Reading for the Dog Days of Summer

good housekeeping

It’s hot. Hot hot hot everywhere. Too hot to do anything but sit by a pool with your favorite canine companion and read a book. Might as well read about a dog! or two!

Some of my favorite novels star dogs. And speaking of star dogs:

dog starsThe Dog Stars, by Peter Heller haunts me to this day. It’s not actually about a dog, but about a post-apocalyptic world where most everyone has died of an influenza.  It’s gorgeously written, stirring, and truly deeply madly sad.

daeandwrite featured The Dog Stars in September, 2014. Here’s the link for a menu and music and more information: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/the-dog-stars-by-peter-heller/

The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski, is another absolutely heartbreakingly edgar sawtelle coverbeautiful book of prose. Edgar Sawtelle is a child born mute; Almondine is his constant companion, interpreter, guide. She’s the best friend everyone wants. I love this book, though it is again, very very sad.

In the dog days of August, 2015, daeandwrite featured The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle, with menu, music and a movie cast: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/a-dogs-tail-the-story-of-edgar-sawtelle-by-david-wroblewski/

art of racing.jpgThe Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Oh wow. The dog is the narrator. And what a narrative voice. Brilliant, this book is. Enzo, the dog, is coach, grief counselor, and above all, extra human.

Since March of 2014, when daeandwrite first posted a review of The Art of Racing in the Rain, noting that Patrick Dempsey had signed on to play the human race car driver in Enzo’s life, Disney has bought the rights to make the movie and Dempsey is no longer involved according to the Hollywood Reporter: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/disney-picks-up-canine-best-858374. Here’s my original post, with menu and music choices for your book club: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/vacation-my-dogs-life/

book_cover_website_photo_0

A Dog’s Purpose, by Bruce Cameron, is another weeper. They all are! Yikes and yet I love
them all! Again narrated from the dog’s point of view, A Dog’s Purpose features one special dog whose soul mate is his human. One of my book club’s favorite reads ever.

An update to my original post regarding the movie — it’s expected out in 2017 with Bradley Cooper voicing the dog and Lasse Hallstrom directing. Here’s the original post: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/a-dogs-purpose-is-apparently-to-make-me-cry/

A few other ideas, books I haven’t reviewed but fit our theme:

Marley & Me, John Grogan (If there is anyone on planet Earth who hasn’t read it yet)

Cujo, Stephen King

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Happy Reading & Stay Cool!  IMG_0115

 

 

 

Emma, A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

Emma

As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet — and particularly Mr. Darcy — it may very well be, if I am quite honest, that I, myself, have more in common with Emma Woodhouse. Miss Austen’s Emma is — a “spoilt, self-deluded” (The Guardian), “altruistic, but self-absorbed” (Time), controlling, opinionated, and kind (Me) young woman living in a small rural community with her chronically-neurotic, hypochondriac father. I like Emma. And despite her penchant for getting in her own way, or perhaps because of it, I find Emma quite charming.

I feel I must not be alone. “Emma” has ranked in the top five of girl’s names bestowed at Emma Gellerbirth in the United States since 2002. However, that is much more likely to the birth of Emma Geller Green on April 4, 2002, to Ross and Rachel of Friends. But where did they get the name? I ask you. (Friends-o-philes know that Monica chose the name first and Rachel stole it. But Monica must’ve gotten it from Miss Austen!)

As part of HarperCollins’ Austen Project, where modern writers have been tasked with rewriting Jane Austen’s novels, The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith has rewritten Emma. This Emma, A Modern Retelling is the fourth of the Austen Project novels released, but only the second I’ve read. Eligible!, by Curtis Sittenfeld, is most recent and I loved it. In fact, my book club is reading Eligible! on my recommendation this month. Here’s the link to my review of Eligible! https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/eligible-by-curtis-sittenfeld/

Emma, The Modern Retelling, treads quite softly on Austen’s hallowed ground. Really, all minicooperthat Smith has changed significantly is the century. Emma herself, living alone with her father, is as recognizable as a beloved teddy bear. George Knightley is his same lovable self, though a bit reticent; Harriet Smith, Philip Elton, Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill. All is so much the same, one is quite shocked when a MiniCooper appears. Even Emma’s slight of Miss Bates finds a modernish interpretation:

Then there was Miss Bates. Emma felt a sudden tug of conscience and told herself that she must make more of an effort with Miss Bates; she must give her a bit more of her time. It would be easy enough; all she had to do was to call on her now and then – Miss Bates was always in – and give her a present of those violet creams that she liked so much but obviously could no longer afford. Miss Bates, she assumed, divided her life between the violet-cream days – before she was an unsuccessful Lloyd’s Name – and the days in which violet creams were just a distant memory. Lloyd’s Names had suffered in many different ways – being deprived of violet creams was just one way in which financial disaster brought hardship. Poor Miss Bates – and there she was sitting next to James, who was being so kind to her, as he was to everybody, whatever his or her failings.

