January 31st, 2007

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Books and Spoons

Recently around our dinner table, we discussed the relative merits of forks, spoons and knives. 

Which are most useful? Most dangerous? Most breakable? Which would you want if you were lost in the wilderness? Which are most portable or smoothest on the teeth?
(I know, I know. But we’d been iced in for days. Cabin fever does damaging things to the rational mind.)
Our conclusions:
The side of a fork cuts… tines stab… flat slats scoop. Very versatile.
A knife cuts and stabs and pokes and slices. Especially good in the wilderness.
A spoon? A spoon shines like a mirror or a moon.
A spoon – little egg-shaped puddle-keeper – scoops and dips and pours and drips.
Versatility and disaster preparedness aside, none is prettier than a spoon.
(When just one person at the table orders a ramekin of warm crème brulèe, the rest of us ask for extra spoons. Right?)
Naturally, this got me thinking about books. About what we want to read, about why, when and where we want to read them. (Remember the cabin fever? It spared none of us...)
So, drum roll please, here are my own literary utensils:
My Forks (versatile enough for airplanes or waiting rooms, beaches or bedtime):
  • Short story anthologies (preferably with some Alice Munro, Annie Proulx and Jim Harrison)
  • The summer fiction issue of the New Yorker
  • An episodic novel or two, to be read in fits and starts if necessary (maybe Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop and the new Black Swan Green by David Mitchell)
My Knives (books I wouldn’t want to get caught in the wild without):
  • A few meaty classics (The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, Fagles’ translation of The Odyssey, and something by both Dickens and Austen)
  • Some humour (Essays by David Sedaris, poetry by Billy Collins and maybe a Tom Robbins novel or two)
  • Some wilderness reading (Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey)  
My Spoons (pure pleasure)
  • Beautiful poetry (by Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Louise Gluck, Marie Howe, Jane Kenyon, Dickinson, Whitman, Basho. How many am I allowed to pick?)
  • Beautiful picture books (by Cynthia Rylant, Patricia Polacco, Maurice Sendek, Peter H. Reynolds, Jane Yolen. I can’t stop!!!)
Really, wouldn’t it be torture to have to work with one single utensil for the rest of your days? (And I haven’t even gone into my chopsticks here, or egg slicers!)
Choose shmoose. I like the versatile, the capable and the pretty, myself. A well-laid table. What about you?