This book was good fun, and I enjoyed reading it in the Denver Airport and on the plane. I was so into it, I nearly left my carry-on luggage under a tThis book was good fun, and I enjoyed reading it in the Denver Airport and on the plane. I was so into it, I nearly left my carry-on luggage under a table in the airport!
Barron's funny life anecdotes should find fans among those who like Sloane Crosley and David Sedaris, among other memoir-based humourists. Although not as outrageous as Chelsea Handler, some of Barron's tales are definitely cringe-worthy.
This was a wonderful collection of essays to read. As a "lonely only," I found myself being able to relate at least on some level with many (though noThis was a wonderful collection of essays to read. As a "lonely only," I found myself being able to relate at least on some level with many (though not all) of the contributors of this collection.
Some recollections and writing would draw me to tears, some would make me smile. All of them were genuine, although some I related better to than others. Molly Jong-Fast's submission was interesting, but her childhood was very different, and her view as being the only child her parents had together was also very unique. If I had to say what sort of camp I was in for onlies, I'd say my experience was more of a Sarah Towers/Sara Reistad-Long hybrid, with a bit of Joel Hodgman and Peter Ho Davies thrown in. But really, this description isn't quite right; my experience and their experiences were and are unique... or at least that's what I'd like to think.
For those of you who don't understand the "singular joys and solitary sorrows" of being an only child, I think this excerpt from Betty Rollin's "You're It" is best:
What does only childhood do to a person? I'm certainly self-centered; on the other hand, I think I'm less needy of attention that those who experienced the kind of childhood neglect I longed for. I have close friendships, but sometimes I'm too demanding. I give a lot to my friends, but I want a lot back. I want love from them and often I get only like....more
This is a great read. The writing from most of the contributors is funny, interesting and enjoyable; I think there was only maybe one or two works thaThis is a great read. The writing from most of the contributors is funny, interesting and enjoyable; I think there was only maybe one or two works that were sort of "meh" for me. On the whole, I found myself very engaged in the writing, having finished this book in two days (I took a break to watch the first disc of Pee-Wee's Playhouse).
The formatting of each essay/anecdote differs, including comic-strip contributions and and illustration (Marcel Dzama!). My favourite entries include "Lesson #9: Women are Never Too Young to Mess with Your Head" by Larry Wilmore (written in diary form) and "Lesson #6: Don't Come on Your Cat" by Neal Pollack (it made me a little sad).
All in all, a good collection of short essays and other works giving insight into the complications of relationships.
This book is probably one of the books that set me down the path I am on now in terms of my relationship with food and baking. Not only was I inspiredThis book is probably one of the books that set me down the path I am on now in terms of my relationship with food and baking. Not only was I inspired to eventually make a food blog (Tasty Fever!), but I was also given the notion that I didn't need a fancy-shmancy kitchen to turn out amazing stuff.
Julie Powell's story of ambition as a way to find herself through an uncommon means really struck a chord with me at the time I was reading it, and it still does now. As with a lot of memoir work, I can see how some people might not like Powell's voice in the book, especially when she's having a kitchen meltdown caused by the failure to pull a complicated French dish with bone marrow together. Perhaps since I'm used to reading blogs of my friends, as well as writing my own, I didn't mind what others may seem to mark as self-absorbed freaking-out. I liked the humour; she seemed to me like someone I could be friends with, or at least know and have a drink with time to time. In other words, her actions, cursing and crying, seemed honest and real to me.
Although at times I felt a little bogged-down in some of the relationship dramas she had with her friends, the book on the whole had enough personality to carry through the traumas of an ill-cooked dinner, as well as the wonders when everything, even despite a city-wide power outage, comes together beautifully.
In other words, her tale of cooking her way through Julia Child's book is a very personal and personable tale that I was able to relate to, having dealt with my share of tiny apartment and house kitchens. After reading the book, I began to little-by-little try out new recipes, which eventually erupted into the explosion of predominantly baked goods I now turn out weekly--thanks to the further inspiration of my snack-lovin' boyfriend.
You can find the original blog here. Julie Powell has a new blog out, too. You would think that with as much as I loved her book, I'd be keeping up with her latest shenanigans. Well, I'm lazy like that, plus I guess I've got my own blog to tend to....more
I used to live in Thailand, so I was interested in seeing Cleo Odzer's point of view and work with the sex workers of Thailand. I found the book's perI used to live in Thailand, so I was interested in seeing Cleo Odzer's point of view and work with the sex workers of Thailand. I found the book's perspective fairly agreeable, however I was a little more annoyed with the author's frequent segues into her love life with one of the hustlers of the Bangkok underworld.
