francisco.  White gave her some adorable flaws.  The girl snorts when she laughs. She's 5'11".  We all know it's hard to find a good man, but Dear Charlotte's got it even tougher, because she'd like to find one that towers over her.

Back in high school, one prom date was four inches shorter. When the photographer lined up all the couples for pictures, he switched Charlotte to the back row with the boys, and the date to the front, humiliating two teenagers in one fell swoop.

Anyway, everybody she dates marries the next girl they find after they break up with Charlotte. People are starting to talk about her little jinx.

Into Charlotte's life comes Kyle--rich, handsome, attentive and available. But somebody named Angus hangs around a lot, too. He's known Charlotte since high school, never dated her but witnessed all her awkward proms.

I'm only part way through Husband Maker, but strongly suspect that Angus is meant to be more than just Charlotte's guy-confidante. I will have to let you know.

White's easy humor greases the gears of this story, even if she tosses in a few too many stories of Charlotte's long-ago dates, the ones before the jinx took hold.

Husband Maker never calls anybody LDS, but Kyle and Charlotte definitely dwell outside the hook-up culture, even though they live in the age of iPhones and Pinterest. They go on planned dates, like a cheese-making adventure, which might be even more datey than real LDS kids manage to do these days.

Hopefully Charlotte will find the right guy, settle down and fix wonderful dinners like Chicken Pineapple Stir-Fry.

This might be my favorite stir-fry. The tasty secret is--ketchup! Bye-bye Nesquik really doesn't need fancy sauces to be happy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Who Ruined Halloween?

I have awesome weather powers.

Some days I get a longing for a one of my favorite creamy soups. Nah, the weather's too warm, I think. But I defiantly write it on the menu for, say, Tuesday, and by Tuesday, a cold rain blows through town and everybody is glad to sit down to soup.

A little soup weather on Halloween this year would have been welcome. What we got instead was pure nastiness. We got the kind of wind that crawls down your neck and makes you sorry you have to walk across the Kroger parking lot. We got little trick-or-treaters, their arms shaking as they stood on the doorstep, holding out their open pillow cases. We got their little faces pinched up with misery. We got a battle with the storm door, the wind shoving it against us while we serviced the brave and determined hordes that wanted their candy. 

I might be to blame for this unwelcome blast of January-in-October. Perhaps I brought it on by reading Alice Munro's short story collection, Too Much Happiness.  She sets her tales in her native Canada. So while I innocently read about somebody named Joyce driving home from work through falling snow and lashing rain, or somebody named Roy getting stuck in the woods while the snow covers his tracks, storm clouds gathered over Bye-Bye Nesquik's neighborhood and spoiled the evening of a few hundred Power Rangers, Ellas and zombies.

I apologize.

But Munro is the Meryl Streep of short-story writing. Nearly everything she creates possesses a truffle-like perfection. She makes it look easy when it most certainly is not.

Her characters ride a bus to visit somebody in prison, or share a dorm room with someone of mysterious means, or hide from the outcast that wants to be their friend. They are quiet, often bookish people, who watch bolder types get away with things.

However in one story--I won't give away which--one of these quiet ones strikes back.

It reminds me of the instructions I once read in a tourist guide: cities have muggers, it said. The smart thing to do is carry a mugger wallet. Your real wallet holds your wad of cash, your complete deck of credit cards. The mugger wallet contains ten dollar bill, and maybe one of those fake paper cards, just as a nice touch.

The mugger approaches. You take out your mugger wallet, throw it hard and far, then run fast in the opposite direction. I have no idea if this works, but it was comforting to pack it along, even if it could cost me ten bucks.

Anyway, Munro's character, the one I won't give away, sticks up for him/herself with a mugger-wallet mentality.

Book contains one lengthy cow patty.

I'll be done with Munro's collection tomorrow and then maybe this unseasonable weather will ease up.

As a failsafe, I added Taco Crescent Bake to the menu, a yummy supper dish that goes great with a crisp fall evening, do you hear me, o weather gods?  No need to deliver us a stinging, howling, Arctic whiteout.