Friday, March 11, 2011

The Thinking Mom

One of the book discussion classes I run is called the Mom Salon, where we read and discuss books having to do with various aspects of mothering (which means, gentlemen, watch out, because you know we’re talking about you!).

This week’s Mom Salon selection was Mothers Who Think, a collection of essays from the column of the same name. The column was started in 1997 in response to the editors’ feeling that: “the complicated range of dramas and emotions that really defines motherhood” wasn’t being probed, and they say these writings are “an antidote to the saccharine, oversimplified literature of motherhood.”

I think it’s true that there’s still something of a conception out there that motherhood is supposed to be all bliss and reward, and that we’re not supposed to admit to the times when we feel cranky or angry or we’d like a brief vacation from the job. The book analyzes this from many different directions in a smart, thoughtful way.

There’s Anne Lamott, whose writing I love, talking about how we could never get away with talking to adults the way we address our children. She writes: “Can you imagine hissing at your partner, ‘You get off the phone now! No, not in five minutes…’? Or saying to a friend, ‘You get over here this second!’. . .

There’s a beautiful essay by local (Philadelphia) author Beth Kephart about her son falling in love with soccer at age 8. One of my favorite essays is by Erin Aubry about her parents’ New Orleans heritage and how it played a big part in her upbringing in LA, especially through her mother’s cooking. The book is filled with good writing and funny and powerful stories about mothers good and bad, successful and suffering.

I really like what one reader wrote to the editors: “Thanks for reminding me that I’m a woman who is also a mother, not a mother who is also a woman.” I forget this sometimes, and it’s nice to be reminded!

p.s. Moms, if you want me to start a Mom Salon for your friends, just send me a FB message!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And the winner is…

Ugh, too long since I’ve been involved in a novel. Missing that happy feeling of being immersed in a good book! Have decided upon First Light by Charles Baxter. I keep hearing he’s such a good writer, and this book has been recommended several places.

In the meantime, I’ve also been percolating on ideas for a new book for myself to write. Not a novel – yet. Still too intimidated by that. I’ll stick with what I know, non-fiction, for the time being. Not quite ready to tell you what ideas I’m considering, but for one idea I have I’m envisioning a small trim-size hardcover, the sort of book you give as a graduation gift. I see it as being illustrated with tiny delicate and expressive watercolors of various scenes. I thought about it for a while, and then realized what I was thinking of was the work of Elisha Cooper.

I discovered Cooper through his first book, A Year in New York. It is also one of those lovely tiny hardcovers chronicling the year he spent in New York City working as a messenger for The New Yorker and doing watercolor sketches of scenes he saw all around the city, from Zabar’s and Central Park to Coney Island to markets and subways and tiny neighborhood scenes. I just took out my old copy and have been happily leafing through the pages and admiring his art.

Looked him up on Amazon, and it looks like he’s been quite busy since this book came out in 1995, writing children’s books and a book on fatherhood. You can always tell what authors are doing in their lives by the books they write! But this older book is worth a look –it’s a gem!