I had no idea who Ellen Gilchrist was, but still wanted to read her opinions on writing (and this book was in my most recent speed-dating project.) ItI had no idea who Ellen Gilchrist was, but still wanted to read her opinions on writing (and this book was in my most recent speed-dating project.) It turns out she's a much bigger deal than I expected, but oh well, now I know. This is a book of essays about her writing life, rather than the more nebulous writing life. They are very personal and specific, but sometimes have useful tidbits. Some I found interesting and some I skimmed. They are divided into three sections - life, writing, and teaching. Since I am in the middle of a songwriting class, I found most of my gems there.
Some of her writing knowledge isn't new, it seems simple, but bears repeating:
"The way you start writing is by writing." (I know, it is so obvious, right, but she says she struggles with it every. single. time.)
"When we let another person read a manuscript we want complete and instant praise. The artist is a two-year-old child. She does not want to be criticized in any way. That's what you have to deal with to be a writer. You have to love and nourish the child within who writes the stuff. You have to give the little witch chocolate candy and feed her nasty little ego and then you have to get tough and tell her to sit down at the desk and act like a man or there won't be any money for next month's trip to the mall."
Ha. I needed to hear that last one. I've been taking a songwriting class and any negative comment sends me reeling. Clearly I need to feed my inner writer child some candy and tell her she can't get up until she is done. :)
There are books about the food of a place, and there are books about culinary adventures. Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is more of a food ethnographyThere are books about the food of a place, and there are books about culinary adventures. Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is more of a food ethnography, as the reader experiences the specific food cultures of China along with Fuchsia. She morphs from being scared of gelatinous texture to thinking more like a Chinese person than an English person in regard to food.
"Texture is the last frontier for Westerners learning to appreciate Chinese food. Cross it, and you're really inside. But the way there is a wild journey that will bring you face to face with your own worst prejudices...."
The majority of the book focuses on food from the Sichuan Province, as she spent many years there, first as a student and then just as an expatriate. Other chapters dabble in other regions and their cuisines, serving as a reminder of what a variety of people groups and heritages various parts of China encompasses.
This is a journey I could never take, largely because I do not eat meat, but even more so because this was a journey that spanned fifteen years. This is not a tourist encounter with "weird food" that lasts only two weeks. This is an adulthood-long dive into the layers and history of Chinese food. Her background as a journalist, and growing up in an international-student-friendly home, both contributed to her ability to take on this type of adventure.
This book made me HUNGRY. I ordered dan-dan noodles locally, knowing they don't even come close to the version she was describing that she purchased from a street vendor. I also made scallion "flatcakes" out of desperation....more
Some of the reviews for this book are really bad. Really, really bad. Some people don't like it because the author is pretty open about her affair andSome of the reviews for this book are really bad. Really, really bad. Some people don't like it because the author is pretty open about her affair and other explicit sexual activity. Others aren't too keen on body carcasses. I do think that very few people will be interested in both of these ideas weaving through the story, and that Julie tries to connect them when it is a bit of a stretch.
Still. Still, I didn't dislike it as much as I thought I would. I knew Julie Powell as she represents herself in her fiction from Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, which is a far different person than she is portrayed as in the movie of the same name. Book Julie (and blog Julie, since I've read that too, but it is no longer available online, darn!) is much crasser, much more self-absorbed, and a bit obnoxious. But since I knew those things about her already, they weren't a shock in this book, and rather than turning me off, I felt like I could connect more quickly.
So while some people may be interested in butchery, I couldn't be farther from that audience. I don't eat meat, so reading long descriptions of slithering intestines and quivering brains was pretty far from what I wanted to learn. I will admit that every part about hacking/cleaving/stuffing was read at a light skim, including the recipes, although I do love her clever recipe writing. That's definitely something she picked up from Julia Child, in a good way.
Julie Powell - self-absorbed, makes mistakes, seems a bit controlled by her relationship drama. But then she apprentices with a butcher in New Jersey, builds relationships that aren't sexual or connected with her husband (a positive move), even moves into her own apartment for a while. At the end she has a few whirlwind chapters chronicling her trips to Argentina, Ukraine, and Kenya to learn about local meat practices, and I think she might have been able to get more out of those.
The book doesn't end with her life sorted out, although the lover that caused all the havoc does seem to be out of the picture (to me, it seemed like "for now," and she leaves space open for others.) But that's real life, she's a real person, and as a reader I appreciated seeing her heart on the butcher block. Har har har. Okay, now I see why she just couldn't resist the connections between life and butchery.
