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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Tyler Moore’

A few weekends ago, I hopped on a plane – still a novelty after nearly 18 months of not going much of anywhere. I was headed to a new-to-me destination: the Twin Cities. I’ve been taking a writing class through ModernWell with Nina Badzin and others during this pandemic year, and when my classmates started planning an in-person meetup, I knew I had to be there.

Nina and I have been friends online for years, but we’d never met in person, and I’d never met any of the other women in our class. But in some ways we know each other deeply: we have spent the past year meeting via Zoom on Tuesday mornings, exchanging updates about what we’ve been reading and watching, then discussing writing prompts and craft, and sharing our writing with one another. I don’t know all the names of their kids or where they went to college, but I know the soul-deep insights they’ve shared in class these last months. In turn, they have been sounding boards for me as I processed my pandemic grief, post-divorce loneliness and various job hunt woes.

My friend Debra picked me up from the airport and took me straight to Lake Harriet for lunch and a run (see top photo). “I feel like you need to run a city lake while you’re here,” she had told me. She was determined to show me the best parts of her hometown, which included that lakeside run, a bike ride to the cute little town of Excelsior on Saturday morning, a long walk around Lake Minnetonka (shades of Betsy Ray!), and several delicious meals both out and at home. (Debra has a fun cooking Instagram, and I loved watching the magic happen in real time in her kitchen.)

I didn’t care about most touristy things (we skipped the Mall of America, for example) – but I had to make a pilgrimage to a certain street corner downtown.

I went through a serious Mary Tyler Moore phase after moving to Boston. I watched all seven seasons of the show over the course of a year, and I drew strength and comfort (and a lot of laughs) from Mary’s adventures in Minneapolis and her close bonds with her friends and colleagues. So of course I had to go pay homage, and throw a hat (which I borrowed from Nina) in the air.

The rest of the weekend was filled with eating and talking: so many stories to tell and catch up on, so many delicious dishes to sample. Debra and Nina took me to the charming Excelsior Bay Books (after brunch at Coalition) on Saturday, and then Debra whipped up a fabulous happy-hour spread for the whole group before we all went out to dinner. I was out of words every single night by the time I went to bed. And it was wonderful.

Just as Debra intended, I was utterly charmed by the Twin Cities, and by meeting her and my other ladies in person. I’ll definitely be back.

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We’ve made it to Friday, and nearly to November – and it’s snowing, y’all. I’m joining my friend Jess in her #votedearlyreadathon to stay away from scrolling the news. Here’s what I have been reading:

Heather and Homicide, Molly MacRae
MacRae’s fourth Highland Bookshop mystery takes us back to Inversgail, where a true-crime writer is sniffing around a recent murder case. Heather (the writer) is likable, but odd – and when she’s found dead, both the police and the women who own the local bookshop have questions. A so-so plot, but I like retired librarian Janet Marsh and her colleagues. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 1).

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow
Anne and others recommended this lushly written fantasy novel about January, a girl who discovers a Door to another world, which might also hold clues to her own history. The world-building is fun, but I found January really irritating, and the action took a while to pick up. Still enjoyable. Found at the Book Shop of Beverly Farms.

The Chanel Sisters, Judithe Little
Before Coco Chanel became a famous designer, she was simply Gabrielle: one of three sisters abandoned by their peddler father and left at a convent. Narrated by Gabrielle’s younger sister, Antoinette, this novel follows the girls as they struggle to make their own way, eventually opening Chanel Modes in Paris. I didn’t know anything about Ninette, but I enjoyed her voice. An engaging, sometimes tragic novel full of romance, fashion and gritty hard work. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 29).

Stella by Starlight, Sharon M. Draper
Stella mostly likes living in Bumblebee, North Carolina: she and her friends make their own fun, and stay away from the white folks. But then she spots a burning cross in the night, and her father and his friends are determined to go register to vote. Stella is a budding (if ambivalent) writer, and she tries to make sense of what she sees through words. Similar setting and thematic ground to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and full of warmth and heart.

