If you ask any kids who grew up reading Judy Blume, they’ll tell you precisely what they learned from each of Blume’s books; which taboo rites of passage each book introduced; probably even where they were, physically and developmentally, when they first stumbled on this information. They might very well remember the precise page number of the paperback that was passed around middle school on which the most eye-opening passages appeared.
I recently reread her classic, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” in advance of seeing the film adaptation that opens this week, 52 years after the book’s publication.
In my memory, “Margaret” was chiefly about puberty, specifically about getting your period for the first time. I vividly remembered the famous scenes when Margaret first encounters sanitary napkins and when she and her friends do exercises in order to “get out of those baby bras,” chanting, “We must — we must — we must increase our bust!”
As I reread the book, though, I was struck not only by its Big Moments, but also by the many small, almost trivial ones that I’d unwittingly assimilated into my understanding of the world.
There’s an early scene in which Margaret’s father injures himself while mowing the lawn and Margaret runs out into the yard “to look for the limb,” in case the doctor might be able to sew it back on.
I stopped short. This scene was as real to me as one of my own memories. When I’d read the book as an adolescent, it was the first time I’d heard about such a grisly surgical procedure. I didn’t actively think of it again, but “you should always look for the limb” became part of my smart aleck’s understanding of the world, a bit of wisdom, never questioned. I never tied this knowledge back to the book or any source.
“Margaret” also instilled in me the belief that wearing loafers with socks makes one “look like a baby” and that it was possible to get a custom label made for a homemade sweater that said “Made Expressly for You … by Grandma.” Small details, certainly not the main themes of the book, not what I’d tell any adult at the time that I “took away” from reading it.
“Margaret” the movie — which you should see if you loved the book, or loved the director Kelly Fremon Craig’s first film, “Edge of Seventeen” — is full of these details, moments that change a young reader quietly. Watching it, I felt little electrical connections being made between my childhood brain and my adult brain, between the data that was inputted decades ago and the coherent knowledge it’s become.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
📚 “Trust” (Tuesday): In this novel by Hernan Diaz, now available in paperback, the life of an early 20th-century New York financier is told from four different perspectives. Named one of The Times’s 10 best books of 2022, we called “Trust” an “exhilarating pursuit.”
🍿 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Friday): One of the few directors to hop back and forth between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, James Gunn is taking one more swing with Star Lord and Co. before taking on yet another Superman reboot. Expect jokes, classic rock tunes and light profanity.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Whether you’re planning a festive spring gathering or looking to make yourself something extra special for dinner this weekend, Anna Francese Gass’s delightful artichoke carbonara might be just the thing. In her clever recipe, she levels up an easy weeknight pasta by stirring in canned or frozen artichoke quarters, adding flavor and texture without much effort. For a vegetarian version, skip the pancetta and caramelize some onions or mushrooms in the pan instead. Then top each bowl with a raw egg yolk for the silkiest carbonara sauce imaginable.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Make your cold brew
Unless you’re a year-round iced coffee hound, you may be making the annual transition from hot drip to cold brew. At the coffee shop, that can be a splurge, but at home, switching to cold brew might actually save you money. A good cold brew maker, like Wirecutter’s pick from OXO, can smooth out the rough edges of inexpensive, mediocre beans, producing a sweet, mellow concentrate that will last all week. I even like to brew the same grounds twice — coffee pros might disapprove, but the results are great, especially with a splash of milk. — Marguerite Preston
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers, N.H.L. playoffs: These two teams are so close that you could probably see one arena from the roof of the other without the skyscrapers in the way. Maybe that’s why they have each looked so comfortable in away games: The Rangers started the series with two blowout wins in Newark, and then the Devils won two games in Manhattan. The Devils now lead the series, 3-2, and can advance with a win tonight. Good news for them: The game is in New York. 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
More N.H.L. news
The Islanders — New York’s other team — were eliminated last night by the Carolina Hurricanes. The Dallas Stars knocked off the Minnesota Wild.
The Boston Bruins’ historic season is in trouble: After a loss last night, they are headed to Game 7 against the Florida Panthers.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was excitement. Here is today’s puzzle.
What were the hardest and easiest 10 words from the past week of Spelling Bees? See our lists here.