I marked two little quotes about relationships (since I was more interested in that part of her story) and one recipe that I plan to make for Thanksgivingukkah (the only recipe not containing meat, one she picked up in the Ukraine.)
About separation not being a simple thing: "I don't think about our marriage that much, not in the way I think about being in bed with D. But it's for the same reason I don't ponder my veins, or the floor of my room. I don't ponder because I don't even see the world without it. It's too big, or buried too deep, with edges that thin out to nothingness, binding itself to everything else. It's embedded in my dark, precious flesh."
About how home can feel small: "It's not that I'm lying, not that the chicken roasting doesn't smell like home, that the cat purring on the kitchen counter doesn't sound like comfort, that my husband's embrace doesn't feel like love. It's not that at all. It's just that the world was feeling bigger to me, and here it begins to seem small."...more
I'm not sure the book itself is amazing, but memoirs are always difficult to rank. Kevin Mitnick's life is amazing, and I enjoyed listening to the audI'm not sure the book itself is amazing, but memoirs are always difficult to rank. Kevin Mitnick's life is amazing, and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook narrated by Ray Porter. (I'm glad I had it in Audible and not on CD since listening 2x speed was just about right.)
This would make anyone's techie, secret-agent wannabe heart glad. Hacking that defined hacking. Hacking that created legislation. Hacking before the internet. Fearless, boundless, persistent hacking. And then identity jumping, foiling the FBI, and more hacking.
There's a lesson at the end, boys and girls. That was kind of strange. ...more
I had high hopes for this, because of my cold weather island obsession. I'm discovering that people moving to an uninhabited island is not so interestI had high hopes for this, because of my cold weather island obsession. I'm discovering that people moving to an uninhabited island is not so interesting. I believe Daniel Hays believes himself to be a modern-day Thoreau, particularly since he quotes him at the beginning of almost every chapter, but while he includes supposed journal entries, they are more chronological than thoughtful. We did this, and then the dogs did this. And then there was the time this happened.
Sigh, boring. Halfway through I was already uninterested, but still finished in case something dramatic happened. Maybe if the author didn't seem to simply want to escape his life and had some other compelling motivation, this would have been more engaging. I know a lot about the minutia of their lives, rather like following someone you vaguely know in Facebook.
"Day 243 - It has been gray and stormy all week and it's only faith that lets me know there is a sun, a moon, and a mainland nearby. The radio tells me there is a Canada - well, a Nova Scotia anyway - but overall, with the fog outside and inside our windows, the world is quite small and entertainment is scarce."
"Day 355- ...I could never listen this completely before. I have stood in our harbor and heard water being dragged through seaweed, a jellyfish turned over, a ripple being reflected off a rock. Just for these new sounds in my life I want to stay here forever."...more
Jeanette Winterson is one of my favorite authors, possibly my favorite, depending on what day it is. When I heard she was publishing a memoir, I knewJeanette Winterson is one of my favorite authors, possibly my favorite, depending on what day it is. When I heard she was publishing a memoir, I knew I'd want to read it. It focuses on her relationship with her adoptive mother, known as "Mrs. Winterson" throughout the book. It tells the story of growing up as an isolated in a Pentecostal household, and how those things impacted her life as an adult. If that sounds familiar, she drew greatly from her life to write Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, but her reality was harsher with no mediator.
The memoir has some of what I expect from Winterson - some beautifully expressed thoughts, and even an explanation of why she writes in fragments and poetry (it is actually an amazing explanation, but I'll save it for the reader). There is also a lot of sadness and imperfection here. Her journey to learn about what love actually is hasn't been easy, and she might not be there yet. I think it is rare to have someone tell their actual story so openly, including the parts that don't necessarily put them in a good light. Winterson, like always, is not afraid. I think the impression that I'm left with is this incredibly isolated, lonely, angry woman; who somehow fueled all of that into beautiful and universal writing.
Some favorite bits: "Why should a woman not be ambitious for literature? Ambitious for herself?"
"When we write we offer the silence as much as the story. Words are the part of silence that can be spoken."
"I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven."
"I was a miracle in that I could have taken her out of her life and into a life she would have liked a lot. It never happened, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there to happen."
"Books...are a home... you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space."
"Doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it."
"Love is vivid. I never wanted the pale version. Love is full strength. I never wanted the diluted version. I never shied away from love's hugeness but I had no idea that love could be as reliable as the sun. The daily rising of love."
