the year of magical thinking

I’ve decided to start posting about the books I read. I read a lot, and I read a fairly wide variety of books. I love talking about books and I love getting recommendations for what to read next, so feel free to join in the conversation in the comments below. 

much love, friends.

– e xx

I read much of The Year of Magical Thinking on the train. I did a lot of my reading on the train last semester. Filled with work and uni, my weeks were busy; the train is my time out. My deep-breath space. My no-obligations, can’t do anything about that right now wild card. My reading nook.

Usually I could get a seat, although for the 7.29 limited express via the city loop on Tuesdays and the ‘sometime during the peak hour’ Wednesday evening train I’m standing up all the way. I don’t mind, so long as I can face forward.

Sometimes I would close the book and stare out the window and the greenery rushing by and try not to sob, the heart-wrenching words of Joan Didion kicking me in the guts. Trains aren’t great for reading books like this. I don’t want to be around people when I’m reading something like this.

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the hunger games

The Hunger Games (and its following books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) are a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and they are a shot to the heart. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where the country is drastically shrunk by rising sea waters and is now called Panem, a country made up of the Capitol and twelve districts. Each year, a boy and a girl are drawn from each district to participate in something called the Hunger Games.

Our heroine is a girl called Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. This is because the object of the Games is to be the last one left alive. Yep, these people pit kids against each other (keeping in mind the children could be anywhere from twelve to eighteen years old) for sport. And everyone has to watch and celebrate the victor.

I don’t want to spoil the books for you because I really think you should read them yourself. I stayed up past midnight for three nights, one for each book. I told myself each time that I wouldn’t do that, I’d read some and save the rest till morning, I’d be a good girl. I never lived up to these promises though, because these books just caught my heart.

The thing about these books, though, is that they are about our world now. We in the West are the rich Capitol, whose children are safe and who don’t see the Games as bad, just as entertainment. Operating under the motto Panem et Circises, as long as we are fed and entertained, we don’t look past the screen to see the pain and suffering of the rest of the world. The Districts, who feed and support the Capitol, who once rose up against them but were crushed and are now continually stamped all over by the Hunger Games and the order of the system, are the Second and Third Worlds, struggling to survive and doing anything to keep their families alive.

There is a part in the books where the people who had previously won the Hunger Games are asked to vote on whether there should be one more viewing, one more Games, where the rich Capitol’s kids are made to play. And the consensus is yes. These people who have been crushed all their lives, who fought to survive people set out to kill them, who had to live with the consequences of killing and being hunted, who lived through a revolution, decide to keep the cycle of violence alive – just one more time, because revenge is sweet and it’s the only thing they can think of to take their minds off the pain.

That we live in a world where this happens is no good for anyone. That we think that violence and death can somehow solve problems, heal hearts and minds, vanish guilt and ease pain, is a product of what our world has become and it’s what’s keeping us all sick, keeping our world spiralling downward.

See, after I’d finished reading the last book, crying at the end because it’s not all black and white, and every death is etched in the minds of those who executed it, I was reading the paper and I saw the articles written by people who had lost loved ones to terrorists and people who were so downtrodden and in pain, the only way out that they could see was to inflict that pain on others. And they thought that more death could heal their hearts. Not that they could forget the pain but that revenge could somehow soften the blow.

That we live in a world where violence is the answer, that death solves problems, that we cannot see what harm we are doing to ourselves by living this way, makes my heart sore, and it was all I could do yesterday not to burst into tears over the dishes.

I’ve never felt the pain of losing a loved one to a deliberate attempt to cause harm. I don’t know how it feels. But when I see this pain and heartache, I turn to those who have and have come out with love, arms open, forgiving and full of grace. This beauty that can come from the ugliness of violence and hate pierces my heart and reminds me of the hope that I find in Jesus.

These are the people that give me hope. These are the people that, if I were ever in a situation to choose between vengence and justice, I would turn to to point me towards the Way, the Truth and the Life.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: particularly their reaction to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden

A story in the book Plan Be by Dave Andrews. Just buy the book, we’ll talk later.

Jarrod Mckenna

There are more, but for now just check these out. Forgiveness is hard, but love is the only way.

hollandaise sauce and a book review

The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. I’ve been reading it for the past week (it should be read slow, to be savoured) and it’s really an amazing book. It was first released in the 1950s and it’s just the most eccentric journey into the mind of a cook/chef I’ve read. I love cookbooks, I love reading recipes and finding little personal touches and tips and tricks, things to watch out for, to mind, to not mind. Food blogs are great for that, I’ll be posting a blogroll soon, I think.

This isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a manifesto. It’s a celebration of life, food, the earth, God’s creation. To love things for what they are, not for what they mean, which, by the way, works for people too. Intrinsic value, not exchange value, is what is important. You have value for who you are, not for what you mean to me or to anyone else. And that apple you’re eating, has value for simply being an apple, not just because it’s good for you.

The first thing I made from this book was actually bread; beautiful crusty bread rolls, yeasty and delicious, but they’re not here because I made them at Surrender with some of the people from Credo Cafe over at Urban Seed (if you’re in Melbourne, in the city around noon, head over to Credo for food and good company. I guarantee you it will blast your expectations out of the water.) Their Strangers are Fiction campaign is has been launched, so if you want to jump in with that, by all means do so. We’re not strangers, we’re just family that hasn’t met yet.

The first thing I made from this book when I owned it (after I heard about it at Surrender I had to find it) was this hollandaise sauce and it is seriously one of the easiest things in the world to do. After I made those macarons for Easter, I had all these egg yolks left over so of course, I had to make hollandaise sauce.

For each egg yolk, add a tablespoon of cream to a saucepan (that your egg yolks are already in, I hope) some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to taste. Whisk well and then place over medium heat, still whisking. When the custard thickens sufficiently, back away from the heat (carrying your saucepan and still whisking) over to a pot-stand where you have ready two tablespoons of butter for each egg yolk.  Whisk these in and when they are incorporated, you have homemade hollandaise sauce that will rock your socks off.