Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hived off

I'm panicking about the bees.

It all seemed very doable and simple in the days after the beekeeping class, but a few weeks have elapsed and I started reading up on bees last night, bouncing around on hobbyist web sites, until I finally had to shut off the computer and get under the covers. There were a picture of a woman IN SHORTS retrieving a swarm of her bees that had migrated into a neighbor's yard. Swarm, swarm, swarm, swarm. There is a horror movie called The Swarm.

Our bees arrive in 9 days.

With my coffee this morning I was reading Laurie Colwin's Family Happiness in which the saintly heroine infuriates one of her brothers and his wife. She does something unforgivable: she insists on having them to her place for dinner when they want her to come to their place. Such is the high drama in a Laurie Colwin novel. Anyway, here's some dialogue:

"Geez, you'd think you put a nuclear device in their elevator, Well, they're pretty hived off."

"Hived off?" said Polly. "What does that mean."

"It is a swarm of bees leaving their nest," Andreya explained.

Hived off. If I believed in signs . . .  but I don't.

Abrupt change of subject. Laurie Colwin just isn't a great novelist. I'm almost done with her complete oeuvre, and while I find her fiction very readable, it's painfully tame and cozy. Cookbooks should be cozy -- it's why I love them -- but life isn't really cozy and when I read fiction I want a little life. You know, anguish and loneliness and contempt and sex and dark comedy. Colwin is way too distracted by poached eggs and china patterns. 


  1. I've actually wondered about her novels, because after reading her cookbooks I thought, "Hmmm. I love these, but I don' think they'd work as fiction." Not for me, anyway. I need my dark streak fed.

  2. if it helps, remember that louise sampson had bees in her yard on clay street the whole time we were growing up. i mean, she had a beekeeper come and harvest and probably do any maintenance, but there was never a problem.

  3. Layne: dark streaks must definitely be fed and will find no sustenance in the works of Laurie C. It is time for some James Ellroy.
    Anonymous: Actually, that helps.

  4. Tipsy Baker,
    My aunt and I are with you on Laurie Colwin. We love love Home Cooking but the novels, not so much.

  5. Hi Jennifer,
    I saw your Slate article today and I wanted to see what you were up to! (This is Claire, who briefly fact-checked some of your reviews at EW.) I just wanted to say that though I too find some of Laurie Colwin too cute, I have a strange fondness for Happy All The Time, especially the part where one character buys her boyfriend the candied chestnuts. It's satisfyingly Upper West Side cozy, though one friend deemed all of her books (1) misogynist and (2) filled with gross-sounding food.