My one reader was kind enough to wonder where I was. I thank you, kind reader. I’ll start with the crackers. I went into the cheese shop down the street. It’s one of those fancy cheese shops where cheeses cost $20.00 a pound and the people who work there are called cheesemongers. I love the word cheesemonger. It sounds like it should translate to cheese monster (like cookie monster)--so I picture the employees, after hours, throwing hunks of cheese into their mouths. Anyway I bought some of the less expensive cheese, an aged Vermont cheddar (betraying my Wisconsin roots). I bought some crackers from “The Fine Cheese Company”--they are mustard and black pepper for “mature cheddar.” I’m not sure how the cheese I bought it would feel about being called “mature”—are you calling me old? But cheddar did taste delicious with those mustard and black pepper oat crackers.
Later, at the grocery store, I bought some Cambozola. I think that’s what it’s called. It tastes like a combination of Camembert and Gorgonzola. I had it first at my friend Pauline’s house, and every time I went into a grocery store after that I would look for it, but I kept forgetting what was called. Was it Gorgonbert? Bluezola? Cambebrie? I knew it was the combination of two delicious cheeses. Anyway, I think I found it. I ate it on whole meal crackers also by The Fine Cheese Company. According to the box these are “a wheaty and crunchy cracker for strongly flavored cheeses.” I don’t know if Cambezola is strongly flavored—but it did taste very good with the wholemeal crackers. If you can find some Cambezola, I think you should buy it. And eat it. It’s also good with sourdough bread or a baguette.
On to the books. I checked out a whole bunch of books from the library. I read them eagerly, but then I had to return them before I had a chance to blog about them. I checked out a bunch more books and read them but then had to return them to the library. For some reason, I feel the need to blog with the book in front of me. I don’t know why. Finally, I just broke down and went to the bookstore to buy some books, so I still have them.
First I read the novel Away by Amy Bloom. It’s about a woman, Lillian Leyb, who emigrates to New York after her family has been killed in eastern Europe. She is told later that her daughter is alive, so she travels from New York to Alaska to try to make it to Russia to look for her daughter. This book is so tragic--it is tragedy upon tragedy, sorrow upon sorrow--that before long I became numb to it, as Lillian became numb to her own tragedies. She had to be numb to keep going. Usually I cry over tragedy like that but I didn’t shed as single tear until near the end of the book, when Lillian prays with three young children whose cabin she stumbled upon in her trek through the Alaskan wilderness.
“It’s not that prayer seems like a bad idea out here. It seems like a good and optimistic idea, but Lillian does not believe in anything like God. She’s petitioned particular gods lately (the god of edible red berries, the god of slow-moving streams), but she doesn’t address or hope to be heard by the Creator of the Universe. Lillian believes in luck and hunger (and greed, which is really just a rich man’s hunger--she doesn’t even mind anymore; that people are ruled by their wants seems a reliable truth). She believes in fear as a motivator and she believes in curiosity (hers should have shrunk to nothing by now but feeds on something Lillian cannot make sense of) and she believes in will. It is so frail and delicate at night that she cannot even imagine the next morning, but is so wide and binding by the middle of the next day that she cannot even remember the terrible night. It is as if she gives birth every day.
And the mighty kingdoms she has passed through, the ceaseless white, and the endless dark, swallowed up everything for weeks but spit back Ned and Billy and Sally, and as a kindness or afterthought Lillian as well. Tossed her up the path to the cold cabin, to children who would have died, first Sally, gone in a minute one sunny day, then Ned, neck broken trying to save Billy, fallen into the ravine looking for Sally. And Billy under a pine tree for two days and two nights, back broken, as the snow covered him. All three of them dead, plucked out of the world 12 days after the mother ate a very bad piece of meat. But here is Lillian and the four of them are safe in bed, and not cold, and not hungry. We live and we love the world, Lillian thinks, and we kid ourselves of the world loves us back.
'Boys,' she says. They will pray, no matter what any of them believes.
She says the Sh’ma Koleinu in Hebrew, stammering a little over her father’s phrasing. And she says in English, ‘Hear our voice, O Lord our God, pity us, save us, accept our prayer with compassion and kindness.’ She goes on to the next piece that she can manage to translate. ‘Do not abandon us, our God, do not be far from us.’ Oh do not be far from me, she thinks, and do not concern yourself with my lack of belief. ‘For You we wait, our God; You, O lord, will answer.’ ”