People who grow up in fundamentalist sects or cults are endlessly fascinating to me, perhaps because I can see part of my own religious upbringing in their experience, magnified 10-50%. Scientology borrows heavily from other religions and practices in ways that make sense at the beginning stages and serve to suck you in. The people running the organization have employed highly unethical practices to keep people in the membership, to hush people who leave, and to continue recruiting new members.
L. Ron Hubbard set out to create a religion after starting out as a science fiction author. Reading this book was like reading a surreal dystopia, a story I would not have believed could exist in our society. But it does!
The book can be a little hard to read at times but only because Scientology deliberately obfuscates normal human interaction by having terminology and abbreviations for everything. SP, MEST, CCM, Sea Org, auditors, clear, etc., etc. Jenna Miscavige Hill describes the methods used to teach young children these beliefs and they almost veer into torture and mind control territory.
I believe everyone can choose their own religion. I understand the pull of Scientology, particularly if you want to belong and you feel misunderstood by the outside world. They understand and take advantage of the concept of closing off and pulling into a community. So did every cult leader of any time ever. But when you are forced into a religion as a child, when you are not educated in a way that you have a choice, where your education consists more of religious teachings than a standard education, it veers into abuse. Most surprising in this book is the view of the family by the Church of Scientology - how divorces were forced if partners were in different levels in the organization, how children were separated from their parents and often not allowed to contact them, how family members were forced to cut ties from anyone deemed an SP ("Suppressive Person.") While Jenna tells the specifics of her own experience, the reader can step back and see how much control the leaders of this organization have taken over the members of their religion
The end of her story is the most interesting to me - what they Church tried to get her to sign, the role Anonymous played in the Tom Cruise video and worldwide protests, and how she has become an anti-Scientology activist. ...more
"Asmat bewitches me. I often feel possessed there, but what it is that possesses me is unclear. The forest churns up my insides when I am in the midst"Asmat bewitches me. I often feel possessed there, but what it is that possesses me is unclear. The forest churns up my insides when I am in the midst of immense trees in soggy soil, vines, and plant life that exude odors of decay. The forest continually draws me into conjuring up dreams of living naked, hunting wild boar and cassowary, bids and possum, and spending days in blinds awaiting whatever animal would come, killing it, skinning it, roasting it, eating it."
Tobias Schneebaum is known for his time with cannibals in various locations, but I feel like I should have read his other two books before reading this one - Keep the River on Your Right and Where the Spirits Dwell: An Odyssey in the Jungle of New Guinea. I have Where the Spirits Dwell in the New Guinea reading queue. In this book, Schneebaum is reflecting on his time with the Asmat of West Papua, New Guinea as well as his life in New York. Yes, those Asmat, the same people group visited by Michael Rockefeller and filmed/recorded by scholars in the 1960s.
I have to admit to a certain element of discomfort in reading this book. Schneebaum is often described as an anthropologist but he crosses many lines that I'm not sure an anthropologist should cross. I don't have a problem with sexuality, but I was uncomfortable in reading about his experiences with some of the Asmat. I just couldn't help but try to see it from their perspective. He definitely portrays it as them accepting him, as seeing him as part of them, but could that ever really happen? My skepticism has more to do with the power dynamic - he was also bringing in money and money-equivalents (tobacco, etc) to trade for art. I keep trying to ask myself if I think it was appropriate.
It also made me question the stories he tells across the board. The Asmat are hard to know, because so much of their culture has been shown to be highly misunderstood and therefore repressed by other controlling agencies - missionaries, the Indonesian government, etc. Some of what he says about what happens during rituals, and behind closed doors, well they would just be hard to verify since nobody else has ever claimed to get this close. It's too bad that Greg Morgenson (Three Cups of Tea) has ruined me for believing anyone's published experience forever, but I always do go into it with a certain degree of skepticism.
Aside from my ethical qualms, it really is a fascinating book and offers insight into Schneebaum's seemingly dichotomous life between New York and New Guinea. He is clearly seeking for something his western upbringing could not afford, and what he finds, what soothes his soul in New Guinea, is clearly a significant and emotional experience for him. I believe that no matter how the rest of the facts shake out.
"Throughout my life, I have been searching for a way to connect to other human beings and find that among people like the Asmat, who live in a world of spirits, I can lose my insecurities and be content."
