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September 2012 (98 posts)
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This Monday, we can't get enough of the gorgeously written debut novel:
By Amanda Coplin
When a lonely orchard tender shelters two young girls on the run from a cruel, vindictive pursuer, you'd expect some kind of romance to ensue. But in Amanda Coplin's lavish novel set in turn-of-the-last-century Washington State, another kind of love takes precedence—the kind that turns strangers into fellow saviors. After his mother's death and his sister's disappearance, William Talmadge has spent his whole adult life cultivating apples, pears and apricots in the remote wilderness. The two girls—Della and Jane—have left behind a childhood of unspeakable sexual abuse. Both are pregnant and wary of any human connection, preferring to sleep outside in the meadows and only coming up to the cabin porch to eat the meals Talmadge leaves for them. But when their abuser finally shows up, the two girls make a violent decision—one that alters all of their lives for decades. The exquisitely described landscapes in this tale astonish (expect "cold-embittered forests," "bright meadows thick with wildflowers" and "the dark maw of canyons") but so do the emotional lives of its characters, such as when Della tries to understand why she rides wild, untrainable horses that regularly threaten to kill her. "What she wanted was the despair," writes Coplin. "Or something else, something that lived with the despair. But the moment she found it, she failed to find what it was she wanted so badly. So she would ride again." Feeling anything just to feel something, helping somebody else with their past because you're helpless about your own, these are the kinds of complex, double-edged insights that make this book a wise and great American novel.
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Jeffrey Eugenides (The Marriage Plot): How to find your writing muse
2. Almost any cooked vegetables—broccoli, zucchini, potato—can be mashed and made into fritters. Simply add to a beaten egg, flour, and salt (you want the mixture to resemble thick pancake batter), and fry in canola oil until brown on both sides.
3. Puree surplus berries, then add lemon juice and sugar to taste for an easy pancake topping or yogurt stir-in.
Keep Reading: Your biggest cooking questions—answers!
And then, just like that, summer is ending. Do you feel this way too, that every year the end of summer comes as a surprise? After months of groaning about how hot it is and longing for a crisp day of wearing sweaters and apple picking, suddenly the kids are back in school, there is a hint of chill in the air, and there is that eternal bittersweet sense of September.
Amy Jean Porter's "Return to Cat Town" drawings in The Awl capture the end-of-summer feeling exactly. Her evocative sketches and their accompanying captions cover the wildness of summer days -- her kids wander around inventing games, she reports, which makes her feel as though she's living in the novelist Haruki Murakami's invention, Cat Town, where cats roam and chat and can't even see humans. There is that wild element of magic in summer, to be sure, even when your days unfold in a climate-controlled office. Still, and always, it's a time when you'd believe that cats sit around having human conversations, that the woods are alive with surreal happenings, that anything is possible.
Check out all of Amy Jean Porter's drawings, with their dreamy imagery and wise commentary, on The Awl.
An Artist's Imagined Collections
Whimsical Japanese Animations
Her restless feeling
In 2006 Vivian Reccoppa found herself in an empty nest—with more time to focus on herself than she'd had in years. "I remember thinking, I want to do something different," she says. "I want to learn something." "Why don't you try an instrument?" suggested her friend Elena. Reccoppa's dreary year of piano lessons at age 10 had convinced her she lacked the discipline for music. But Elena, a violinist who cofounded an orchestra for amateur adult musicians, kept suggesting the idea until Reccoppa agreed to try the viola—which, she figured, was small enough to schlep on the subway.
Her rocky start
Reccoppa braced for the humiliation of being the lone adult towering over a line of 6-year-olds in the lobby of her local music school. But her insecurity dissipated the moment her teacher tucked a viola under her chin and helped her guide the bow across the strings. "Every once in a while, there was a note that sounded like...a note," Reccoppa says. The lessons became a bright spot in her schedule. "I always leave happy," she says.
Reccoppa bought a student viola on eBay for $120 and began supplementing her private lessons with free instructionals she found on YouTube. She aimed to practice three or four hours a week but didn't beat herself up when a late night at work interrupted her schedule. Eventually, she tagged along with Elena to a rehearsal of her orchestra. "It was wonderful to be a part of something so big and beautiful," Reccoppa says. She started rehearsing with the group every Sunday.
