Midweek @ Musings: On Prizes and Veggies

On Literary Prizes

I was bitten by the “Book Awards Bug” about ten years ago.  I’d just moved from the US to the UK, and found myself in unfamiliar territory where contemporary literature was concerned.  I’d been feeding myself a fairly steady diet of New York Times bestsellers and Oprah’s Book Club picks, both of which were in short supply in my new home.  But it was Booker Prize season, and the media was giving the prize considerable coverage.  “What’s all this then?” I asked myself.  And my new “tbr pile” was born.  I didn’t read every nominee — far from it — but I discovered many new authors including Margaret Atwood, Trezza Azzopardi, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Monica Ali, and Zoë Heller.   By the end of this year I’ll have read every winner.

The Orange Prize is my other favorite literary award.  As with the Booker Prize, I love following the annual march from longlist to shortlist to winner.  For reasons I can’t explain, this prize didn’t attract my attention until much later.  These days, about 2/3 of my reading is written by women, so I love the idea of an award celebrating women’s literature.  I’ve worked my way through the Orange Prize winners list, and am now selectively reading short- or long-listed works.  And when the 2010 Orange Prize Longlist was announced last week, I couldn’t help but get excited about the prospects for my tbr pile.

Over the years, both prizes have completely reshaped my reading choices.  I’m not as crazy as some, who attempt to read the entire longlist before the winner is crowned, although I might consider doing that with the Booker and Orange shortlists someday.  For now I’m just happy when “prize season” comes around, and I love the endless speculation and debate!

Infographic of the Week

This week’s infographic was inspired by last week‘s McDonald’s rant.  Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish asks, Why does a salad cost more than a Big Mac? Seeing how federal subsidies support food production, helps me understand how this affects day-to-day consumer food choices — and overall dietary health.  Which leads me to my next topic …

Vegetable Garden 2010

Oh happy day!  It’s spring!  Here’s the “before” photo of my 2010 vegetable garden:

I began vegetable gardening two years ago, after becoming interested in locally grown and produced food.  I’d been visiting a farm market, and had found a local source for milk and eggs.  At the same time, we’d made the switch to a vegetarian diet, so I was interested to see if we could grow some of our own food.  I really enjoyed myself, and learned a lot.  Last year, we expanded the garden dramatically, and this led to more learnings — for instance, it is possible to grow too many zucchini!  I can see that each year we will tinker with the formula, trying to find the right combination of crops.  Last weekend marked the beginning of the 2010 gardening season.  The weather was beautiful, and with my husband’s help I was able to plant some of our earlier crops: peas, lettuce, and carrots.  I love being out in the garden on a warm sunny morning; for me, it’s almost a spiritual experience to tend the plants while listening to the birds singing in the trees.  This is a busy part of the season, starting seeds either in flats or in the ground.   I’ll share my progress here from time to time!

Any gardeners out there?  What do you like to grow?

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10 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: On Prizes and Veggies

  1. I didn’t realise that you lived in the UK. Do you still live here or have you moved back?

    As you know I love the prizes as much as you. I recommend reading the short lists in advance – predicting the winner is half the fun – give it a try this year!

    • Jackie, I lived in Cambs from 2000-2004. We loved it. My children were quite young and attended a small village primary school with a wonderfully caring environment. My oldest is leaving tonight for a week in London and will be able to reconnect with some of her schoolmates. They haven’t seen each other in 6 years, and I can just imagine how different a group of 17-yr-olds will be vs. 11 yr-olds!

      You know the other problem with reading shortlists is my pocketbook! At least with the Booker, last year I found that many shortlisted works weren’t available in the US early enough. Yes, the Book Depository is my friend, but … need to be reasonable! We shall see.

      • Sounds like a good excuse to start with the Orange short list!

        If you aren’t planning to keep the books then I have found that you can actually make a profit by buying books from other countries, reading them, then selling them on. Perhaps that is one way to get round your Booker problem? Book Depository and then ebay are your friends!

        I’m pleased that you enjoyed life in England and hope your daughter enjoys her reunion!

  2. Wonderful post, Laura, I’m loving mid-week!

    Garden in the morning IS a spiritual experience in every way. I must try to get back to it this year, I really miss those sacred moments.

    • Terri, on re-reading my post, I agree: garden in the morning IS a spiritual experience! And yes you must get back to it — you were my initial inspiration you know!

  3. Your infographic brings one of my Must-Reads for this year to mind, Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing. A Double Cheeseburger appears at #8 on his list of things that aren’t really as cheap as you think they are.

    “#8 Double cheeseburger – A value meal is a great way to eat if you’ve neither time nor money but this cheap food turns out to be ‘cheat food’. What if we had to pay the full environmental, labour and health costs of a burger? Some researchers think we’d end up paying over $200, and that doesn’t include the modern day slavery in our North American sandwiches.”

  4. Ha! As a recent ex-pat I totally relate! I think the fact that it’s a BIG scene here in the UK was partly what drew me to the Booker. And I was also later to discover the Orange.

    Can I admit that I had some confusion about the Orange prize — nowhere on the website did it explain that it was for women writers, and then there was someone named Lionel who won it! I was very confused for a while.

    Your garden sounds like paradise!

  5. I’m enjoying your Midweek Musings too, although as usual I’m very behind on my blog reading. I only just found out about the Orange Prize recently and haven’t made much of an effort to read the books involved (whether -listed or winners), which is shameful given that I read about 90% women authors. It’s something I’d like to change this year!

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