Too little of too many things, and not enough substance, nor worthwhile humor. It’s a quick read, but there are just too many elements in the plot &...moreToo little of too many things, and not enough substance, nor worthwhile humor. It’s a quick read, but there are just too many elements in the plot & theme for any one to be addressed at depth.
Glue is presented as the central metaphor in this story. Most of the chapter titles highlight this (Uses of superglue, Adhesives around the home, A gummy smile, The right glue for the materials, The adhesion consultant, and so on) but it’s not clear why glue in particular is thematically important, except to the narrator herself. She makes a living writing/editing for a glue trade journal; yet her interaction with her other 'glue' colleagues is peripheral to the plot. Georgie is also an aspiring romance novelist, and that too becomes a running commentary throughout the story, as she relates the ‘real’ events to her ‘fictive’ manuscript. Again, this element doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s more of a distraction and a page-filler, rather than adding depth to her interaction with the other characters. The only justification is that it explains why she falls for the real estate agent Mark Diabello (or is he Diabolo?). I wonder whether there is an autobiographical element to all this, as Lewycka has worked on writing ‘industry’ material (manuals for professional carers to the elderly & the infirm) before turning to fiction. Otherwise, it’s all fluff. The central symbol of the old, unkempt, but valuable property (aptly named Canaan House) being sought after by two real estate agencies is an appropriate metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I actually think this concept has a lot of potential; it's a light but precise way to explain the political situation that so many find inscrutable. However, there is no substantial interaction between the characters themselves on this issue (Mrs. Shapiro couldn’t care less, and the bumbling Palestinian immigrant workers show no bitterness towards her) to give a depth and complexity that the issue merits. Eventually, when an Israeli enters the scene and there are finally two characters discussing the current developments in the occupied territories, it is too far into the book to be of any importance on the novel’s outcome, and even then the matter is dealt with superficially. Lewycka introduces the element of religious hysteria (the end-of-days prophecies not only as explanation for the Mideast conflict, in fact as a key to all political developments in general) into the picture, with Georgie’s son Ben being caught up in religious-based conspiracy theories flying about the Internet, but that too is swiftly set aside as merely a teenage obsession that is cured by a visit to the hospital. Somehow even the satire doesn’t cut deep, the humor is forced, relying on stereotypical characterizations (Mrs. Shapiro’s & Mr. Ali’s heavily accented speech) then devolving into cheap slapstick: the banana snot incident, the unstable ladder and the Uselesses, the cat meeting its untimely death during the barbecue gathering.... Maybe I'm a bit prejudiced on all of the above, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 'background' is very familiar to me, and I am likely to be bothered by a superficial treatment of the events that I have lived up close and personal. Another thing that I couldn't help noticing is the striking similarity the plot has with Stephanie Kallos' novel Broken for You.(less)
Despite its age, this volume (in the Time-Life series* Foods of the World, copyright 1969, revised 1971) is a well-researched introduction to the regi...moreDespite its age, this volume (in the Time-Life series* Foods of the World, copyright 1969, revised 1971) is a well-researched introduction to the region, spanning from Greece & Egypt all the way to Iran. The first chapter introduces the common elements of the cuisines of the nine nations that are covered in this travelogue, as the author (an American of Greek descent) discovers the landscape, the peoples, and the foods along the route. This is essentially why I treasure this old book - for the historical background, the explication of the culinary traditions uniting as well as differentiating the Middle Eastern cultures, and more than anything, the photographs that immortalize the people of the region as they prepare the food and consume it. In Greece, the focus is on the Easter festivities, in Turkey a farewell family feast, in Lebanon a stylish urban cocktail and mezze spread, in Jordan a Bedouin tent mansaf, in Iraq the archeological roots of the agricultural staples on which the region's cuisines are based, in Israel the multicultural origins of the colonial settlers, in Iran meals with tilemakers and carpetweaving craftsmen, in Egypt the street vendors.
* The main text is a hardbound album, and the majority of the recipes are printed in a separate spiralbound booklet (which I don't own). (less)
One of the best cookbooks on Eastern Mediterranean cooking I happen to own. I just wish I could find as sensible a cookbook for Greek cuisine as this...moreOne of the best cookbooks on Eastern Mediterranean cooking I happen to own. I just wish I could find as sensible a cookbook for Greek cuisine as this one is. There are good explanations of techniques and ingredients for the "Western" cook who may not be familiar with many of the Middle Eastern staples, such as tahini, vine leaves, bulgur, clarified butter, etc. There's also a simple recipe for making natural yogurt that I have prepared many times. Many of the recipes here are very similar to Greek (especially 'Politiki'), Armenian, or Lebanese dishes, so if you like any of these cuisines, you may discover many of the Turkish recipes in this cookbook are familiar. (less)