At first it was hard to imagine "how I'd ever hold my left wrist level, get my fingers in the right position, hold my bow correctly, move the bow straight, and look at the music while keeping an eye on the conductor," Reccoppa admits. But she now tackles works by Handel and Haydn. "I feel like I'm waking up a new part of my brain," says Reccoppa, who believes that her age, far from holding her back, has only increased her determination to succeed. "I'm not there because my mom is making me go," she says. "I'm there because I'm excited to learn this."
But we're always hearing about the importance of getting a good night's sleep, and everyone knows a good night's sleep starts with proper preparation. An ambitious sleeper must achieve just the right proportions of coziness and snuggliness (yes, there is a subtle but important difference), just the right balance of sleepiness and relaxation (ditto), so that the threshold of sleep is crossed with a delicious sense of release, not the frenzied capitulation of the way-over-tired. And so, consider this a challenge. Can you achieve bedtime greatness? You'll need proper pajamas (not just yoga pants and the shirt you wore all day, like me), and clean bedclothes and of course you're going to need a bedtime story.
Assuming you don't live with your mother, you're probably going to need to consult outside resources for this last element. As a semi-pro sleeper, I have a great horror of television-stained sleeping -- there is nothing restful about that flickering glare. The radio is unpredictable.
And thus, Miette's Bedtime Podcast. Hours and hours of grown-up bedtime stories by greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and many more, read in Miette's hypnotic Scottish accent. Or maybe "read" is too blunt a word to use. Miette purrs the stories in just the right, soft, soothing way you need at the end of a hectic day. Her blog posts are prefaced with charming non-sequiters; her story selections are impeccable. She is, essentially, a gift from the bedtime gods.
The podcast is free on iTunes. Pajamas you're going to have to find yourself.
National Pajama Month is Coming
Bedtime Essentials for a Good Night's Sleep
"When the lights are gone and the camera's off, who are you? That's what's gonna sustain you," says Iyanla Vanzant to Evelyn Lozada in the the two-part series premiere of Iyanla: Fix My Life. Here's a first look at how Iyanla pushes Evelyn to move beyond her tumultuous past. Then tune in to the complete episodes this Saturday, September 15 and September 16 at 10/9c on OWN.
Beauty the Eagle had her beak disfigured in 2005, when she was shot by a poacher. Set aside the grim symbolism of shooting an American Bald Eagle in the face, for a moment -- it's sad and brutal, yes. But what happened to Beauty is a lovely tonic. Jane Fink Cantwell, a raptor specialist at Idaho's Birds of Prey Northwest, has cared for Beauty all these years, through the hopes that her beak would grow back (it didn't) all the way to the near-unanimous call for euthanization (Cantwell refused). Beauty could not clean or feed herself, and so needed constant care and attention, and faced the possibility of never again living in the wild. Then, while giving a talk about Beauty, Cantwell met mechanical engineer Nate Calvin. Read the whole story in the Guardian for the amazing process Calvin used to fashion a prosthetic beak with a 3D printer.
The video below shows the process of fitting Beauty for her new beak. Watching it, especially the palpable nervousness of the poor confused bird, is a real nail-biter. But it worked, and Beauty was finally able clean and feed herself.
While the Guardian reports that Beauty has had problems with keeping the beak attached, to me the best part of the story is that so many people have worked so hard to help the eagle reclaim her life. "It's a story about a Bald Eagle becoming a teacher," Cantwell says. And knowing that her process of rehabilitation is ongoing is a good reminder to all of us. Transformation may not happen overnight, but it's the process, not necessarily the result, that has the most to teach us.
Saving Species on the Brink of Extinction
A Woman Who Devoted Her Life to Wolves
In case you missed this 3-year-old reciting a Billy Collins poem from memory back in January, please, please, please watch it now.
Steve McCurry's beautiful photographs of people reading around the world
"It's a pizza shop that's a shrine to pizza." The world's first pizza museum is opening in Philadelphia (via The New York Times)
An eight-year-old girl starts a lemonade stand to help end slavery...and raises $50K in two months (via Huffington Post)
Lovetown, USA is moving to Monday nights, but that's not the only thing shaking up the town this week. Watch as a few singles make big-time dating mistakes, country superstar Sara Evans surprises the community, and someone gets a shocking proposal. It's not getting any easier for our love coaches!
Be sure to tune in Monday, September 17, at 10/9c on OWN.