Friday, December 23, 2011

Shifting Gears

Winter, 2011

So, we've officially entered winter. I hope you are enjoying it. It feels good over here.

I just walked up the hill with this mound of my favorite citrus, Rio Star grapefruits and satsumas. Stella Pastry is baking the panettone I will pick up this afternoon. I've learned that I will have a small plot for gardening this summer and my beloved Kitazawa Seed Co. catalog has arrived. I feel a shift.

All I need is a novel, one that is light, perhaps funny, but is still good. Does it exist? I don't want trash, unless it happens to be good trash, then please tell me about it. All I seem to adore in the literary world is the beautiful writing that almost inevitably involves an underlying sadness. I still love this work. I'll always love this work, but I need a small break, to shift gears for a brief period of time. Can you help?

I know most of you are busy with the holiday season and all, but if you have a moment and can think of anything old or new that might suit my mood, please offer your suggestion. Just type it in the comments section quickly, don't worry about typos or links, I'll figure it out.

Thank you, kind readers.


  1. A Confederacy of Dunces. One of my all time favorites.

  2. What a beautiful photograph - seeds, dirt, a shift, it feels like good things to come.

    For me - Unbearable Lightness of Being, favorite - though maybe too much sadness. Melancholy is my thing...

    I'm going to ask my husband about more books - he's a major reader, multiples a week. Perhaps he'll pay you a visit here...

    Happy Holiday Denise! xo

  3. Hi Denise, Janis asked me to pitch in, so hmmm...

    Popular Music In Vittula --- odd scandinavian dry humour, wintry, surprising

    Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino --- odd italian dry humour, summery, surprising

    Can't think of anything else, good luck!

  4. They almost all have underlying sadness! This summer I read all of the Anne of Green Gables books to compensate for IQ84 (it freaked me out a little). Or how about PG Wodehouse? Definitely not sad.
    Apart from that, I have nothing. Unbearable Lightness of Being has a lot of sadness in it.
    Actually, I'm wondering whether Dorothy Whipple's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day might be it? I haven't read it, so I'm not a good source. It just seems to be presented that way.

  5. ...just thought of another while in the shower. A contemporary memoir by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle. Couldn't put it down.

    Hooray Daniel participated...!

  6. I'm going to be watching as I'm on the same quest. I return to EM Delafield 'Diary of a Provincial Lady' (and subsequent two volumes of fictional entries that take you to the second world war) when I need something light. And I love Wodehouse for silly fantasy that I read at night when I need to repel bad thoughts. The Persephone Books site/catalogue might be worth a look (Miss Pettigrew is there: I've read it; not entirely my thing but light) and also check out London Review of Books site. I'm struggling with modern ones: Gail Anderson Dargatz - Recipe for Bees/Cure for Death by Lightning. Love Confederacy of Dunces - though there is an imprint of sadness in my memory of it. Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life etc. are light though not fiction. Will let you know if I find any more through my own search!

  7. Although I'm not sure it meets your requirements to the letter, The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht, which I am currently reading, is the most entrancing thing I have read for a long time, and I recommend it highly.

    Great news about your garden plot. Wishing you happy hours planning, planting, growing, and harvesting!

  8. Everything Jane Austen - if you want funny - I would go for Northanger Abbey. Always worth reading Austen once more.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Denise


  9. Denise, i am not sure if you've ever read "Natume Soseki" literature? well known talented author. i like his work if you are intereste in foreign writer.
    my suggestion is "Kokoro" and "Botchan"

  10. I'm thinking, I'm thinking. I just finally read Julia Child's autobiography, My Life in France, but I'm sure you ate that one up long ago. Not a novel, but so much joy.

    I feel as you do about the Rio Star, and I do love that diamond light in your photo.

    Happy Holidays to you, Denise!

  11. jeeze, your post has made me realize that almost all the books i love are at least slightly sad! have you ever read the emily books by l.m. montgomery?

  12. Wow, you are all so kind. Thank you. I'm beginning with Daniel's suggestion of odd Scandinavian dry humor. I lucked out and found Popular Music from Vittula in a library branch just a few blocks from home. I love this stash being built here. Now it will be available to all of us when we are in the mood for such books.

  13. I will think about it! Happy holidays to you and yours. Excited to hear about your gardening prospects! xo

  14. oh man. what you need is some YA fiction.
    check out Flash Burnout - easy to read; good story; excellent dialogue.

    Papertowns by John Green is also good.

    Merry Christmas Denise.

  15. A Room With a View. One of my favourites for good writing and light comedy.

    Jealous of your fresh citrus, even if I can't eat it. Light, oh how I long for light in these dark northern days! But now it is coming, soon, soon, I tell myself.

