Of course, having just read through my friend, Simonne’s, 15 books in 5 minutes (note that she claims she wrote her whole post in 5 minutes. I took 45. Hmmm), I have realized that my favorite classic of all time is not on my list (it is on hers, though).
I could argue that it is in The Pantheon of books, and that it goes without saying that it is not only a favorite, but has an inexorable ‘classic’ status. Did I really need to mention it in my 15 books in 15 minutes? (I should say that it took me less than 7 minutes to come up with my list.)
Um, yes. I did. I should have to revoke my ‘awesome English teacher’ status – for at least a week.
The book is: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first read it because I had to teach it, and I discovered magic. I did everything in my power to make my students love it as much as I did – for the simply told moral tale, and for the never to be repeated writing of Harper Lee. I guess when you win the Pulitzer for your first novel, the pressure to produce a second one can be great.
I love to read. In fact, I have discovered that my desire to write is affected greatly by whether or not I am reading regularly. When I read less, because I am too busy to carve out the time, I write less. When I make time to read – and I read diversely – I find that creative impulses kick in more frequently. I even write stuff in the middle of the night, if that is when inspiration strikes (like last night).
This meme, as with many of the others I have done, comes from Charlotte, whose humor and insight also inspire me.
The task: Name 15 books that ‘stick’ with me – in 15 minutes. Okay, so this took me 45 minutes (sorry Charlotte).
IT by Stephen King Truly the most terrifying book I have ever picked up. I could only read it in daylight, because it scared me so thoroughly. This proved difficult, because it is so long, and I never wanted to put it down. Dusk would come, however, and I had to close the pages so Pennywise the Clown would not get me.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte I read this for class at university, and I fell in love with simple Jane, and her classic Byronic hero, Rochester. I learned that ‘classics’ are deemed such for a reason. Heart-achingly told, and timeless.
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull A travel biography about an Aussie girl living in Paris with a Frenchman she fell in love with while traveling. Hilarious episodes underpinned by a sense of ‘otherness’, homesickness and doubt. Striking parallels to my own life, and validation that my writing style is commercially viable.
Dracula by Bram Stoker I am drawn mostly to the love story in this novel. I also love the Gothic genre, and this book laid a foundation for future reading, such as Anne Rice.
The Bride Stripped Bare by Anonymous Nikki Gemmell was revealed as the writer of this ‘stream of consciousness’ novel. As a reader you wonder how she crawled into your brain to extract your thoughts. She speaks dark and private truths, the things that you would NEVER say aloud.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold A young girl is murdered and watches helplessly from heaven as her family struggle to survive their loss, and the killer walks freely amongst her family and friends. The concept is innovative, but it is Sebold’s skill with words that makes it an extraordinary read.
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell And so began my love affair with intelligent crime fiction, and with Kay Scarpetta. I was riveted, and because I came late to the party I was able to read 6 or 7 in quick succession. The last was a disappointment, however.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons I was given this book and it sat on my bookshelf for over a year. It is fat and I was daunted by it. I labored through the first hundred pages, and then I was carried away into Russia during WWII. Epic.
The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan A picture book. White rabbits invade a land inhabited by bandicoots. The text is sparse and the drawings are so evocative, they bring tears to my eyes.
The Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman This was a television series, but I enjoyed the book more. They ride their motorcycles from London to London (essentially). Intriguing stuff. Importantly, it inspires me to ‘get out there and get grubby’.
Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews My friends and I devoured these books throughout adolescence. Chaste schoolgirls lived vicariously through the sexual awakening of Cathy and Chris, siblings whose love was forbidden. A modern-day Gothic novel, with many bosoms heaving – inside and outside the book.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling My favorite of the lot. I still don’t understand the end of the last one. Perhaps the movie will shed some light.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding I read this at 15 and my perception shifted (perhaps not for the better). I realized that there are innate traits in us that will want to rise to the surface, and that it is our job (in life) to keep them subdued. That’s pretty heady stuff for a 15 year old.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger This is my favorite book. The writing is tough, poignant and real. Up front you have to accept that time travel is a genetic anomaly, and beyond that everything else is ‘truth’. Beautifully written, brilliantly imagined.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak I finished this book and said, “That is the best book I have ever read.” And it is. Niffeneger is still my favorite, but The Book Thief is innovative, engaging, and gut-wrenching. Could not put it down, so finished it in about four days.