"The more I read, the more I felt connected across time to other lives and deeper sympathies. I felt less isolated."
Other memorable things - the Devil crib, love as soup. ...more
I listened to the audio version of this book, and after doing so, I can't imagine what I would have thought if I had only read the print. The author hI listened to the audio version of this book, and after doing so, I can't imagine what I would have thought if I had only read the print. The author has a very distinct voice. She sings the title of each chapter in a very obnoxious (and funny) way and you get slammed with her personality throughout. Can you see it in the print? I hope so. Her voice helps, even her bizarre accent that doesn't reveal her Texas upbringing but makes her sound like an import from eastern Europe (thinking sounds like thinkingk,, meaning sounds like meaningk, you get the picture.)
This is a very funny almost-memoir about Jenny Lawson's childhood and marriage. I think quite a few of the stories were previously posted in her blog in some fashion, because her internet presence at The Blogess is what got her noticed enough to publish a book. Okay, I don't know that for sure, I'm guessing.
Topics include her father the taxidermist, her social anxiety,... hmm suddenly I'm blanking about what else is covered because these two ideas come up a lot. It's interesting to hear what someone with anxiety has to say about anxiety, and to hear her explain the difference between writing about it (text/e-mail/blog/book) vs. living it, and I really got it, cringed along with her, and was thankful for no animal heads in my living room.
Here's a bit that first made me stop to share it with someone else:
"I took your advice and tried to fit in... And I got my arm stuck inside of a cow's vagina."... "Yay for memories!" she said weakly.
She overuses the word vagina, but then has a chapter about how she overuses the word vagina. Touché. That constant anticipation of how she's being perceived adds a unique element to the book, and must make her life complicated. The audiobook version also has outtakes at the end, as well as a deleted chapter. Pretty fun and highly recommended, for irreverent listeners/readers only. ...more
This was a very meta-memoir, as self-defined by the author and her mother in the end. Alison traces her memories of and relationship with her mother aThis was a very meta-memoir, as self-defined by the author and her mother in the end. Alison traces her memories of and relationship with her mother alongside threads of dream interpretation, therapy and psychoanalysis, and the writings of Virginia Woolf. Clearly, analysis has formulated her way of thinking, and it was actually a little frightening to see her frame absolutely everything with the ideas of a few key thinkers - Freud, Winnicott, and Alice Miller. I guess at the back of my mind I was thinking, "But what does your life mean if they're wrong?"
Regardless, she made me wish I'd read more Virginia Woolf. She has certainly internalized her. And I might want to read the Alice Miller book, although I can see myself going down the very same rabbit hole. Maybe I'd better not.
Oh but it does make me wish I still kept a journal. Take this quotation that she includes from Virginia Woolf: "How it would interest me if this diary were ever to become a real diary: something in which I could see changes, trace moods developing; but then I should have to speak of the soul, and did I not banish the soul when I began? What happens is, as usual, that I'm going to write about the soul, and life breaks in."
I don't know much about the field of psychoanalysis, indeed I'm not even sure if I shouldn't be calling it something else. But there are moments when she has breakthroughs like learning about "compromise formation" - "Your unconscious wants to express the pain you feel about your own lost innocence, but your ego wants to keep it repressed. So the compromise is anxiety." Her aha mirrored my aha.
That's the thing though. This is written as dialogue, but I can't tell if her life events really unfolded this way or if she's a super psychoanalysis geek and wanted to stick as many concepts from it into the graphic novel as she could. I could be convinced of either perspective.
I meant to read Fun Home first because I've heard it's her best, but I will look forward to it....more
Because I received a copy of this from the publisher, I am reviewing it the same week it comes out! While I was given a copy for free, I wasn't askedBecause I received a copy of this from the publisher, I am reviewing it the same week it comes out! While I was given a copy for free, I wasn't asked for anything (nor did I ask for a copy!), so these are my honest thoughts.
Anyone who knows my feelings on memoirs should understand that four stars is no slight praise for Alyssa Shelasky. After all, I almost gave up in chapter 2, which I will refer to as the "name dropping chapter," where she talks about her days (more often: nights) as a writer for various well-known TV networks and fashion/entertainment magazines in New York. It is shallow, it is silly, and I found her incredibly annoying.
Without that contrast, I think you wouldn't get a chance to understand how she grows. Alyssa had a relationship with a fairly known 'celebrity' chef (I'll let you Google it since in the book she refers to him as Chef), one taking her from her comfort zone and dumping her into a solitary existence in DC as he rode the swell of fame to opening several restaurants. It is an isolation that anyone living with a restaurant person would know well.