There is a lot of information here that is fascinating about the Asmat concept of time, of death, of relationships, and of art. Also clear is how demands for art changes it, how a diminishing (or hiding) of cannibal practices change the role of men and the satisfaction of warfare.
ETA: According to a 2001 Village Voice article, "Schneebaum insists that he's not an anthropologist; his sexual encounters with indigenous people pose no ethical quandaries for him. He's more troubled by the fact that the first person to touch a remote culture alters it irrevocably. "We all know," he says, "that it takes just one person to change a whole society."
Incredible true story about a master spy who had a tremendous impact on operations in British, American, and Soviet intelligence. Graham Greene, JohnIncredible true story about a master spy who had a tremendous impact on operations in British, American, and Soviet intelligence. Graham Greene, John Le Carre, and Ian Fleming all knew him personally, and surely he inspired something in their future spy novels. This is a story that's been told before, this man is a legend, but the author is able to dig deeper into declassified documents and notes Le Carre took from Eliot decades earlier.
I listened to the audio read by John Lee who has such an old fashioned voice. It worked for this book....more
Picked this up on a whim when I was skimming the new books at the library, and read it in an evening. Half the memoir is the same story told on Alan'sPicked this up on a whim when I was skimming the new books at the library, and read it in an evening. Half the memoir is the same story told on Alan's episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, about his maternal grandfather, a man who was a bit of a family mystery, never returning to England after World War II despite having a wife and children.
The other half is about his abusive childhood with a violent father, and how that has effected him today. He also talks about how he has worked on it - therapy, confrontation, release. I can't decide if I don't recommend or highly recommend this for people who grew up in similar situations, but definitely were the parts I felt more connected to than the military darling.
On dealing with an abusive parent as an adult:
"Since I had gone off and begun to live my own life, my father had ceased to be a physical threat to me; he even became quite civil. This change in him allowed me to pack away much of my past in a box that I never wanted to open. For ten years I kept it closed, pretending that my family was no more difficult or trying than anybody else's. I didn't begin to forgive my father - far from it."
On the way families tend to ignore the angry elephant:
"We never discussed what we were going through, how it was affecting us. When my dad was absent... [we might] indirectly empathize about our plight, but we never actually addressed what was really going on: that we were living with a tyrant, someone who, I believe now, was mentally ill. As our silence grew, so did our denial."
Alan Cumming talks about how keeping this all in led to a mental breakdown of his own, one that mirrored one his grandfather had, the other character in the book. So it nicely ties together and it does seem like he ended the book more whole than he started. That is always nice to see. I think it was a book he needed to write for himself even if for nobody else. May it bring him strength and closure....more
The World's Literature, a group in Goodreads, is reading books from Southeast Asia and Oceania in 2015. This book isn't on the official list but afterThe World's Literature, a group in Goodreads, is reading books from Southeast Asia and Oceania in 2015. This book isn't on the official list but after reading Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak, I didn't want that to be my only experience with New Guinea. I made a long list of potential reads and this book seemed to be the most recent.
I expected a sensationalized account of Michael Rockefeller, who died on a trip back to New Guinea in 1961. Instead I found an impeccably researched account, shedding light on questions that have been unanswered for decades. While Carl Hoffman can't claim he knows the answer for absolute certain, he makes a good case for the possibility that Michael was killed and probably eaten by cannibals. Many of the pieces of information were part of the Dutch government record, which were uncovered and translated by a research assistant. From that work came connections to people related to the events in New Guinea in the 1960s, or their widows and descendents, people both native to the area or people working there as priests. Interviewing these people was illuminating, and revealed some details that had been deliberately kept silent so many years ago.
Carl Hoffman also took two trips to visit the Asmat. One trip was frustrating and didn't yield the information he was hoping, and he feared he had been too forceful, too demanding, too Western. He returned to spend a week sleeping in the open wooden house in the center of a village, a guest of a man who was likely at the events that could have surrounded Michael Rockefeller's death. Hoffman tries to push down his own assumptions, his own culture, and to see events from the perspective of the Asmat warriors, with their circular sense of time, warrior identities, and reactions to outsiders. For a journalist, he does a pretty decent job at forging the beginnings of an insider perspective more common for longer term researchers.
This book is intrinsically linked to most of the rest of the books I intend to read before my month of New Guinea is out. I have already looked through the volume of Michael Rockefeller photographs of the Dani people, which he took to support the work of Robert Gardner and Peter Matthiessen, both who also wrote books about this time, sometimes utilizing Rockefeller's photographs. Robert Gardner also made a film during that time. I also have The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, which is a more recent look at the Dani people.
