The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (Or Why You Really Do Not Want to Know What a Man is Thinking)

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (Or Why You Really Do Not Want to Know What a Man is Thinking).

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The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (Or Why You Really Do Not Want to Know What a Man is Thinking)

american male

We meet Nate on the streets of New York rushing to a dinner party hosted by his ex-girlfriend Elisa.  On the way, he runs into Juliet, a woman he dated three times; until she got pregnant and then he “thoughtfully” paid for her abortion, spent the day with her, got her ice cream and a prescription and then dumped her.  Nate very nearly cannot believe that Juliet fails to recognize how thoughtful he was.

 Nevertheless, he had done everything that could have been

expected of him. Even though he had less money than she did, he

paid for the abortion. He went with her to the clinic and waited

while it was being performed, sitting on a stain- resistant, dormitory

lounge– style couch with a rotating cast of teenage girls who

typed frenetically on their cell phones’ tiny keyboards. When it

 was over, he took her home in a taxi. They spent a pleasant,

strangely companionable day together, at her place, watching

movies and drinking wine. He left the apartment only to pick up

her prescription and bring her a few groceries. When, fi nally,

around nine, he got up to go home, she followed him to the door.

  Why would Juliet not be overjoyed to see him?  Once at Elisa’s, despite her frenetic propensity to rehash their relationship on each occasion they interact, Nate meets his next girlfriend, the seemingly sensible Hannah Leary.  By the time Hannah has decided to accept the third date from Nate, I was screaming at her to run.  Run far and fast away.

   Adelle Waldman, a woman incidentally, says she wanted Nate to “represent the creative man-child as accurately as possible: as someone who is at moments surprisingly sensitive and yet seems to wreak emotional havoc on the women he dates — women who mistook the moments of sensitivity to indicate that he was a different, and more reliable, type of male person.”  I’m not sure how Adelle Waldman has found her way through the outer, socialized shell of the male brain, or really if she accurately has.  I hope some of my male friends will read this book and let me know.  But if she has accurately depicted the limbic reactions of the average, American male, it’s semi-horrifying.  And goes a long way toward explaining the divorce rate and declining marriage rate.

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  According to Ms. Waldman, though, men do relate to Nate. Some even to the point of asking her how she managed to “nail” them in her descriptions.  http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/11/letters-from-the-creative-man-child.html.  Which is not only distressing to women but damning to men.  At least to men like Nate.  Men like Nate who are serial daters; justifying to themselves their rejection of the current woman in favor of the next based on “I never promised more,” and “I told her from the get-go that I wasn’t looking for anything serious,” or “I know I’m being withdrawn and hostile but if she asks me if I’m mad at her one more time, I am leaving.”

  My good friend Heather Dugan has written a book called Date Like a Grownup, the goal of which is for “readers to develop a personalized strategy for building a life foundation that facilitates growing a ‘right fit’ relationship.”   It helps identify the Nates of the world.  http://www.heatherdugan.com/2014/02/16/date-like-a-grownup-anecdotes.  Maybe the subtitle of Heather’s book can be avoiding Nate.

  And there’s another hopeful piece of news today.  Everyone’s favorite ladies’ man and my personal Future Husband George, is reportedly taking the leap of getting engaged to his humanitarian lawyer girlfriend.  And if George can grow up, then pretty much anyone can.  Right?

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Menu (from the disastrous congratulatory dinner Hannah cooks for Nate)

Linguine with clam sauce

    Two cans of clams

    1 bottle of clam juice

    1 lemon

    Garlic to taste

    1/2 Vidalia onion

    1/2 cup White wine

    Saute onion, garlic in olive oil.  When onion is soft, add white wine and 2 tbsp of the clam juice.  Reduce.  Add the clams and if desired, additional clam juice.  Serve over hot linguine pasta.

Escarole Salad

1 head of escarole, torn and tossed with vinaigrette.  Top with toasted almonds.  I make vinaigrette by mixing fresh herbs with one teaspoon of mustard, adding about 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and then drizzling in olive oil until I get the consistency I want.

Music

  I don’t know.  This books makes me want to go all Man Eater, Hall and Oates, and Maniac, Michael Sembello.  So let’s do it.

Man Eater, Hall & Oates

Maniac, Michael Sembello

This One’s for the Girls, Martina McBride

Stronger, Kelly Clarkson

Simply the Best, Tina Turner

Anything by Melissa Etheridge

The Past and Future of Nao: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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     Schroedinger’s Cat.  Kamikaze pilots.  Buddhist nuns.  An agricultural installation artist.  A writer with writer’s block who has the same name as the author of the novel you are reading who is reading a journal written inside a copy of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time a decade ago that disappears and reappears while she is reading it.  British Columbia.  Japan.  Philosophy.  Science.  Time.