She has to go through a journey to find herself, to find happiness but also just a hobby, and food becomes her salvation. The fact that she'd never cooked in her life makes the story more charming, and it helps that she has no problem making public mistakes. It started with her blog, Apron Anxiety, and turned into this book. I don't often laugh when I'm reading, but her description of her first meal for Chef had me giggling.
It isn't just that she learns about food. Any tedious journalism major could go through that journey, and the potential for an inauthentic experience is what I was fearing when I started the book. I felt her personal journey to be far less shallow than she appeared toward the beginning, and she learned to get to know people who she had originally dismissed, and to stand up for what she needed from her life.
There are recipes throughout this that make for a feel-good read, as if the reader could recreate moments that were meaningful for the author. And... yeah, I might need to make that tomato soup.
A few bits from the end:
"You learn that there's nothing bad about feeling safe and there's everything good about inner stillness; and above all, just because you're an extraordinary person who deserves extraordinary love, it can't come at the expense of everything else that makes you whole."
"Everyone cooks for matters of the heart. We're all in the kitchen because it fulfills a longing inside, whether it's for grace, survival, a renewed sense of self, or just the thrill of it all - these are the stories that get us there, keep us there, or sometimes take us away. But without the people who have moved us, pushed us, left us, maybe even hurt us, then really, it's only food."...more
I saw an interview with Jane Maas about this book, and she was funny and charming. I think she comes across better in person than in this book, whichI saw an interview with Jane Maas about this book, and she was funny and charming. I think she comes across better in person than in this book, which is repetitive and reference Mad Men far too often. I was interested in her story, and laughed at some bits, which is why it gets the three-star rating of decent enough....more
I don't think I would have finished this, were it not for how quick of a read it is. It is unfortunate, because I really enjoyed Mennonite in a LittleI don't think I would have finished this, were it not for how quick of a read it is. It is unfortunate, because I really enjoyed Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, but there is an important difference between that book and this one. In Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen was laughing - at her upbringing, at her family, at herself. Almost like she was laughing because some of it was tragic, and that's just what you do, but still, I laughed too.
In this book, as she chronicles her journey toward becoming a Pentecostal, marrying her opposite, and being diagnosed with cancer, she seems to cease to see the humor in anything. Instead, it reads like a religious testimony, and uncomfortably so. There is even an entire chapter on the "blessing of tithing." No, really. Prepare for sermons. I stared feeling wary about the book about halfway through.
Don't believe the title. This isn't a light or funny read. And she never really explains if her lady problems are solved (and that was the only part I connected to in the entire book!). I feel for her, as it is clear her life has not been easy, but the tone of this is not humorous in the least. ...more
Wangari Maathai has an interesting story of growing from a Kikuyu child to a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I grew up surrounded by stories of the SwahiliWangari Maathai has an interesting story of growing from a Kikuyu child to a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I grew up surrounded by stories of the Swahili and Turkana peoples of Kenya because of friends we had living there, but I didn't know much about the Kikuyu or the forests. I learned a lot about the socio-political history of Kenya, how to work toward change (be "patient and committed," she would say), and how much one person can accomplish. I also feel like I saw education from a different perspective.
The rest, I'd rather Wangari Maathai said in her own words, so here are the places I marked:
"These experiences of childhood are what mold us and make us who we are. How you translate the life you see, feel, smell, and touch as you grow up - the water you drink, the air you breathe, and the food you eat - are what you become. When what you remember disappears, you miss it and search for it, and so it was with me. When I was a child, my surroundings were alive, dynamic, and inspiring. Even though I was entering a world where there were books to read and facts to learn - the cultivation of the mind - I was still able to enjoy a world where there were no books to read, where children were told living stories about the world around them, and where you cultivated the soil and the imagination in equal measure."
"A general orientation toward trusting people and a positive attitude toward life and fellow human beings is healthy - not only for one's peace of mind but also to bring about change."
"Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost."
"When we go through profound experiences, they change us. We risk our relationship with friends and family. They may not like the direction we have taken or may feel threatened or judged by our decisions. They may wonder what happened to the person they thought they once knew. There may not be enough space in a relationship for aspirations and beliefs or mutual interests and aims to unfold. For a couple, this is particularly so because most people marry young and are bound to grow and change in their perceptions and appreciation of life."
