Reading Room

I am a homebody, that's all there is to it. I have a hard time dashing from one place to another without feeling slightly bonkers, but for the next few weeks, I'm resigning myself to being unsettled. My job now is to get word of my book out. Selling mode goes against slow love mode, but there you have it. One thing can't exist without the other. I have to put off writing about baking bread, and guinea hens and various other things that have lately caught my eye...

Meantime, SLOW LOVE is beginning to be reviewed, and I must say it is a strange experience. This is my first time writing a book without having a magazine job to hide behind. I think this is also the book I am most deeply attached to, because writing it changed my life. I didn't know what it was going to be about when I started it; in fact, I didn't know that I would be writing a book at all. I was a wreck after I lost my job at House and Garden, and then I got caught up in the madness of selling my house and moving, so that I didn't write anything at all for months. Then I started gardening, up here in Rhode Island, as a way of making my peace with all the change--well, it wasn't even so deliberate. I started obsessively putting my hands in the earth, because it felt good, and necessary. I didn't want to live in a dust bowl. The next thing I knew, I was planting, and planning, and watering, and sitting and watching things grow. And the next thing I knew after that was that I started writing again. After I wrote an essay about the garden, I started writing about muffins, thinking I would write a book about women and food. Then I started writing about the long, ambivalent relationship I had been in, thinking I would write a book about women and love. Then I started writing about the pond I live on, thinking I would write about women and nature. Before too long, it was a book about everything that all women (men, too) face in the middle of life--how to live, where to live, who to live with, and what makes the days count for something.

I'm thrilled with the reviews in the Boston Globe and in The New York Times recently. Last week I gave a reading at the Boston Atheneum, which has to be one of the handsomest places in the country. It reminded me how much I love to read aloud, and how important that was to me as a child. I read to my children, of course, but then they wanted to do their own reading. Now I wish I had insisted on family reading aloud time--with everyone taking a turn. And shouldn't we keep on reading out loud as grown-ups, to one another? Especially because it makes us feel like cozy, well-loved children again...

My two sons and I did have a lovely tradition, which one of them named Reading Room. One of them would say, "Mom, let's have Reading Room", and we would gather in the living room or the kitchen and read quietly together; they would most likely be doing homework, and I would most likely be reading a novel. (The Wind in the Willows is one of my favorites, I'm reading again.) Reading together is a surprisingly intimate act. Have you ever noticed how two people can be lost in their books, sitting together in the same room; the hours can go by without a word spoken, but if one person gets up to leave the room, the other immediately says, "But where are you going?" as though they were leaving mid-sentence. And they are. It is just a sentence unspoken, but understood, and all the more moving in its silence.


Margaret Roach said...

I was so happy to read the NYT review at the start of the weekend, and see how well you are doing with your book adventure.

Saw Ed Bowen on Saturday at Trade Secrets and thought of all of you madly gardening RI'ers.

I hope the book thing won't steal all the delicious "puttering" moments that there are to be had; even with months before mine comes out, I find that it is eating up more and more mental and actual hours. Uh-oh. So this post of yours speaks to me with a particular clarity.

Michele said...

Loved the excerpt in the NY Times. I'm in the throws of "re-invention" and found solace in your words. Loved the "it's Saturday the safe day to go out - oh crap it's actually Friday" episode. I look forward to reading your book!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

There's not much better than sitting with my husband before a roaring fire in the winter, with the dogs asleep on our feet, both of us lost inside books.

Congratulations on the wonderful review yesterday in the Times!

Oh, and is that a Bennison fabric I see??

Toad said...

Twas a wonderful and well deserved review in the NYT. More importantly, we bumptious fractious Toads, love your choice of books.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite memories is getting stuck on a train with my six year old son just outside Glasgow during a bomb scare (years ago!). It was a warm, sleepy afternoon, I pulled out the book I had been reading to Felix - Boy, by Roald Dahl - and started reading to him. Gradually I realised the carriage was quiet, looked up to see all these strangers sitting spellbound with open, rapt faces, listening to the story.

Alexandra said...

The Reading Room idea reminded me so much of when I was a child growing up in NYC. Many times my dad and I would be in the living room, he on one couch, me on another, each reading a book in quiet, comforting, father-daughter companionship. Particularly on bad weather weekends, this was often how we spent an afternoon or early evening. I loved those times so much and they are now cherised memories of time spent with my father.
Congratulations on your NYT review!
Can't wait to get the book.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Got the book.
Devoured it. LOVED it.
Now have all three...
highlighted, tagged and loved!
Dearest Dominique - your stories add such oomph to my reading.
Thrilled the reviews are good.