This is long enough already but I have so many pages marked in this book! I guess New Guinea, both sides of it, hasn't quite left me since sinking its teeth into me in 1995. Perhaps I will come back and incorporate more thoughts at a future date.
ETA: "In a world without photographs or television or recorded anything, the Asmat are wonderful storytellers, expressive and dramatic with their voices and bodies, their stories full of the chopping of heads and the shooting of arrows and the driving home of spears. When Kokai talked about canoes or paddling, he'd bend forward and spread his arms wide, become a canoe gliding over the sea, a canoe I could see. Once he imitated a fruit bat: he scrunched up and made a creepy face, exposing his teeth, screeching holding his hands like he was clinging, and he was the bat - I could see it hanging upside down in a tree." (248)...more
An advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, after my request. All quotations are not in their final form and may not appAn advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, after my request. All quotations are not in their final form and may not appear in the printing, but I wanted to include a few tastes of what to expect.
Meline Toumani is an Armenian-American who was born in Iran. After a childhood saturated with the Armenian genocide, she decides to take a trip to Turkey to try to get a more balanced view. I admire her tenacity and curiosity, particularly since this topic is now one hundred years old and does not show signs of either side relenting. The Armenians insist that the Turkish people (and the rest of the world) call the events of 1915 a genocide; the Turkish government has gone as far as outlawing the use of the word genocide in relation to these same events. It is a complex issue I was not expecting to personally encounter, but almost every Turkish person I have met in the last few years has felt obligated to teach me that there was no genocide. I have had the conversation steered in that direction from topics ranging from language learning to vegetables! I was puzzled, I was unprepared, so I was interesting in reading Toumani's experience and perspective.
"To deny the truth about a historical event, like a genocide, requires building a raft of justifications, weaving together ideas about the distant acts of unseen players, balancing each component just so, in order that the raft may float under the right conditions. This kind of denial flourishes in books and conversations, in government rhetoric. But such denial has a corollary that is more perplexing - less like statecraft and more like witchcraft, less like euphemism and more like hallucination; the ability to ignore things - tangible objects, even - that are right in front of your eyes."
I would not say she came up with a universal solution; surely if one existed it would not still be such a source of conflict! But she does point out the barriers to resolution on both sides, while focusing on the individuals she encountered and how they are each effected in their daily lives. She strives to understand the different views while fully acknowledging her lifelong ingrained bias. I was most buoyed by the groups combining Armenian and Turkish efforts, for peace, for research, and community building. They seem to hold more promise than the governments of these two countries in making any progress in reconciliation.
I also learned a lot about Armenia and Armenians, which I previously could not have claimed to know much about except for in the context of genocide or not genocide. For instance, Mount Ararat and Noah's Ark are considered symbols of Armenia, even though they are now officially in lands claimed by Turkey. That there are 8 million Armenians in the world but 2/3 of that number do not live in Armenia!...more
This was required reading for a course I'm auditing in creative non-fiction.
It's clear that the author doesn't remember everything about her childhoodThis was required reading for a course I'm auditing in creative non-fiction.
It's clear that the author doesn't remember everything about her childhood. This isn't a criticism, because who does, but I think because of this she may focus a bit too much on repetitive details of playtime, trips, etc. At the same time she does manage to capture the descent into paranoid schizophrenia her mother experiences through the half-understanding a child would have. The book is definitely a capture of a specific place and time, when keeping children with their mothers was often the default in custody cases and mental illness was not treated with the weight it needed to be.
I think the most powerful parts are when suddenly she steps back and says something about the world her mother created or believed, when it is obvious this isn't reality. Showing the mother from the mother's perspective, rather than from her own.
I'm looking forward to the two days of class discussion we will have, and will probably have more to say about it after that....more
This book was the perfect bit of fluff in the middle of a hard month where I had brought all the wrong books to read. A friend sent it to me at my parThis book was the perfect bit of fluff in the middle of a hard month where I had brought all the wrong books to read. A friend sent it to me at my parents' house because I think she was worried about me!
Mindy Kaling is early in her career, and her life so far has been pretty typical, except the bits that have made her famous. But within that fairly normal life is a quick wit and some shared experiences, so that was a lot of fun. I say bring on the memoirs of mid-career tv writers. I've enjoyed all those I've read so far, from Bossypants to What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding to even the blogger Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. They aren't very serious or contemplative, but fun and easy reads.