I enjoyed McCall Smith’s Emma . . . but not as much as I enjoy reading and rereading Miss Austen’s original. Indeed, at the conclusion of the “Modern Retelling,” I wondered what the point of it was? There were no updates to plot, character, setting and even the minor changes to things like occupation and schooling (and a sperm donor in lieu of illegitimacy) did not have any significant impact. In her review for the New York Times, Leah Price said:

Emma bookMcCall Smith’s “Emma,” in contrast, reads like a too literal translation. His reluctance to alter now anachronistic details ­forces him to spend pages explaining why, in an age of universal schooling, Emma would have a governess, and why, at a time when overscheduling afflicts even the erstwhile leisure class, she wouldn’t have a job.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/books/review/emma-a-modern-retelling-by-alexander-mccall-smith.html

Emma, A Modern Retelling, is an easy read, enjoyable. But unlike Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible! which gives Pride & Prejudice a true modernity, McCall Smith’s Emma doesn’t have much point.

For information on the other Austen rewrites: http://www.boroughpress.co.uk/?s=Austen+

MENUMM-sign-Rural-capital-etc

McCall Smith provides several menus from which to choose for your book club.

“Parma ham laid out on a plate with asparagus spears and quails’ eggs” served at Emma’s first memorable dinner party.

Melton Mowbray pies — which is, according Wikipedia, made from “uncured meat, grey in colour when cooked; the meat is chopped, rather than minced. The pie is made with a hand-formed crust, giving the pie a slightly irregular shape after baking. As the pies are baked free-standing, the sides bow outwards, rather than being vertical as with mould-baked pies.” Personally, I would skip those.

The Oak Tree Inn’s blackboard lunch menu of “potted shrimps, steak and kidney pie, sticky toffee pudding.”

And of course, the violet creams, Emma’s gift to Miss Bates. Available for order from Fortnum & Mason or on Amazon. Or if you are a courageous candy-maker, here’s a recipe link: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/violet-creams.

MUSIC

Emma is playing Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies on the piano when George Knightley arrives for a visit with Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. Woodhouse describes the music — in one of my favorite lines in the book — as “the sort of thing a spider would play if spiders played the piano.”

She also plays Beethoven’s Fur Elise.

And Jane Fairfax is, of course, even more of a talented pianist. She is compared to Bach.

MOVIE CASTING

Emma — Felicity Jones might make a fine Emma. Or Emma Watson.

Harriet Smith — Imogene Poots

Jane Fairfax — Scarlett Byrne

George Knightley — Henry Cavill

Philip Elton — Alex Pettyfer

Frank Churchill — Sam Claflin

So there you have it. Read Emma one way or another.

Happy Reading!

If you enjoy daeandwrite, please follow so you never have to miss an update and recommend to your friends.

Brain Storm, by Elaine Viets

brainstorm

Author Elaine Viets loves mysteries. She’s the author of a series of humorous “Dead End” job mysteries, a slew of cozy mysteries, and even some mystery shopper mysteries (I really want to read one of those!). But when it came to her latest novel, Brain Storm, the mystery began not just in her own mind, but in her own head.

And there’s a Kentucky connection! Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt is the doctor who saves Angela’s life. Born in Kentucky and named for his mother’s favorite country singer.

Elaine Viets was kind enough to visit with daeandwrite and share some of her experiences. I think Elaine’s suggestions will make a great blueprint for your book club and Brain Storm an intriguing choice. Lots of great discussion points: what happens when you can’t be you anymore; how does a small community protect its own; who do you rely on when you can’t trust anyone?

Give a read to the q & a below, then go check out Elaine Viets’ Brain Storm:

DaeandWrite:  I understand you have some things in common with your protagonist Angela Richman, the death investigator who suffers a stroke near the beginning of the novel. Tell us about your experience and how it influenced Brain Storm.

Elaine Viets: In April, 2007, I had a series of blinding headaches, which I thought were migraines. After four days, I had trouble talking and doing everyday tasks, such as tying a bow in my robe belt. I couldn’t figure out how to use a fork to scramble a breakfast egg. If you know my cooking skills, this sounds like a fair description, but I seriously could not figure out that fork. I was determined to ignore these symptoms and drive 40 miles to give a speech, but my husband took away my car keys and called my internist, who sent me to the ER at a hospital that billed itself as one of the “fifty best” in the US. The neurologist on call said I was “too young and fit to have a stroke” and sent me home. I was supposed to report that Wednesday for a PET scan, but Wednesday never happened. Instead, I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and brain surgery. I was in a coma for a week and spent more than three months in the hospital. I used a walker for six months and a cane for two years. I’ve made a nearly complete recovery, but that took more than four years.

