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Delia Ephron restores my faith in humanity, lazy Sunday pancakes - and other strategies for turning away from a news media "run by trolls"
In recent months, I’ve been making a point of reading books outside the culture wars, to remind myself that the vast majority of the population, both in Canada and in the United States, is only vaguely aware that these battles are even taking place. Also, really, to give myself a break from the stress of feeling like our entire society is falling apart. Which it probably is. But, still. As has been the case during any crisis in the history of the world, there are still many, many people out there living their lives, finding joy, and thinking about other things.
In my teens I read a quote from the Canadian actress Nicola Cavendish in the newspaper, which I recorded in a journal: “Life has a wicked way of marching on.”
Surely this is a good thing.
To that end, before I get to links from the week, I want to recommend some summer reads, in case you too feel like thinking about other things, at least for the weekend.
This week I devoured Delia Ephron’s Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life. Like her sister Nora, Delia is fantastic company on the page. And it’s saying a lot — both about her writing skill and her character — that she can turn a memoir about losing her husband to cancer, and then being diagnosed with it herself, into such a profoundly hopeful outing. There is a romance; there are uplifting tributes to loyal friends. There is NYC fodder for those of us who pine for Manhattan cityscapes and culture and food (shout out to Zabars!). But mostly there is just a woman in her seventies rediscovering all of the magic that life has to offer, from lunar eclipses to late-in-the-game love.
True crime fans will want to check out Little Sister by Lana Wood, about the mysterious death of Natalie Wood that’s gripped Hollywood for decades. This is an easy read, and a highly compelling one, full of details gleaned from police reports, interviews, and official documents. It’s also a love letter from one sister to another.
If you adore dogs (and who doesn’t?), you’re sure to enjoy And a Dog Called Fig: Solitude, Connection, and the Writing Life by Canadian author Helen Humphreys. It’s the story of Humphreys settling in her new Vizsla puppy, Fig — but also of her previous pets, and how interwoven they’ve been with her life as a writer. Humphreys touches on famous writers from throughout history, too, and their own relationships to canine companions. It all makes you want to take a pup for a long stroll in the woods and contemplate life.
Speaking of dogs, there’s a wonderful pooch-related essay in the recent Ann Patchett essay collection, These Precious Days, which is a similarly delightful read. In this outing, Patchett expounds on a range of topics, from friendship and marriage to flying, knitting, decluttering, and her three fathers.
Finally, this week I also started playwright Tompson Highway’s memoir Permanent Astonishment: Growing Up Cree in the Land of Snow and Sky. The opening pages are about his birth in December of 1951, in a moonlit snowbank in Canada’s north. The writing is spectacular, and I’m already hooked. The book is, apparently, an answer to his late brother Rene’s request: “Don’t mourn me, be joyful.” What a beautiful reminder; I will take that advice to heart today.
Now, getting to some links …
Malcom Kyeyune fires a warning shot at the laptop classes, over at Compact Magazine.
Musa al-Gharbi writes compellingly about Clarence Thomas and the racism of white liberals.
And the Wokal Distance Substack unpacks a popular hit piece tactic: poisoning the well. (Once you read this, you’ll see examples of it everywhere in the public discourse.)
Also: Canadian comedian Ryan Long had the best possible response to this week’s winner for Most Insane Tweet:
Here’s the sketch he linked to:
I had a request on Twitter this week for more recipes, so …
Sunday morning is brunch time for many people I know. The trouble with brunch (and I once actually read a whole book about this very subject) is that it involves long lines, lots of pointless waiting, and plenty of mediocre food. I’m not into spending two hours and forty bucks for pasty pancakes. I prefer to make my own.
This pancake recipe is my mother’s — adapted, I believe, from the Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book — and I’ve been eating it since I was a child. It’s quick and easy, and yields perfect pancakes. They are thin and crepe-like, so you have permission to eat a whole stack.
Easy peasy pancakes
1 1/2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups of milk, or more
2 tablespoons of high quality vegetable oil
1. In a bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg with the milk and oil.
3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Beat until smooth. If needed, add more milk until the batter is quite runny.
4. Fry pancakes in a hot, buttered pan until browned and slightly crispy.
Best enjoyed with Canadian maple syrup, a strong cup of coffee and a good book.
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