Re-reading Life

My Literature teacher mentioned that she had a passion for macaroons. We are reading Ibsen’s A Doll House in class and of course Nora has a forbidden passion for them as well.

Unfortunately I have read both the plays in this section of the class many times (A Doll House and Raisin in the Sun). But actually, I don’t mind too much. I wish I had time to re-read more. It’s just there are so many books to read…will I ever get to re-read Middlemarch? I think I’ll have to read Anna Karenina again because, even though I’ve already read it more than once, I love it.

I wonder how prevalent re-reading is? In my book group we’ve read a few of the books twice (Heart of Darkness because it’s obtuse,  Crime and Punishment because we wanted to see how different translations affected the read- I loved it both times, but the second Norton press translation was superior, maybe that was all: I can’t quite recall). But normally I don’t read a book and then immediately re-read it again (maybe just sections or paragraphs that moved me strongly). There are some I read every few years (Jane Eyre, one of the first books I fell in love with), and of course I love to strum through others periodically, but as I have all but stopped buying books I do this less often. Some books I have that are essays like Meditations or epistolary like Rilke and Andreas Salomé: A Love Story in Letters, or  the wild Gertrude Stein my Step father gave me for Christmas are good to keep on the night stand when you just want a little taste. I like to illuminate all of life’s important questions in the spirit of a character in Wilkie Collin’s Moonstone: whenever he had a question of import he would randomly open and point to a section of Robinson Crusoe to guide him…I’ve always loved that detail, I mean, why not?

I  saw The Doll House performed many years ago, I don’t remember loving it, I think the lead actress was whiney and it bothered me, but of course  my perspective is different now. The nuance and depth of disharmony in Nora and Torvald’s marriage is, read at my age (with my experience) seen in a totally different light. Life is complicated. The layers reveal themselves with age whether you want them to or not. I wish I had understood Ibsen better when I was 16, I really do.

My professor wrote a recommendation for me (as well as my math professor) that contributed to me being awarded a nice little scholarship for next year, so I wanted to make them both cookies. I guess that’s pretty lame on my part. Coincidentally, (or maybe not: maybe I could actually name the cookie of choice of all my female acquaintances, it seems a popular subject) they have both mentioned their favorite cookies (my Stats professor loves chocolate chip- I can do that).  But if I can satiate a jones for macaroons or chocolate chip I will. The questions is, what did she mean by macaroon? Nora must have meant almond, but what if my professor meant coconut? What to do? I’m, again, with Nora here: I love almond macaroons, but I just have this feeling that when most Americans say macaroon they mean coconut. Anyway I found an interesting recipe (involving pineapple) that I will test on my children, if they pass the test (and if you knew my children you would respect the formidable challenge therein) that is what she will get.

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10 responses to “Re-reading Life

  1. You are quite the intellect Jessica. I am impressed with your literary knowledge. You Go girl!! 🙂

  2. oh not really. I guess I like to read….if only that gave me intellect! ha ha.

  3. I beg to differ about why we read Crime And Punishment again….you may have read it for the erudite reason of comparing translations, but I re-read the same translation again because I was amazed by it and wanted to really soak in it again….or soak it in as the case may be. (I soak in it)

    But as to the macaroons and the scholarship, all so good and well deserved on all sides….

    • you read the same translation twice? What? I distinctly remember discussing the whole translation issue. But then again I have a faulty memory. I did read a different translation, and the second was even better, but maybe that was because I got more out of the second time? It’s kind of a hard thing to compare, unless one was obviously awful which neither were. But Heart of Darkness was obtuse was it not?

  4. I spend so much time reading for research I have virtually lost the ability to read full length novels. I got sidetracked into sci fi at an early age so missed a lot of the classics, so know most of these – if at all – from the movies. Too many words, too little time. Probably why my favourite authors are Paul Auster and John Steinbeck. Compact, quality stuff and not too exhausting.

  5. it’s probably just escapism…

  6. Gosh. Macaroons with pineapple. Almond and/or coconut, too?

    I read Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, in the mid-70s. I swore off Dostoevsky after reading the latter, but your recommendation urges me to reconsider. But then again, there is that argument of “too many words, too little time.” Maybe sometime you can just tell me what you liked about C & P. Or maybe, just give me the recipe for the macaroons (if your kids like them).

    • 1) I’m a sucker for books that take on large philosophical issues. Raskolnikov basically has a psychotic break trying to reconcile who he is on the inside with his actual pathetic life and the horrendous lives of the people that surround him. His “logical” attempt to divorce himself from himself is so masterfully achieved by Dostoyevsky. The gruesome murder of that odious woman, his inner battle, then finding his way back to his humanity with Sonya’s aid. Amazing…
      2) Razumikhin is a man I could fall in love with. He is a wonderful friend, and his love for Dunya is so devastating sweet especially after what she went through as a governess and then almost marring that hideous Luzin. It is a stand alone marvelously satisfying love story.
      3)The interrogation scenes are BRILLIANT.

      I mean, I bought the book, okay- used, but – need I say more?

    • We had a split decision. Eric says he doesn’t like coconut, so this may disqualify him altogether. They are not as cloyingly sweet as most coconut macaroons, but this makes me worry that she might not like them…Luke has generously offered to finish off the last of the batch to clear the way for me to make the almond ones. They are addictive though, I’ve had 3 tonight.

      Caramelize a 20 ounce can of unsweetened pineapple with 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt (in other words just keep cooking it in a skillet until it is just amber in color).
      Mix in 3 1/2 cups of unsweetened coconut, 3 large egg whites and 1/2 t vanilla.
      Form into square pyramids.
      Bake on parchment in a 350 degree oven for about 30 min.
      Supposedly they are best the day they are baked, but I haven’t made enough at a time to test this theory, or someone eats them all up at an alarming rate….

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