This is a good book if you want to read about sex work and a particular part of Thai culture (which is by no means indicative of its wonderful whole), provided that you make allowances in Odzer's crushing-out over some young door-guy and the borderline ranting at the end when she tries to make you see her point of view in that these workers are not exploited, which I thought was really odd, considering what she takes the reader through in profiling various contacts. Granted, some sex workers, male and female, don't feel and are hardly exploited, but that's not always the case, especially since most of the contacts Odzer met were workers in the well-moneyed sex trade geared towards foreigners, not the younger girls brought into the country from Laos or Cambodia to work at the karaoke bars lucky to get an extra 20 baht (about sixty cents) from their Thai clientele.
I met one such girl, who was from Laos, who went to high school during the days and worked the karaoke bar at night. She was dressed in jeans and a Mashimaro shirt, and wasn't a day over fifteen. Even if she didn't exchange in sexual acts, the long nights of pouring Samsong whisky and Singha beer for her patrons surely took its toll on her grades the next morning. How is that not exploitation?
One thing I did like about Odzer's work is her notation of how many of her contacts came from the Isaan region of Thailand, which a very impoverished region in comparison to the rest of Thailand. It would be interesting to explore the economics of how this region became impoverished, and what solutions could be made to provide a financial uplift in the area, aside from sending their girls and women to the cities....more
David B's Epileptic is funny, touching and heartbreaking. His recollection of his childhood days, his family's struggle to treat and care for his epilDavid B's Epileptic is funny, touching and heartbreaking. His recollection of his childhood days, his family's struggle to treat and care for his epileptic brother, and his subsequent adulthood make a wonderful subject for this honest adult graphic novel....more
I finished Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, which I checked out from the library, and I may have to get a copy of this book. It's a wI finished Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, which I checked out from the library, and I may have to get a copy of this book. It's a wonderfully written memoir filled with memories and food recipes, much of which hailing from Abu-Jaber's Jordanian heritage from her father's side, but some others that are pulled from other places.
Much like Kim Sunée's Trail of Crumbs, which is another memoir mixed with recipes, Diana Abu-Jaber's recollections place a major focal point on the food, which is sensuously described. The recipes seem more attainable, and there are a few that are vegetarian-friendly. The people Abu-Jaber describes, especially her father, are shown lovingly, and I'm particularly fond of her Auntie Aya, the only daughter among many sons. The appearances she makes in Abu-Jaber's book are memorable--especially the conversation she has while making sweets with a teenage Diana on page 186 that I've included in my favourite quotes on my Goodreads profile:
"Marry, don't marry," Auntie Aya says as we unfold layers of dough to make an apple strudel. 'Just don't have your babies unless it's absolutely necessary."
"How do I know if it's necessary?"
She stops and stares ahead, her hands gloved in flour. "Ask yourself, Do I want a baby or do I want to make a cake? The answer will come to you like bells ringing." She flickers her fingers in the air by her ear. "For me, almost always, the answer was cake."
Sloane Crosley isn't just funny. She observes situations with a fantastic tilt towards the wryly absurd. I love this book, because Sloane seems like sSloane Crosley isn't just funny. She observes situations with a fantastic tilt towards the wryly absurd. I love this book, because Sloane seems like someone I'd have a beer with... if she'd just respond to my texts and show the fuck up. Her writing is full of great descriptions that get to the heart of how fucked up things can be, with at times an acquiescence that can transcend the original dilemma.
Lea Jacobson's memoir is not only an eye-opening account of the Japanese hostess industry, but also a very human view of someone trying to figure hersLea Jacobson's memoir is not only an eye-opening account of the Japanese hostess industry, but also a very human view of someone trying to figure herself out, finding out what sort of person she wants to be. The subject is interesting, and it was a quick and engrossing read for me, being interested in Japanese culture as well as the "floating world" Jacobson finds herself in, though not wishing for myself to be caught up in it.
It's an interesting read, and Jacobson's comparisons to women in these hostess clubs being akin to ikebana flower arrangements sounds spot-on. I would have liked to have learnt more about her transition from hostessing to her occupation listed in the book jacket, but still, a good read....more
This was an incredibly insightful book on Chinese cuisine through the prism of Dunlop's experiences and love affair with Chinese food. It's a very faiThis was an incredibly insightful book on Chinese cuisine through the prism of Dunlop's experiences and love affair with Chinese food. It's a very fair account of her life there, and I think that it's a must-read for anyone interested in cuisine, culture and China.
I enjoyed Dunlop's frankness when touching on topics that can be controversial, and the writing is well-done as she weaves through the narrow streets from vendor to vendor....more
Super-entertaining account of DeWoskin's life in Beijing. I read the book within a couple days, staying up really late to finish it! DeWoskin's greatSuper-entertaining account of DeWoskin's life in Beijing. I read the book within a couple days, staying up really late to finish it! DeWoskin's great at conveying the humour of being a soap opera vixen who is painted with the brush of what the Chinese expect from Americans, and then explaining her real life issues as a "foreign babe" in Beijing.