DaeandWrite: Viets describes Angela Richman’s mirror experience near the beginning of Brain Storm:

Brainstorm jacket“Better,” she said, though another headache was gathering at the edges of her mind, like a storm on the horizon.

“Would you like coffee?” she asked.

“Brought my own,” he said, holding up his thermos. Angela scrambled an egg, then swallowed another Imitrex.

She fought the headache all day as she struggled with her report on Ben Weymuller’s death investigation. Angela turned it in about four o’clock. At four thirty, Rick poked his head in her study door.

“I’m leaving now,” he said. “this is even more screwed up than I thought. It’s gonna take at least a month.”

“I’ll give you the spare key, in case I’m at work tomorrow,” she said. Like everyone in the Forest, she trusted Rick.

Angela could barely see him through the blinding migraine dazzle, as if he were spotlighted on a brightly lit stage. She was determined to push through this. She was too young and fit to have a stroke. The Forest’s top neurologist had said so.

“Are you feeling better?”

“I’m fine,” she said, forcing a smile. “I’ll lie down until it’s time to go out with Katie.”

Angela crawled into bed for a nap that soft spring night, Thursday, March 10. And woke up nineteen days later.

In Brain Storm, Angela confronts a world that’s radically changed. She’s physically infirm, her appearance has been radically transformed from surgery and medication, her job is at risk, and something funky is going on with the doctor that mistakenly released her. Throughout, Angela complains vocally about the hospital food, a complaint I anticipate began with Elaine.

DaeandWrite: I would guess that during your own hospital stay you became more than frustrated by the hospital food?

Elaine Viets: The food was horrible – and so unhealthy. Red meat with gravy, white bread, fried food, no fresh fruits or vegetables. I still shudder at the thought of canned green beans. Don’t hospital dieticians read the nutrition guidelines?

DaeandWrite: Did you have music you listened to during the writing or editing process? Any particular genre or songs? Do you have songs you associate with any particular character?

elaine headshotElaine Viets: Angela Richman, my death investigator, likes to hit the highway in her black Dodge Charger, and play her favorite songs from her teen years in the 1990s – nice and loud. She likes Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Londonbeat’s “I’ve Been Thinking about You.” She’d be mortified if you knew she also listens to Marky Mark’s “Good Vibration.”

I don’t listen to music while I write or edit, but at the end of the day, I like to kick back to classic rock: the Stones, the Doors, Eric Clapton.

DaeandWrite: Angela and her friend Katie have a favorite Mexican restaurant. Is this based on one of your favorite restaurants? Or do you cook yourself?

Elaine Viets: I’m a terrible cook, but I love Mexican food. There are some good ones in Fort Lauderdale, including Casa Frida’s in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re in the area, I recommend it. It’s a cut above the usual taco joints.

DaeandWrite: Brain Storm was released in 2016. What’s next?

Elaine Viets: The second Angela book, Fire and Ashes, which I’m writing now. It will be

published by Thomas and Mercer in August 2017.

DaeandWrite: Any book signings/events coming up?

Elaine Viets: Yes, I’ll be at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention at the Marriott New Orleans, September 16­18. I have three events at Bcon on Saturday, September 17. From 3:00­3:50 PM, I’m on a panel, “Shake It Off: From Notes and First Draft to Finished Novel.” This is a funny, thought­provoking discussion with mystery writers Harry Hunsicker, LS Hawker, Laura McHugh, Jeffrey Siger and me. Daniel Hale is our moderator. At 4 o’clock, right after the panel, I’ll sign my books, including Brain Storm.

At 2 p.m. that same Saturday, I’ll be signing Blood on the Bayou at Bouchercon. More than 22 writers, from Alison Gaylin to David Morrell, Sheila Connelly to Gary Phillips, have donated stories to this NOLA­themed anthology. New York Times bestseller Heather Graham wrote the introduction. I did a Dead­End Job story. Helen and Margery leave the Coronado for a case in New Orleans in “Good and Dead.” All proceeds from Blood on the Bayou will benefit the New Orleans Public Library. Buy a copy, read your favorite authors, and help the library.

On October 8, I’ll teach a class – “Jump Starting Your Writing” – at Sleuthfest on Saturday, a one­day intensive writing conference sponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. This year, SOS is in Venice, Florida. For information, go to https://www.regonline.com/SleuthFest­on­Saturday­2016

On Nov. 12, I’ll be in Vero Beach, Florida, teaching a writing workshop for the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation, “Writing Killer Mysteries – The Basics” from 10 AM to 1 PM at the Loft. More information is at

http://www.lauraridingjackson.com/

After the workshop, I’ll sign Brain Storm and my Dead­End Job mysteries at 3 p.m. at the Vero Beach Book Center, 392 21st Street that same day.

