Once in a while, I stumble upon a book that burrows into my brain and lays a bunch of little eggs that hatch at random times, sometimes long after I’ve finished reading it, bringing back scenes and words. There was “The Confessions of Max Tivoli,” by Andrew Sean Greer, with its achingly beautiful sadness. And “Embassytown,” by China Mieville, that still makes me think about the complexities of language, humor, and sentience. I’ll never forget the three main characters or the idiosyncratic language of “Plays Well with Others,” by Allan Gurganus, its eggs still hatching in my brain, years after I finished reading it for the third time.
Right now, it’s “Preparation for the Next Life,” by Atticus Lish, that’s filling me with wonder. Its plot is minimal. Two people, an illegal Chinese immigrant and a damaged Iraq war vet, meet and fall in love in a contemporary New York city that many of us never see, away from Manhattan and gentrified Brooklyn.
Not much happens in this book. But it’s the words. The language is so deceptively simple and unadorned. The sentences are mostly short and direct, with the occasional small flourish. Put together, they convey places and feelings like a punch in the gut, sudden and jarring. The words are like water, flowing around distractions, coming together into a stream of experiences. The simplest things, describing a dinner at McDonald’s or working out at the gym, become compelling in this book.
I want to be able to write like that. Even if it’s about something as simple as a bowl of blueberries, blended with sugar, yogurt and lemon, to make frozen yogurt. So, for now, I’ll just keep writing.
Blueberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt – Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments
1½ cups (360 g) plain yogurt (whole milk)
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
3 cups (340 g) blueberries
2 teaspoons kirsch
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
finely grated zest of half a lemon
In a blender or food processor, blend yogurt, sugar, blueberries, and zest. Stir in the kirsch and lemon juice. Chill for 1 hour.
If it solidifies, give it a good stir with a spoon. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.