Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Salon - October 30

Happy 29th anniversary to my beloved Big Guy! This year has really served to remind us both of those vows we said before our family and friends all of those years ago. And how did we celebrate, you may ask? Last night we enjoyed dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant but today we have spent most of the day going our own ways - he to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and me to have Miss H's senior pictures taken. Here's what he saw today:

Thursday evening The Omaha Bookworms enjoyed a wonderful evening with Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GA. Ms. Stefaniak stepped in and immediately became one of the gang, particularly when she mentioned to group that she was interested in the World Series game. When you let on to a group of women, half of whom have spent some time in St. Louis, that you're cheering for the Cardinals, you have made yourself a group of friends! We started by picking her brain about her writing process and ended by talking about the Ku Klux Klan--what a fantastic conversation! Pictures to come!

I've mentioned before that the Omaha Bookworms is a diverse group of women; we count among our members our own political activist. You have probably not heard of the Trans-Canada effort to build a pipeline through Nebraska but it really is something that everyone should be concerned about given that its planned route takes it directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest aquifers. That's gotten our former President of the League of Women Voters so riled up that she appeared in front of the state legislature in her Susan B. Anthony outfit, something she may regret having told a blogger! Here she is in action:

This evening we're enjoying some literary television. First we watched "Once Upon A Time" which I'm thoroughly enjoying (but The Big Guy says it feels like "Desperate Housewives" goes goth to him). Now we're watching "Case Histories" on PBS, a series based on Kate Atkinson's books about Jackson Brodie with this episode based on her book "When Will There Be Good News." We both quite liking this and wish we would have caught the first two episodes.

I'm finishing up Steve Inskeep's Instant City for a TLC Book Tour this week. I'll also have reviews of Julia Child's My Life In France and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. What's on your reading agenda this week?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Salon and Dewey's Readathon Wrap Up

I've been reading and reading these food related books this month and it's starting to look like I'm going to end this month with a pile of food books still to be read - it has not been a good month for reading! I had hoped to really crank out some reading during the readathon but, well, I didn't. Still hoping to get a couple more read this week and then I'm going to focus on reads for challenges the rest of the year. It would be nice to get a couple of those completed!

Once again, despite my attempts to be more realistic, I didn't get nearly as much reading done during Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon as I had hoped to. Got up early to read for an hour before the official start but then I had to work, take Miss H in for her senior yearbook pic, and The Big Guy decided we really did need to go out to dinner. But, if I'm being honest, the thing that really kept me from getting any reading done was college sports. I had to cheer on my Huskers in both football and volleyball, of course, but then there were also Big 10 and Big 12 games that required my attention as well. Oh yeah, and a baseball game--go Cards!

To wrap up the readathon, it's time for the ending meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? That would be Hour 18. I got more reading done after that but I almost called it a night at that point.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I always think mysteries would make the best choices, even though that's never what I've lined up!
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No - it was great!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I liked that some of the mini-challenges were shorter and easier to complete quickly without taking too much time away from reading.
  5. How many books did you read? finished one and had started and read all of another one.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and My Life in France
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? I enjoyed both of them.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Have some "canned" cheers prepared. Trish said to do it but I didn't get around to it. I liked leaving personal comments but I could have visited more often if I prepared some cheers.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll definitely participate again and I'll certainly cheer again. I know how great it is to get those comments!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dewey's Read-A-Thon Mini-Challenge: Hodge Podge

Erin of Erin Reads has devised a mini-challenge for readathon participants called the Hodge Podge Challenge:

Here’s what you must do to participate in the Hodge-Podge Proposals Mini-Challenge. First, grab a pen and paper, open up a text file, or fire up your memory and list:
  1. The first name of any character in the book you’re currently reading (or just finished)
  2. The make or model of your current car, whichever you like better (if you don’t have a car, use one you’ve had or would like to have)
  3. A job you think would be especially fascinating
For me that would be 1) Julia, 2) Honda Odyssey and 3) research assistant for historical works.

Now for the second part:
Numbers 1 and 2 become the first and last name of your new character, and 3 is his or her occupation. Now briefly pitch me a new series in the genre of your choice based on this hodge-podge character!

