Kennedyesque: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

leadkennedy2

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

The Sinclairs are athletic, tall and handsome. We are old-money Democrats. Our smiles are wide, our chins are square and our tennis serves are aggressive.

. . . We are Sinclairs.

No one is needy.

No one is wrong.

We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Perhaps that is all you need to know.

kennedys_gallery_04Perhaps it is not all we need to know. After that first page of We Were Liars (reprinted mostly above), I was definitely intrigued. Now, was I more intrigued in the story of the Sinclairs or in my hope that this would be about the Kennedys?

But it isn’t about the Kennedys.  It is about the three daughters of Tipper and Harris Sinclair. It is about Beechmont Island. It is about the children of the three daughters of Harris Sinclair and it is specifically about three of Harris’ grandchildren, plus one friend, who become their own small community: Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat. “The family calls us four The Liars, and we probably deserve it. We are all nearly the same age, and we all have birthdays in the fall. Most years on the island, we’ve been trouble.

This is one of the “young adult” novels that somehow cross over to reach into adult land, maybe because it won the Goodreads

Totally gratuitous and off-topic photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the beach just because he was the best

Totally gratuitous and off-topic photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the beach just because he was the best

 Young Adult Choice award for 2014 and was on a host of bestseller lists. My book club just finished reading it for our meeting tonight. It’s a zippy read and once Cadence loses her memory due to an unexplained on-island incident during her 15th summer, the pages turn faster. What caused the memory loss? Why have Mirren, Johnny and Gat, her first love, abandoned her? Why have Harris’ three daughters, who rivaled Lear’s in terms of grasping and bitchiness, become tender and gentle toward one another? Why has Harris torn down the grand family manse of Clairmont and installed a monastic modern temple?

Apparently, E. Lockhart was inspired by Gone Girl to write We Were Liars. That implies a surprise ending. An ending which I will not give away. I will say, it wasn’t all that shocking. The book’s cover asks readers if they are asked about the ending to “just lie.” So perhaps I should say it was all that shocking?

It was fine. It was an easy book to read. But truthfully, no lying, if I were to recommend a summer read that reminds me of the Kennedys, I’d recommend Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Or Dominic Dunne’s A Season in Purgatory. Or Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water. Even Stephen King’s 11/22/63. All really good reads inspired by the Kennedys.

MENU

New England Clam Chowder:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/the-past-and-future-of-nao-a-tale-for-the-time-being-by-ruth-ozeki/

S’mores Dip: instead of making regular s’mores, put chocolate in a ceramic dish and cover it with marshmallows. Bake until the marshmallows puff and brown and then serve with graham crackers to dip.

Our lovely hostess at book club served the following, summery menu:

Deviled Shrimp

Guacamole with blue corn chips

Green bean and potato salad

Crab cakes with tomato jam

Slow roasted tomato with mozzarella and basil

MUSIC

This novel seems like it would be set in the 40s or 50s, but it’s modern day. Nevertheless . . . I would play some classic, old school music: Cole Porter’s soundtrack for High Society, the Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story set in Newport, R.I.

MOVIE CASTING

It looks like We Were Liars has been sold to be made into a movie.

Harris Sinclair:  Tom Wilkinson

Tipper Sinclair:  Blythe Danner

Penny: Kate Hudson

Bess: Reese Witherspoon

Carrie:  MIchelle Pfeiffer

Cadence:  Chloe Grace Moretz

Mirren:  Dakota Fanning

Johnny:  Chord Overstreet

Gat:  Suraj Sharma

Happy Reading!

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Dear John

grisham_john

Dear John:

Those piercing blue eyes of yours.  That confident, but low-key grin.  The dazzling intellect as not only a trial lawyer but a novelist. Yes, you are a catch.

