Archive for April, 2010

30th April
2010
written by Steph

Do any of you remember the kerfuffle a year ago when Alain de Botton left incendiary comments on a New York Times reviewer’s blog?  I remember reading about the scandal with great interest, mostly because I couldn’t get over how ridiculously over the top it was for an author to write on someone’s personal site: “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude." Amazing. Needless to say, I thought de Botton’s behavior and handling of what he felt was an abysmal review (which by my reading was actually measured and fair, if not effusive and overwhelmingly positive) was completely out of line and extremely childish. His tantrum probably brought more attention to the “offensive” review than it might have otherwise received, and his response was so disproportionate that it just made him look kind of insane. But perhaps in the end there’s no such thing as bad publicity, because the one thing that scrap achieved was that I was suddenly aware of Alain de Botton, something that had not been true previously.  And so, when I was at McKay’s a few months back browsing the stacks, his name jumped out at me, and I admit to being curious and picked up his debut novel, On Love (also known as Essays in Love in the UK and Europe). (more…)
27th April
2010
written by Steph
Today is our friend Trisha's birthday, and we know she gets a kick out of these podcasts, so in honor of Trisha turning another year AWESOME, here's the latest installment of What We Watched.  Warning: This one's full of giggling! Featured in this podcast:
  • Tony gets all cranky when discussing the flapper fashion that features in Enchanted April
  • Did you know that Steph loves musicals and had the weirdest childhood ever? Our discussion of Showboat makes this clear... for the 20th time.
  • Like the protagonist in An Education, we fall for an older man... but his identity might surprise you!
  • The Legend of The Shadowless Sword teaches us the valuable lesson that the line between good and bad martial arts movies may be fine, but it does exist!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

26th April
2010
written by Steph

A year ago, Marie Arana wrote a piece for The Washington Post in which she argued that the Nobel Prize was merely a political instrument that was less interested in honoring quality literature and thus, it was time to get rid of it. She cited many of the authors that the prize has overlooked in favor of authors she personally considered to be far lesser writers.  One such example given was John Steinbeck, whom she described as being “merely average”. No, you read that right.  By Arana’s estimation Steinbeck was “merely average”. Color me stunned.  I think there are a lot of ways in which once could describe Steinbeck, but “merely average” is not necessarily the choice I would make. I’ve by no means read his entire back catalog, but I remember being completely enthralled by East of Eden during a summer in highschool, and if Of Mice and Men isn’t the saddest thing I’ve ever read, then I don’t know what is.  True story: My dad gave the book to my brother and asked him to read it, when my brother was maybe 12 or 13.  My brother wasn’t really a reader, but the length of the book was such that even a non-reader like himself wouldn’t feel all that intimidated.  A few hours later he came out of his room and said he had finished it, but neither my dad nor I believed him since he was so calm and collected.  My dad told him to go back and really finish it… and bang!  20 minutes later, Ty came out bawling, totally distraught.  That’s when we knew he had finished it.  Honestly, Of Mice and Men is one of those books that can be your trusted litmus test to see if someone has working human parts.  If you can read it and not be moved to the sharpest pinnacles of grief, well… you scare me. (more…)
22nd April
2010
written by Steph

Elizabeth Costello is a strange novel.  In fact, some might argue that it is not really a novel at all; there were certainly times when I thought so.  It is probably as far from a conventional narrative as one can get, taking the form instead of a series of essays, linked in many ways only by the recurring eponymous Elizabeth Costello figure.  Through Elizabeth, Coetzee is able to examine various different philosophical quandaries, such as animal rights, consciousness, goal of literature, censorship, culture as a formative factor in identity, and sexuality, just to name a few. Needless to say, it’s an ambitious work, one that requires an inordinately skilled author in order to carry it off successfully. (more…)
19th April
2010
written by Steph