(www.verobeachbookcenter.com)

I’m really looking forward to next spring, when I’m the Malice Domestic 29 Guest of Honor from Thursday, April 28 through Sunday, April 30, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s quite a lineup: Marcia Talley is Toastmaster, Charlaine Harris is honored for Lifetime Achievement, the award­winning Martin

Edwards receives the Poirot Award for his contribution to the genre, and Luci Zahray is Fan Guest of Honor. Luci’s no ordinary fan. She’s also the “poison lady” who’s helped writers kill thousands. (www.malicedomestic.org)

DaeandWrite: Where can readers purchase Brain Storm?

Elaine Viets: Brain Storm is a trade paperback, e­book, and audio book. You can buy it here: (amzn.to/2awPsIe). Right now the paperback version is on sale for $9.99. Autographed copies are available at The Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, New York City (info@mysteriousbookshop.com) or at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, Delray Beach, Florida, (murdermb@gate.net).

Thanks so much for letting me stop by your blog.

MENU2010_03_roasted_cauliflower-2

So, for this Book Club I’m going to refer to the grilled chicken sandwiches, artichoke salad and chocolate cupcakes Katie brings to Angela in the hospital. But I have to also add:
cauliflower! The original brain food.

My culinary hero Ina Garten has a delicious roasted artichoke salad recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-artichoke-salad-recipe.html.

For the cauliflower, though I definitely will leave one head whole and sliced, I also love to mash it for low-carb mashed potatoes. Put cauliflower in pot with enough water to cover. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook the cauliflower for 12-15 minutes or until very tender. 3. Drain and discard all of the water (the drier the cauliflower is, the better) and add the milk, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper and mash with a masher until it looks like mashed potatoes.

There’s also a complete Mexican menu for dinner in Brain Storm: guacamole with thick chunks of ripe avocado, crunchy tortilla chips and hot salsa. Platters of steak fajitas, chicken burritos, and steaming bowls of black beans and rice.

MUSIC

I like Elaine Viets’ list above. If you want to go a different route, here are ten songs Steve Jobs used to train his brain according to Inc. Magazine: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/10-songs-steve-jobs-used-to-train-his-brain.html

MOVIE CASTING

Well, this is definitely one of those physically transformative roles that every actress wants to win her Oscar.

Angela Richman:    Anne Hathaway

Katie:                          Kathryn Hahn

Dr. Gravois:              Tony Goldwyn

Dr. Tritt:                    I think he may be a little long in the tooth for the character as written, but I couldn’t help but see Billy Ray Cyrus in the role.

MEDICAL PSA

Let me take a moment and share some information inspired by Brain Storm that might save a life. According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, these are the ways to recognize stroke:

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:

F Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Thank you so much to Elaine Viets for sharing with daeandwrite.wordpress.com. If you enjoyed this blog post, please follow daeandwrite and share with your friends.

Happy Reading!

 

Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain

The Sky Pilot

Beryl Markham’s extraordinary life in Africa at the outset of the twentieth century is the focus of Paula McLain’s novel Circling the Sun. When your subject is as fascinating as Markham —  a life full of adventure, achievement, challenge, tragedy, and romance — it would be difficult to write a novel that failed. And McLain has not. Circling the Sun is a great read.

Told in Markham’s voice, Circling the Sun begins with a prologue dated September 4, 1936, on the eve of her record-setting solo flight from England to North America. She was the first woman to fly the Atlantic east to west in a solo non-stop flight and and the first person to fly east to west from England to North America non-stop.

The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I’ve known, and somehow mine to fly. She’s call The Messenger, and has been designed and built with great care and skill to do what should be impossible — cross an ocean in one brave launch, thirty-six hundred miles of black chop and nothingness — and to take me with her.

It’s quite a trick for McLain to choose and so successfully chronicle Markham’s life, in first-person no less. I say this because Markham herself was the author of a classic memoir West With The Night which essentially treads the same ground. I read West With the Night several years ago and remember it for her descriptions of the world below from the vantage point of her cockpit.

Beryl-markham-west-with-the-night-coverLike night, the desert is boundless, comfortless and infinite. Like night, it intrigues the mind and leads it to futility. When you have flown halfway across a desert, you experience the desperation of a sleepless man waiting for dawn which only comes when the importance of it’s coming is lost. You fly forever, weary with an invariable scene, and when you are at last released from its monotony, you remember nothing of it because there was nothing there.