When you move to a new city, your senses are heightened. You notice that everything feels ‘new’, because your body is picking up on the subtle differences between that place and your previous home.
The salt air here in Seattle is brinier than in Sydney, more pungent. On sunny days, the sky seems bluer here too, perhaps because it contrasts so starkly with the usual grey. The people here are friendlier, especially those who work in stores, “Are you finding everything okay?’.
This heightened awareness, however, does not last. Through a series of simple little acceptances, small snippets of knowing, a place starts to feel like home. The novelty of charming details dissipates, as do the annoying differences (‘I have to pay when someone sends ME an SMS?!’).
Instead those details become part of a fabric called ‘home’. The appreciation may remain, but we come to know those details as the norm. We stop saying, ‘Back home in Sydney…’ and think of the new place as home.
Seattle is now home.
I have started looking after two little boys, aged three and five, once a week. Mostly, our time together is fun, or at least fine. They paint, and play endlessly at a game that I can only describe as ‘not much of anything at all’, but includes lots of running, and uttering of unintelligible words. I even made muffins with the little one, who delighted in cracking an egg for the first time all by himself.
These boys love to stop and smell the flowers, and I mean that literally. Yesterday, a three block walk to the bus took 15 minutes, because they stopped at nearly every garden to smell and admire the flowers. Sweet – a little annoying after 13 minutes – but mostly, sweet.
When I first met them, I was charmed by their strong American accents; it is generally cute to hear any child speak in an accent other than your own. ‘Oh, their R’s are so pronounced – how darling!’
However, that novelty was quickly forgotten yesterday when the oldest one ‘chucked a tanty’ (threw a huge tantrum, for my North American readers). There is nothing cute about a tantrum in an American accent. There is nothing cute about a five year old screaming anything in any accent. (We made up – me and the five year old. Although, I am a forgiver, not a forgetter.)
Yep, Seattle is home.
I have a new local coffee shop now. I thought that it would be Uptown Espresso, which I discovered on a visit here last year, and for a while it was. Their coffee is good, and they are only three blocks away.
They were usurped, however, when I happened upon the smooth smell of well-made coffee wafting from the door of Cafe Lladro, a few blocks further from my home.
Jackpot! Their coffee is great. ‘A double tall non-fat latte, no foam, extra hot,’ has replaced ‘tall, skinny flat white’, and is just as good as Pavel used to make back in Sydney. I never thought I would say that about a cafe in the same city that birthed Starbucks, but I am happy to proven wrong about this particular previous gripe. And I would be remiss not to mention that their friendly efficient service is the icing on the cake. Great coffee and good service. Nice.
Oh yeah, Seattle is home.
Last Friday night there was an impromptu gathering of friends at the loft of Lars and Anya, or ‘Larzenanya’, as they have come to be called. Lars promised us a ‘$25 Hamburger’ – not because that is what they cost to make, but because that is what he could charge in a restaurant. It was a big call.
We arrived to gracious hellos, the pouring of drinks, and burger order forms. In: blue cheese, special sauce, onions, or a combo of these. On: Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese, or Mozzarella? Done: well, medium-well, medium, medium-rare, or rare. Wow. Not sure on the math, but I approximate at least 1500 permutations of burgers with those options.
Lars manned the grill with confidence and flair. Anya, ever the charming hostess, ran front of house like a pro. Ben, long time avoider of red meat, signed on for the ride.
When my burger was done, I added my fixings, and savored the anticipation. Onions in, and Swiss cheese on a medium-rare burger with barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard.
Phenomenal. I was delighted by every bite, and judging from the lull in conversation throughout the room, so was everyone else, including my mostly-vegetarian boyfriend.
This month Seattle Magazine has readers voting on the best burgers in Seattle. I would argue heavily that the Larzananya’s Burger should win.
For sure, Seattle is definitely home.
I have said before that Ben and I do not know what the future holds for us both professionally, so therefore do not know where work will take us in the coming years. For this reason, we are truly savoring all the little things about Seattle that make it home.
It’s natural beauty takes my breath away. The wonderful friendship we continue to make, make my heart full. That I am picking up some work outside of home is a blessing (no matter the little ‘moment’s that come with child-minding).
I knew well before I moved here that I could happily live in Seattle. And now I do.