But John:  what’s with the level of dissing going on in The Litigators?  The bad guy law firm, filled with uptight maniacs; the hot, talented, deadly litigator lady whose only concern is monetary; the “good guy” law firm filled with alcoholics and sleazy grumps?  AND a dog named “AC,” short for ambulance chaser?  Is that really necessary?

ambulance chaser

 

Or course, the story is good.  The focus on the overwrought panting that comes with a new Multi-District Litigation over a “bad drug” before the scientific work is done.  That’s on target, and I know some of those guys you are writing about and you are downright accurate on the legion of private jet plaintiff’s attorneys more impressed with their stuff than with their client’s stuff.  And unfortunately, alcoholism is a persistent and growing problem in the professional field of law.  The American Bar Association’s statistics offer that as many as 20 percent, one in five lawyers in the U.S., suffer from some form of alcohol abuse or dependence.  http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance/resources/alcohol_abuse_dependence.html. It’s definitely worth mentioning and focusing some attention on.  

The writing is engaging.  Actually, kudos.  Because I thought The Litigators had more character development than any of your legal novels in recent years.  And as the Washington Post said, all without any character who could possibly be played by Tom Cruise.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-john-grishams-the-litigators-a-swerving-stirring-retort/2011/10/19/gIQAEUD81L_story.html

Although, I think Tom could play Wally Figg if he wanted to.  (Have you seen Tropic Thunder?)

The Litigators is good.  Lots of legal vocab, behind-the-scenes insighty stuff.  But John, where’s the love?  I need the love.  Show me the love.  And I’ll come back to you again.

XXX,

Pamela Dae

Chicago-Skyline

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In honor of The Litigators’ setting, Chicago, and one of its’ main characters, I would serve Pizza with Fig & Prosciutto

ingredients

  • Cornmeal
  • 1 1-pound package purchased pizza dough
  • 2 cups (generous) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 6 small fresh figs, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto (from two 3-ounce packages)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups arugula

preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle large rimless baking sheet generously with cornmeal. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 12×10-inch rectangle; transfer to prepared sheet. Sprinkle Gorgonzola over dough. Sprinkle with pepper. Place figs in medium bowl; drizzle 1 tablespoon vinegar over. Set aside.

Bake pizza until crust is golden brown on bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately drape prosciutto slices over, covering pizza completely. Arrange fig slices atop prosciutto. Bake until figs are just heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer pizza to cutting board. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and oil in large bowl; add arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Mound salad atop pizza. Cut into pieces and serve.

And you couldn’t have a book club discussion about this book without having at least one Pearl Harbor each.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Midori
  • Top with Pineapple Juice

Pour over ice in a tall glass.  Here’s a video demonstration of making a Pearl Harbor, which is essentially pouring the ingredients over ice, but if you have five minutes:  http://everydaydrinkers.com/2012/06/how-to-make-the-pearl-harbor-cocktail/

MUSIC

Lawyers in Love, Jackson Browne

Lawyers, Guns & Money, Warren Zevon

Legal Man, Johnny Cash

I Fought the Law, The Clash

This Side of the Law, Johnny Cash

Chicago, Frank Sinatra

MOVIE CASTING

Oscar Finley — Brian Dennehy

Wally Figg — Donel Logue

David Zinc — Luke Wilson

Jerry Alisandros — Don Johnson

Nadine Gibson – Cameron Diaz

Happy Reading!

 

 

Simply Beautiful: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

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     On the rugged, Mediterranean coast of Italy, a land of five towns clings stunningly to the edge of the cliffs;  accessible only by boat, offering fresh seafood pulled daily from the Ligurian sea by men whose families have done the same for centuries and a hiding place from the modern world, the Cinque Terre seems just the place for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to have sought refuge during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.  In Jess Walter’s sumptuous novel Beautiful Ruins, they do just this.  And the tale of the IT couple’s visit to Porto Vergogna, a lonely innkeeper, a starlet, star-crossed lovers, a wannabe screenwriter (whose big concept is “Donner!,” a movie about the Donner party,) a nauseating Hollywood producer and fifty years of frustrated confusion make the novel one of my top five reads.