From West With the Night

According to my memory, McLain might dwell a bit more on the romantic entanglements, multiple marriages and love triangle involving Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen who we know better as Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. In McClain’s novel, Hatton was Markham’s one true love. In Out of Africa, Hatton was Blixen’s one true love. In real life, Robert Redford is . . . oh, never mind. Redford

Paula McLain wrote the wildly-successful book club choice The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley. On McLain’s website, she details how she came to choose to write Circling The Sun and what is different about her novel from Markham’s own book.

The flying stuff is wildly fun to read about in West With the Night, but in the end, I found myself most interested in how she became herself, that daring woman ready to tackle danger and adventure. And then there was the utter mystery of her inner life. In West With the Night, Beryl takes great pains to avoid anything too personal. She never mentions the mother who abandoned her, for instance, or so much as intimates that her father betrayed and disappointed her. She was married three times but doesn’t name a single husband, or speak of her son, Gervase, who she didn’t raise. Karen Blixen never appears, and Finch Hatton is only gently held up as a figure Beryl admires after his death. It was the draw of her enigma, then, of wanting to illuminate the parts of her life she herself avoids that had me fascinated and most activated my imagination. http://paulamclain.com/books/circling-the-sun/a-conversation-with-paula-mclain/

Circling the Sun is full of the scandal of Beryl Markham’s life, the thrill of being an English settler in a wild and exotic country, the challenges of being an adventurous woman at a time when women were not supposed to be. I enjoyed it and found lots of potential book club discussion points. I think you would enjoy it too.

MENUbookcover_circlingsun-200x300

Dinner at Karen Blixen’s house included lightly breaded chicken in cream sauce, roasted vegetables with herbs, corn pudding studded with mushrooms and thyme, ripe cheese, and oranges.

A honeymoon dinner in Paris included escargot, choucroute garnie with springs of fresh rosemary. In Rome, spaghetti with mussels and black squid ink.

Karen’s dinner for visiting British royalty featured ham poached in champagne with tiny jewel-like strawberries and tart, plump pomegranate seeds, a mushroom croustade with truffles and cream. A dessert of browned rum baba.

And every encounter and meal included champagne.

MUSIC

There are dances at the Muthaiga Club for the white settlers and Kikuyu ngoma with drum music falling “in great and rippling crescendos, while male and female dancers flung themselves rhythmically.”

The soundtrack from Out of Africa includes everything from Mozart and Wagner to the Missouri waltz. It would be a good start.

However, the Kenyan music I searched for is really fun and bright and upbeat and would provide a soundtrack so great you might find your book club dancing instead of talking. The following site has links for good Kenyan music:

http://worldmusic.about.com/od/venues/tp/KenyaMusicPlaylist.htm?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareurlbuttons via @aboutdotcom

MOVIE

MarkhamBeryl Markham — Tilda Swinton  tilda swinton

 

 

 

denys-finch-hatton-01Denys Finch Hatton — Tom Hiddleston  tom-hiddleston

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

P.S. It made my day to receive a kind note from author Paula McLain about the post on Facebook. I thought I’d share it with you: “How fun is this, Pamela?! Wow. Thanks for featuring the book!!”

If you enjoy reading daeandwrite.wordpress.com, please become a follower and share it with your friends!

 

The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson

gap of time

The Hogarth Press, founded in 1917 by no less than Virginia and Leonard Woolf, announced an audacious plan in 2015: to rewrite the works of Shakespeare as novels “retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today.” The Gap of Time, a rewrite of The Winter’s Tale, is the first of these retellings, published in the fall of 2015.

As regular readers of daeandwrite.wordpress.com know, there is also an on-going project to rewrite the works of Jane Austen. Here’s a link to my review of Curtis Sittenfeld’s rewrite of Pride And Prejudice Eligible:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/eligible-by-curtis-sittenfeld/.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the two cover versions that I’ve read. Hogarth has published three Shakespeare-inspired novels so far and revealed eight authors and the plays they chose to interpret. http://crownpublishing.com/hogarth-shakespeare/ I’m quite looking forward to Gillian Flynn’s Hamlet, and I’m listening to Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, a rewrite of Taming of the Shrew, right now, so keep an eye out for that blog post in the near future.

bearThe Winter’s Tale, written near the end of Shakespeare’s life, is most well-known for a stage direction. In Act 3, Scene 3, which takes place in “Bohemia. A desert country near the sea,” character Antigonus is directed to exit, “pursued by bear.” It is irrelevant that no bears have been mentioned prior to this direction. Perhaps it is one of Shakespeare’s jokes on the future. How to get a bear on stage? How to teach it to pursue Antigonus? Why does it matter?