Blacklist, Sara Paretsky
In the wake of 9/11, V.I. Warshawski accepts a simple-sounding surveillance job for a regular client’s elderly mother. But then she finds a dead black man – a reporter – in a nearby pond, and stumbles onto a nest of secrets. One of Paretsky’s most compelling novels yet: so much here about keeping up appearances, giving in to fear, racial profiling and more. Some startling parallels to our current moment.

Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers, ed. Natalie Eve Garrett
I can’t remember where I heard about this essay collection, but I adored it. Thirty-one writers (like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Anthony Doerr) share childhood favorites, the foods that got them through grief and divorce and transition, and simple favorites. Warm and funny and delicious (with recipes!).

The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” This declaration begins Monk Kidd’s latest absorbing novel, which is lovely and wise and full of well-drawn characters, including Ana, her aunt Yaltha, her adopted brother Judas, and Jesus himself. This version of Jesus is fascinating and utterly human – and I loved Ana and her stalwart female friends.

Our Darkest Night, Jennifer Robson
I adore Robson’s novels about strong women in wartime, and devoured this one in a day. Antonina, a young Venetian Jewish woman, must pose as a Christian farmer’s wife to escape the Nazis. I especially loved watching Nina make friends with Rosa, her “husband’s” prickly sister, and discover her own strength. Powerful and at times heartbreaking. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 5).

Love is All Around: And Other Lessons We’ve Learned from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Paula Bernstein
I am a longtime Mary Tyler Moore fan (I went through a serious phase a few years ago). I saw this book on the Bookshelf Thomasville’s Instagram feed and ordered it from them. It’s a fun, heartwarming look at how the show was a pioneer in its era of TV, the close-knit relationships among the characters, and the inspiration we all draw from Mary’s spunk and gumption (and very human struggles).

Links (not affiliate links) are to local bookstores I love: Trident (which has a brand new website!), Frugal Bookstore and Brookline Booksmith. Support indie bookstores!

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In memory of Mary

mary tyler moore hat

A few years ago, soon after I moved to Boston, I fell completely in love with The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’d watched it occasionally in reruns as a child, but this time I checked the DVDs out from our library and savored every single episode. I love Lou Grant, Rhoda, Murray and the whole cast, but Mary Richards – sweet, spunky, hardworking, brave Mary – is my favorite.

I loved her chic wardrobe and cozy studio apartment. I laughed aloud at her eloquent facial expressions and quick wit. I cheered as she made her own way in a big city, forging a new career (as I was doing much the same thing). And I related in a deep and visceral way to the struggle between being a “nice girl,” staying true to yourself and your values, and standing up to sexism or other prejudices.

Mary belongs to my grandparents’ generation, and her show was popular in my parents’ youth. But much of what we’re fighting for, as women and as human beings, has not changed. (In the current political climate, this truth is coming home to me every single day.)

Mary Tyler Moore died this week, and I’ve been thinking about her – both the character I love and the actress who pushed television forward with her bold, funny, utterly real performance. She may have “turned the world on with her smile,” as the show’s theme song has it, but she also lit up the world with her courage, wit and grace.

Thank you, Mary. You made us laugh, you made us think and you made us brave. I think you made it after all.

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may books 3

The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
I love the story of the Andreas sisters, Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia (daughters of a Shakespeare professor), who converge on their childhood home as their mother battles cancer. The first-person-plural voice is brilliant, the sleepy Ohio college town appealing, the characters richly layered. I spent a blissful weekend sinking into this story for the third time. (My book club had a great Skype discussion with the author last year.)

Sight Reading, Daphne Kalotay
A subtle, complicated story of love and classical music, following violinist Remy, composer Nicholas and several other people as their lives intertwine over two decades. It frustrated me that the characters were not always held responsible for their actions (Nicholas almost never), but I loved the descriptions of music, which is difficult to capture on the page (Kalotay is a trained musician). I also loved Kalotay’s debut, Russian Winter. (I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not compensated for this review.)