Here goes:

Julia Odyssey, research fellow for famed historical fiction author E.M. Kemble, loves her work, not just because she loves history but because she loves the routine of it all. But there's nothing routine about the day she discovers that her mentor and boss has gone missing. Has he met with an accident or is there something more sinister going on? While the police go about their search using their usual methods, Julia begins her search the only way she knows how...research into the past.

FINALLY - I actually made time for a mini-challenge!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Woo Hoo - It's Readathon Time Again!

It's that time again - time for the fall edition of Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. As usual, I've got my stack of books ready and I'll stop and pick up some snacks after work in the morning but this year I'm going into the event with a much more realistic attitude. I will not read 1000 pages or more, I will not finish 6 books, I will not read for 24 hours. But I will take advantage of the day as an excuse to read as much as I want. To avoid overloading bladers and emails, I'll add updates to this post throughout the readathon.

In my pile of books:
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn (to finish)
My Life In France by Julia Child
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Five Quarters of an Orange by Joanne Harris
Instant City by Steve Inskeep (for a TLC Book Tour)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

HOUR ONE: Got a jump start to I could read before I go to work for a few hours. Working to finish KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL.

HOUR EIGHT: I've gotten another hour of actual reading done and an hour of cheerleading done (my first time as a cheerleader - boy are there a lot of readers signed up to cheer for!).

HOUR TEN: Finished a book! THE KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL is one that was the perfect followup to FOUR KITCHENS and JULIE AND JULIA - it made a lot of references to things I learned about in the first two books. Next up: MY LIFE IN FRANCE...I think. Should get more reading done once the Husker game is over. I've made a pot of coffee so I'm golden for staying awake for at least 9 or 10 more hours.

HOUR 13: Lost some time when my hubby decided we absolutely had to go out to dinner. But I've picked up MY LIFE IN FRANCE now and am really enjoying it (although I am getting tired of all of the names!).

HOUR 17:  Completely distracted by college sports this evening - my biggest problem every fall readathon! Did get a couple of hours worth of reading in and I'm heading off to do some cheerleading now. Still working on MY LIFE IN FRANCE.

PAGES READ: 224 pages

Monday, October 17, 2011

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
359 pages
Published July 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: the publisher - in fact, this was one of the first books ever offered to me for review

Julie Powell was pushing thirty, just moving into an even crappier apartment than the one she and her husband were living in and suffering through a series of temp jobs which are sucking her soul away. Enter Julia Childs - specifically Child's masterwork "Mastering The Art of French Cooking"  (MtAoFC).

As a teenager, Powell (when she wasn't sneaking a peek at her parents' copy of The Joy of Sex) could frequently be found reading recipes from her mother's copy of MtAoFC so it was only logical that she would turn to it again for a source of inspiration when she found herself desperately in need of something to do to make herself not feel like a failure. With her husband's encouragement, Powell started a blog and the Julie/Julia Project was born. Powell set a goal to cook all 524 recipes in the book in 365 days. Along the way Powell had many great successes but just as many disasters. Her husband should probably be nominated for sainthood - the woman didn't get meals on the table until most people are headed for bed, her housekeeping (what there was of it to begin with) became so non-existent that she once discovered maggots in her kitchen, and she subjected her friends to all manner of food they would never have chosen to eat if they didn't love her.

After reading about the source of my copy of this book, you may have asked yourself why it took me so long to finally read this book. When I was offered this book, I was thrilled and had every intention of reading it immediately. Maybe I was put off by some reviews. Maybe because it was already everywhere. I'm not sure. Then when the movie came out, I was determined to read it first. Then after I'd seen the movie, I was determined to read it while the story was still fresh in my mind. Still I didn't get to it. It took a couple of new books sitting in my to-review pile to remind me that this one was still waiting for me.

I liked it, despite its flaws. Powell has a biting sense of humor and is just as willing to poke fun at herself as she is to poke fun at others. A complaint some have voiced is that Powell has a bit of a dirty mouth. I didn't notice it much (sounds like it's definitely more prominent in the blog). She does get a bit distracted at the end dropping names about the people who came to interview and film her and often got off topic in describing her friend's lives. I could have done without reading so often, too, about what a terrible housekeeper Powell was. Seriously, I don't care how busy working and cooking you are, there should never be maggots in your kitchen! Republicans be warned - Powell does not like you, a point she made repeatedly. But she is something of a voice for all of those who toil away in jobs where they are unappreciated, overworked, and underpaid. Maybe she could have whined a bit less about it but aren't we really all longing to find something to do with our lives that will fulfill us?