In any event, Winterson introduces no bears in The Gap of Time. Within the text of the novel, she explains her choice to rewrite The Winter’s Tale, not the best-known, best-loved, or most-understood of the Bard’s works.

I wrote this cover version because the play has been a private text for me for more than thirty years. By that I mean part of the written word(l)d I can’t live without; without, not in the sense of lack, but in the old sense of living outside of something.

It’s a play about a foundling. And I am. It’s a play about forgiveness and a world of possible futures — and about how forgiveness and the future are tied together in both directions. Time is reversible.

The Gap of Time’s plot is so complex I’m not sure it’s worth it to even summarize. Suffice it to say, there’s a man and a woman who have a child and the child is lost and adopted by another family and then grown, the child returns. But it’s not a book about a plot. Winterson’s novel is about ideas and time and regret.Rockwell clock

Sometimes it doesn’t matter that there was any time before this time. Sometimes it doesn’t matter that it’s night or day or now or then. Somewhere where you are is enough. It’s not that time stops or that it hasn’t started. This is time. You are here. This caught moment opening into a lifetime.

The Gap of Time tells a classic story in an innovative way, slicing narratives, transforming locations, infusing characters. Violent, bold, imaginative, wistful — yes. Though The Winter’s Tale is sometimes called a romance and sometimes a comedy, The Gap of Time‘s humor seemed to me minimal and the “happy ending” suspect. This is not to say I didn’t like it or enjoy it, I did. It is a meaty book — some of the scenes have stayed with me for several weeks. I can recommend it for you or your book club with only a cautionary reservation that the language could prove off-putting for some readers.

MENU

Perdita’s family lives by the sea and her brother Clo has made her shrimp chowder when Perdita returns home one night.

Shrimp Chowder

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of potato soup, undiluted
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium-size fresh shrimp, peeled*
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley
  • Oyster crackers (optional)

Preparation

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, and sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in cream of potato soup, milk, and pepper; bring to a boil. Add shrimp; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Stir in cheese until melted. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately. Serve with oyster crackers, if desired.

*1 1/2 pounds frozen shrimp, thawed; 1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails; or 3 cups chopped cooked chicken may be substituted.

I would serve this with a nice, simple green salad, good bread and dessert. There’s a scene in the book with a pot of scalded milk and I looked for a dessert recipe to bring in this plot point and found this recipe from tasteofhome.com for Hot Milk Cake.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 10 tablespoons butter, cubed

Directions

  • 1. In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth. 
  • 2. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined. 
  • 3. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.Yield: 12-16 servings.

MUSIC

Although The Gap of Time’s characters Mimi and Perdita are singers, I couldn’t fathom what time of music they might sing. I would set my Spotify to play Bohemian music. I have no idea what would come up: gypsy folk music? Pete Seeger? La Boheme? In any event, whatever it was there would be an underlying echo of it in The Gap of Time.

Happy Reading!

Eligible!, by Curtis Sittenfeld

engagement eligible

Gentle reader, imagine my delighted surprise. I was driving along, returning to my home from an out of town visit and listening to a book on tape, (Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld) when the narrator mentioned Doodles restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky. A place of business less than a stone’s throw from my own back door. If only I could have stopped the narrative, run from the car, and found female readers’  own favorite protagonist — Lizzie Bennet — having lunch as described! The questions I would ask her! The advice I would offer! The friendship we would develop!

Alas, as all inBenethomcarnations of Elizabeth Bennet inevitably are, this one too was fictional. But what a great fiction. In Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld has written a Lizzie Bennet for the modern American woman. This Liz lives in New York and writes for “Mascara” magazine but hails from an upper middle-class family living in a deteriorating Tudor in Cincinnati’s tony Hyde Park neighborhood. Her mother is an annoying shop-aholic with a penchant for seeing all five of her girls married well; Mr. Bennet is a dry, history buff, who has recently suffered a health scare bringing Liz and her older sister (nearly 40) Jane home from New York where sisters Mary, Lydia and Kitty greet their two older siblings with something less than unadulterated enthusiasm.

Lydia and Kitty as obsessed with their paleo diets and CrossFit, Mary is working on her third post-grad degree on-line and refuses to leave her room, beautiful Jane is a yoga instructor who has grown tired of waiting for the right man and decides to try artificial insemination. And Lizzie — our Lizzie! — is having an affair with a married man. NO, NO, NO: say it ain’t so. But it is: one Jasper Wick.