A Death in the Small Hours, Charles Finch
Charles Lenox, M.P., new father and erstwhile detective, escapes to his uncle’s Somerset estate to work on an important parliamentary speech. But a series of crimes in the nearby village tugs at his attention. With his protege, John Dallington, Lenox attempts to solve the case, write his speech, and also play in the village cricket match. A fun mystery, though I agree with Lenox that Parliament can get a little dull.

The Lucy Variations, Sara Zarr
Classical pianist Lucy Beck-Moreau achieved international fame by age 14. Then she abandoned her career, much to her family’s disappointment and her own confusion. But when her brother’s new piano teacher befriends Lucy, she starts wondering if she could return to music – for herself. Zarr brilliantly evokes the complications of following a vocation: family and personal pressure, burnout, a longing to create without strictures. She also sensitively explores Lucy’s relationship with Will, the (married) piano teacher. A wonderful read for creatives and young people.

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen L. Carter
What if Abraham Lincoln had survived the assassination attempt at Ford’s Theatre? This alternate history, set in 1867, shows a country still reeling from the Civil War and arguing over how to treat the Southern states. Abigail Canner, young, ambitious and black, lands a job as a clerk in the law firm representing Lincoln at his impeachment trial. But when Lincoln’s lawyer is murdered, she finds herself drawn into a web of secrets and conspiracy theories. Tightly drawn courtroom scenes and an intriguing mystery, though I found the ending unsatisfying. (Reminded me of the film Lincoln – I saw and heard Daniel Day-Lewis in my head every time Lincoln himself appeared.)

Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table, Jenny Rosenstrach
I love Jenny’s blog and had heard rave reviews of this cookbook, and I wasn’t disappointed. Jenny traces her journey of family dinners (she has kept a dinner diary since 1998), from the pre-kid years to the baby/toddler years to “the years the angels began to sing” (read: when her daughters were finally able to hold both a fork and a conversation). Her essays are funny and relatable (I am also fanatical about family dinner), and the recipes look delicious. We’ve already made the Curried Chicken with Apples. Delectable.

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
I rediscovered Mary Tyler Moore about two years ago, and fell deeply in love with the show. So I relished this behind-the-scenes peek into its conception and evolution, focusing mostly on its writers and producers. MTM hired many women writers (groundbreaking in the 1970s) and dealt with issues (divorce, the Pill, homosexuality) previously eschewed on TV. And as its fans know, it was also inspiring, smart, and a heck of a lot of fun. I loved the details of the show’s day-to-day workings and the relationships of its cast. (I’ve been re-watching a few episodes, which made the book even more enjoyable.)

How to Bake a Perfect Life, Barbara O’Neal
Ramona Gallagher has worked hard to raise a daughter on her own and run a successful bakery. But when her son-in-law is injured in Afghanistan, her daughter’s teenage stepdaughter ends up at Ramona’s house because she has nowhere else to go. Ramona must also deal with a series of maintenance issues and the reappearance of a lost love. An enjoyable family story, with a hint of magical realism and a few bread recipes. Fluffy but fun.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

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About a year ago, I got several hints from the universe about The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Suddenly, she was everywhere – in friends’ blogs and casual conversation. I’d been briefly acquainted with Mary as a child, but we hadn’t hung out in years.

mary tyler moore hat

I’ve been borrowing the seasons from our library, and I watched the series finale a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t sniffle my way through it as I did when we finished Friends, but I did get a little misty as Mary looked around the WJM newsroom before turning the lights off for the last time.

