Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I got my first troll this weekend. Someone thinking that I should "grow up" and "shut up". Well, dear reader, what do you think?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

2.20 Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl

I know that I said I was tired of food writing, but I lied. My haul at the library a few weeks ago was half literature, half foodie non-fiction. I've been trying to alternate the two, and I have only one more food book after this one left for you, my dear reader, to suffer through. Yes, I have a one track mind lately and this experiment was supposed to help me push my reading material interests. Um, I've been reading a lot more non-fiction than ever before, it is mostly about culinary arts though. Moving on...

Reichl is the editor of Gourmet magazine, before that she was the editor of the Los Angeles Times Food section and the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times. She jumped into the food world at exactly the right time. As I was reading this, my head spun with the food celebrities that she met, was friendly with, cooked with. Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, Judi Rogers, if I had the book with me, I could tell you more but your interest might flag. She knew a lot of people. At some parts, it felt almost too good to be true, but this was also the time before chefs were celebrities and the food world was really insular.

I was really surprised by how she was about her life. She talked about her failing marriage, her extra-marital affairs, her lack of experience, and feelings of being overwhelmed, her lack of funds, her jealousy of others, her heart-ripping failed adoption. All good, well-written stuff. And of course, it all ended mostly happily, although she didn't know it at the time. I felt like the ending was a bit weak, but the memoir only covers her start in food writing up to her rising stardom. She just released another volume entitled Garlic and Sapphires, about her time as a restaurant critic. I really want to get my hands on a copy.

My little sis graduates tomorrow (yay J!) and I'm making the food her party (yay me!). I'll be back next week. Have a good weekend.

Monday, May 22, 2006

2.19 Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian

I really enjoyed this novel. The narration follows a family of divorce. The matriarch falls for her film studies professor, Dana, only to find that he will soon begin the process gender reassignment. It throws into question how she feels about her sexuality, what people in their small community think about gender and how her ex-husband and daughter react to the situation as well. It reminded a good deal of Middlesex, obviously, but in reverse.

Unlike Middlesex though, the author included a good deal about how Dana feels about the whole and why s/he decided to surgically change his/her outward appearance. I appreciated the insight into why someone would make that choice and the obvious research that Bohjalian did about the transgender community.

I have come to the conclusion that Bohjalian is a fine author. His other novel that I've read, Midwives, is also brilliant. To be a bit gendered myself, I'm surprised that a man would have such a good vision into the lives of women and write so well about it. Someone argue with me. Are there any other male authors that you know of that write well about women and/or relationships? Please don't say Hemingway.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

2.18 In the Devil's Garden: Sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen

I was talking about Pollan's Botany of Desire, which I highly recommend, with my friend and neighbor, C, and she handed me this. It was interesting. Divided up into 7 sections each one, naturally, corresponding with the 7 Deadly Sins, all of which I still cannot remember, it follows how certain foods are made into "good" or "bad" in societies, usually through the influence of religions. He talks mostly about Christianity but there's also some Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the native religions of South and North America, as well as Africa.

I thought that the premise was interesting, but the way it was carried out was kinda of hokey. His humor didn't match up with mine so I didn't think that he was particularly funny and I thought that some of his themes got a bit stretched. Allen's not making any friends with me either by using the words "slut" and "bitch" or by using the word "rape" to refer to anything other than an assault. Ugh. Totally inappropriate and yeah, I'm probably being too sensitive, but I don't want to inwardly cringe while I'm reading a book about food because of word choice.

I've been a reading fool lately, so I've got two more reviews up my sleeve. Check back soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This is the day without blogs.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

2.17 My Antonia by Willa Cather

Oh, this novel is so beautiful. The prose is fantastic, it almost had me wishing that I, too, were in the middle of the country during the fin de sicle. Notice I said almost. It seemed realistic enough that I felt like I was there, in the bitterly cold winter and on Antonia's farm with her children. Oh my goodness, I loved reading this. When I was a child my favorite books were The Little House Series and Anne of Green Gables. How could I not love this book? And how come no one ever told me how very similar Cather and Wharton are? They are also both so utterly fantastic. Now I want to read everything the two of them wrote.

Being the die-hard feminist that I am, once I turned it on I can't turn it off (nor would I want to), I wondered why people continued to claim Antonia as "theirs." It made me uncomfortable. Why does she have to belong to somebody? If anything, I would guess that she "belongs" to her huge brood of children, and by huge, I mean obscenely enormous. Yikes, that woman was fertile.

I thought that the framed narrative in the beginning was a bit hokey, but then I read the original introduction written by Cather. So did she really write it? Or did her friend "Jim"? Why pretend that this other person wrote it? Was Antonia a really person in Cather's life? I'm sure that Google or Blingo could answer all these questions for me. But maybe some of you have the answers?

Monday, May 08, 2006

2.16 Travels with Alice by Calvin Trillin

I'm sure that y'all will be pleased to know that I spent a good deal of time yesterday at the library and came home with a ridiculous amount of books. Some are about our travel plans for the summer, but most are about my favorite topic or fiction.

I've heard that Trillin is a great food writer, funny, wry, not too stuffy, so I picked this up. It made me super jealous that he and his family had the ability and inclination to travel all over and spend many weeks in one place. After I win the lottery and I buy myself a fantastic house, I will travel the world. For now though, I need to rely on the extreme kindness of others or read about other people doing what I long to.

Travels is part of Trillin's Tummy Trilogy along with American Fried and Alice, Let's Eat. This novel was more about traveling with the family and the sense of place of the locations they were visiting than food. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. Trillin has a biting sense of humor. Enough to make me smile, but not quite boisterous enough so that I look like a crazy person laughing to myself on the street when I'm walking home. His chapter about taureaux piscine is fantastic, I really liked how his search for the taureaux is as intense for his search for good food on St. Thomas.

Reading this had a hint of bittersweetness for me because I know that Alice, Trillin's wife, died of heart failure in 2001. It definitely colors a reader's expectations when she thinks that she knows the end of the story.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

2.15 The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet

I know that this is a modern classic, the beginning of a whole genre, and made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart but... eh. I didn't find it particularly interesting, I just read it to finish it. The "twist" was lost on me (DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHO DID IT) and the fact that *gasp* it was the woman, wasn't really that shocking. So what? What did upset me was how the "hero" smacked the women around and no one had a problem with it, nay his "secretary" even liked it. That, my friends, is the truly f'ed up part of the whole novel, not that a woman killed someone. No more hard-boiled detective fiction for me, thanks.