Dana said...

I just love your blog and am excited to read the new book. Much as I was appalled by the loss of your job (and the magazine) of which I was a loyal subscriber, I was very involved in my own job loss and subsequent changes last year. Your "re-invention" inspires me to keep writing and keep gardening.
thank you.

Judith Ross said...

Dear Dominique,
I have wanted to slow things down ever since a diagnosis and year-long treatment for cancer 16 years ago.

Like you, I do editorial work. I also have two grown sons and feel very lucky to have been restored to health so that I could help and watch them grow into the lovely young men they are today.

Oh, how I want more control over my time -- time that is unconfined by the daily grind! But I also know how lucky I am to have paying work and the ability to support myself.

I am so glad you wrote this book. While it is a vicarious experience for now, it also inspires me to work harder to create a new reality for myself.

Keep writing! We need more voices like yours.

tdm said...

Congrats on the good reviews!
I sadly don't ever recall having my parents reading to me..and my memories do go back to when I was 2: a rather long time ago. However, for years, I listened to a radio program on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) that had a Saturday night program where a story was read over the airwaves...so picture a young tot snuggled up in bed listening to the radio.., Odd perhaps, but I still get a rush of warm emotion when I recall those moments.
And yes on the odd occasion when possible, I read aloud to my nieces and nephews. Hears to hoping those moments spawned happy memories!

Unknown said...

Dear Dominique - I was one of the few men in the audience at the Boston Athenaeum (the bearded fellow who asked you to sign Around the House and in the Garden and is taking Slow Love to Santa Fe next week). I told you this that day but wanted to say it to your readers: It was such a pleaure to meet you, hear you read and see you interact with the audience so authentically. I felt badly asking you to sign a book and listen to my words (the line was so long!). I hope you're getting as much as your giving from your readers and able to find a balance as you promote your book. Congratulations on the good reviews. You deserve them.

Melanie J Watts said...

I have, just this minute, finished reading your book. I couldn't put it down. When I first discovered your writing, in House and Garden, I used to take back issues out of the library just so I could read your column. Even if you are coming up to Canada to promote the book I don't suppose you will be coming to my northern town of Prince George. Anyway I can hear your voice, coming through, as I read the sentences and words you have written.

Jan Jessup said...

Dear Dominique, your story about reading to one another reminded me of a middle-aged couple I know who had the most lovely tradition. With children grown and gone, it was just the two of them for dinner...and while one of them would cook, the other would read a few chapters of a book that they enjoyed together. Wish I had someone to read to me while in the kitchen!

Valerie said...

Dear Dominique,

The Wind in the Willows was a favorite of my later father's. Seeing the lovely photo of the book on your blog brought him to mind in a very sweet way. It also reminded me of how grateful I feel that I can remember him fondly. Growing up with him was rough... to say the least. Cancer finally slowed him down enough to receive and give love and affection. I forgave myself for my inability to love him sooner. And so we had several years of sustained contentment with each other. Thank you for reminding me. Blessings, Valerie

Anonymous said...

I have already thanked you for writing such a wonderful book but now I want to include thanks for posting the reviews the book has received. It is nice to form your own opinion of a book before you read someone else's idea of what the book is about.
I only wish the lovely lady at that "other Conde Nast magazine" would apologize for her uncalled for comments.
Have a lovely book tour and look forward to many more lovely thoughts from your post!

Peter said...

Once, when I was about 12 years old, my family was skiing in Vermont.

After a fun day on the slopes we were back at the house doing our usual after-skiing activity. After an hour or so my Mother looked up from her book and says "who could ask for a better family?"

What made her say that? The fact that our usual after-skiing activity was reading. When she looked up from her book what did she see? Her husband reading a book. Her high-school daughter reading a book, her junior-high son (me) reading a book, and her elementary age son reading a book.

Since that day I say the family that reads together stays together. :-)

(The guy who runs Flashlight Worthy)
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime.

Beth said...

Two comments please. First, read your NYTimes review on "Slow Love" and enjoyed it so very much. Second, I heard your interview on Public Radio and was so inspired and touched by you that I started my own Blog. Thank you for your sensitivity and honesty.


nina said...

I am so glad you have great reviews on your book! You definitely deserve it! and of course, I can't wait to read it- being unemployed, I am waiting for the reserved copy to show up at my local library!
thank you for your inspiration!