During their summer in Cincinnati to help care for Papa Bennet, all of the girls are invited to a Fourth of July barbecue where they meet: Chip Bingley, E.R. doc and recent contestant on reality romance show (a la The Bachelor) “Eligible;” Chip’s sister Caroline Bingley, his agent and a miserable, albeit attractive, snob from the moment we meet her; and — wait for it — ahhhhhhh! Yes! YES! YESSSS! Dr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, handsome, eligible, cross-training, Skyline Chili-loving, Cincinnati-hating, Liz Bennet-insulting millionaire –our hero! Fitzwilliam Darcy.

firth_2696575b Matthew Sam-Riley-as-Mr-Darcy-in-Pride-and-Prejudice-and-Zombies Olivier

In fact, all of our favorites are present in Eligible, just adapted (sometimes only slightly) for the present day.

YOUR MOTHER HAS shared a tragic piece of news about Cousin Willie with me,” Mr. Bennet said when the family was assembled for dinner. “He’s coming to visit.”

“Really, Fred,” Mrs. Bennet said, and Jane said, “Dad, that’s an awful way to set us up.”

Mr. Bennet smiled as if he’d been doubly complimented. “As you all know, my sister is flying out next week, to check if I still have a pulse and, in the event that I don’t, to take possession of our mother’s silver. For reasons that elude me, her stepson has decided to accompany her.” Liz swallowed a spoonful of the gazpacho Jane had prepared and said, “I know you all find this hard to believe, but Cousin Willie is kind of a big deal.”

“And if I were an insomniac,” Mr. Bennet replied, “I’d like nothing better than to hear him explain why.”

“Maybe he can tell us why the Internet in this house is so slow,” Kitty said.

“Or teach Mom to use her cellphone,” Lydia suggested.

“His start-ups have made millions of dollars,” Liz said, and Mr. Bennet said, “Yet he doesn’t know how to put on a pair of trousers.”

“That was 1986,” Jane said.

With each new chapter, I was delighted again by how true Sittenfeld’s Eligible is to the character and detail of each element of Pride & Prejudice while updating the story to our time. Of course Liz would be a journalist. Of course, Kitty and Lydia would be obsessed with Cross-Fit and paleo. Of course, Chip Bingley would be the eligible bachelor choosing among vying beauties on a reality television show.

Setting the Bennets in nearby Cincinnati was a charming bonus. Even the day trip to Berea that included a stop in Lexington. Darcy hails from California and hasn’t seen his Stanford classmate Jasper Wick until he bumps into him at Skyline with Liz in Cincinnati. Jane retreats to upstate New York for a while during a bit of confusion with Bingley. Caroline Bingley wants to be a television star herself.

In the audible book version, the reader gave an inexplicable Valley Girl accent to Liz, which really annoyed me. A midwestern accent does not sound like a Valley Girl. And I wondered why Sittenfeld chose to end the novel where she did with a chapter about Mary that reads almost like a separate story than a conclusion to Eligible. I’ve reached out to the author via twitter and hope I can provide a supplement that answers that question, and perhaps more.

I give Eligible my highest recommendation. I’m actually choosing it for my turn to host book club next month. It’s the perfect, fun summer read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

MENU

There are lots of mentions of food in Eligible, everything from Skyline chili to macrobiotic gazpacho. However, my menu will include appetizers from a wedding reception and the menu Darcy served to his guests at Pemberley.

Bruschetta with goat cheese & sundried tomatoes spread

Stuffed mushrooms

Grilled zucchini, portobello mushrooms. Brush with good olive oil, salt and pepper and grill.

Grilled steak

Hazelnut Torte, recipe from Epicurious. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chocolate-hazelnut-torte-10876

MUSIC

Though Liz runs with earbuds, Sittenfeld doesn’t list much, if any that I can recall, music. Here’s my playlist:

For Jane, some Enya.

For Darcy, Taylor Swift‘s State of Grace is rumored to be about him. And Carly Simon‘s You’re So Vain, not for Darcy, but quite appropriate.

For Chip Bingley, Isn’t It Romantic. I like Chet Baker’s version.

For Caroline Bingley, Bitch by Meredith Brock.

For Lydia, anything you’d hear in Cross-fit, but I’m putting Blackeyed PeasMove It” on mine.

For Mary, Eric Carmen‘s “All By Myself.”

Bruno Mars, “Marry You.”

Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly.”

Delbert McClinton‘s Two More Bottles of Wine — in celebration of Liz’s appearance on Eligible.

MOVIE CASTINGsittenfeld_eligible3.jpg

Jane: Diane Kruger

Elizabeth: Natalie Portman? Katherine McPhee? My first pick for a modern actress to play Liz would be Emma Stone but she’s too young for this Liz.

Mary: Zooey Deschanel

Lydia: Sarah Hyland

Kitty: Ashley Benson

Chip: Chris Evans

Darcy: (OK, you know I have to do it) Ryan Gosling

Happy Reading!