    Nao, a teenager living in Japan, begins the novel by defining a time being.  “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.  As for me, right now I am sitting in a French maid cafe in Akiba Electricity Town, listening to a sad chanson that is playing sometime in your past, which is also my present, writing this and wondering about you, somewhere in my future.  And if you’re reading this, then maybe by now you’re wondering about me, too.”

   This book is remarkably layered.  In essence there are three concrete time and geographical zones represented, plus one rather hazy one.  The life of a young man forced to become a Kamikaze pilot who keeps a secret diary in French.  The young man’s great-niece Nao, who lives in Tokyo and has written her diary inside the altered Proust novel.  And Ruth, the writer, who finds Nao’s diary and the Kamikaze’s letters and diary inside a Hello, Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach in a very remote, often electricity-free, island in Canada.   As Ruth reads Nao’s diary and Nao reads pilot Haruki’s words, the lives of all three become entwined and influenced in a way that my limited experience would say is physically impossible.  Of course, science has a way of explaining it, which Ruth’s  Image

husband explains is called “universal wave function.”  WARNING:  I am now going to try to explain this theory.  Again I say WARNING.  So Hugh Everett, noted scientist, posited that essentially, every time you make a choice, one part of you makes the opposite choice and exists in another world so that every one of you exists within some parallel universe.  Ever see Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow?  Kinda like that.

  And Schrodinger’s Cat has something to do with it too.  Or not.  Maybe Schrodinger’s Cat is just thrown in there as a way of tying together Ruth’s cat Pesto and the Hello, Kitty lunchbox from which Nao’s world appeared.  Not to mention the “tale.”Image

 

      The Washington Post included A Tale for the Time Being on its list of the 50 Best Fiction books of 2013 and it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize of 2013.

     Book Club Menu

    Sushi — Unless you are a pro, pick up an order to go from your favorite sushi vendor

    Sake

    Fresh oysters

    Clam Chowder.  Here’s a recipe for Clam Chowder Canadian Military Style:

1/2 cup butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams,
drained with juice reserved
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
 
1. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the butter, celery and onion. Saute for about 3 minutes, add the flour and stir well to make a dry roux. Add the reserved clam juice to make a paste, then slowly add enough cold water to reach the desired thickness.
2. Add the potatoes, milk, thyme and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and allow soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the clams and allow to heat throug

   For dessert:  Melty Kisses were Old Jiko’s favorite chocolate and I found them for sale on Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/Meiji-Fruity-Strawberry-Chocolate-By/dp/B0047YJESY#  Or just chocolate, I’m sure Old Jiko will appreciate any effort.

MUSIC

  How about a mix tape of songs about time?
Time Is on my Side, The Rolling Stones

Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce

Yesterday, the Beatles

Time after Time, Cyndi Lauper

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack

Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley & The Comets (OK, that one’s a little hokey)

I’m not going to cast this movie because I think my knowledge would be too-limited.  I’d love to hear your thoughts though.

In the words of Ruth Ozeki, ” I bow to you all.”  Happy Reading.

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Oh Donna! The Goldfinch

Congratulations to Donna Tartt for winning the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Goldfinch. http://www.pulitzer.org/node/8501

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   When I was very young, my mother had a collection of 45s and an old phonograph.   When my sisters and I grew bored with tormenting each other or the guinea pig that tried to hide under the playhouse to get away from us, we would haul out the little record box and turntable and fight over which song to listen to.  One of my favorites was a fabulous song by Ritchie Valens called “Donna.”

    I had a girl, Donna was her name.

    Since she left me, I’ve never been the same.

    But I love that girl.  Donna, where can she be?

    (You’re probably singing the refrain to yourself right now:  where can she be?)  Even the boys on the baseball teams that played Babe Ruth at Tates Creek High School’s field would sing “Oh, Donna,” serenading the girl…

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Rosie Is (to be) Read. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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       What’s a fun-loving, socially-awkward, unknowingly-Aspergers-afflicted, genetics professor got to do to find a wife?  Don Tillman is sure he has found the answer via a sixteen-page questionnaire.  He intends to post said questionnaire, which Don refers to as The Wife Project, on-line and to offer it to females he encounters in various other social settings.  Don’s life revolves around his scheduled work-out, his Standardized Meal System, household cleaning tasks, his work assignments and his only two friends, Gene and Claudia.  After hitting on the brilliant idea of The Wife Project questionnaire as the most efficient means of identifying suitable partners and eliminating unsuitable (vegetarian, smokers, drinkers, and women who run late) partners, Don takes the final prototype to share with his friends.  If you’d like to see “Don’s” questionnaire, in part:  http://quiz.therosieproject.com.au/compat.html.