I think I have bits marked in the book but it is in the middle of coming home to me via media mail. Stay tuned....more
Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, kept close account of his life, both the political and the domestic. These diaries are selected spans of time reEric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, kept close account of his life, both the political and the domestic. These diaries are selected spans of time representing his life and the history surrounding it.
This volume includes: Hop-Picking Diary - August 25, 1931-March 25, 1936 The Road to Wigan Pier Diary - August 9, 1938, March 28, 1939 Domestic Diary Volume I (August 9, 1938- March 28, 1939) intercalated with Morocco Diary - September 7, 1938 - March 28, 1939 Domestic Diary Volume II (May 27, 1939 - August 31, 1939) intercalated with Diary of Events Leading Up to the War - July 2, 1939 - September 3, 1939 War-time Diary - May 28, 1940 - August 28, 1941 Second War-Time Diary - March 14, 1942 - November 15, 1942 The Jura Diaries - May 7, 1946 - May 10, 1948 Domestic Diary V - July 31, 1948 - December 24, 1948 Last Literary Notebook - March 21, 1949 - September 1949
From the dates in question, it should be no surprise that World War II would be central to the narrative. But Orwell also kept careful notes on his farming and egg gathering, filed away newspaper clippings with recipes and homemaking, and recorded conversations and controversies. Despite his domestic journals, emotions are not recorded. Deaths are not recognized, although he might mention he had traveled. The annotations added by the editor explain who the people are, why Orwell has traveled or missed a span of time, and that helped enormously.
I was most entertained by Orwell's experiences in the diaries before the war. He worked as a tramp, picking hops and doing other odd jobs, while doing research for some of his earlier writings, and his observational skills are clear. (There are also connections to his published works later that had seeds in the diaries.)
"George was a dismal devil, and took a sort of worm-like pride in being underfed and overworked, and always tobying from job to job. His line was, 'It doesn't do for people like us to have fine ideas.'"
Sometimes he writes down songs her hears. One really stood out to me because of it's connection to both 1984 and We, which we know Orwell read before writing 1984. From The Road to Wigan Pier Diary:
"One good song, however, by and old woman, I think a cockney, who draws the old age pension and makes a bit by singing at pubs, with the refrain: 'For you can't do that there 'ere, No, you can't do that there 'ere; Anywhere else you can do that there, But you can't do that there 'ere.'"
Orwell really drew me in with his vivid descriptions of the bleakest landscapes.
"Thick snow everywhere on the hills as I came along. Stone boundaries between the fields running across the snow like black piping across a white dress."
And of people: "From his refined accent, quiet voice, and apparent omniscience, I took him for a librarian."
Orwell was known, even back in 1940, as having a bit of the "sight." On the third of June, 1940, he even alludes to the 99%!:
"Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99% of the population exist." (in response to a letter Lady Oxford wrote to the Daily Telegraph)
But then this moment on the 8th of June, 1940: Where I feel that people like us understand the situation better than so-called experts is not in any power to foretell specific events, but in the power to grasp what kind of world we are living in. At any rate I have known since about 1931 that the future must be catastrophic. I could not say exactly what wars and revolutions would happen, but they never surprised me when they came... I could feel it in my belly...."
He also spends considerable time railing against advertising, particularly in a time of war: "How much rubbish this war will sweep away... so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm."
Other little bits that are clearly the man who wrote Animal Farm and 1984:
"No one is patriotic about taxes."
"We are all drowning in filth. .. Everyone is dishonest, and everyone is utterly heartless towards people who are outside the immediate range of his own interests... Is there no one who has both firm opinions and a balanced outlook? Actually there are plenty, but they are powerless. All power is in the hands of paranoiacs."
"I am doing nothing that is not futility and have less and less to show for the waste. It seems to be the same with everyone - the most fearful feeling of frustration, of just footling round doing imbecile things, not imbecile because they are a part of the war and war is inherently foolish, but things which in fact don't help or in any way affect the war effort, but are considered necessary by the huge bureaucratic machine in which we are all caught up."
Because I am always looking for books on cold weather islands, I was thrilled to learn that Orwell relocated to the Hebrides, to the isle of Jura, around the time his wife dies. During the war he often longs for "my island in the Hebrides."