If you enjoy daeandwrite.wordpress.com, please share it with a friend! You may also follow me on twitter @daeandwrite.

 

Want some more information about Pride and Prejudice? http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pridprej.html

http://www.bookdrum.com/books/pride-and-prejudice/9780141439518/index.html

 

The Girls, by Emma Cline

hippie girl

In one week, I read from one side of the Sixties, to the other; from the East Coast to the West; from the top 1% to near the bottom. Both reads feature a group of women and a charismatic man.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin, explores the New York of Truman Capote and his coterie of ultra, well-heeled women friends. https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/the-swans-of-fifth-avenue-by-melanie-benjamin/

The next book I picked up was another of the summer’s barn-burners: The Girls, by Emma Cline. Evie Boyd is a 14-year-old Californian, somewhat adrift due to her unhinged mother’s attempts at rediscovery and dating and her father’s departure for a young girlfriend. On her own, Evie spots a threesome of girls — dirty, beautiful, alluring — and soon finds herself accompanying them to “the ranch,” the place where the girls live, devoting themselves as acolytes to demi-god Russell.

The Girls reimagines the Charles Manson tribe, the Tate-LaBiance murders, and Manson himself, setting the scene in Northern California. A Beach Boy-like musician, Mitch Lewis, first encourages, then extinguishes Russell’s dreams of stardom. The girls sexually service Russell and anyone he gives them to for use. They steal for him, clean for him, starve for him.

Charles-mansonbookingphoto

How often I replayed this moment again and again, until it gained a meaningful pitch: when Suzanne nudged me so I first knew the man walking toward the fire was Russell. My first thought was shock — he’d looked young as he approached, but then I saw he was at least a decade older than Suzanne. Maybe even as old as my mother. Dressed in dirty Wranglers and a buckskin shirt, though his feet were bare — how strange that was, how they all walked barefoot through the weeds and dog shit as if nothing were there. A girl got to her knees beside him, touching his leg.

Evie is used by Russell, but more she becomes enamored in a breathless, devoted, do-anything-for-you way with Suzanne, one of Russell’s girls. Evie can’t stay away from Suzanne and Suzanne can’t stay away from Russell. Cline uses an adult Evie forced by young visitors who know of her infamy to tell and reflect on young Evie’s journey through the ranch.

I’ve always avoided Manson-alia. I haven’t read or seen Helter Skelter. I missed the original press coverage and trial. Reading The Girls did not make me regret that earlier decision. But, at least according to the New York Times’ review of The Girls, that though the stories are similar, there are elements omitted, and for that I am sure I am grateful.

But Cline withholds the truly vicious Manson who kept his followers paranoid, awaited a race war, sodomized a 13-year-old girl in front of the others, beat some girls and used others for knife-throwing games and ­traded their bodies like currency. This keeps Evie sympathetic. If she doesn’t glimpse pure evil, can she be blamed for signing on? It’s also conceivable that Cline flinched, for in not pushing Evie to the edge, she eludes a harrowing, possibly profound exploration of her soul.

What results is a historical novel that goes halfway down the rabbit hole and exquisitely reports back. Then it pulls out, eschewing the terrifying, fascinating human murk.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/books/review/the-girls-by-emma-cline.html?_r=0

The Girls is also the second book I’ve read recently where food becomes a clear economic mandarinsymbol. Evie’s mother cooks meatballs and Chinese spare ribs and McCalls’ mandarin orange dessert. Russell’s girls dumpster-dive for old chicken, frozen cake, brown vegetables. Evie’s unexpected guests bring a store-bought frozen pizza, the good kind — “expensive.” Though Russell is referenced singing his songs and playing his guitar, badly, there’s no particular music invoked. I pictured it as sort of Bob Dylan meets John Denver.

I can’t unreservedly recommend The Girls. It has been highly praised by The New York Times among others. My hesitation comes in two forms: one, I was just flat uncomfortable reading this. Two, I don’t know. How hard it is to be creative when the whole plot is laid out for you? Maybe I’m not being fair, but Cline seems a bit opportunistic to me. Either write a history or write a novel and change things up a little bit more.

MENU

This is a tough one. First of all, the whole book sort of takes away your appetite. They were drinking, drugging throughout, definitely at the ranch, but even adult Evie was smoking pot with her unexpected guests. It’s not the kind of book you can plan a fun menu around. I would serve anything but chicken! Maybe pizza, maybe spare ribs, maybe cocktail meatballs. Definitely steer away from any of the ranch food.

MUSIC

A little Beach Boys, a little Jefferson Airplane, the Beatles’ Helter Skelter.

Happy Reading!the girls