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    According to Jess Walter’s website (jesswalter.com), Beautiful Ruins has been recognized by just about everyone as one of the novels of the year 2012:

*Esquire’s Best book of 2012
*NPR-Fresh Air best Novel of 2012
*Audible and Salon best audio book of 2012
*New York Times Notable Book of the Year
*Washington Post Notable Book of the Year
*In UK, Guardian, Times and Sunday Times Best Books of the Year
*Best books of the year: Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, St. Louis Today, Kansas City Star, Goodreads, Hudsons, Barnes and Noble, Amazon

Read the NYT review here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/books/review/beautiful-ruins-a-novel-by-jess-walter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

   From the first sentence, the reader is immersed in the world of the book.

     The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly — in a boat that motored into the cover, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pit.  She wavered a moment in the boat’s stern, then extended a slender hand to grip the mahogany railing; with the other, she pressed a wide-brimmed hat against her head.  All around her, shards of sunlight broke on the flickering waves.

     Twenty meters away, Pasquale Tursi watched the arrival of the woman as if in a dream.  Or rather, he would think later, a dream’s opposite:  a burst of clarity after a lifetime of sleep.

     How Pasquale Tursi (proprietor of the ingeniously-named “Hotel Adequate View”) winds up in the office of Hollywood producer Michael Deane some fifty years later must be left to the reader’s own enjoyment.  I won’t spoil a second of it.  I just want to feature one more passage from the book, which I read and re-read and it still makes me snort with laughter.

     The first impression one gets of Michael Deane is of a man constructed of wax, or perhaps prematurely embalmed.  After all these years, it may be impossible to trace the sequence of facials, spa treatments, mud baths, cosmetic procedures, lifts and staples, collagen implants, outpatient touch-ups, tannings, Botox injections, cyst and growth removals, and stem-cell injections, that have caused a seventy-two-year-old man to have the face of a nine-year-old Filipino girl.BeautifulRuins_small-330-exp

     Suffice it to say that, upon meeting Michael for the first time, many people stare open-mouthed, unable to look away from his glistening, vaguely lifeline face.  Sometimes they cock their head to get a better angle, and Michael mistakes their morbid fascination for attraction, or respect or surprise that someone his age could look this good, and it is this basic misunderstanding that causes him to be even more aggressive in fighting the aging process.

     The novel is now available in paperback and I urge you to read it.  Right now.  Read it yourself.  Add it to your book club’s reading list (for next month), recommend it to everyone you know.  It’s just that good.

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My book club read this book in December and in order to tie the holidays and the book together, I presented the Italian Christmas Feast of the Seven Fishes.  You may want to go a bit simpler, but this is what I did, all accompanied by some beautiful Italian wines, of course.

1.  Bruschetta with anchovies (lots of these recipes on foodnetwork.com)

2.  Fried calamari (I ordered this)

3.  Artichoke and shrimp dip

4.  Potatoes topped with caviar and sour creme

5.  Cioppino

6.  Linguine with white clam sauce (I use the recipe on the can of clams!)

7.  Smoked salmon on toast points with cream cheese, capers, diced onions

Artichoke & Shrimp Dip:  1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, 1 can of artichoke hearts and 1 cup of baby shrimp.  Put all in mixing bowl, mix until well blended.  Place dip in appropriate size baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so, until hot and bubbly.

Potatoes:  Boil small potatoes until tender.  Scoop out top, leaving skin on.  Top with sour cream and a spoonful of caviar.

Cioppino:  Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large stockpot.  Add 2 chopped medium potatoes, 2 carrots, peeled and chopped, 1 onion chopped and 2 garlic cloves, chopped.  Season with salt and cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender.  Then turn the heat to high, add 3/4 cup dry dry Italian Pinot Grigio and deglaze pan, leaving brown bits in.  Cook until most of liquid evaporates.  Add 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook and cover until the vegetables are tender.  After about 20 minutes, add 1 1/2 pounds of skinless white fish such as halibut, cod or char, cut into 3/4 inch chunks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.  Season the stew with salt to taste then drizzle with olive oil and serve.  (Adapted from Giada at Home cookbook by Giada de Laurentiis)

MUSIC

There’s a Cleopatra soundtrack from the 1963 movie with Taylor and Burton available on iTunes that would be really fun.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cleopatra-original-motion/id62874833

If you are doing the book with the Seven Fishes at Christmas, you could also do a Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra Christmas album.