We're halfway through April (ack!), but it's never too late to share a review!  For the BookPage website, I reviewed The Hand That First Held Mine, and you can read my thoughts here. I admit I was drawn to the book because of its gorgeous cover (even the ARC was visually striking), but I wound up with more than just a pretty book in the bargain. I knew from the first few pages that O'Farrell's writing was elegiac but crisp, a combination I found intoxicating.  I soon found I had a mesmerizing psychological drama, familial thriller and love story all rolled into one on my hands.  And I loved it.  It swept me away, and I was moved by both the prose and the plot. I gulped this novel down and was sad for it to end.  It was my first novel by O'Farrell, but I know it won't be my last.  I've already been scouring the shelves for her 2006 novel, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, because I need to read more of what this woman has written! Loved the complexity and subtlety of this one, and would highly recommend it. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 [P.S. Yes, "ARC" means I got the book for free... but my time is not, and it was a good investment!)
16th April
2010
written by Steph
Last night Tony and I celebrated our three-year anniversary!  We're both pretty on the ball when it comes to remembering dates (except when I maybe, accidentally told someone the wrong date when they asked us when we got married... but in my defense, I'd had maybe three too many drinks that night), but the anniversary of our first date is also Tax Day here in the U.S., and really, what says romance better than the IRS, am I right? 😉 But really, after a few weeks of sending emails back and forth on Match.com, and one phone conversation, Tony and I first laid eyes on one another in real life on April 15, 2007, around 5 pm.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Sparks flew, and they only burn brighter three years later. To celebrate this year we decided to try out a new restaurant (well, new to us), and went to one of Nashville's fancier restaurants, F. Scott's (leave it to us to go to a literary-inspired eatery!). Hey, I'll take any excuse to wear a pretty dress! 🙂  After much research on my part, I settled on this place because it had the adventurous kind of menu that I love.  When we eat out, I like to try out stuff that I'd never have the stones (or the skill) to cook in my own kitchen, and F. Scott's definitely didn't disappoint! Click through the gallery below if you'd like detailed descriptions of what we ate: This meal was SO good.  Definitely our new favourite splurge restaurant, I think.  Everything we ate was divine, and even things we had eaten before at other places were finessed in really interesting and updated ways.  One of the things I love best about Tony (of course there's so much to love), is just how adventurous he is as a diner.  He never shirks away when I say things like "let's order chicken livers" (in fact, he kept most of it to himself...) or "oooh, fried marrow"! I figure there are plenty of ways to measure compatibility, but a couple that can happily dine together and guess what the other person wants to order off of the menu are bound for greatness, right? It's little wonder Match.com ranked us as 100% perfect matches! Three years in, I still marvel at how lucky I was to find Tony and how fortunate I am to spend my life with my best friend, a man who cherishes and challenges me every day. A poem by Neruda, and then one more tidbit:
‘Perhaps not to be is to be without your being.’
Perhaps not to be is to be without your being, without your going, that cuts noon light like a blue flower, without your passing later through fog and stones, without the torch you lift in your hand that others may not see as golden, that perhaps no one believed blossomed the glowing origin of the rose, without, in the end, your being, your coming suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life, blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze: and it follows that I am, because you are: it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we: and, because of love, you will, I will, We will, come to be.
In three months' time we celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary, which we promise to do in style!  After much discussion of possible getaways, the tickets have been bought, and from July 3 - July 12, 2010 Tony and I will find ourselves vacationing in.... PUERTO RICO! Soooo excited! Anyone who has ever been, recommendations/suggestions are greatly appreciated!
14th April
2010
written by Steph

In my first year of university, I took a humanities seminar called “The Monstrous Imagination”, which looked at monsters and the grotesque in literature throughout history, and how these reflected the mores of the time.  It was a lot of fun, and exposed me to the concept of the historical monster, reading things like The Malleus Maleficarum and Dante’s Inferno. We also read Angela Carter’s short story “The Lady of the House of Love”, which was Carter’s macabre interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. After reading it, we were meant to take a fairytale of our own and make it monstrous in a similar fashion.  That was my first exposure to Carter, and it definitely made a strong impression.  In my mind, Carter was a dark writer who enjoyed perverting the conventional, and whose writings were deeply sexual. This month, Claire over at Paperback Reader is hosting Angela Carter month, a month in which she encourages us to explore Carter’s writings and discuss her favourite author.  A few years ago, I picked up a copy of Wise Children at McKay’s, and Claire’s gentle encouragement proved to be the push I needed to finally read Carter’s homage to Shakespeare’s stage. (more…)
12th April
2010
written by Steph

Last year I read Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris and absolutely loved it.  Such a good thriller, one that was wonderfully written and had plenty of great twists.  Based on that, I decided I wanted to read more by Harris, and I picked up a copy of Five Quarters of the Orange on my subsequent trip to McKay’s. I think that Five Quarters is probably a more representative work of Harris’s, as it’s not exactly a thriller, and is instead a human drama with just a dash of mystery.  The story is that of Framboise Dartigan, who lived as a young girl in the town of Leslaveuses in German-occupied France during WWII.  Now an old woman who has returned to her hometown under the shroud of a different name, Framboise opens up a café in which she cooks up her mother’s family recipes, all the while coming to terms with her turbulent past.  Through her recollections, we return to her days as a nine-year old, and learn about her difficult relationship with her mother and siblings, as well as the tragic events that occurred that fateful summer, which caused her family to flee Leslaveuses. (more…)
11th April
2010
written by Steph
Good morning, read-a-thoners!  In case your eyes are too tired to do any more reading, why not take a listen to what we've been watching over the past few weeks? Featured in this installment:
  • Red Riding (1974) makes us wonder whether movies that feature actors from Yorkshire, England qualify as "foreign language" films...
  • Another win for Pixar with A Bug's Life (even if it's about actual bugs, and not our little bug, Rory).  Also, Tony geeks out.
  • Tony schools Steph in American history, though she makes a legitimate point about settlers in Washington state while talking about Sleepy Hollow.
  • We revisit Savannah and Kevin Spacey with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  We probably prefer Spacey's performance as a grasshopper to Jim Williams, but we definitely prefer John Cusack when he plays "that guy who is not in whatever movie we're watching".
  • We belatedly continue to watch movies that were nominated but did not win the 2010 Oscar for Best Picture, this time with A Serious Man. I think we know why this one did not win.
  • Did you know Bruce Willis once had hair?  Don't believe us? Watch Die Hard.  Also: Alan Rickman!  Who knew?!?!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

9th April
2010
written by Steph

Peach Crisp

Despite a somewhat odd cold snap the past two days, the weather has rather balmy and warm (and sometimes downright hot!) the past week or so here in Nashville.  With the warmer weather of Spring in the air, I decided to whip up a lovely light dessert for dinner this past weekend when our friend Trisha was coming over to dine with us.  I toyed with the idea of doing a pear frangipane tart, but my fear of pastry is still somewhat high, so instead I decided to focus on a more rustic dessert: the peach crisp!  I used this recipe over at Une-Deux Senses as inspiration, but I found it needed some tweaking, so the following is my version of peach crisp. (more…)

Previous