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Dun dun DUN

I came home to another tasty issue of Wired waiting for me in the mailbox. I can't get enough of it. Before I got too deeply entrenched to come up for air, I flipped through and landed on the review of China Mieville's first foray into children's young adult literature, Un Lun Dun. (The review isn't yet online; in fact, when I looked it up, it asked: "did you mean dun dun dun?", which sounded quite ominous.) After finishing a book completely devoid of any children whatsoever (where women baptize kittens and push dolls around in prams), and with two more apocalyptic books on the nightstand (Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Vladimir Sorokin's Ice), I just might need something for children sometime soon. Based on Wired's review, Un Lun Dun might do the trick.

Or should that be Mary Poppins to counter the bleak with a spoonful of sugar? Something with sweet animals in it, perhaps?

The bleak might win out. You'll soon find me, wide-eyed and trembling in a corner, a copy of Beatrix Potter in hand, whispering: "The animals... they're talking! He was baked into a pie!"


Chapi Chapo

Good for what ails you.


How to Cook Everything (or, How to Look Like Barbara Hershey)

After watching Hannah and Her Sisters over the long weekend (when I realized that by not blow-drying my hair and loping around the house in my pajamas, I could easily be mistaken for Barbara Hershey), I decided to make it my goal this year to gain access to Pomander Walk. I suppose I could just buy my way in...

In other long weekend adventures, I decided to crack the spine on a cookbook (yes! there are books other than those that make us ponder our own mortality), Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, to see if it really could help me cook everything. "Everything" seems to me like a tall order, encompassing things I might not even want to eat, such as that jar of pig's trotters they have for sale at the local Thrifty, or poi (bless you, Hawaii), so I decided to limit my spectrum to ingredients I had going spare in the fridge. The spread I was slim, but satisfying:

    Broiled chicken and sauteed leeks (Bittman aided in broiling, which I'd only ever done before with steaks)
    Sauteed beets dressed with balsamic vinegar and fresh chopped parsley
    Chocolate chip cookies (I wanted trying a new recipe, though I can't say this was my favorite, probably down to too much egg. I am currently in possession of the most gigantic chicken eggs you've ever seen.)
The husband just had to outdo me and Mark for dinner, though, and so he whipped up his spectacular roast potatoes, shallots, and parsnips, sauteed leeks, and some vegetarian sausages on top. For which I am still grateful, as I was too busy admiring the newly spacious fridge to even begin to think of cooking anything, much less everything.

(We had bold ambitions for a Julia Child omelette this morning, but stomachaches that cropped up in the middle of the night - likely from the large quantity of egg-laden chocolate chip cookies consumed the night before - had other plans for our ambitions.)


Sunday Zen


The Reader

There's nothing I look more forward to when visiting England than going book shopping. Unlike Jessa, I prefer UK covers to US covers, or did, for the most part, until very recently. It's even funny to me that she uses David Mitchell as an example: I didn't like the US cover to Cloud Atlas - too many sharp edges in the design, a scattered theme of varying texts. Perhaps this reflects the format of the book better than the UK cover, but I wasn't feeling it. It could be the giddy fan in me that has become attached to the swirling psychedelics of the UK cover, which prompted Mr. Mitchell, on receiving it to sign, to say: "Well, you're a long way from home." Which prompted me, in turn, to melt in my little white tights. (More on my Mitchell crush in coming entries, surely, when the man returns to the States and I embarrass myself once again by shouting silly things in his presence, such as "sex, please!")

On my last trip to the UK, however, I changed my mind while on Oxford Street when I picked a Joan Didion book off the shelf, a book that assembled Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, and After Henry into one collection. To my bewilderment, the UK publishers had turned my steadfast Joan Didion into some fluffy, flower-arranging lady writer. They called the collection Live and Learn, for Pete's sake. The cover, awash with pastels, shows Didion, apparently alone on a deck overlooking the ocean, cigarette in one hand, lo-ball glass nearby. It portrays her as a single woman, or at least solitary, carefree and whispy. As if she were on a Shirley Valentine-esque holiday. Little might the reader know that this is a cropped version of this picture. The recipient of her wistful, carefree gaze is her family. Her knowing smile is triggered not by the memory of last night's tumble in the cabin of a boat with a Greek fisherman, or how she might spend her day shopping for exotic woven handbags and charming souvenirs for the mantle, but by the contentedness, the completeness that her husband and daughter bring to her life. It was used appropriately and with complete success on the back of the jacket for The Year of Magical Thinking. In this case, the UK cover got it completely wrong. Didion is not pastels: she is bold, strong; she is red, she is blue.

A few days later on Bold Street in Liverpool, the great book designers of the United Kingdom redeemed themselves in my eyes with the cover of Ali Smith's The Reader. The woodblock-and-text cover is simple and attractive. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the concept of The Reader - in which Ali Smith chooses a selection of her favorite pieces of literature for the reader to enjoy - has inspired me, and I've begun to compile a "reader" of my own, at right. As far as I'm able, I'll create links to texts that are available online; otherwise I'll link to places you can get the books for yourselves. Enjoy, reader.