"Humanity needs to rethink peace and security and work toward cultures of peace by governing itself more democratically, respecting the rule of law and human rights, deliberately and consciously promoting justice and equity, and managing resources more responsibly and accountably - not only for the present but also for the future generations. ...more
I saw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speak at the institution where I work a few years ago, and found her story to be incredibly inspiring. I was hopI saw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speak at the institution where I work a few years ago, and found her story to be incredibly inspiring. I was hoping the book would be more of the same. While inspiration can be found here, it is often bogged down with tedious economic detail (Sirleaf was in banking and economics) and acronyms like you would not believe.
I definitely learned some things, and I think that kept it at 3 stars for me. I don't think I was aware of anything going on in Liberia, ever. Blame my lack of knowledge of the world, blame the lack of American media's focus, but a lot happened that I knew nothing about. Most of the violence is recent and around the same time as Rwanda, but I knew nothing. I also didn't know anything about how Liberia was founded, and was very surprised to find out the connection between the United States and Liberia's original colonies. These connections still have some impact today.
Sirleaf herself was greatly influenced by the United States. This is where she was educated, and she says she learned more about her country from the Harvard library than she'd ever learned while growing up. She was even in the states when JFK was assassinated.
Little factoid and case in point: "Robert E. Lee, the American Confederate Civil War general, freed most of his slaves before the war and offered to pay their expenses to Liberia."
From the unification of Liberia: "We are all of us Liberians."
There is some great fodder here about leadership, and that seemed to be what I honed in on.
From Sirleaf's own wisdom: "So often it is the small decisions in life that end up shaping our future the most."
"I looked around and saw the lives of so many Liberian women, all of these incredibly hardworking market women and housewives and mothers, and what I saw was that their lives were drudgery, a simple trudging from day to day to day. I did not want that; that was not the life for me."
"We always felt that if anything really terrible began to happen, if ever things went seriously awry, America would come to our aid. America was our great father, our patron saint. It would never let us suffer. That's what so many of us in Liberia thought. But then we found out that everyone has to stand on his own."
"People - usually women - sometimes ask me if, during my long climb up the career ladder, I ever bumped into any glass ceilings or encountered resistance to my taking a seat at the table because I am a woman and African. My answer is that I am sure there have been those who suspected me of being a token or who resented my having the positions I had. But I was usually too busy to worry about them."
"In this global age individuals are sometimes tempted to believe they have no power, not even collectively. This is not true. The public can make a difference if it is willing to take a position and stand up for a cause in which it believes. Against a united and committed public, even the harshest of governments cannot stand."
"This is the way of the world, of human nature, and if you want to lead, you have to accept that there will be conscious attempts to push you into oblivion. You have to be prepared to be very lonely sometimes."
"Progress may be slowed by oppression, but it will not be stopped."
"Men have failed us,' people said over and over again. 'Men are too violent, too prone to make war. Women are less corrupt, less likely to be focused on getting fancy cars and fancy home for themselves."
"Civilized nations must not be indifferent to any conflict - internal or external - regardless of the factors that fuel it."...more
I have a confession to make: I have never seen the movie The Prince of Tides. I have also not read a single book by Pat Conroy, a southern author whoI have a confession to make: I have never seen the movie The Prince of Tides. I have also not read a single book by Pat Conroy, a southern author who is prevalent in every book store I walk into in my three-state radius.
That is going to change now. After reading his love letter to books, and to the people who led him to those books, I want to see how his reading has been the breeding ground for the books he has produced.
Unfortunately, the book does not have an index of books he discusses, and I'm probably going to work on one, because after you read how they impacted him, you're going to want to read them too. I found a list of "influential writers" on his official website, but I can pretty much guarantee he didn't make the list. You see, it is clear in My Reading Life that he had a horrific encounter with Alice Walker, but one of her books is listed, while James Dickey is not. An entire chapter is devoted to the influence of Dickey on Conroy, and he claims he reads him every damn day. So in protest of that incomplete list, stay tuned.
I'm not usually a fan of flowery, sentimental writing, which Conroy himself admits is his biggest flaw (but one he can't or won't kick). I despise it in descriptions of relationships or nature, but for some reason, on the topic of books and reading, I just can't get enough. I sat and read this book on a single Sunday afternoon, with two cups of coffee. I have slips of paper marking a lot of different bits that I will include in my blog post because they are too long to go here. Suffice to say this book connected with me deeply....more
I didn't exactly plan to listen to this, but it was in a review box and it was short. I was expecting to scoff at it, but can you really dislike DollyI didn't exactly plan to listen to this, but it was in a review box and it was short. I was expecting to scoff at it, but can you really dislike Dolly Parton? The thing is, despite her self-proclaimed cartoonish presence, the woman has built an empire out of nothing. She works hard, she gets people, and that's pretty commendable even if you aren't a country music fan.
