A Review

I'm in such a state of despair right now with it being the first day back at school and all. I get so anxious having to meet new people and talk about myself. I hate talking about myself... so let's move on to some things I've read.

Since the next eight months will be entirely devoted to reading publishing, editing, and design texts the whole summer was devoted to reading things I could enjoy without effort. No experimental literature, no dated non-fiction, no critical theory - just books about food and some fine fiction.

As I mentioned before, I was reading The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. I finished it a while ago and I've since recommended it to a few but it's so good everyone should know. I found out about the book reading the Westender (I skip straight to the food section) and in the Chef Q&A, Lee Humphries, chef at the wildly popular Irish Heather, named it as the book he was reading at the moment.

In Soul, Ruhlman takes you through the Master Chef exam at the CIA, a month at the Cleveland restaurant Lola - headed by Michael Symon (Food Channel's cheesy biker dude/Iron Chef replacement for Mario Batali), and a few nights at French Laundry - the epicenter of fine American cuisine, located in Napa Valley.

The stories are emotionally intense, richly detailed, and often funny. When you get to the section about Thomas Keller, owner/chef of French Laundry, the description reaches a zen-like quality. The language is so quiet and serene; it perfectly conveys the (uptight) immaculate experience of dining at French Laundry, and the parallel atmosphere in the kitchen. You really melt into the story here. It's pitch perfect.

The last book that squeezed in just before the September no-more-fun deadline was I loved, I lost, I made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. I subscribe to GQ Radio podcasts and in one episode, the hosts devoted 45 minutes talking to Melucci. They had me convinced that this was a sweet book that "even men will enjoy." So, I was halfway to requesting it from the library. Then they mentioned that the advance praise for the book included a pat on the back from Mario Batali: "It's a foodie's dream version of Sex and the City!" So, there I went to the VPL website and requested the book.

Now earlier in the summer, Batali talked with GQ and illustrated his diverse taste in books. He obviously is a fast reader too because he manages to read a lot considering he is on television all the time, runs 10000 restaurants, and is a dad of young kids.

SO, he probably skimmed through this book and he probably owed someone a favour because this book is pretty awful. I read it while waiting for friends to show up at a cafe. They showed up but we crossed paths and I ended up waiting outside for an hour. Between my pizza dinner and my inconvenient bus ride home, I finished this piece of trash and I felt dirty.

Basic plot synopsis: Giulia Melucci remembers all the men she's dated her entire life, all of them totally awful sounding (e.g. lazy deadbeat writer of mature age, young alcoholic, pothead, etc). Interspersed in these neverending accounts of bad life choices are some pretty good recipes for pasta and Sunday roasts.

It's a better recipe book than memoir.

Enough about that.

Today I read Nick Hornby's Shakespeare Wrote for Money. Now here's a book I can enthusiastically recommend! It gives me much delight to share this book with all of you. It's short (131 pages), sweet, and funny. What more could you ask for?

Shakespeare is the third collection of Hornby's column for the Believer magazine, “Stuff I've Been Reading," about the books he's bought and the books he's read*. Over a year, Hornby's dedication to finishing the books he's started wavers but his sense of humour is consistent, and I'm so thankful. Like I said, today was hard but this book made me feel better and it made me want to read (fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, YA novels - you name it); it was the perfect September blues antidote.

There's a great section on McCarthy's The Road:
"The Road may well be the most miserable book ever writer, and God nows there's some competition out there. Two survivors of the apocalypse, a man and his young son, wander through the scarred gray landscape foraging for food...The man spend much of the book wonderful whether he should shoot his son with their last remaining bullet, just to spare him any further pain...Sometimes they find shriveled heads or the remains of a baby on a barbeque...Sometimes you feel like begging the man to use the bullet on you, rather than the boy."
There are some great one-liners, and perhaps too much reliance on the self-deprecating, self-reflexive voice to excuse sloppy introductions. But all is forgiven, Nick Hornby, since you came into my life at the right time.

Hornby has a bad rap because his novels make such terrible movies but reading this, I remember how much I loved High Fidelity. Well, on second thought, How to be Good was totally forgettable. It's not as if Hornby should be part of the canon. But on the whole, I think we can agree that he is entertaining and very accessible while still sharp-witted. Bravo!

If you're a reader--and I mean, a reader, not just someone that knows how to read--I guarantee you will enjoy this book. You will see glimpses of yourself in Hornby. This is true when he loves a book and when he can barely bring himself to finish one.

* The first and second collections of the column are The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

So, maybe you enjoyed the movie Dead Man Walking (as much as you enjoyed reading The Road). If so, may I suggest "Trial by Fire" by David Grann at the New Yorker. No news here, the legal system is broken--particularly pertaining to the death penalty... in Texas--but the story will make you very angry and break you. Sometimes you need that. If today was your first day back at school, this would not be the day to read it. But save it on your computer and come back to it when you're feeling too "up."

1 comment:

Giulia Melucci said...

When insulting someone's work, your argument loses weight if you spell their name incorrectly.
Giulia Melucci