Archive for the 'Currently Reading' Category

“An Unabridged Sort of Guy”

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

From Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas:

Abridged or unabridged? That is the question.

Harry stands in the deserted, brightly lit Fiction & Literature section of his favorite chain bookstore, weighing a book in each hand. In his right, The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin, unabridged) weighing in at a formidable 1,276 pages. In this left, The Count of Monte Cristo (Puffin Classics, abridged) tipping the scales at a svelte 396 pages. Harry weights the pros and cons of each, literally as well as figuratively.

He can’t deny that an irresistible bit of cachet comes with being an unabridged sort of guy. If depth follows effort, as Harry is reasonably convinced that it must, surely his best hope for a Dantes-esque rebirth must be found in these pages.

But Harry also knows himself, knows the limits of his attention span, and fears that The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin, unabridged) is fated to end up as little more than an impressive desk ornament. And, he reasons, if the story can effectively be whittled down to a mere 396 pages (Puffin Classics, abridged), then how necessary can the rest really be? (92-3)

Harry Revised
is one of the contenders in The Morning News Tournament of Books. It has some impressive contortions in chronology, and can be quite funny, as I found the above passage, but it walks the thin line between humor and cringe-worthy pathos that can sometimes make for an uncomfortable read. I’ll keep reading to see if Harry can come of middle-age and pull off a Dantes-esque rebirth.

A Dog’s Intuition

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Eventually, she understood the house was keeping a secret from her.

All that winter and all through the spring, Almondine had known something was going to happen, but no matter where she looked she couldn’t find it. Sometimes, when she entered a room, there was the feeling that the thing that was going to happen had just been there, and she would stop and stare and peer around while the feeling seeped away as mysteriously as it had arrived.

I finally started The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and am enjoying it so far, though I’m only about 100 pages in. I like the prose, the dog point of view, the characters, and their relationships to their dogs. I was amused to see Pat Holt’s description of the book in her recent post on publishing:

big-sprawling-summer-novel+Hamlet gimmick+beautiful-writing+struggling author backstory+DOGS DOGS DOGS = Must Read.

(Link from Blog of a Bookslut)

Food that Matters, a la Bittman

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

From Salon’s review of Food Matters by Mark Bittman:

The essence of the Bittman approach is simplicity, ease and quality, but that means he has to walk a fine and constantly shifting line. Americans’ attitudes toward what we eat are laden with class and cultural baggage.

Now Bittman has waded even further into the fray by publishing “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes,” an unusual blend of manifesto, self-help manual and cookbook designed to convince people that they can drastically improve their diets with relatively little discomfort. Not only that, but in doing so, Bittman avows, they can also save the planet and relieve some of the pressure on their pocketbooks. As promises go, that’s a whopper, a super-trifecta encompassing the major obsessions of the current moment: weight loss, environmentalism and penny-pinching.

Laura Miller succinctly notes that Bittman’s book is “applied Pollan”, referring to Michael, who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma (reductive summary: eat more local, sustainably created foods) and In Defense of Food (reductive summary: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”)

I’ve been a fan of Bittman’s since he wrote for Cook’s Illustrated. He’s the creator of the New York Times cooking column “The Minimalist,” advocating real food cooked simply and easily. He has Bitten, a blog at the New York Times, and his How to Cook Everything, which I consult so often pages are falling out, just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

My family and I aren’t ready to try the “vegan till 6pm plan”, but I was game to give the Food Matters approach a try. This was Monday’s meal plan:

Breakfast: yogurt and cereal
Morning snack: tofu and berry smoothie and frozen waffles
Lunch: Spinach and sweet potato salad with warm bacon dressing
Afternoon snack: buttered popcorn made on the stovetop, and hot cocoa
Dinner: Beet soup with Three Legumes (From Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Dessert: B.T. McElrath chocolates

The downside was the time involved in planning and making things, and having a lot of dishes to clean. The upside was that the food tasted great, the kids even tried the beet soup, and I felt good about the quality and variety, and I didn’t feel deprived or resentful. Now I see if I can keep this up, and if practice makes it easier. (Salon link from Arts & Letters Daily)


Friday, November 7th, 2008

Coffee, pastry, book, oh my.

I love the morning. I look forward to it every night before bed. My current regime is a double short cappuccino (with another waiting in the wings; thanks, G. Grod!), and Nature’s Path cherry/pomegranate toaster pastry. Today’s book, which I finished at breakfast, was David Gilmour’s The Film Club, recommended both at Entertainment Weekly and Mental Multivitamin. Good for film geeks and parents.

“The Triumph of Self-Preservation…”

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The triumph of self-preservation, the rescue from overwhelming danger–that was what filled his entire being at the moment, with no foresight, no analysis, no future riddling and unriddling, no doubts or questions. It was a moment of complete, spontaneous, purely animal joy.

Raskolnikov, from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

Fear and Loathing

Friday, September 26th, 2008

From Crime and Punishment

Fear was taking hold of him more and more, especially after this second, quite unexpected murder. He wanted to run away from there as quickly as possible. And if he had been able at that moment to see and reason more properly, if he had only been able to realize all the difficulties of his situation, all the despair, all the hideousness, all the absurdity of it, and to understand, besides, how many more difficulties and perhaps evildoings he still had to overcome or commit in order to get out of there and reach home, he might very well have dropped everything and gone at once to denounce himself, and not even out of fear for himself, but solely out of horror and loathing for what he had done. Loathing especially was rising and growing in him every moment.

“The Rest is All Mere Prejudice”

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Marmeladov to Raskolnikov, from Crime and Punishment:

But if that’s a lie,” he suddenly exclaimed involuntarily, “if man in fact is not a scoundrel–in general, that is, the whole human race–then the rest is all mere prejudice, instilled fear, and there are no barriers, and that’s just how it should be!…