I think the best bits were about how to block draining people from your life, and why you shouldn't apologize for having lofty goals. Many of the tracks end with her bursting into song. She is infectious, and the audio version has to be better than the print because it comes out of her mouth!...more
How could I have never reviewed this book? I read this at a key turning point in my life, and was one of those books that changed everything for me. IHow could I have never reviewed this book? I read this at a key turning point in my life, and was one of those books that changed everything for me. I was 22. I had gotten married and gone directly to graduate school right after graduating with a BA in music, with a full ride and graduate assistantship in the School of Folklore at Indiana University. It wasn't a good fit for me. By the time I enrolled in the fieldwork class, I knew I was probably on my way out, and got permission to do my fieldwork assignments in restaurant kitchens. The culinary-school trained cooks in the restaurant commanded me to read this book when I was still just observing and volunteering (I later worked there until I moved away), and it solidified my love for an industry that I was already excited by because of my experiences.
Anthony Bourdain may seem a bit extreme, but his tales of what really goes on in restaurants and among cooks is not that far off from my own experiences. Ask me to tell you about the time I slammed the head waiter's head in the fridge door, or ask for a kitchen-scar tour of my body. Once you are immersed in that world, it changes you. I loved it. I loved the rush, the thrill, the creativity, the challenge. I feel like Bourdain's memories are my memories. I may love him as a TV personality and a guest actor in my dreams, but this is where I love him the most. ...more
This isn't a chef memoir, let me just say that right off the bat. Eddie Huang is so much more than a food person. This is the story of how a child borThis isn't a chef memoir, let me just say that right off the bat. Eddie Huang is so much more than a food person. This is the story of how a child born to Taiwanese immigrants makes a life for himself. It is a coming of age story more than anything else. Eddie is only 30, and has seen one restaurant fail and one be an immediate hit. He has worked as a furniture salesman, a drug dealer, a lawyer, and a stand-up comic.
I enjoyed the story, especially read by the author himself. I didn't always identify with him, and would be completely intimidated by him, but I still think I'd probably enjoy his food. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a man who values stinky tofu?
He does talk about food throughout the book, it just isn't a central theme the way you might expect. One sentence stuck in my head, where he describes good food as having "detail, attention, and restraint." In some ways it is ironic, because he believes in that style for his food, but not for his life; never for his life.
You can get a sense of his writing style in this Salon.com article about his Dad, and a sense of how he is viewed by others in this Time Magazine article. You can follow his internal dialogue in Twitter, or watch his show on Vice, also called Fresh Off the Boat. I'm recommending all these things because you won't be able to read the book until the end of January. But keep your eye on Eddie. Considering what he has accomplished so far, I'm not sure he'll decide just to stay a restauranteur his whole life.
ETA: You should watch this video of Eddie in Taiwan... I linked it at 3:00 where it starts talking about food, but you can watch the whole thing to watch him take uniquely Taiwanese drugs. :)...more
This was a great book that I couldn't put down, as much as you can say a book about a destroyed city is great. What makes it great is the journalist-aThis was a great book that I couldn't put down, as much as you can say a book about a destroyed city is great. What makes it great is the journalist-author Charlie LeDuff, who is from Detroit and has lost several family members to terrible situations there. This makes it different from a detached, paid-to-experience book that most journalists will write, forgotten the minute they are published. This is partly about the city of Detroit, and partly about Charlie's own life and background. The mix is great, his writing is great, kind of a combination of old newspaperman and gumshoe detective in tone, with short clipped sentences and metaphors that actually work. In anyone else's hands I'd probably be rolling my eyes, but not here.
On Michigan's place in things: "Michigan may geographically be one of America's most northern states, but spiritually, it is one of its most southern."
On dealing with complaints that he never writes about the arts: "But [the arts and good people, etc.] are not supposed to be news. These things are supposed to be normal. And when normal things become the news, the abnormal becomes the norm... What galleries and museums have to do with a dead man is beyond me. Writing about shit like that in the city we were living in seemed equal to writing about the surf conditions while reporting in the Gaza Strip."
On a dead body just being left abandoned: "The way that members of a society die is a reflection of the way society lives.... So when you walk away from a dead human being, what does that tell you about the state of things?" -Dr. Carl Schmidt, a medical examiner he interviewed for "Frozen in Indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse", an article he wrote for the Detroit News in 2009.
