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.
I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately, but I have a good excuse—several, actually. After suffering for 3 1/2 years with the aftermath of a poorly done knee-replacement surgery, my mother just had arthroscopic surgery on that same knee two weeks ago, and since then I’ve been playing the role of nursemaid/cook/gal Friday, helping to take care of her and Dad as she recovers. (I’m not complaining—it’s been worth every minute of stress to see her do so well—knock on wood, toi toi toi…)
Simultaneously, I’ve been trying to keep up with my regular paid writing work and other obligations as well as revising my novel. Also, several of my friends who live in far-flung locations (Spain, Portland, Los Angeles…) have been passing through NYC for work trips, so I have happily rejiggered my schedule to see them. Given these and other commitments, plus the annoying spring cold I caught, I hope you’ll understand why blogging has been the first thing to go. To paraphrase the great Regis Philbin, “I’m only one person.”Read More»
In early April, Scottish writer A.L. Kennedy penned a terrific piece in the Guardian about the myth of the suffering artist, inserting a sharp pin into a metaphorical hot-air-filled balloon: the belief that one must live a miserable existence in order to create great art.
That idea has infuriated me ever since the day that a guy I was dating said to me (with a straight face) that he didn’t want to address his emotional and psychological problems because if he were to somehow resolve them (unlikely, if you ask me), he would no longer be a good writer. (What this says about me for having dated him is something I’d rather not think about. In my defense, we didn’t date for long.) At the time, I was too stunned to come up with a coherent response, but what I wish I’d said was that the only thing he was accomplishing by reveling in his suffering was ensuring that he’d remain completely insufferable to everyone around him.Read More»
Just last week, I heard from a fellow member of the culinary tribe, Pete Dulin, requesting an email interview. Pete is a food writer and photographer based in Kansas City, and he sent me a host of questions that get at the very heart of what it means to write about food today, in an age of instant Yelp reviews, Twitter parodies of restaurant critics, niche food blogs, and Facebook posts about what people ate for dinner.Read More»
If you have any interest in twentieth-century history, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Erik Larson’s latest book, In the Garden of Beasts. As the subtitle states, it’s a story of “love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin,” with the family in question being that of William Dodd, a University of Chicago history professor who served as the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 until the end of 1937. From Dodd’s perch at the US embassy in Berlin, he, his wife, and their two adult children had a unique vantage point on the rise of the Third Reich.
Though this period in history is inherently compelling, Larson’s book is particularly fascinating because of the two individuals at its core—Ambassador Dodd and his daughter, Martha.Read More»
Last June, when I attended the annual BEA publishing conference at the Javits center, I picked up an advance copy of Naomi Benaron’s extraordinary new novel, Running the Rift. Even though the book was not yet available for purchase, I couldn’t wait; as soon as I put it down, I posted my glowing review on this blog.
Now that it’s actually on store shelves, I’d like to encourage you once again to run out and buy it. After you read this novel, you will not soon forget it. There have been times when I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch the day before, but this story and its characters are still as fresh and present in my mind as they were when I first finished it six months ago.
Here is what I had to say about the book. And for those who might quibble with a blog rerun, allow me to quote one of my former employers. In the words of NBC when it was promoting repeats of its shows: “If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s new to you.”
A good novel should transport you to a different place, even when the book is set in your hometown. Whether it’s a distant time, foreign location, or unfamiliar emotional landscape, it should open a window onto a new world, yet one that remains recognizable in its humanity. In her latest book, The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman has done that in spades.
Set in Israel during the 1st century C.E., The Dovekeepers is Hoffman’s fictionalized account of the famous Siege of Masada, during which the Roman Legion surrounded a group of 900 Jewish refugees—warriors as well as women, children, and the elderly—who had fled Jerusalem earlier in the Roman-Jewish war and took shelter in King Herod’s ancient and isolated fortress, perched high on a plateau in southern Israel. When the end was near and the Jews knew they were defeated, they decided to commit mass suicide rather than give their merciless Roman attackers the chance to carry out crucifixions, beheadings, and other forms of brutality, as they’d already done to similar Jewish holdouts. Only five children and two women survived the siege.Read More»
Joel Salatin is a cheeky man. At least that’s the impression I get from reading his latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. Filled with chapter titles like “A Cat is a Cow is a Chicken is My Aunt” and “The Poop, the Whole Poop, and Nothing but the Poop,” this farmer and advocate for local food is not afraid to bring his incisive wit, along with some righteous indignation, to the discussion of our country’s royally-screwed-up food system—and his approach is extremely welcome.
By now, anyone who’s been paying attention to the issues surrounding factory feedlots, the obesity epidemic, and the disappearance of the small American farmer knows how serious things have gotten. The time for making polite, academic arguments is surely over, and the time for shaking things has arrived.Read More»
Human beings are funny creatures. Case in point: Have you ever had the kind of morning that was 85% puppies and rainbows, and 15% Dear-Lord-I-feel-like-screaming-until-my-face-turns-blue? And have you ever proceeded to focus on that 15%, at the expense of the rest? Or what about getting praise from coworkers or clients on a project, and yet the thing that nags at you is the one critical piece of feedback you received? Normally, I’d be more than inclined to chalk up these sentiments to my own neuroses, but I’ve discussed this with enough people to know that I am not alone. It doesn’t happen every day—I have been able to step back long enough from my own pity parties to realize that all is not lost—but that doesn’t mean I don’t often begin by losing sight of the big picture.
In the same way that we focus on life’s little potholes, I find that it’s often the most difficult people in our worlds who capture our attention. That colleague who bugs the crap out of you, the one you can’t quite figure out. The ex-boyfriend who you’re still arguing with in your head. Or the person in the supermarket who picked a fight with you for no good reason. And on and on. Well, such is the case with the lead character in Anne Enright’s latest novel, The Forgotten Waltz.Read More»
A good book is like a friend. It may have nothing in common with others you like, but there is something about it that you respond to. Such is the case with the subject of today’s blog post, Esmond Romilly’s Boadilla.
Written by Winston Churchill’s nephew (though there were rumors that he was actually Churchill’s illegitimate son), Boadilla is the historical account of Romilly’s experience as a member of the International Brigades, the famed group of volunteers that fought on the side of the liberal coalition during the Spanish Civil War. These men and women traveled to Spain from far and wide with the aim of defeating fascism. Many were young, most were idealistic, and a large percentage of them never made it back to their home countries.Read More»