His last domestic journal describes the weather of Hebridean life quite well, lots of rain and mist and wind. Too bad he was in such ill health during that time of his life, because he was often locked in and writing.
I wish I had read this after reading Thiong'o's fiction. I will do that someday. This is an account of his childhood in Kenya from 1938 until he enterI wish I had read this after reading Thiong'o's fiction. I will do that someday. This is an account of his childhood in Kenya from 1938 until he enters highschool/secondary school. This is during the time of the Mau Mau Uprising, which had a direct impact on his daily life.
I know people who were missionaries in Kenya directly after this period, so it filled in some gaps for me. Call me naive but I didn't really understand post-WWII colonialism very well. Goodness.
I loved seeing him in the role of songleader and storyteller even from a young age, and I am glad he never gave it up. Another small detail that I will remember most is the naming conventions of children - named after your father but also as a symbol of reincarnation, and then also your nickname that you are better known by. So much of a story built into a name!...more
I received a copy of this book in print from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Frances Mayes, after her relocation to Tuscany, makes a imI received a copy of this book in print from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Frances Mayes, after her relocation to Tuscany, makes a impulsive move back to the south. She grew up in Georgia and moved to North Carolina, but just the same, it triggered a wave of memories and emotions that she turned into this memoir of her childhood.
I connected with this book from multiple perspectives. As someone who has been away from "home" for almost ten years and is returning home this summer (although not the south and not permanently), I definitely identified with how the feeling of a place can practically change you back into the person you were. She captures the memories of the place triggered by certain trees, foods, even poems.
Another point of interest is seeing the south through the eyes of one of its children, after returning back to it. I only know the south as an "outsider," and the mention of the Lane Cake "which no northerner could ever hope to emulate" made me want to run to the kitchen just to try. There are little details that I still see present in the very southern university where I work, such as Saturday classes to keep people out of trouble (which we had in the 1960s too!).
Frances grew up in the south during a very interesting time, and she explores the changing landscape as it pertains to civil rights and birth control, but then also how it changed her life. The coda in particular puts a lot of the south into perspective for me - what remains after all the change, and what remains in the author after leaving where she grew up and forging her own life. She even seemed to let go of trying to be who she wasn't, after all the "south always has enjoyed its eccentric people."
Little bits I liked: "Memory - a rebel force, a synaesthesia that storms the senses."
"It was rude if you didn't call on people in the coffin, even if they'd never know."...more
Because of an autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, Susannah Cahalan, a writer for the NY Post, spent a month in the hospitalBecause of an autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, Susannah Cahalan, a writer for the NY Post, spent a month in the hospital without memories, going through periods of psychosis, without any diagnosis in sight. One doctor who happened to have an inkling of an idea was able to turn her around, finally diagnosing her with Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis.
"... A reminder of how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are."
The story is told from memories, unremembered journal entries, eerie hospital treatment videos that she has no memory of, family journals, and medical records. The author will likely never regain the memories of that time. An interesting anecdote is that they think this may be the disease often passed off as demonic possession.
A little anecdote that connects this book to a book I read last year - as part of her recovery, Susannah read Infinite Jest painstakingly slowly to help rebuild her vocabulary, stopping after each word she didn't recognize to write it down, look it up, and try to commit it to memory. ...more
Full disclosure: I got through 7 of the 21 discs of this book and decided to let it go. I like Hillary Clinton, and she's my favorite for 2016, but IFull disclosure: I got through 7 of the 21 discs of this book and decided to let it go. I like Hillary Clinton, and she's my favorite for 2016, but I don't need to know every single detail of every encounter she has ever had. Some of the stories were interesting from her unique perspective, but some of the details were unnecessary and, well, boring.
I did listen to disc 21, which focuses on women's rights, LGBT rights, whether she'll run for president, and her upcoming stint as Grandmother. One entire disc focused on Pakistan.
This is a great book for people who follow politics closely and want her view of the events....more
When Lady Mary Wotley Montagu's husband was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of Turkey in 1716, she traveled with him (and a considerabWhen Lady Mary Wotley Montagu's husband was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of Turkey in 1716, she traveled with him (and a considerable entourage) to Turkey, writing letters along the way and once she had arrived. I picked this up because of its connection to Turkey in my year of reading Turkey, not realizing how connected of a lady Mary truly was, or how important this published work is in the world of female travel literature. I'm not sure I'm the expert on that topic, so I'll just talk about what I think.