I loved the movie adaptation of this book which is also based on Julia Child's book, My Life In France, which is coming up soon for me. Powell may not have been able to end her book this way, but after all of this talk about wonderful food, I have to say it - bon appetit!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Salon - October 16

Another week with very little reading done. So frustrating - not just because it means I'm not reading but also because it means I'm not finding enough time to relax. Got a promotion at work recently and it's going to mean more work hours, particularly for the next few weeks so I'm not sure when I'm going to find good chunks of reading time again. I'm going to have to get more organized so I have some "me" time every day. Everyone around me will be safer if I do!

Lucinda Riley's The Girl On The Cliff arrived in my mailbox this week unannounced. I'm never sure quite how to feel about books that arrive without my having requested them. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the ones I buy, read for book club, request, and do tours for as it is. But books? Hard to argue with that. This one is historical fiction so that appeals to me. The blurb on the back makes it sound a bit reminiscent of Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden which I had mixed feelings about. I withhold judgement until I read it; who knows when that might be, though!

The Omaha Lit Fest was held this weekend. It's something I've been looking forward to since last year. Unfortunately, it's also something that was impacted by my increased work hours. I was only able to attend two sessions yesterday afternoon. Not surprisingly, they were both great - wonderful panel discussions by both authors I love and authors that are new to me. I was disappointed to learn that Rainbow Rowell's (Attachments) next book won't be released in the U.S. until next fall, despite that fact that she had in her possession a bound, uncorrected copy of it. It will come out in England in April. Wonder if I can get someone there to send me a copy? Got to introduce myself to Mary Helen Stefaniak (The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GA) and talk about her upcoming visit with the Omaha Book Worms. Can't wait for that! Came away with three books: Timothy Shaffert's Devils In The Sugar Shop, Carolyn Turgeon's Mermaid and Jo Ann Mapes' Solomon's Way.

This week I'll finish Julie Powell's Julie and Julia and start Kathleen Flinn's Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Hopefully I'll also have time to get to Julia Child's My Life In France as well. What are you reading this week?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

Table of Contents: From Breakfast with Anita Diamant to Dessert with James Patterson - a Generous Helping of Recipes, Writings, and Insights from Today's Bestselling Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

304 pages
Published November 2010 by Adams Media
Source: the publisher

I like to think that I'm an alert reader, particularly since I began blogging, but I was surprised, when I picked up this book, by how often food appears in books. Perhaps, if you've read Lisa Genova's Still Alice, you'll recall the white chocolate challah pudding that Alice forgot how to make on Christmas Eve. Or maybe the crab and corn chowder that Lily makes in Barbara Delinsky's Not My Daugher or Dinah Kimble's green salad with salmon in Jennifer Haigh's Mrs. Kimble. 

For Table of Contents, Gelman and Krupp spoke with fifty authors who have included food in some one in their writings and included recipes for more than 100 dishes found the author's books. This is not, however, just a cookbook. Each of the authors has also speaks about what inspires them, who and what has influenced them, what readers should know about them and answer the questions readers most often ask.

Doesn't that sound like just the thing for someone who loves to read and loves to cook? I read this book in one sitting, something that's rare for me (granted, it's not exactly heavy reading and there's a lot of white space!). I always enjoy learning what inspires authors; it's one of the things I most enjoy when the Omaha Bookworms get the chance to speak with authors. For example, Anita Diamont (The Red Tent) uses modern dance as an incentive to sit down and write, Amy Greene (Bloodroot) draws her inspiration from the Appalachian landscape, and when Garth Stein (The Art of Racing In The Rain) knows that when he starts hearing voices, it means that he's listening to a character that will appear in his next book.

Unlike Four Kitchens which I reviewed earlier this week, most of the recipes in Table of Contents use ingredients that are easy to find, perhaps already in your own kitchen, so this book will find a place in my recipe book collection. I am, in fact, making Jacquelyn Mitchard's Next Day Rice Pudding as I write this review.

