Who’s afraid of reading Virginia Woolf?

Beast: What do you think is the most-bought but least-read book in all of history?

Foodie: [Silence]

Beast: I bet it’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Foodie: OMG that’s so true! I remember buying it because everyone was talking about it and I didn’t want to be left out of the conversation. When did you buy your copy?

Beast: I have no idea. But look at the bookmark I was using the last time I opened it up…it’s the cover of a stamp book and stamps were 47 cents. So probably 50 years ago?

Foodie: I think I was in grad school so more like 20 years ago. It was a cultural phenomenon! I think I read one page and decided either everyone who said they’d read it was lying or else I was an idiot.  Wait. You would’ve been a teenager 20 years ago.

Beast: Who doesn’t go through a phase when they’re interested in Kurt when they’re 17.

Foodie: Who?

Beast: Kurt Gödel? The logician? As in the title of the book?

Foodie: I never read it.

The book is currently in our washroom in a basket with our blow dryer, brushes, back issues of the New Yorker and Dennis Lee’s Jelly Belly, which I read to my nephew Ben when he’s on our can.

I don’t know what inspired the Beast to dig it up, or, for that matter, where my copy is. But I do know we’ve been digging up classic recipes and enjoying them with much greater success.

Take this mushroom pasta from Jamie Oliver’s first cookbook:

Or this simple gnocchi dish that I learned to make decades ago at Terroni.

The Beast has also been roasting the shit out of chickens this winter and making chicken stock that he then turns into the most delicious soups.

It’s not all blasts from our food past though. The Beast invented a new side dish, which I can’t get enough of: He boils potatoes, carrots, and peas in a pot, and then mixes them up with butter, olive oil, lemon zest, a little squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon.

And another new favourite, which we’ve been treating ourselves to probably once a week, are momos–Tibetan dumplings–from a neighbourhood place called Loga’s Corner.

We each get an order of beef momos and a couple of fried potato balls. (When I asked the owner what the potato balls, not pictured above, are called, he said “potato balls”.)

We’ve also been drawing from both the classics and new releases when it comes to our reading pleasure. I’m on schedule for a personal goal of reading a book a week in 2018. One of those books is a title that the Beast has encouraged me to read for years: How Fiction Works by James Woods. It’s helped him with his own fiction writing and I think he hoped it would help me with my own. Mostly it just gave me a list of books that I need to read, including Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. When I couldn’t find a copy of it in our library, the Beast passed me his copy of Mrs. Dalloway, which he’d recently read. I started it immediately that night, in bed.

Beast: Are you ok?

Foodie: I just don’t know if I’ll be able to finish this.

Beast: You don’t like it?

Foodie: It’s written like the way Yoda speaks. You know, like object, subject, verb instead of subject, verb, object.

Beast: Oh sweetie! Do you want me to go downstairs and find you something else to read? Maybe one of Ben’s picture books?

Foodie: That’s very funny.

Beast: Why don’t we get an episode of Peppa Pig playing on your phone?

Foodie: Again, an excellent joke.

Beast: Maybe you just don’t like the Modernists.

Foodie: I don’t even know what that means.

I’ve had much greater success enjoying and relating to stories told via television. We burned through the new Queer Eye on Netflix, and we’ve been watching the latest American Crime Story: the Assassination of Gianni Versace. In fact, on Friday night, we watched a new episode with pizza and red wine. I’d just come down from a very intense yet highly enjoyable eight days, which included covering for Lainey while she was at the Oscars, hosting a TIFF event with two talented Canadian directors, Joyce Wong and Molly McGlynn:

Going to Kingston to work at their film festival (a Q&A with Francine Valentine, Carleen Robinson, and Q’mal Labad Workman, who are featured in the award-winning documentary Unarmed Verses was top among the many highlights.)

Attending the Canadian Screen Awards:

Crying at a special gala, hosted by Helen Mirren, that honoured 10 extraordinary Canadian women, and also meeting Helen Mirren. (Here’s the Beast’s caption for this photo: “So was the stag a metaphor for Diana or the monarchy? Be honest.”)

And celebrating The Social’s  1,000th episode–which included a 30-minute interview with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, which I had to hide from the co-hosts, before the show even started.

So on Friday night all I wanted to do was sit on the couch with the Beast. I’ve never been more content–until the pizza made my stomach feel awfully funny, not because of the pizza but because I’d treated my stomach over the last week like a garbage compactor fuelled by black coffee. I had to have an emergency washroom break right before we made the leap from Versace to Ru Paul’s Drag Race. When I got back to the living room, the Beast was watching a video of Darren Criss.

Then he went to the washroom and when he got back, I was watching a video of Anne Hathaway.

And then together, without words, we knew what was next. Only we pulled it up on the big TV screen because it deserved a larger, more robust, platform.

“You watch something like this and you wonder why anyone would watch a two-hour movie, or spend 10 hours reading a book,” the Beast said. “All the back story you need, all the emotions, are right here. It’s five minutes and it’s just as satisfying as any longer story.”

“You may be right” I said.

“I remember reading a Virginia Woolf quote where she said a person could create an accurate autobiography by just reading and jotting down their reflections on Hamlet. We should do that with this,” he said.

“So what you’re saying is that Susan Boyle is like Hamlet?”

“I’m just saying, if we ever get to a point where Susan Boyle doesn’t move us, we should just end everything. So yeah, to be or not to be, I dreamed a dream that life was worth living. This video is exactly like Hamlet.”

“Just way shorter,” I said.

2 responses to “Who’s afraid of reading Virginia Woolf?

  1. I always look forward to your posts on your blog (is that the correct lingo?) and you never let me down. Thanks Jess…..

  2. I suggest that you watch the “Mrs. Dalloway” movie. It’s been a while but I remember that I did enjoy it. 🙂

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