November 18, 2014

Celebrating Laurie Colwin


A long time ago it occurred to me that when people are tired and hungry, which in adult life is much of the time, they do not want to be confronted by an intellectually challenging meal; they want to be consoled.
      When life is hard and the day has been long, the ideal dinner is not four perfect courses, each in a lovely pool of sauce whose ambrosial flavors are like nothing ever before tasted, but rather something comforting and savory, easy on the digestion -- something that makes one feel, if even only for a minute, that one is safe.
from 'Nursery Food,' in Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin
Laurie Colwin has always been one of my favorite writers; if she's only been mentioned here in passing it's only because I read all of her books so long ago, and they're long overdue for re-reading. So I could add that when a person is tired and hungry, and stuck in traffic on the bus ride home, and the day has been long, the most comforting and savory thing possible is to get an email announcing that eight of her books will be back in print (in e-book form) and offering me two of them :).
She wrote short stories, novels and food essays, many of which were published in Gourmet {in the days when I enjoyed reading that, too}.  Just looking at the titles of the chapters in Home Cooking -- 'How to Disguise Vegetables,' 'How to Avoid Grilling,' 'Stuffing:  A Confession,' 'Easy Cooking for Exhausted People,' 'Chicken Salad' -- reminds me of why I loved them.
I remember her fiction {first published in the 1970s and 80s) as being warm, New Yorky, filled with quiet humor ('they preferred the company of their fellow Solo-Millers to that of any other clan'), and with interesting, smart, happy, foibled people that I wanted to read about. Family Happiness has always been my favorite;  '...In it, she tells the story of a woman from a remarkably strong and attractive family, herself a happy wife and mother, who one day finds herself embarked on a completely unexpected, sweet and painful love affair, exploding all her beliefs about herself and the rightness of her life' {from the original book jacket).  This is the one I want to re-read next, after Happy All the Time. That one is set in Cambridge (my Cambridge); I don't remember it as well, but I'm sure the title describes how I'll feel when I've finished it.
According to the biography provided by her new publisher, Colwin worked in publishing before she turned to writing full-time, sold her first short story to The New Yorker when she was 25, wrote four novels and three collections of short stories, as well as the column in Gourmet, and died suddenly at home when she was only 48 (I remember how sad that was, too.). 
Open Road Media is publishing eight of her books -- Passion and Affect, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, Happy All the Time, The Lone Pilgrim, Family Happiness, Another Marvelous Thing, Goodbye without Leaving, and Home Cooking -- as ebooks today. I hope this means that more people will discover her.  Or have you read her already?
Thanks to Open Road Media, I received complimentary copies of two of these ebooks in exchange for joining in the celebration here.


JoAnn said...

Thanks to Open Road Media, I am finally discovering Laurie Colwin! Her essays are filled with warmth and heart... I highlighted that same passage.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

I've only learned about Colwin recently, having seen a few mentions of her on your blog and in a few other places. I'm definitely intrigued and look forward to sampling her books.

Nan said...

I so love her work, and mourn that she died so young.