Here are a few examples of that writing style:
"He was smoking like wet wool."
"This was like living in Pompeii, except the people weren't covered in ash. We were alive."
"I looked up over the grave and surveyed the heaving sobs of my nieces and the strained faces of my brothers.... Somehow, the city of promise had become a scrap yard of dreams...."
"I stood under the granite cornices of the fire headquarters where a covey of pigeons was huddled against the rain. I roasted up a Winston and thought about things."...more
Edward Lee was one of the contestants in season 9 of Top Chef, and I rooted for him to win in that season because of his interesting flavor profile anEdward Lee was one of the contestants in season 9 of Top Chef, and I rooted for him to win in that season because of his interesting flavor profile and commitment to farm-to-table cuisine.
This part-cookbook, part-memoir is just what you'd hope for from him. Korean and southern sayings are sprinkled into his own story, and recipes that combine ingredients in creative ways. (He refuses to call it fusion, and has an interesting argument for why "fusion" might be a racist term.... he just uses what he likes.) His passion for pickling and curing even includes him encouraging the reader to "buy a second fridge" for the best curing setup. Ha! He clearly believes in doing things well, with incredible respect for ingredients, and it comes through in every recipe.
There are not a lot of recipes I'll be able to try, because his cuisine is very meat-centric and I don't eat any. That isn't his fault though, and it is very central to the area of Kentucky where he lives and cooks. I marked a few interesting condiments and cocktails that will be great fun to make. I'd recommend this for any adventurous eater. I think it comes out in May 2013, and I was lucky enough to get a copy from NetGalley....more
This is one of the volumes I had hoarded for National Poetry Month. Alice Walker is better known as the author of The Color Purple, but she has writteThis is one of the volumes I had hoarded for National Poetry Month. Alice Walker is better known as the author of The Color Purple, but she has written quite a few poems. These span from 1965 and are highly biographical, from her trip to Kenya to her work in voter registration in Mississippi, through relationship ups and downs, up through having children. I had first skimmed through them when I was helping a friend find a poem for his mother's funeral, but getting to have a more careful reading was an even better experience.
Here is a little bit from another one I liked, Rage. "The silence between your words rams into me like a sword."
And this tiny part of Listen: "Every time you say you love me I look for shelter."
I really liked segment vii from Exercises from Themes on Life: "I like to see you try to worm yourself away from me first you plead your age as if my young heart felt any of the tiredness in your bones . . . "
This poem I'll include in its entirety (sensing a theme, hmm Alice?):
They say you are not for me, and I try, in my resolved but barely turning brain, to know "they" do not matter, these relics of past disasters in march against the rebellion of our time.
They will fail; as all the others have: for our fate will not be this: to smile and salute the pain, to limp behind their steel boot of happiness, grieving for forbidden things....more
Along with The World's Literature group, I have been reading a lot of books set in Turkey this year. Just check out what I've covered so far!
One of th
Along with The World's Literature group, I have been reading a lot of books set in Turkey this year. Just check out what I've covered so far!
One of the best known Turkish authors has to be Orhan Pamuk. I've only managed to read one book of his so far, but there are many more on my to-read list to get to. I actually think reading this autobiography/memoir first will add some understanding to any of his books that I read in the future. It covers his childhood in Istanbul, up through his college years and the moment he decides to become a writer.
While this book came out in print in 2003, this audio edition was newly released by Random House in April. I had downloaded it but was listening to another book.
Then this happened:
I was already deeply interested in Turkey, even to the point of learning some of the language and the cuisine, but following the protests and police action in Twitter made me more interested in Istanbul.
Of course, the Istanbul of this book is several decades ago, but you can see traces of a history that breeds an environment where clashes between groups are not exactly unexpected, where poverty and control have always been issues in the background. Pamuk suggests that the most beautiful view of the city is from afar. I'm not sure he really means it, because he continues to return to this concept of hüzün, or melancholy, that he claims is part of the daily lived aesthetic in the life of an Istanbullu. That those living in the city want to feel hüzün, and don't feel as alive without it.
I know Pamuk has been criticized both by the government for not being religious enough and by the public for not being critical of the government enough, but this book makes it clear that he isn't all that interested in making a statement with his writing; he wants to describe. It makes so much sense now, to see his journey from painter to writer, to understand how this plays out in his writing. His descriptions of the black and white landscape of winter is central to Snow, the one book I've read.
