Artichoke Hearts of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's "whited sepulchre" in Heart of Darkness may have been Brussels, but mine is a refrigerator. Every time I open it, I journey into a composting culinary darkness that makes me shiver. What evil lurks deep in the dark of forgotten Tupperware? And why don't I throw out the jar of drained artichoke hearts that are about to celebrate their second Christmas? And why do I never remember that ignored produce inevitably turns into a puddle of black goo at the bottom of the crisper drawer?

Before I had children and refrigerators I analyzed Joseph Conrad line by line. Lately I'm just lucky to read more than one page of anything without keeling over in a sleep-deprived heap moistened by my own drool. 

It's the busy mom's dilemma at the end of the chore-filled day: read or sleep. Anything that is going to keep me awake has to be worth the sacrifice of sacred slumber.

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux has been on my "to read" list since the movie came out over twenty years ago and now it's keeping me up at night. I'm only halfway through, but this story of a crazed and driven father dragging his family into the wilds of Honduras to save them from the evils of modern America is a fascinating adventure dense with palpable detail.

While the father and the adolescent son Charlie take center stage, I find myself wondering more about Charlie's mother and the role she plays. If you liked The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (and I still think of those four girls traveling to the Congo with Betty Crocker cake mixes down their pants) then this is a book for you. 

Another fantastic trip into the heart of mothering darkness I've been enjoying is The Passion of the Hausfrau: Motherhood, illuminated by Nicole Chaison. This is laugh-out-loud funny for moms. You WILL get weird looks if you read this on public transportation (especially if you are drinking a beverage that you could possibly end up snorting out your nose.) I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to resist a hero's journey in the form of head lice, home renovation, tantrums, and cat diarrhea.

You will travel with the Hausfrau from "How it Came to Be that I Gave Birth in a Hospital Utility Closet" to "How it Came to Be that I Tried to Squeeze My Enormous Ass into Brazilian Surfing Shorts" to "How it Came to Be that I was Bitch-Slapped by the Parenting Gods in the Seasonal Aisle of CVS."

The book has illustrations on nearly every page, which helped to nurture my personal delusions that I am a fast and efficient reader. And it promises to be "the most fun you'll ever have with an illuminated manuscript." Who can resist?

And is it just me, or does anyone else find literary irony in spoiled sour cream?