15 June 2009

"Well presented. That's what it is, well presented."

Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes by Mark Crick (Harcourt, 2005).

Admittedly this book's subtitle is a bit misleading -- fourteen writers hardly make a "complete history of world literature." Secondly, despite the ingredient lists, these aren't really recipes so much as culinary imitations of different writer's styles ...
That said, I found this book to be pretty darn entertaining and spot-on in its imitation of authors like Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, Irvine Welsh, and Virginia Woolf. However, while Kafka's "Quick Miso Soup" and Woolf's "Clafoutis Grandmère" were all very fine and Literary, I admit my favorite "recipe" was for "Rich Chocolate Cake" à la Irvine Welsh -- written with such a thick Scottish brogue and so riddled with curse words that it simply begs to be read out loud. The cake, too, sounds delectable:
Ah take the pan off the heat while ah crack two eggs into a jug. Ma eyes focus long enough oan the shells tae read the crack by date: the bastards want me tae throw them oot and buy more. Mebbe the hen that laid them is sitting in the freezer doon at Scotmid, but ah know they keep for months. There's nae need tae beat the eggs: the 14:22 from Kings Cross goes by the windae and stirs every fucking thing, including me. Ah measure oot the flour and at the sight of such a mountain of white powder ah'm tempted tae stick ma nose in. Ah add the eggs and flour to the mixture and pour in a drop of port. Ah hae a drop masel; it's no bad, so ah put some more intae the pan. The bottle's soon finished. Ah've drunk half and the other half's goan intae the mixture -- greedy fuckin' cake.

12 June 2009

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl."

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (Simon Pulse, 2008).



Living Dead Girl made my flesh crawl and left me feeling like some kind of dirty voyeur and, yet, I want you to read it. And then, if you will read Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and Susan Palwick's Flying in Place, we can start a Living Dead Girl reading challenge.

I don't know if I'm joking or not ... there are books that must be read if only because they make us feel bad.

11 June 2009

"Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart ..."

The ChaliceChalice by Robin McKinley (Putnam Juvenile, 2008).

The demesne of Willowlands is in distress -- fires have broken out across the land, the earthlines weep, the people are unsettled. The former Master, a reckless tyrant who reveled in his power and neglected his duties, died in a terrible fire with his Chalice. His disapproving younger brother had been sent away to the Fire priests seven years before and those who go to the Elemental priesthoods cannot return as human beings. Yet, the Willowlands's Circle sends for him to heal their troubled land ...

Mirasol, who was until eleven months ago, a mere beekeeper and woodright, finds herself the new Chalice. Her duty is to bind the Circle, the people, and the demesne of Willowlands into a unified and harmonious whole. The position having come upon her out so suddenly, Mirasol has no training or experience and is frequently racked with doubt. Her powers are so unknown to her and Willowlands so fractured, that uniting it under the rule of a Master who barely remembers he is human seems downright impossible. But, Mirasol must try, because where else can hope lie if not with the new Master?

Because Chalice is a somewhat slow-paced and gentle read which does not tell its story in a linear way, some readers may find it hard going. However, I think readers who enjoy a beautiful turn of phrase and lushly descriptive writing will find themselves very much taken with this novel. I will warn you that Chalice may leave you with a powerful hunger for honey as it is chock-full of references to honey, bees, and beekeeping! By the time I finished with it, I was desperate for some buttered toast dripping with honey!

05 June 2009

Librarians on the Loose

Sunday's librarian trip to New York City was pretty fun. Oh, getting up at seven on a Sunday morning is never fun -- neither was getting home at one thirty the following morning -- but sleep was a sacrifice well worth making.

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and toured the newly reopened American Wing, the André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments, Egyptian Art, and saw just gobs of impossibly beautiful art I wanted to rip off the walls and take home with me. (Purchased: Doris Lessing's On Cats).

After many hours at the Met, we also visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Luckily, we picked a gorgeous day and much of the Garden was already in bloom. I needn't have worried the rose garden would be a wash -- it was perfect! Indeed, another week and we might have been too late! I took many photographs of the gardens, of course, and left racked with envy and lust. (Purchased: Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart).

On our way back to Grand Central Terminal, we stopped in at Strand Book Store and some of us (me) loaded up on books. Well, how could I not? The stock was so broad and the prices so phenomenal that I had a hard time reining myself in. In the end, I purchased Touchy Subjects and The Sealed Letter (won a Lambda last week!) by Emma Donoghue and the comic Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth.

Next spring, we're going to go visit The New York Botanic Garden and The Cloisters Museum and Garden.


03 June 2009

Passé Blanc

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008).

A few months ago, I stumbled upon Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists! which has a tons of reading lists on all sorts of different topics -- including one called "Historical Fiction for Hipsters: Stories from the past that won’t make you snore!" And there, second from the top, was Flygirl. I hadn't heard of Flygirl before, but it sounded so fantastic that I immediately fired off an inter-library loan request.

Flygirl tells the story of Ida Mae Jones -- a light-skinned nineteen-year-old woman living in 1940s Louisiana. Ida wants to be a pilot, but no-one will give a pilot's license to a black woman. Dearie me, no. Dead-set on achieving her dream, she has been saving money to attend the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Chicago. Then the War comes and the WASP -- Women Airforce Service Pilots -- are created. If Ida can become a WASP she can do her part for the war effort and finally be a real pilot. Of course, Uncle Sam doesn't want any African American women pilots! Oh, no, only white ladies can fly! So Ida counterfeits a pilot's license and signs up as a white woman ...

Flygirl was fantastic. Indeed, I can't stop talking to other librarians about this novel. It's a history, adventure, and coming-of-age story all rolled together with just a tiny bit of romance for added interest. It's the kind of book I think would appeal to most teen readers -- even the one's who think historicals are boring -- and more than a few adults. I find myself desperately wishing a movie will be made of it and there aren't many books I wish that of!

I'm looking forward to reading Amy Nathan's Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots Of World War II (National Geographic Society, 2001) and Nella Larsen's Passing (Penguin Classics, 2003). I have also netflixed the "Fly Girls" episode of PBS's American Experience, because I just can't get enough of girls in zoot suits.