Mary’s story bears several parallels to my own over the past few years. True, she’s a single girl and I’m married, so I’m already done with the dating travails that sometimes bedevil her (though her love life is never the true focus of the show). But we both have struggled, and sometimes triumphed, as we’ve adjusted to new cities and navigated the rocky path of being career women in what is (still) often a man’s world. (And we each have a few stalwart friends in our corner, though unfortunately mine don’t live in my building.)

mary tyler moore rhoda

(Image from Hooked on Houses)

Mary is (nearly) the only woman in the WJM-TV newsroom in the early 1970s. The sexism she deals with is more overt than any I’ve ever encountered. But we both are pursuing that tricky thing called “work-life balance” or “having it all” – holding down a financially and emotionally satisfying job, while enjoying an active life outside of work and nurturing deep friendships. (And for heaven’s sake, both she and I would like a little time to ourselves once in a while.)

Mary’s pursuit of a successful life and career is not effortless. (Despite her hospitable spirit and impeccable fashion sense, her lousy dinner parties are a standing joke.) She loves her friends at the newsroom, but often gets caught up in their crises, and Rhoda and Phyllis (her upstairs and downstairs neighbors, respectively) do their part to keep things lively (and complicated). She never does get married, that we know of. She is bright and beautiful and capable, but she’s also just another girl trying to make a living, find love, sustain friendships, “make it after all.”

Therein, of course, lies Mary’s charm: who among us hasn’t dealt with cranky coworkers, awkward dates, deadlines at work and a stretched-to-the-breaking-point budget? Who hasn’t headed home to a hot bath after a stressful day or a frantic week, only to be interrupted by a friend’s crisis or a family member’s emergency? And who among us (especially women) hasn’t struggled to balance our people-pleasing instinct and cultural conditioning as “nice girls” with our drive for success?

I loved watching Mary find her feet, eventually summoning the moxie to talk back to her gruff boss, Lou Grant, and the self-absorbed anchorman, Ted Baxter. By the seventh season, she has grown into a feisty, independent but still compassionate woman who knows what she wants out of life (even if she can’t throw a perfect dinner party). She may not have all the answers (though she does have a hip little apartment and a fabulous wardrobe), but by the end of the series we know: she, and we, are gonna make it after all.

Thanks, Mary, for the laughs and the inspiration. I’ll be coming back to visit you in Minneapolis once in a while.

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She seems to be everywhere lately.

First she showed up on Sarah’s blog in a post about living alone (wherein we all reminisced about our carefree single-girl days or bemoaned the fact that we’d never had any). Then my friend Camille came to town, and after she’d quizzed Abi and me about our Boston lives over dinner at Panera, she exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you girls – living in the big city, and making it! Just like Mary Tyler Moore!” And then, Sarah proposed a challenge to make August feel a little more charming, and in the comments we started talking about how we feel like Mary – organized, on top of things (and impeccably dressed) – when we take care of the grown-up stuff.

Well, I can take a hint. Besides, it had been 15 or 20 years since I last caught episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in reruns on Nick at Nite. So I checked the first season out from our library. And I’m in love.

I’d never watched enough of the show to have any sense of the real storyline – so I’ve loved watching Mary’s career take off at WJM-TV and her new life in Minneapolis unfold. I do not now, nor have I ever, had any desire to live in the Twin Cities (too cold! Even colder than Boston!), but I admit I love her spacious apartment, with that big bay window and those comfy couches and that cool pull-down stained-glass shade thingy over the kitchen counter. I love her colorful, tailored, chic wardrobe (most of which would be in style today) – I think my husband is getting sick of me exclaiming, “I love her suit/jacket/dress/outfit!” every time we watch an episode together.

Most of all I love Mary’s repartee with her friends – her friendships with Rhoda and Phyllis strike me as direct ancestors of the relationships on my beloved Friends. I love the way she holds her own as (basically) the only woman in the WJM-TV newsroom, and how sarcastic Murray, narcissistic Ted and even gruff Lou Grant all come to adore her. And – of course – I admire Mary’s spunky, can-do spirit, whether it’s solving a work crisis or navigating an awkward first date or simply dealing with whatever crisis her friends have dreamed up.

You can never have too many heroines – and sweet, spirited Mary is becoming one of mine. On the days when life feels like a slog through the mundane, she reminds me that with a little spunk and ingenuity, I just might make it after all.

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