First of all, I was definitely impressed by how one woman's station could get her in the door of almost anywhere. Having lunch and playing games with the empress in Vienna, no big deal. Dinner with the sultana, twice! Princes! Kings! Letters to royalty and famous people all over, people who would write back. Pretty amazing. I had to keep reminding myself she was a real person.
Because Lady Mary (Mary Hanim in Turkish) writes letters to multiple people, I enjoyed seeing how her tone and focus would change based on who the letters were being sent to. To Alexander Pope, she is careful to be very intellectual, focusing on literary discoveries of Turkey. At the same time, her tone reveals their close relationship through a certain amount of antagonism. To her sister she is possibly most honest about the Turkish value on child-bearing. To the other women of a similar station, she might focus on fashion and art but also in correcting their inaccurate assumptions. To her husband, she is formal and passive aggressive at the same time (he spent most of their 13 Turkish months in military camps, and not at home with her.)
I loved this little comment about aging as a woman to Lady Rich (nothing to do with Turkey): "A woman till five and thirty is only looked upon as a raw girl, and can possibly make no noise in the world till about forty. I don't know what your ladyship may think of this matter, but 'tis a considerable comfort to me to know there is upon earth such a paradise for old women, and I am content to be insignificant at present, in the design of returning when I am fit to appear no where else." (Did I mention I am 35? Merely a raw girl.)
To Lady Mar, her sister: "...Knowing too much is very apt to make us troublesome to other people."
To the Abbe Conti, just one of many places defending the negative image the Turks had in English society: "These people are not so unpolished as we represent them..."
Upon leaving Constantinople: "There is no perfect enjoyment of this life out of Old England. I pray God I may think so for the rest of my life, and since I must be contented with our scanty allowance of daylight, that I may forget the enlivening sun of Constantinople."
If I have any criticism of Lady Mary, other than the obvious about her racism that I could argue is probably pretty embedded in 1716 England, it's how she only really interacted with the wealthiest, most important people in Turkish society. She was surrounded and protected, and while deriding the contemporary travel literature for its lies, she didn't exactly have an everyday experience.
On the other hand, she was a bit of a polyglot, and within 13 months was able to have full mealtime conversations in Turkish. Pretty impressive, and this got her closer into Turkish society than most British women would be able to do, particularly at the time! ...more
Ann Mah ended up in Paris when her husband was placed there in a diplomatic role. During that time, he was sent to Baghdad on a year-long assignment,Ann Mah ended up in Paris when her husband was placed there in a diplomatic role. During that time, he was sent to Baghdad on a year-long assignment, leaving her in Paris by herself. I wish that had been more of a back story than central to this book, because her complaints almost ruined this book for me. Mah is an aspiring publisher and journalist, and she writes extensively about missing her husband? I couldn't decide if she was including it to try to make her more human, more approachable, but I really didn't want to read about it.
I did want to read about the food.
The food parts of the book were very well researched, fascinating, and she clearly has a talent for combining in-person experience with historical research. She made me want to be in Brittany for crêpes and attempting soupe au pistou amongst the grimaces of the older French women at the market. I would have traded the sections about talking to her husband in Skype for a nice chapter on croissants or breads, which only get mentioned in the context of her husband chomping into one.
Call me a purist. One of the best books I've read lately about French food is The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese, a book where devoid of personal story, I was able as a reader to delve deeper into the topic of interest. That's my preference! I know some people really enjoy the Elizabeth Gilbert flavor of travel writing, and this would be a good book for people who really liked Eat, Pray, Love.
I listened to the audio, read by Mozhan Marno. Mozhan does a great job pronouncing the French in the book (which there is a lot of, and sometimes not translated, the reader being left to read between the lines). She also does a decent French-accent-in-English to distinguish between Mah and the people she encounters. It brought the book to life.
I received a copy of this from Random House Audio in exchange for an honest review....more
This autobiography, which actually appears to be written by Sting himself, tells the story from his childhood up to when The Police had just started tThis autobiography, which actually appears to be written by Sting himself, tells the story from his childhood up to when The Police had just started to see success. There were some surprising details and amazing connections, and it is nice to see how long and hard the struggle can be, even for someone who grew into a well-crafted songwriter and superstar.
My favorite bits came from his actual journal, and I would like to read more of that, from the immediate days of reflection rather than looking back. ...more
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
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.
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