  16. i think that most everything i read this year had that underlying current of sadness. if i think of anything, i'll let you know.

    fresh citrus in the winter can't be beat. xo

  17. I love the novels of the Vermont author Chris Bohjalian, just feels like home to me since I'm from new England. Highly rec anything he's written.

  18. Have you read Joann Sfar's graphic novels "The Rabbi's Cat" and "The Rabbi's Cat 2"? They might not be as light as you want, but they're wonderful. (As is your photo.)

  19. As I look over my bookshelves for a book for you, The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima stands out. I think you will like it for sure. Happy Christmas, Denise.

  20. I would recommend ~

    My Family and Other Animals, by gerald durrell

  21. It looks like you have many great recommendations ... I plan to hunt a few of these out myself! I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Denise - all the best for the New Year and your new wee gardening plot! Annie x

  22. The Earth Hums in B a good book. Light but unlying sadness. Try it!♥

  23. I am looking for a good, not-trashy but not overly serious book myself. I think I might pick up Murakami's 1Q84, because I generally like him and haven't read it...and I just got a copy of Kakuzo's 'The Book of Tea', which I haven't read yet.
    I hope you are enjoying our late winter, and the holiday season :)

  24. hope you
    are having
    a wonderful
    holiday season...
    i am stealing
    all your readers
    ideas for books...
    i am afraid
    i haven't read
    much this fall...

  25. I scanned the shelves and drawers that hold my novels & other than Jane Austen's books (which someone else recommended) I could find only one to meet your criteria of light, funny and good with no trace of underlying melancholy: "Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast".

    Beautiful photo. Satsumas & panettone are two of my favourite seasonal foods -- to be eaten at breakfast as often as possible during the Holidays.

    How exciting to look forward to a garden plot in 2012! Congratulations on this good news.

  26. When I need a bit of a good laugh, Annie Lamott does it for me. That said, Love's Executioner is completely fascinating to me. Not a novel, though. I love your weblog.

  27. i too am drawn to the sad lovely writing of thoughtful souls. often complicated. or epic. or full of lyric language that needs to read again and again. sigh. i have no recommendations.

    but i'm wishing you a happy 2012. and i hope we can make a tea date somewhere around the big pretty bay before it is 2013! happy days to you.

  28. Citrus and winter are the perfect pairing...

    My offering is The Housekeeper and the Professor...some underlying sadness throughout but uplifting in the end...

    I read this a couple months ago and was surprised by how much I adored the book.

  29. here's a little something i'm just about finishing tomorrow, i'm guessing.
    IN LOVE IN SAINT PETERSBURG. MY RUSSIAN TRIP by lena gorelik. prettily moving.

  30. Hi Denise, I've missed you. Sorry that I am so late with this probably because I've been looking for the same thing among other things. I too lean toward melancholy reading.
    BUT, I found "I Am a Cat" by Soseki. It's funny.

  31. I, too, looked at my shelves and found sad books, mostly. Is it because it is easier to reach depths of sorrow than heights of happiness? And it is only in these extreme depths and heights that we feel truly alive?

    The Princess Bride.
    The Curious Incident of a Dog in Nighttime. (You've probably read it already - best-seller from six or so years back. It's written from the point of view of a child, and while it isn't all rainbows and gumdrops, it's not depressing and I enjoyed it thoroughly.)
    EM Forster's A Room with a View - one of my favorites.
    Also I remember loving Willa Cather's My Antonia. It's nostalgic, but not sad - I think.

  32. And now moving through the adorable My Family and Other Animals. Thanks, again, for all of these suggestions.

  33. You may not still be seeking ideas, but I just discovered your blog, Denise (and perhaps a kindred soul) and wanted to share a few of my lighthearted faves: Chocolat, The Girl with No Shadow, and Peaches for Father Francis -- all by Joanne Harris. More along the lines of your typical faves may be Linda Olsson's books -- Astrid & Veronika, Sonata for Miriam, and The Memory of Love. (I am still reading your archives, however, so I may learn that you share enjoyment of these two authors.) Have you read the classic non-fiction work by Louise Dickenson Rich, "We Took to the Woods"? This was a birthday gift from my book club, and I found it a timeless work that can make one laugh out loud if you are, as you say, a plain-white-t-shirt-and-jeans sort of girl who appreciates nature and prefers a gentle pace. I could go on... My literary nature has difficulty with boundaries, I think! ;)

  34. Book suggestions! What a treat. Some are familiar and some I need to look up. Thanks, Sheila.