School Classics


   Hard to believe the school buses are on the streets running prep routes, the teachers are supplying their classrooms and students are mourning (while parents celebrate) the “end of summer.”  I swear, I don’t think we ever went back to school before the final week of August, and of course, it was uphill, both ways, in the snow.

  If your student was supposed to read a book over the summer and didn’t because he/she couldn’t get too excited about it, or for future reference, here are links to some classics I’ve reviewed.

    Adapt the book club theme to a family meal and VOILA!  Instant Excitement!  Or perhaps a public “Oh mom that’s so stupid” with a private, “My mom is the coolest.”  Fix a family feast based on the book club menu included in the review and play the music list to generate a little excitement about the book.  Ask your student who they would cast in some of these characters’ roles, too.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger:

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain:

The Great Gatsby, by F.Scott Fitzgerald:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

archie ap comic

   And if you are just wanting to engage a teenager with the written word, here are some wonderful young adult books, again with menus and music suggestions.

 Breakfast Served Anytime, by Sarah Combs:

 The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green:

  Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell:

apple box 1

   Happy Reading & Eating!

*Images are vintage cards and Archie Comics.

River Runs

Rivers fascinate writers.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A River Runs Through It, the novels of Wendell Berry.  Casting a wider net, The African Queen, Heart of Darkness, and any book about Lewis & Clark.

Once Upon a River, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s second novel, tells the story of 15-year-old, stunningly beautiful (even when dirt-encrusted) sharpshooter Margo Crane; raped, orphaned and raped again.  Margo wants to be Annie Oakley.  She fishes, hunts and then in graphic detail, kills and skins her prey.  She occasionally steals vegetables too.  She kills deer out-of-season because she has no way other than pulling a trigger to let her emotions escape.  She rarely speaks; but like Helen of Troy, men are inevitably drawn to her (generally gritty) extraordinary beauty. All I know is she has green eyes.

Ms. Campbell’s writing eloquently conveys the natural world of Northern Michigan through the changing seasons and Margo’s symbiotic relationship to it.  But the relationships between Margo and the men of the book left me at best skeptical and at worst hostile.  Margo is seduced by an older male relative in an “I’d sort of rather not do this but it’s not all that bad” kind of way.  She adores the man and wants to please him.  Margo chooses an older lover or two who will provide her with the necessities of food and shelter and she revels in these adventures.  I’ve seen reviews praising the book for the unabashed sensuality of the female heroine.  I just don’t think that’s necessarily a glorious role model.  Whether forced to have sexual intercourse physically or by physical necessity, force is involved.


All in all, I’ve gotta say I identified much more with the deer than with the girl.

Should you choose the book for your book club, I suggest the following menu based on the book:

Welsh Rarebit:  When I was growing up we always thought this had rabbit in it.  It doesn’t but you can fool a couple people.  And it’s good!  (Mark Bittman’s recipe below)

Homemade cinnamon bread

A big salad of whatever you can steal.  Or a salad of mixed baby greens, chopped apples and diced avocado tossed with a simple olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette.  You don’t need much oil, the avocado spreads into the salad to create the perfect complement to the lemon juice and tangy apples.

Venison stew.  I’ve never fixed it so I can’t recommend any particular recipe.  Or you could buy ground venison and make chili.

For dessert, pie.  Whatever your favorite is.

Welsh Rarebit

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup dark beer

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 pound Cheddar cheese, grated

4-8 pieces of lightly toasted bread

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, adding flour as it melts.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and very fragrant, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the mustard and cayenne, then whisk in the beer and Worcestershire.

When mixture is uniform, turn to low and stir in cheese, stirring until smooth.

Spread mixture on toast, place under broiler until bubbly and the edges of the bread are crispy.  Serve immediately.

Although Once Upon a River takes place in Michigan, this is not the book for a Motown soundtrack.  I’m thinking Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson and Tobey Keith.  Anything at all about sitting around shooting things and drinking beer.  And specifically this:

Redneck Woman, Gretchen Wilson

Bitch, Meredith Wilson

She’s Country, Jason Aldean

Man I Feel Like A Woman, Shania Twain

The soundtrack to The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Now, where did I put my copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn …