I have been AWOL from this blog for a little while, and subscribers to my quarterly e-newsletter know the reason. A wonderful literary agent read the first three chapters of my novel earlier this year and asked me to make some revisions, which I did. Now that she’s read the entire manuscript, she’s come back to me and said that she’s “excited” about the book. She’s asked me to make some additional, relatively minor edits, which I think are appropriate, but she also made a point of saying several times that she thinks I’m “very close.”Read More»
In honor of 9/11, I am posting links to two related blog entries that I wrote last year. On this somber anniversary, with its sunny skies and crisp fall breezes that so eerily call to mind the weather we had on that morning eleven years ago, I don’t have it in me to draft something new. Not that I really need to—the story hasn’t changed, and my memories haven’t either.
Simply put, on this day we remember all who perished in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, and on those planes (all except the perpetrators, of course). We remember the first responders, volunteers, and area residents who died or are suffering from health problems as a result of their exposure to a toxic chemical soup. We remember the families and friends of those included in these first two categories.Read More»
After folks find out that I’m writing a novel about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, we usually get to talking about that event and its historical context. On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked for my recommendation of books that cover it. While there are some excellent historical sources that I’ve relied on to ensure the accuracy of my fictional story (including anything by the incredible Paul Preston, the British historian who’s written extensively about the war and Franco’s repressive regime), the first book I plan to suggest from now on is Nada, a novel by Carmen Laforet, a Catalan writer that a friend turned me onto.Read More»
On its surface, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old master sushi chef whose tiny ten-seat restaurant—located underground, in a Tokyo subway station—is remarkable enough to earn it three Michelin stars from the famed French restaurant guide. But, at its heart, it is a movie about a man striving each day to achieve a Platonic ideal, knowing full well that he will never attain it. Chef Jiro is the physical embodiment of “life is the journey, not the destination.”
With this jewel of a film, director David Gelb proves that a quiet little tale about one man’s day-to-day existence can be more compelling than a passel of superheroes engaged in 20 different car chases at once. Gelb’s portrait of the man shows us the universe in a grain of sand—or in this case, several grains of cooked rice topped with a properly sliced piece of akami (lean tuna) slicked by a shoyu-dipped brush. I defy anyone to leave this film without an appreciation for the complexities of seemingly “simple” tasks—and a powerful craving for sushi. Jiro reminds us that great skill comes from repetition and focus, and even people who have an innate talent for their life’s art must struggle constantly to perfect it.Read More»
Most books are appreciated purely because of their content, but in the case of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, not only did I enjoy the stories she tells and the way she tells them, but I LOVE the fact that this book exists at all—and, even better, that it has become a bestseller. It makes me giddy with joy (and gives me some small measure of hope for humanity) to know that enough folks feel the same way and have propelled it up the book charts.
A music writer and former TV host in the UK, Moran takes on all of the sacred cows of womanhood including dating, sexism in the workplace, pregnancy, labor, abortion, and motherhood, but she does it with warmth and humor. That alone would be enough, but even better is her funny and spirited defense of feminism, in which she offers women a quick way of determining whether or not they are feminists:Read More»
A good friend of mine who works in television passed on her press copy of Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ A Sense of Direction, and I’m sure she sent it to me because, on the surface, it appears to be the story of the author’s participation in the centuries-old tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain—a place that my friend knows is dear to my heart. (It is the city where my cousin Finita lives and where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years.) But surfaces can be deceiving: shortly after I started reading Lewis-Kraus’ book, I realized that—much like the author himself as he sets out on his odyssey—I had completely misjudged what was about to happen.Read More»
The folks at the Saveur.com website have just launched “Room Service,” a new section of the site devoted to food-centric reviews of hotels around the world. My first contribution to the new department is a review of Inn by the Sea, where I stayed during my June trip to Maine:
Say Her Name is a book of extremes, of contrasts so sharp they cut you coming and going. In it, Francisco Goldman shares with his readers the greatest passion of his life, which is now forever linked to his greatest loss. He recounts the supremely intense story of how he met, fell in love with, and married his second wife, Aura Estrada, a young, vibrant graduate student at Columbia and City College. But like a magical gothic legend, his tale is interwoven with the darkest of threads—that of Ms. Estrada’s death, the result of severe spinal injuries she sustained while trying to bodysurf off the coast of her native Mexico. (I’m not giving anything away here by telling you this; we know about the tragedy from the very beginning of the book.)Read More»
Have you ever had a feeling about a destination before you’ve even arrived there? I’m talking about the utter certainty that you are going to love a particular city, town, or village even though you’ve never set foot in the place? Ever since I began studying French in the seventh grade, I knew I would adore Paris, and although a few decades passed before I was able to stand on Parisian soil, the experience of strolling through the city’s arrondissements lived up to everything I’d pictured and more. The same was true of my visits to Sweden, Prince Edward Island, Barcelona, and northern California.
My latest moment of confirmed adoration came during a three-day trip to Maine earlier this month. Okay, technically, it wasn’t my first visit, but given that the previous trip took place eleven Februarys ago, I knew my experience would be very different this time around. Back then, I spent the entire time sporting fleece, down, two pairs of socks and gloves, and a wicked case of hat hair, as I stood ankle-deep in snow at the National Tobaggan Championships in Camden (and that’s a story for another blog). Which is not to say it was disagreeable—those of you who know me know that I like the cold—but Maine in winter has little to do with what the state is like in June.Read More»
Has it really been four weeks since my last post? Holy travesty, Batman… If there are any readers of this blog still out there, I beseech you to keep the faith and stand firm. (Yes, you read that correctly. I did, in fact, use the word “beseech.” Seems my recent dalliance with Downton Abbey has had an influence on the way I speak. It’s possible I may even implore you to summon a footman forthwith. Who but my Lord, the Earl of Grantham, can say with certainty?)
To provide you a window onto the fascinating tilt-a-whirl that has been my life these past few weeks (extreme sarcasm alert), here is a photo of the sight I have spent most of the month gazing upon (dangling preposition alert). On the screen within a screen before you is a page from my novel.