 If you'd like to get your hands on some of the recipes, or you're someone who gets all of their recipes from the internet, the authors have kindly written a blog that includes a lot of the recipes from the book. Gelman and Krupp are also the authors of The Book Club Cookbook and host a website by the same name. Here book clubs can recommend books to one another, find a list of authors who will meet with book clubs, and get some pairing ideas for food and books. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

Waiting For Robert Capa by Susana Fortes
208 pages
Published September 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

Gerta Pohorylle and AndrĂ© Friedmann and are young Jewish refugees who arrive in Paris in 1935. Caught up in the scene that is Paris on the cusp of World War II,  the two were first friends, then business partners and finally lovers. Friedmann taught Pohorylle the art of photography and she, in turn, remade him into Robert Capa, launching his career, and remade herself into Gerda Taro. She became one of the first female combat photographers and he became internationally known for his photograph, The Fallen Soldier. taken early during the Spanish Civil War.

Capa and Taro found themselves caught up in political movements in Paris as much because of what they stood against as because of what they stood for - they were both fiercely opposed to Facism. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, it was only logical that the pair would find themselves drawn to the country, throwing themselves as close to danger as was possible.

 In her author notes, Fortes who is Spanish, stated that she's been drawn to the work of Capa for years. It was in 2008, when 127 undeveloped rolls of film that Capa, Taro, and their friend David Seymour had taken during the war, that Fortes decided it was time to write the story. Interestingly, I found the book to be much more Gerda's story.

Waiting For Robert Capa struggles to find it's voice. Sometimes, it's almost overly poetic as Fortes writes about the environment of Paris. Other times it reads much more as if it were a work of non-fiction, detailing movements in battles and dropping names of other well-known participants in the Paris and/or Spanish settings. For me, I far preferred when Fortes cut back on the descriptiveness and got to the meat of the story. It's a story I've been interested in for a couple of years and it felt as if Fortes and written fully-developed characters who may very well be much like the people on which they are based. I find myself even more interested in this pair whose relationship seems as if it truly were one with origins in the pages of a novel.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this one. For more opinions, please see the full list of reviews.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Four Kitchens: My Life Behind The Burner In New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris by Lauren Shockey

Four Kitchens: My Life Behind The Burner In New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris by Lauren Shockey
352 pages
Published July 2011 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: the publisher

When she graduated from college with a perfectly serviceable four-year degree, Lauren Shockey discovered with a start that she really had no passion for working a nine-to-five job in a corporate environment. Instead, she told her parents, she wanted to go to culinary school. Not surprisingly, her parents encouraged her to get a job. But sitting in a office day after day only convinced Shockey that she needed to pursue her passion so off to culinary school she went. Upon leaving culinary school, Shockey knew that her education wasn't complete; she needed a job in a real kitchen so pursued a job as a stagiaire (STAH-zjee-air). A stage is "an apprenticeship offering hands on experience and familiarity with new techniques and cuisines." Shockey did her first stage in a small restaurant in France but quickly realized that it was not going to give her what she needed so she determined that she would spend the next year working in four different kitchens, in four different countries.

First stop, wd-50 in New York, owned by Wylie Dufresne who some of you may know from his guest judging appearances on Top Chef on Bravo. Dufresne is one of the masters of molecular gastronomy, a type of cooking which puts a lot of emphasis on technique, science and innovation. Day one, Shockey learned that she had not learned anything she needed to know about working in a restaurant while she was in culinary school and it was an uphill climb to earn respect from the nearly all-male staff. Next stop, La Verticale in Hanoi, Vietnam. Here the emphasis was entirely on flavor. Then is was on to Carmella Bistro in Tel Aviv, Israel. Shockey learned about foods that had been developed over centuries by pulling together foods from all of the cultures that have touched the region.Finally, Shockey found herself working Senderens in Paris, a Michelin 3-star restaurant, firmly rooted in the traditional foods of France.

If you were to look at the Barnes and Noble page for this book, you'd find lots of reviews highly recommending  it, including Kirkus Reviews where I have frequently read reviews bashing books I've loved.  Once again, Kirkus and I disagree. Shockey's journey made for a terrific idea for a book, and I appreciated that she included not just her experiences in each kitchen, but her experiences in each city/country as well. But in both the professional and personal aspects, I felt that she often went into much too much detail and was frequently repetitive. I lost track of the number of times, for example, that she talked about prepping crab in Paris and I believe I might be able to prep some of the food at wd-50 since I have detailed instruction on how certain foodstuffs must be cut. Considering that Shockey was going to be visiting four different kitchens, I was disappointed that she spent over 90 pages devoted to New York and wd-50. By the time that section was finally done, I was almost ready to abandon the book. I get it, I get it - working in a restaurant kitchen in New York is hard work and long hours for little if any pay, the climate can often be hostile, and at wd-50 there is a ridiculous amount of time and effort spent on things that may never be apparent to anyone not on the staff.