It's a good book! Read it, and you might find yourself laughing out loud. Those of us who have lived in another culture can relate to DeWoskin's observations, especially when discussing other expats. ...more
**spoiler alert** I can't lie; I expected more out of this book than what it gave me. But that's okay, because I can't change Kim Sunee's life to suit**spoiler alert** I can't lie; I expected more out of this book than what it gave me. But that's okay, because I can't change Kim Sunee's life to suit my tastes.
The format for the book is very interesting, with many chapters ending with recipes, some for food featured in the chapter she just wrote about, or that similarly captured the mood and the time she was in. I like the idea of food as a timeline, a way to trace back our lives, for good or for ill.
The writing is well-done, although a little more floaty than I would have cared for. But Sunee's life and being is just as floaty, like a leaf upon a river, letting it carry her wherever or to whomever it does.
My disappointment doesn't lie with the writing, nor with the recipes, nor the format, but really with the main character. I had a "you go, girl" moment when she left Olivier, but she found herself still wanting the relationship that stifled her, then stumbling into other relationships that weren't fulfilling.
With memoir, one has to be forgiving. We, the audience, are reading the motions of our author as she messes up, and it's easy for us, a world apart from the emotions and the drama the person was really experiencing, to shake our heads. I know this, but at the same time, I couldn't help but grumble as she became involved with another older man.
Maybe it's because I felt an affinity with Sunee, having been in relationships with men a few years older than myself (though none with children... that I know of!), and also feeling restless in the world. Maybe I just liked her writing for the most part. But I felt like I wanted more, I wanted to see Sunee happy in her place within herself. I wanted to see her content. I imagine she is now, with a published book and an enviable blog (she eats all over the place!!), but I wanted some sense of belonging, perhaps for my own sake, as a twentysomething going through her own self-discoveries. Maybe I wanted to see a light at the end for someone else to reassure myself.
I really wanted to give this book 3 1/2 stars, but Goodreads isn't set up to do halfsies, so I settled on three....more
When writing a book about your experiences, not everyone's going to read what you went through and understand.
In Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love,When writing a book about your experiences, not everyone's going to read what you went through and understand.
In Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, I read this book with no expectation--this was prior to any sort of Oprah visit or what-have-you (though I did hear about it from NPR)--and I enjoyed reading it. Part of what grabbed me was the travel aspect, as Gilbert went to places I haven't been to yet (oh, but I will), and I wanted to read her experiences in these countries.
In this manner, I was a little dismayed from a reader-who-wants-to-vicariously-travel's standpoint that Gilbert didn't have much interaction in India outside of her retreat. Granted, I'm not whining "You should have done this instead of having your big religious transformations!" Gilbert's experience is her own experience, and when it comes to religious beliefs and ideas, many people are different. In that aspect, I couldn't quite connect with her, because my beliefs (or lack thereof) are very different, but at the same time I respected her connection with what she believes is her "awesome God," and didn't feel like she was preaching to the reader particularly. Still, my interest wouldn't have waned so much had she talked about Indian cuisine every now and again.
But remember, it was her own personal journey.
I really liked the Italy chapter's focus on food and language. Hot damn, I love food, and I love learning new languages, so her description of the pizza from Naples just killed me. To eat pizza in and around Italy is a new life goal of mine, just so you know.
If it were me, I think the book would have been titled Eat, Eat, Eat, and I would have hijacked the last jaunt to skip Indonesia and go to Thailand, Japan or Vietnam instead. Anyone willing to sponsor me for this project? Holla....more
Recently I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, a book that’s part food memoir, part investigative journalism and part interview, aRecently I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, a book that’s part food memoir, part investigative journalism and part interview, all focusing on the problematic consumption of animals, particularly in the United States.
As someone who has read other accounts of factory farming and the inhumane treatment of animals in these type of “farms,” Eating Animals did cover some familiar ground I had previously encountered in books such as Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. However there were a lot of things I did not know regarding some issues such as how chicken meat is processed in the United States, and Foer’s writing presents the argument on eating meat in a new, personable light that directly deals with some issues that I’ve been contemplating as someone who has been vegetarian for seventeen years now.
Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food were particularly discussed frequently by Foer, who questions some of the more carnivorous/omnivorous statements made by Pollan. Jonathan Safran Foer’s own opinions were well-researched and insightful, as well as compassionate–not only for the animals, but also to humankind’s own faults and flaws. It isn’t a book that insists upon the reader to stop eating meat, but rather presents an argument filled with paradoxes, well-researched facts and a number of emotional and personal accounts relating to the consumption of meat from his own life as well as from the mouths of farmers, ranchers, workers at slaughterhouses and animal rescuers.
It’s a very good book and I recommend reading it, regardless of your diet. I found it engrossing and sort of affirming regarding my choice to become a vegetarian, although people who eat meat and don’t wish to stop should read Eating Animals. It may surprise you. ...more