“I explained that I had followed best practice in questionnaire design, including multiple-choice questions, Likert scales, cross-validation, dummy questions, and surrogates.  Claudia asked for an example of the last of these.

“‘Question thirty-five.  Do you eat kidneys?  Correct answer is c) occasionally.  Testing for food problems.  If you ask directly about food preferences, they say, ‘I eat anything,’ and then you discover they’re vegetarian.'”

Don’s adventures as he confronts “females” (his term) with the questionnaire at dating events including Table for Eight, “a commercial matchmaking operation,” a singles party and speed dating, are predictably disastrous and hilarious.  Gene agrees to vet on-line applicants and Don ends up on a date with the completely inappropriately pescatarian, smoking, drinking and always tardy Rosie Jarman.  Despite all of Rosie’s flaws, Don finds himself drawn to her.

The rest of The Rosie Project shoots between an international genetic search for Rosie’s father and Don and Rosie’s internal struggles to decide whether they are the appropriate male and female partner for one another.  At one point, even Gregory Peck makes an appearance to assist Don in his search.  Who can do anything but love a book with Gregory Peck and a sixteen page dating questionnaire that does not come from eharmony or Neil Warren?

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Your book club will love The Rosie Project.  It’s intelligent, fun, quirky, (in fact so quirky that the upcoming movie producers should just go ahead and give the part of Rosie to Zooey Deschanel) but Mr. Simsion disagrees with me:

“A big caveat here: I originally wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay, and Sony Pictures have optioned it. If they go ahead, they’ll doubtless engage a professional casting director, who (experience tells me) will do a much better job than I would. I’ve made a bunch of short films, and have been amazed by what inspired casting can do. Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. Who’d have thought it? Dustin Hoffman in Rain ManJack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets (OK, that one feels like a natural, but perhaps only in retrospect.) The Rosie Project takes us into not dissimilar territory. And, of course, anything I say here does not reflect the views of Sony Pictures, its agents, etc, etc.

“That said, rather than second-guess Sony’s choices, I’ve cast my mind back to when I expected that if the movie was made, it would be in my home country of Australia, and imagined an all-Australian cast.

“How about:

Eric Bana as Don. He’s known internationally for dramatic / action roles but he started off in comedy.

Melissa George as Rosie. Loved her in In Treatment.

Anthony LaPaglia as Gene. My wife assures me he has the “bedroom eyes” necessary for the role.

Toni Collette as Claudia – great comedy credentials as well as the heart to be the moral center.

Cate Blanchett as the Dean. Because I can.”

So Eric Bana would be ok with me, but I have no idea who Melissa George is and Anthony LaPaglia seems a bit long in the tooth for Gene.

Image     MENU for The Rosie Project Book Club

Lobster, mango and avocado salad — buy lobster meat.  Cut up mango and fresh avocado.  Lightly dress with champagne vinaigrette. Serve chilled.

Australian wines (Simsion in his acknowledgments suggests Drappier rose champagne)

Mango Ice Cream and Peach Ice Cream — for an experiment in identifying flavors post-chilling of taste buds.

Music for The Rosie Project Bookclub

Anything fun and happy.  For example, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Michael Franti, maybe a little bit of Katrina & the Waves Walking on Sunshine.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Oh Donna! The Goldfinch

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   When I was very young, my mother had a collection of 45s and an old phonograph.   When my sisters and I grew bored with tormenting each other or the guinea pig that tried to hide under the playhouse to get away from us, we would haul out the little record box and turntable and fight over which song to listen to.  One of my favorites was a fabulous song by Ritchie Valens called “Donna.”

I had a girl, Donna was her name.

Since she left me, I’ve never been the same.

But I love that girl.  Donna, where can she be?

