Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Remember the books that transformed you as you grew up? Ann Hood talks about MORNINGSTAR: Growing Up With Books, eating gourmet meals with her new husband, her obsession with Maggie O'Farrell, and more

I first met Ann Hood in an airport. Or, at least I think I did, and we've agreed that since it SOUNDS like something Ann would do, that I did. I was sitting in an airport reading when this flight attendant in gorgeous brown suede books stopped mid-stride to ask, "What are you reading?"

I've been with her at book fests, where she saved me with Emergen-C. We both dressed in Khakis and baseball caps for the Pulpwood Queens, and she's newly married to a wonderful cook/writer/knitter(!)

Ann is the author of  SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE, AN ITALIAN WIFE, THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST, THE KNITTING CIRCLE, THE OBITUARY WRITER, COMFORT, THE RED THREAD, PLACES TO STAY THE NIGHT, SOMETHING BLUE, and RUBY.  She's won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award. 

Comment here and you could win a copy of Ann's book, MORNINGSTAR: Growing Up With Books. It's incredible,a bout the books that change as, stay with us, transform us.

Ann, welcome, welcome. And thanks so much for being here.

Why do you think books from our childhood have such a huge impact on us even through adulthood? Is it because we are just forming our selves then?
I think it's a couple things. First of all it's the sheer joy of discovering the magic of reading. And then it is finding those books that seem to be about us, but either show the world to us and help explain it or that show us to the world in someway.

I grinned when I saw the Harrod Experiment, a book my older sister gave me when I was 15. I was totally stunned by it back then, but now it seems ridiculous.
It was  really tame--and stupid, too! Are there other books that did that for you? It was just considered so racy back then! There was another book, Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, about a high school girl who gets pregnant on prom night and the couple gets married. I remember in it she's making curtains and rubbing her belly and it seemed so racy and exotic to me. The main characters name is July, which I found the most interesting name in the world. This book is still in print! I should we read it and see what I think today.

I also loved you talking about Marjorie Morningstar, a novel I still love today (I love the film with Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood as well.) The fascinating thing was how so many modern women hated that Marjorie gave up her screen dreams to be a suburban housewife--but you could look at that novel another way--it's of its time, and the last scene belongs to--I forget his name--the writer who loves her. Also interesting was how the movie changed the ending so that Marjorie and the writer are together. Which proves my point, I guess--that books don't just transform us. We transform them by our own experience sand thinking. Care to talk about this?
As you can guess from the title, this was perhaps the biggest impact on me in high school. I sobbed when Marjorie gave up her dreams and move to the suburbs. I do think, looking back at it now, that perhaps it was a little sexism going on and Marjorie have to be punished for being a sexual person and having such grandiose dreams. And the punishment was maybe life in the suburbs? But I swear I cannot walk past a lilac bush without thinking of the scene in the chapter called a kiss under the lilacs. I also love this book because here I was when I read it, in a blue-collar Italian American immigrant family, Reading about an upper-middle-class Jewish girl in New York City, and I thought that book was about me. I swear to you it seems like Herman Wouk  looked into my soul.  And remarkably, I have reread that book many times and it still has the same impact on me. Which I guess speaks to your point. Who transformed whom?

How did you decide what books to discuss? I would be overwhelmed! Which ones did you miss that you wish you had talked about?
You know it was easier than you would think. They were so many books that I read and loved, from the outsiders to Valley of the dolls to the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones. Yet when I had to think about the ones that Most helped me become me, the person I am now, these came to me readily. But if I could have added more, I would've included books by Evan Hunter, in particular a book called Sons, and books by Fred Mustard Stewart, A little know – I think? – – writer who wrote a book called the Mephisto Waltz that I loved. And I would also add in there Edgar Allan Poe, whose dark vision really spoke to me.

What's obsessing you now and why?
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but as you know I just got married last month, and I am really obsessed with my new husband. He's an incredible cook and we are having long delicious dinners with great wine. He also loves theater and so we have been going to every play that we possibly can. And! I taught him to knit! He just finished his first  dishrag.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?
I suppose what I'm reading now? Or maybe what I'm writing now? To the first, I am reading everything that Maggie O'Farrell has written. I am absolutely in love with her books. And I just finished a new YA a novel, called she loves you yeah yeah yeah, which as you can gas concerns another obsession of mine: the Beatles. 

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