Reading on the Move

Some books seem appropriate on trips because they are of the place. Others are complete contrasts – like “A Tale of Two Cities” in a tent, or Ann Patchett’s “Run” during the long airplane flight to Thailand.

Patchett’s story is about the Doyle family, mothers, a father, sons, and a daughter. It’s set during and in the immediate aftermath of a paralyzing Boston snowstorm that narrows the world so people unknown to each other, but possessing the closest relationship, can meet.

The book is wonderful. Patchett so effortlessly buries profundities in snow banks. I loved all the characters in this book, but maybe Father Sullivan best. Suffering from heart failure at 88, “His heart woke him to remind him that in life there was never a limitless number of nights.”

Awake, he considers life and afterlife: “In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future, instead Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine.” He realizes, “Life itself had been holy.”

I read another author celebrating the holiness of everyday life on a more recent plane ride – Adam Gopnik’s “The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food.” Gopnik’s little book has an encyclopedic scope, he searches for meaning in the history and culture of food – and in his own accomplished cooking.

I haven’t finished the book, but so far, Gopnik describes French cooking, seasonal food, eating animals “from nose to tail,” and local produce in his insightful, thoughtful language. He tells about the 19th century English writer Elizabeth Penell, “the first to see the cookbook as a literary form,” and includes the emails he writes to her (emails as literary form).

But he hasn’t yet addressed the particular meal I savored while reading him – an Alaska Airlines Mediterranean tapas box – olives, a little tube of hummus, multigrain crackers, almonds, dried apricots, and a tiny bit of dark chocolate. Heavy on the packaging, but at 35,000 feet it’s a great pleasure to pop an olive on the hummus on the cracker, enjoy the presentation, and keep on reading.

Gopnik writes “Good cooking is beloved because, when it is good enough, it gives more immediate pleasure and then recedes more rapidly, more gracefully, into the metaphoric middle distance than any other cultural thing, letting us arrange our lives, at least for one night, around it.”

Or one airplane flight.

tray table

5 thoughts on “Reading on the Move

  1. So fun – I have read and enjoyed both books. Thank you again for Gopnik’s. I also had the tapas flying home from Mexico. We were startled /amazed and mildly horrified at the packaging. Not enough to keep me from enjoying every bite!

  2. Good morning, Katy, and thank you for opening my mind along with the heavy dose of caffeine. I have not read Ann Patchett’s books, and with a grandson in Boston in deep snow, I’m planning to read RUN. I’m off to the skin doctor in Poulsbo this morning to check on a spot on the other side of my nose that may require MOHS surgery. No big deal, I’ve done this before. Thankfully there are procedures that work on this Norwegian skin that I willingly fried while I was young. ~Jane

  3. It’s always a pleasure to read about books here, and to know that I have another recommendation to put into my book queue. These both sound like winners – two authors I’ve read and liked in the past. We’re so lucky that good writers keep writing books and writing about books.

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