(You’re probably singing the refrain to yourself right now:  where can she be?)  Even the boys on the baseball teams that played Babe Ruth at Tates Creek High School’s field would sing “Oh, Donna,” serenading the girl who kept their stats — Donna L.  I don’t know if it changed any of their batting averages for the better, but Donna would blush and seemed to enjoy the song.  Need to hear the whole song for that ear worm to take full effect?  Here you go:

But however much statistician Donna enjoyed the baseball players’ serenades, it was probably not as much as I enjoyed Donna Tartt’s latest novel, The Goldfinch.  Oh Donna indeed.  It is a masterpiece of Dickensian proportions.  In fact, it may very well be Dickensian in plot, character, mood, even setting . . . but I loved it.  Loved it loved it loved it.  With the passion of a thousand white hot suns.  From the moment Theo Decker begins the retrospective tale of his life and how he ended up in Amsterdam at Christmas; cold, alone, bored and ill, I was hooked.  It’s one of those can’t-put-it-down, don’t-want-to-sleep-til-I-finish-reading books.  But at 771 pages, you must, unless you speed-read and miss the gorgeous prose, or can stay up for days on end without sleep (as Theo occasionally manages to do with the help of some not-quite-legal techniques).

The goldfinch of the title is a Carel Fabritius painting and is the last experience Theo shares with the mother he adores.

“It was a small picture, the smallest in the exhibition, and the simplest:  a yellow finch, against a plain, pale background, chained to a perch by its twig of an ankle. . . . Something about the neat, compact way it tucked down inside itself — its brightness, its alert watchful expression — made me think of my mother when she was small:  a dark-capped finch with steady eyes.”

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  I am not a Dickens scholar, but I’ve read enough to recognize Donna Tartt’s use of Dickens’ types.  Theo as Oliver Twist; Boris the Artful Dodger; Larry Decker, Theo’s Fagin-like father; Pippa with whom Theo falls madly in love at the age of 13, even her name a nod to Pip’s love Estella in Great Expectations; and Hobie, the genteel, gentle and good likeness of Fezziwig and the like.

The novel ranges from New York’s Park Avenue, to a desolate desert community on the outskirts of Las Vegas, to Amsterdam.  It was recognized on most best of 2013 lists and my commendation is merely added to those.

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Hobie is quite a cook and revels in making tea with jam and toast on occasion.  Theo himself says:  “dinner was the time of day I looked forward to most.  . . . I’d never gotten used to the sadness of having to scrabble around to feed myself at night, sitting on the side of my bed with a bag of potato chips or maybe a dried-up container of rice left over from my dad’s carry out.  By happy contrast, Hobie’s whole day revolved around dinner.  Where shall we eat?  Who’s coming over?  What shall I cook?  Do you like pot-au-feu?  No?  Never had it?  Lemon rice or saffron?  Fig preserves or apricot?”

I’m afraid the time constraints of making a perfect, French pot-au-feu (not to mention the intimidation factor) are a bit beyond my capacity for a book club meeting.  But if you are in the mood, here’s a lovely Springtime Pot-Au-Feu recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini blog:  http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/springtime-pot-au-feu-beef-stew-recipe/

For my book club, I would go with the hand-to-mouth existence of Theo and Boris in Las Vegas but ramp it up a notch.

Potato Chips and Dip — I mix yogurt and cottage cheese with powdered ranch dip

Individual Pizzas — buy the pre-made pizza crusts and then put out an assortment of toppings:  artichoke hearts, goat cheese, turkey pepperoni, arugula, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, diced chicken, roasted red peppers, onions.

The boys drank constantly so anything you want to serve would probably be found in the book.  But I found a recipe for a cocktail called a Goldfinch and I would definitely serve those first.  Here’s the recipe (YUMMY!)

What you need
Image1 1/2 Measures Golden Rum (British/Caribbean Rum)
2 Measures Fresh Pineapple Juice
1/2 Measure Galliano Liqueur
1 Dash Fresh Lime Juice
Champagne
Ice

Mixing
Add all of the ingredients except the champagne to a shaker and shake vigorously for approximately 10-12 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and add the Champagne. Garnish with pineapple spears and a small pineapple wedge, stir and serve.

This cocktail works equally well with fresh orange juice and/or Prosecco instead of Champagne.

MUSIC

Definitely the Rat Pack.  Vegas baby.  There’s an album recorded in 1963 called Live at the Sands that features Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. and some of their favorite, classic songs.

MOVIE CASTING

This is tough because the movie sweeps through years and Theo, Boris and Pippa grow from 13 year olds to 30 year olds.  As for Larry Decker my pick would be Ryan Gosling, for the washed up actor/gambling failure.  Hobie, wouldn’t it be fun to see Russell Crowe play this, totally against type?  Xandra, Larry’s Vegas girlfriend, Christina Hendrickson with a blonde wig would be perfection.

Enjoy!