I've had dreams about the Bosphorus, a strait in Istanbul separating Asia from Europe. Even though I've never been there and don't have reason to dream of it, I can see why you would. His descriptions of living within view of the river, of the fires and the commerce, made me long for this place I've never experienced.
The reader for the audiobook is John Lee, whose voice is very familiar to me as the reader for Ulysses. He does a good job with the pronunciation of Turkish names, but I kept expecting him to jump into "Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa!" You know you listen to a lot of audiobooks when....
Ever since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands onEver since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands on this book! I was lucky to come across it in NetGalley, which gave me a copy for review.
"Inevitably, a story about Soviet food is a chronicle of longing, of unrequited desire."
Anya Von Bremzen was born in the USSR and later emigrated to the United States with her mother. Her James Beard award winning cookbook, Please To The Table: The Russian Cookbook, was published in 1990, so her knowledge of the food of Russia is not to be disputed. Instead of the regional focus that her cookbook had, this memoir is divided into decades of Soviet Russia. Each chapter takes a decade and discusses the historical events, the food, and how each impacted her personal story - her family, her ancestors, her memories - from 1910s into the twenty-first century.
When I got to the end of the chapter on the Czars and there were no recipes, I panicked. Surely I couldn't move on from this book without a chance to make Kulebiaka! She quotes Chekhov's description of the dish from "The Siren" and then goes on to talk about the significance of the dish in her own family. I wanted to try it immediately! Thankfully, Part V of the book features recipes from each chapter, removed to the end for the sake of a continual narrative.
Even the decades of Communism-driven scarcity create a sort of nostalgia for Soviet sausages and dense bread that I was surprised to be feeling along with her. The comparison she makes between those foods and the only food they could afford right after entering the country - hot dogs and Wonderbread - I had to wonder if they really are so different?
From reading how Lenin had a fondness for apple cake to the puzzling "luxury" of Salat Olivier, I enjoyed reading about the very Russian foods and stories. Highly recommended!
Here is a bit that made me giggle - a poster from the 1920s when housewives were being encouraged to stop cooking for their families, and families were being forced to live communally. The translation is "Down with Kitchen Slavery!" ...more
Well now I've seen everything - a foodie graphic novel memoir? Check!
This is a fun read with great art, about Lucy Knisley's childhood as the child ofWell now I've seen everything - a foodie graphic novel memoir? Check!
This is a fun read with great art, about Lucy Knisley's childhood as the child of foodies back when food culture was just kicking off in NYC. Each chapter also includes a recipe, illustrated with the same art that populates the graphic novel. It's cute and vibrant and makes you want to pull up a chair to her kitchen.
I loved the little part at the end where she included actual pictures from her childhood, to demonstrate that all of it was grounded in fact!
The section that includes chocolate chip cookies had a little bit that made me smile because I saw myself in it - she compares her personality to her Mom's as far as being able to bake. Her Mom's cookies were always perfect, and her cookies were always flawed:
"My baking is too emotional, too volatile with distress, to ever match Mom's cookie perfection. But my cookies contain the anxious deliciousness earned through an afternoon spent in turmoil, soothed by separating my troubles into warm crispy pieces.
I'm fairly certain anyone who bakes for emotional release will understand that one!
It seems crazy to talk about this graphic novel without at least one image, so here is one of the two pages with the Huevos Rancheros recipe.
I read this at the right stage of my interest in Turkey, otherwise I think I would have rated it lower. It isn't very well-written and there isn't a lI read this at the right stage of my interest in Turkey, otherwise I think I would have rated it lower. It isn't very well-written and there isn't a lot of depth in Kevin's observations, but I liked the overview of his experience teaching English in Ankara and the first-encounter descriptions of some of the tourist highlights. The most connected and honest he seems is the chapter about getting sick in Syria!
I was shocked, SHOCKED, that someone going to another country to teach English wouldn't first make an attempt at learning some of the language of the students he would be teaching. He had to learn how to say simple phrases like memnum oldum ("pleased to meet you") that he could have at least tried to learn on the plane trip over, on Turkish airlines, with people who spoke Turkish... oversights and idiocies like this unfortunately tarnish the entire experience. He just doesn't seem very smart!
I marked a few things to look up:
Tarkan, a Turkish pop singer Geçmiş olsun - "May it pass" deniz yok - no sea (when you live too far inland)
I had to smile at the inclusion of nazar boncuğu, one of the first vocab words I learned in Turkish. They are the blue evil eye beads so popular in the area. ...more