To be fair, I don't entirely blame Shockey. I think a much more vigorous editing would have helped tremendously. I didn't need to know the names of everyone she met along the way or the details of many of her evenings overseas but I very much enjoyed her explorations of cultures other than her own. I certainly had no idea how dull much of the work in a professional kitchen can be, nor that it remains a male-centric environment, nor that much of the staff works for nothing. I found it interesting to learn about the different mind-sets of the employees in the different countries as well, the different kinds of ingredients that other countries use in their cooking and the amount of work that goes into every dish on most menus. I was happy to see that, in the end, Shockey found that the most passionate chefs are those who are cooking in their own homes for people that they care about.

If you're willing to make special trips to grocery stores you don't usually frequent (or maybe you do), there are a lot of very interesting recipes in the book. Shockey has modified a lot of the recipes she worked with in the restaurants to fit the kind of cooking most of us do and the type of equipment most of us have. Most of them, I will warn you, are the kinds of recipes you'll save for the weekends or special occasions when cooking a meal is a day long event.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Salon - October 9

What a crazy week I've had...again! Prefer not to have another one like it but, on the plus side, I've had something of my own reading marathon the past four days. I managed to finished the better part of one book and two more and I've gotten a good start on a fourth book. Now that does feel good!

My month of Fall Feasting will finally kick off this week with a reviews of Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey and Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. Next up for my foodie reading is (finally!) Julie Powell's Julie and Julia. I might just have to follow this one up with a girls' movie night. My sister, niece, daughter and I all went to see the movie in the theater and loved it. I'm thinking we'll kick the guys out, get some popcorn and candy, and create the fun.

This week I'll also be reviewing Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes for a TLC Book Tour. Capa was a Hungarian combat photographer; the story of Capa and his love, Gerta Taro, have interested me since I first learned about him a couple of years ago so I jumped at the chance to read this one.

Next weekend is the Omaha Lit Fest. I believe I've mentioned (a few hundred times) how impressed I was with last year's event. Needless to say I'm really looking forward to this year's event and getting a chance to introduce myself to Mary Helen Stefaniak (The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GA). Ms. Stefaniak teaches at Creighton University, here in Omaha, and I'm so excited that she's agreed to meet with the Omaha Bookworms in person this month!

Next up for me this week is The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn. I'm hearing great things about this one so I'm really looking forward to it. What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
292 pages
Published February 2010 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Source: bought this one for my mom for Christmas last year

If you are one of the three Weissman women, life has suddenly taken a dramatic left turn. When Betty's husband of fifty years, Joseph, announces that he wants a divorce, she suddenly finds herself needing a place to live. When her cousin Lou suggests he come stay in a cottage he owns in Westport, daughter Miranda (going through a professional crisis that has her funds all tied up, perhaps never to be seen again) suggests that she and her sister Anne also move into the cottage. Anne, a single mother, who is a librarian, balks at the idea but, as she always has, she eventually agrees. It's only for a short while, after all, until Joseph either comes to his senses and comes back to Betty or agrees to let her leave in the apartment. Besides, Anne knows that between them, Miranda and Betty will never be able to manage financially. Even with her constant admonitions, the pair have a hard time understanding that a new suit or a new kayak are not in their new budget.

When Miranda takes that new kayak out for the first time, she suddenly finds herself flipped upside down and in danger of being pulled out into the Atlantic. That is until she is rescued by the oh so very handsome Kit Maybank. Miranda is soon smitten, not just with Kit but also with his young son, Henry. Miranda's always one to fall fast and hard but this time Anne senses that Henry is the one Miranda is most in love with.

Anne, in the meantime, is spending all of her daydreams on author Frederick Barrows, a man she has had a brief fling with. A man who still seems to be interested but also a man who has made almost not attempt to contact Anne for the longest time. It seems that his grown children are not wild about the idea of his spending time with a librarian.

