for those who are in or around sane

Monday, October 6

september books and things

hellloooo fall...

on the first day of october i chatted with a few folks about how their september went; the feedback was unanimous - it was a hard month. what with the economy nose-diving, campaigns in full swing, hurricanes whooshing inland, and the inevitable issues with a new restaurant, i'm gathering that a hard midwest winter, albeit unwelcome for work commutes, will be a welcome change to all this running around. this fall seems to be in a flurry of activity - with each leaf that rescinds the branch, we're pulled in a different direction - whether emotionally or physically. with that last leaf, will we be able to sit back and breathe? or... will we have missed the predicted best colors in a decade? ...will we sit, cold and bankrupt - exhausted and yearning for spring before the first snow has set in?

the melancholy of fall, however contrary to my natural disposition, is my favorite time of year. to be allowed to sit and mull over how fast things have arrived, and what is left to anticipate... to sit and stew over things lost and glow over the new... and my absolute favorite - to create and stir and fuss over pots of applesauce, curries, and chili, to crack pumpkin seeds in my teeth and imbibe mugs of spiked hot cider. this is the season i live for each year!

in september i usually slow down my reading, and this year is no exception. the analogy i'd like to provide, and i realize it's weather-worn, is that of squirrels gorging and hording for the winter. i've amassed quite a list of books-to-read and i'm running around making sure i have time this winter to actually plow through them. in the meantime, i'll recommend one to you:

kitchen by banana yoshimoto
this book contains two shorter fiction pieces which i'll refer to as novellas. both are translated from japanese and are excellent examples of contemporary japanese literature. the longer of the two, titled "kitchen," follows 18-year-old mikage through her coming of age years. an orphan, mikage loses her guardian grandmother and in a twist of fate, turns to live with her grandmother's shopkeep boy's family. she and the boy attend the same school and class but never knew anything about the other until, the boy (yuichi), striken with grief over the loss of his employer, offers up the great white couch in a small apartment he and his mother inhabit. yuichi's mother was once his father, and this small, strange trio grows into a temporary, supportive family. mikage brings her passion for cooking fine cuisine to the table, and through hard work, food and tragedy, pulls herself into a space where love and belonging finally adhere.

the second story, which the author (rightly) considers kitchen's companion piece, "moonlight shadow," is about grief and healing with a dash of serendipity and hope. since this is an extremely short piece, i'm not going to give a plot overview. i will say that it's beautifully written and translated, that it made the world seem a bit smaller and warmer and actually managed to make me weep a bit. i'm a sentimental fool, but this was *not* mitch albom or nicholas sparks.

next month i'm hoping to have a few more titles under wraps, but i'm also hoping to tone down my busy life so i can enjoy each moment and person without worrying about the next task on my agenda. i wish you all luck in finding the little moments to breathe in poplar-scented air and to pause at the colors and please, always enjoy a hot mug of beverage if it's offered.