I have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes comment...moreI have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes commentary while I was living overseas, and his quick wit and descriptions of restaurant visits made me long for the food and customer service of home. I loved that he was as much a fan of good greasy take-away grub as he was with Keller's work at Per Se. Never mind that I was not from New York - his writing was too captivating to ignore.
I was highly intrigued when I heard earlier this year that not only was he leaving his position and "outing" himself (i.e. revealing his true identity) by publishing a memoir, but that he had struggled with overeating his whole life. It shares many similarities to David Kessler's memoir The End of Overeating Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite which also came out this year. Both are eloquently able to elucidate those unspoken urges to overeat. Kessler has taken the scientific and commercial tack with his life story thrown in, while Bruni's focuses wholly on his life story, revealing all that was happening within. Both are very worthy reads, and I would suspect Kessler and Bruni would be two peas in a pod discussing their struggles.
Luckily Frank Bruni has both had an unusual life and describes it with humor, drawing us into his extended Italian-American family and circle of friends. As a journalist, he has lead an unusual path from working as a movie critic, to being a staff reporter following the Bush 2000 Presidential campaign, to working as a foreign correspondent in Rome, and eventually landing him as food critic at the NYT.
If you can't relate to having a complicated relationship with food, Bruni's memoir might come across as slightly whiny, or a little too self-reflective; i.e. you won't relate. To others us who through our life have had to have a serious "relationship discussions" with food, he really lays himself bare, admitting to various levels of eating disorders and self esteem issues. It's honest. It's funny, and a well-written account of his life.
The only flaw is that the book is heavily marketed as "food critic who was overweight", yet only about 25% of the book deals with his years as a food critic, eating lavish dinners 7 nights a week. After following his blog, I know there's much more to this story - more behind the scenes stories, surprises, learning about the industry. Perhaps Bruni is trying to be kind to restauranteurs still in business or he's saving the majority of those moments for some future book.
At any rate, reading Bruni's memoir is like getting to sit next to that unusual stranger at a dinner party who has a magical way of telling his life story. If only!(less)
I'll start with the positives in the book. I found the technical details very accessible: explained well with just enough detail. I've only done small...moreI'll start with the positives in the book. I found the technical details very accessible: explained well with just enough detail. I've only done small amounts of coding and I was surprised and impressed that I didn't get lost in the AJAX discussion, eg. After reading the book, I felt like I had a little primer into the development of web-based applications. Also, it was very fascinating to see how a large, complicated piece of software comes together, since this is how the book is advertised.
Unfortunately Rosenberg seems to give too space to a larger history and other outside research in an attempt to frame the setbacks and failures he documents with the Chandler project. These asides aren't really asides at all, but usually take up the better part of each very long chapter. Quite a few times I was asking myself, "what does this have to do with the Chandler story?" These bits are actually really, really interesting, but seem to go off on tangents.
This is my biggest gripe about Dreaming in Code: the research/history bits and the story of the Chandler software don't really mesh together. If I didn't know better, I would have thought this was a poor master's thesis that didn't pan out, so the author had to find something, anything to fill in a lot of gaps. The only time I thought the background work and the main Chandler story meshed was at the end when Rosenberg connected the infinite loops idea to the failing schedules of software development.
Really, this book would have been much much better as a series of articles on Salon, since that is how it reads.(less)
Part of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. It...morePart of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. It feels more like you're having a snifter of brandy and cigars while Stephen is telling you the stories. As you go on, and imbibe more, the stories seem to meander fairly far from the clear plot. That's okay, because I quite like Stephen Fry. My curiosity in his background and amusement at his anecdotes overcame any deficiencies in the overall story line, as it were - which makes it more like real life than a traditional fictional novel. Although, I couldn't help but think that more than a few details in his stories read like The One Big Fish That Got Away.
He is a self-absorbed, deprecatingly funny, obtusely verbose navel-gazer in the extreme.
I might add that there were many references to English customs and culture that dovetailed nicely with the last book I read, Watching the English.(less)
Even if you're already a rabid CakeWrecks fan, get this book! There are tons of brand new delicious, hysterical wrecks that will have you laughing unt...moreEven if you're already a rabid CakeWrecks fan, get this book! There are tons of brand new delicious, hysterical wrecks that will have you laughing until you cry. There are also some behind the scenes stories - both from the website and the stories behind the wrecked cakes. Don't skip over Jen's witty commentary! You'll be snorting frosting out your nostrils in no time!
My favorites are "Welcome little Swetty!", "Happy 35th, Ann, Dave & Philis" and the whole Baby Bottoms Up chapter.
One of the most brilliant, insightful explanations on why cakes-gone-wrong are both funny and daily addicting is right at the beginning of the book: "I think it has something to do with the fact that almost all of us have a cake story to tell... Good or bad, these cakes tell little stories about us. So when we see a cake... that's shaped like a plunger, we know there's probably a story behind it, too -- and if we're lucky, a really funny one."(less)