Betty is going through all of the phases of grief. Yes, grief. Betty insists that she is a widow despite that fact that she is spending a tremendous amount of time with lawyers trying to get the settlement her husband has promised her will be "very generous" but which he doesn't seem to be producing. To top it all off, Betty soon discovers that Joseph didn't just wake up one day and decide he was tired of being married to her. There's another woman who, as it turns out, is also Frederick Barrow's sister.

Throw in a parade of characters who congregate at Cousin Lou's house, including his annoying wife Rosalyn, and friend Roberts and you've got the makings for conflict, humor and misunderstanding.

Taking Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and dropping it squarely onto the East Coast of the United States, Schine does a fine job of re-imagining Austen's characters and story lines while making changes that make the story her own. Fan of Austen's novel will enjoy comparing the two works throughout the novel and watching the stories blend then go off their own ways. Here there is no half-brother taking the family home away from the Dashwoods; there is always the hope that Betty will be able to return to her own home. The daughters are older, and, theoretically, able to make their own way in live without the help of a good marriage. But that doesn't stop all three of the Weissmanns from hoping for a happily ever after that includes a good man.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, certainly owing, in no small part, to the fact that I love Austen's book. But I also relished Schine's observations about relationships.
"Over the years, Betty began to forget that she liked Joseph. The large breakfast seemed grotesque, the drink obsessive, the light super an affectation. This happened in their third decade together and lasted until their fourth. Then, Betty noticed, Joseph's routines somehow began to take on a comforting rhythm, like the heartbeat of a mother to a newborn baby. Betty was once again content, in love, even."
Come on, those of you who have been married this long, you have to admit that you've had thoughts like this yourself. The "oh my god, I'm stuck with this for the rest of my life" moments when you're not sure you can take it any longer.

Schine's central characters a well-rounded and the reader learns just enough about the supporting cast to make them interesting but not so much that it bogs down the plot. Perhaps my favorite parts of this book were not the ways in which it was like Austen's novel, but in the ways in which it took off on it's own. The Omaha Bookworms will be reading this one in December and I can't wait to discuss it with them and to see how the opinions might vary between those who have read both The Three Weissmanns of Westport and Sense and Sensibility and those who have only read this one. I'll keep you posted on how that discussion goes!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Salon - October 2

As part of Banned Books Week this past week, offered these thoughts on reading:

9 Things That Happen When You Read
In a series of lectures, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk ruminated on what goes on in the mind of a person reading a novel. His thoughts are summarized by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. below. Do these match your experiences? The point about finishing a (great) novel and feeling that it had been written just for me particularly struck home - it maybe irrational but it's so true!
  1. We observe the general scene and follow the narrative. Whether action-filled or more literary, we read all novels the same way: seeking out the meaning and main idea.
  2. We transform words into images in our mind, completing the novel as our imaginations picture what the words are telling us.
  3. Part of our mind wonders how much is real experience and how much is imagination. "A third dimension of reality slowly begins to emerge within us: the dimension of the complex world of the novel."
  4. We wonder if the novel depicts reality as we know it. Is this scene realistic, could this actually happen?
  5. We enjoy the precision of analogies, the power of narrative, the way sentences build upon one another, the music of the prose.
  6. We make moral judgments about the characters' behavior, and about the novelist for his own moral judgments by way of the characters' actions and their consequences.
  7. We feel successful when we understand the text, and we come to feel as though it was written just for us.
  8. Our memory works hard to keep track of all the details, and in a well-constructed novel, everything connects to everything.
  9. We search for the secret center of the novel, convinced that there is one. We hunt for it like a hunter searches for meaningful signs in the forest.

Yesterday kicked off two things; National Reading Group Month and my month for Fall Feasting, a month devoted to reading books about cooking and food.  Oh sure, National Reading Group Month has all kinds of gatherings and famous authors but I'm not going to get to go to any them. So I'll be looking forward to reading and talking about food. I just got a new refrigerator and swapped out my deep freeze with the old refrigerator so I've really taken stock this weekend of the food I have on hand and my mind is racing with the possibilities. Can't wait for the books to give me the final inspiration to get in the kitchen and make some delicious meals.

What are you looking forward to reading?