As darkness falls
I read last week in the NYTimes that Colum McCann, author of This Side of Brightness (I blogged about how much I enjoyed that novel here), has a new novel out, and it’s a finalist for the National Book Award. So, I snapped up a copy of Let the Great World Spin, and I’ve been reading it this weekend.
Today, after morning rains, afternoon pumpkin carving and a roasted chicken dinner, I set about cleaning the kitchen while Erin tried to coax Anna and Malia to eat the delicious stuffing she’d prepared for the meal. I’d shut off all the lights before dinner, and there were candles on the table. Evening was coming on.
In the groove, washing dishes almost contemplatively, I realized I was in a darkening home, and I felt a calm I’d not encountered since my time in Vanuatu 10 years ago. Those years on Paama Island, I lived by the cycles of the sun, earth and moon, rising early, living outside in the elements and brushed by vegetation and wind and sea, sleeping soon after darkness fell.
I’m struggling these days to return to a healthy balance, and today was a good day in which I put my work worries and conference planning aside to live a little more slowly, more sanely. And so I enjoyed the touch of the slippery insides of the pumpkins, basked in the sight of my beautiful wife and daughters, and melted in the peace of twilight.
Diagnosis author Lisa Sanders in the Triangle
I’ve been a fan of the Diagnosis column in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine for some time, and so when I heard that Lisa Sanders, the author, had a new book coming out, I shot her an email message to ask if she’d be coming through the Triangle on a book tour.
Turns out, she was indeed on her way down here for Grand Rounds talks at both UNC-CH and Duke. When I asked, she also agreed to meet up with the Science Communicators of North Carolina, so I’ve organized a happy hour for this Thursday, October 8 from 5:30pm to 7pm at the West End Wine Bar in Durham.
Dr. Sanders’s medical detective stories in the Diagnosis column inspired the creation of the hit T.V. series House, M.D. for which she serves as medical advisor. Before medical school, Dr. Sanders was an Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS News, where she covered medicine and health.
I’ve been reading and enjoying her new book, Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis. In this, she explores the physical exam, visual observation skills, high-tech medical tests and other trends in diagnostic medicine.
Dr. Sanders will read from her book at UNC on Wed, Oct 7th at 12 noon.
Food and friends
The North Carolina Literary Festival is all this weekend on the (still growing) campus of UNC-CH, so I stopped by this morning to listen to Kelly Alexander, Randall Kenan and Marcie Cohen Ferris talk about food writing.
At the same time as the food panel, my friends Wayne Sutton and Paul Jones were in the next building discussing Twitter as the newest tool for literature. I stopped by at the end, said hello to Wayne, met David B Thomas, then got a copy of Alexander’s book, Hometown Appetites: The story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate”:http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot1013abc08.mp3/view signed by her.
Later, at Weaver Street Market, I ran into my friend Rose Hoban. She’s planning on attending The Long Table dinner at 3CUPS next Sunday.
A reading of history
As I puttered around the house on Friday, it was quite nice to hear NPR’s annual reading of the text of the Declaration of Independence.
Soon after, as I unpacked boxes of books I’ve collected over the last 25 years, I came across my paperback copy of Lincoln at Gettysburg, by Garry Wills. That was a book I read when I lived in Hawaii 15 years ago and that inspired me to memorize Lincoln’s famously short speech.
So, it was another pleasant surprise when this afternoon at a potluck dinner at the home of Christopher and Tessa Perrien, we paused before the meal for a group reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Zinsser on Zinsser
In the American Scholar, William Zinsser gives us Visions and Revisions, a history of his iconic book On Writing Well, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
If you write, you must read that book.
Ruhlman and ratios
In preparation for the move next month, I’ve begun to pack the last of my books. One shelf is devoted to Michael Ruhlman and Alex Frater, and this morning I was admiring their amazing output of great writing.
Ruhlman has done it again with the release of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. Read his blog post about the book.
I plan to get my copy at The Regulator Bookshop tomorrow.
Listening to Verghese
Tonight, I’m Duke’s Searle Center to hear Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country and a new novel, Cutting for Stone. See my post at Inside Online to understand why (hint: he’s one of the inspirations for my medical journalism career and the Narratives of HIV series I organized at UNC-CH).
On fact checking
In the New Yorker anniversary edition, there’s a fascinating essay by John McPhee about the role of the fact checker at that magazine and others. Read Checkpoints today.
That essay reminded me of Alex Frater standing on Lopevi Island and telling me about his boot, an ant pile and the New Yorker fact checkers. Read my post here.
My father called from Honolulu today to say he’d been given a present one of the local newspapers — his letter to President-elect Obama, A Christmas wish for better foreign policy, was running in today’s paper next to Tom Friedman’s syndicated column.
In an attempt to thank you, I am writing this simple Christmas card with some ideas that might fit into your goal of improving our national image to the world.
Dad proposes the creation of an American International Disaster Relief Corps, a “Meet Me In America” program and a “University for the World” program.
Nice work, dad.
Beer tasting in the torrid zone
It’s been six years since I last attended the World Beer Festival in Durham (my 2001 post is here), so it was time again to descend into the threadbare Durham Athletic Park with a couple of my neighbors and a thirst for good brews.
I tasted a dozen beers (and stopped there, since I was the driver for the day), and especially enjoyed the Grimbergen double — which I learned about in a tasting session led by beer blogger Lew Bryson — and Shipyard Sea Dog Blueberry Ale.
Later, back home, the kids in bed and the kitchen cleaned, I showered, wrapped myself in a lavalava and sprawled on the bed under the fan to finish Alex Frater’s fantastic paean to the tropics,
Tales from the Torrid Zone. (See my earlier post about my delight in finding my name in the book.)
In Tales, Alex mentions drinking cold Vanuatu Tusker beer at Tasso’s guest house at Lamen Bay on Epi, the next island over from Paama. Somehow, some way, my world beer tasting next year will be there.
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