Archive for the ‘anchor books’ Tag

Improving the Palate   Leave a comment

After watching the HBO series about Julia Child and how she not only elevated American cuisine but also played a significant role in the rise of Public Television, I became interested in Judith Jones.

Jones edited Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As a fictional work, the TV series played with some facts, not just about the Childs, but also Jones. This led me to her memoir The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food.

Jones grew up in a privileged family where food was given little attention. If not for the family cook, meals would have been completely uninspired. Food was meant to be consumed not talked about. This makes it fascinating to learn about how not only her palate but also her passion evolved.

Jones approach is unassuming and engaging. Yes, she drops names, as in culinary celebrities, but not before she shares her experiences as a college coed in New York City and Paris. The City of Lights is where she met the loves of her life: Evan who she would marry and fine cuisine.

After spending several years in Paris, The Joneses return to New York, where she worked first at Doubleday and later at Knopf. It was there she saved The Diary of Anne Frank from oblivion and made her name as an editor.

Jones recounts her interaction with chefs, her own cooking endeavors and her efforts that helped home cooks move from the bland to the sublime. Jones also includes many recipes in the memoir.

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Four Bookmarks

Anchor Books, 2007

290 pages, includes photos and index

Searching for America   Leave a comment

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I nearly quit reading Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie twice. The first time I thought about setting the book down for good was in the first 50 pages; the second time was 30 pages later. I’m glad I persevered, though.

At its heart, Adichie’s vast novel is a love story. It turns out to be so on several different levels: love for country; love between a man and a woman; love of self.

Perhaps part of my initial disinterest was the difficulty of keeping track of who was who; it wasn’t easy. Eventually, the voices and experiences began to sort themselves out becoming distinct and engaging.

Although the story is not told in chronological order, the narrative focuses on Ifemelu, a young woman who leaves Nigeria for America. This triggers a journey to find herself and to address the issue of race for the first time. In the process she leaves behind Obinze, the love of her life. His experience is briefly addressed, but Americanah is about Ifemelu more than anyone else.

The self-confidence and intelligence she exhibited in Nigeria serve her well in the U.S., despite some setbacks. Eventually, she becomes successful as a blogger writing about race. She also finds romance, but Obinze is never far from her mind or her heart.

Ultimately, Ifemelu returns to Nigeria. Ironically, just as she idealized America before her arrival, she idealizes the country she left behind. Disappointment exists, it seems, on both continents. In Adiche’s hand, hope is also present.

Americanah
Four Bookmarks
Anchor Books, 2014
588 pages

A Little Life, A Lotta Book   Leave a comment

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To say A Little Life is a big book is an understatement. At slightly more than 800 pages it’s, in the words of my greatest presidential fear: Huge, very, very huge. Hanya Yanagihara has crafted a novel that traverses several lives, particularly Jude St. Francis’s. The name is not insignificant. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

Jude is one of a quartet of friends, Willem, Malcomb and JB, who meet in college. Although the friendships among the four are always part of the story, most of the narrative revolves around Jude and Willem. Their backstories, their lives before college, define them. In fact, Jude’s past is what drives the novel.

From the onset, it’s clear that Jude has secrets. His inability to reveal them is a compelling, and often frustrating, element. It is also evident that Jude is the physically weakest of the foursome. He walks with a limp, which he reluctantly and vaguely attributes to a car accident. He has no family or past connections. He’s awed by the care and companionship of his friends.

Yet, little by little Jude’s history is divulged. As the four men grow older their friendship is often tested. They each pursue different careers, but Jude and Willem remain particularly close throughout.

The power of Yanagihara’s work lies in the personalities and the situations she creates. The author illustrates the definition of friendship through the actions of the characters and shows that the strongest bonds are made of trust. Then love.

A Little Life
Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
Anchor Books, 2016
816 pages

Enjoying Margaret Atwood — For a Change   1 comment

Usually, I’m not  a Margaret Atwood fan. She makes it so difficult, through depressing stories and odd characterizations, to appreciate her wit, imagery and intellect. Reluctantly, I read The Year of the Flood. It was the choice for my book group, and the All Pikes Peak Reads 2012 selection. As part of the APPR festivities, Atwood spoke about sustainability and survival: two prevalent themes in her works.

Surprisingly, once I started reading I was anxious to continue. Although Atwood dismisses claims The Year of the Flood is a post-apocalyptic tale, nothing better describes it. The story takes place in a time when mutations, genetic engineering and an order of fear prevail. The flood refers to an unknown deluge caused by man’s errors and destructive predispositions. It is not a natural phenomenon; it’s a “waterless flood.”

God’s Gardeners is a small cult with a foundation in Christianity that celebrates the lives of such people as Rachel Carson and Euell Gibbons, among others, for the contributions they made to saving the environment. The Gardeners strive to protect nature and prepare for (and later survive) the flood. Within the cult, Toby and Ren, represent maturity and youth, respectively. Their narratives move the story forward. Atwood said she purposely incorporates multiple voices in her works because “I don’t like everyone to sound the same.” Toby is represented in third person, while Ren offers a first person perspective. The sermons of Adam One, the Gardeners’ leader,  begin each chapter using second person voice.

I’m glad I read this and even more pleased to have heard Atwood speak. It provided insight into her work, but mostly served to demonstrate her keen sense of humor, which fortunately surfaces in this novel. A novel, by the way, which has, as Atwood stated, “A ray of hope.”

The Year of the Flood
Four Bookmarks
Anchor Books, 2009
431 pages