MOVIE

A movie is in the works and casting has actually begun.  http://variety.com/2013/film/news/imogen-poots-todd-field-beautiful-ruins-1200821017/  Imogene Poots will play Dee, the American ingenue.  But apparently the rest of the cast hasn’t been announced, or at least I couldn’t find it.

May I suggest:

Claire Silver:  Emily Blunt

Shane Wheeler:  Garrett Hedlund

Pasquale:  I hereby volunteer to go to Italy and conduct the casting search.

Michael Deane:  OH MY this is too fun.  Who to cast in this role?  You know, Tom Cruise did such a great job with this type of character in Tropic Thunder, it would be fun to see him in this type of role.  You absolutely couldn’t cast someone in their seventies — I don’t think.  Michael Douglas?  Bruce Willis?  I would have to go though with Danny DeVito I think.

   In conclusion, oh dear friends, DO READ this book.  You will adore it.

Cheers!

Mothers and Daughters: Three Generations of Consequences

“They met on a bench in St. James’s Park; it was the 6th of June 1935. Lorna was crying because she had had a violent argument with her mother; Matt was feeding the wildfowl. … He looked sideways, and was done for.”

St. James

  And (to borrow a phrase from another Penelope Lively title) that’s how it all begins.  Matt and Lorna fall in love, marry, move to a rural cottage on the outskirts of nowhere without running water, heat or any amenity at all (which Lorna loves despite her upper class background).  Matt supports them with his art for which he finds a publisher.  And he paints their walls with with the scene of the park, the “tumbling willows, the rippling water” and the ducks.  Upstairs in the bedroom, he paints “Dancing figures.  Pink.  Nude, but discretely so.  Male and female.  Who hold out their arms to one another, link arms, swirl around the walls of the room.”

Matt goes to war, Lorna gives birth to Molly, Molly gives birth to Ruth, Ruth gives birth to Jess and some fifty or so years later, a post-divorce Ruth rediscovers the (Matisse-like) paintings.

Ruth was amazed, transfixed.  It was as though the room were filled with life — a mysterious, silent Matissecelebratory life that danced on and on, had done so ever since . . . ever since they were here.  Him and Her.  Matt and Lorna.  She felt a rush of happiness, a burst of joy, as though something flowed through time, from then to now, from them to herself.  She turned to Brian with a great smile, and saw that he too was beaming; for a moment they seeme
d to be compact, an alliance of delight.

He said, “Aren’t they wonderful?  Every morning, they remind me that life is to be enjoyed.”

She said, “My mother was born in here.”

     Dame Penelope Lively has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize; once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her novel Moon Tiger. According to Penguin, her publisher, she has one daughter, one son and four grandchildren.  She was born in 1933, and though not old enough to have experienced romance at Lorna’s age, she has lived through each of the generations about which she writes in Consequences.  No less than Ursula K. Le Guin reviewed the novel for London’s The Guardian.  http://gu.com/p/xj8jj  As Ms. Le Guin points out, Consequences treads much of the same ground in other Lively novels.  In other novels in general.  England.  WW2.  The blitz.  The Swinging 60s.  But her story-telling is impeccable and the generational quality of this novel adds the warp and weft of a beautiful family quilt.

Years later, she would think that you do not so much make decisions, as stumble in a certain direction because something tells you that that is the way you must go.  You are impelled, by some confusion of instinct, will, and blind faith.  Reason does not much come into it.  If reason ruled, you would not leave home in the morning, lest you stepped under a bus; you would not try, for fear of failure; you would not love, in case it hurt.

Years later, that time has lost all chronology; it is a handful of scenes that replay from time to time.

     And this is as fine a summary of the book as any I could do.  It is a handful of scenes, snapshots of time and people that connect to create interwoven lives and consequences.

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  Near the end of the book, Ruth has a fateful dinner with Brian.  The menu from that dinner would make a fine one for a book club discussion.

Green salad

Potatoes

Lamb Chops

    My grandmother taught me to make mashed potatoes.  You peel the potatoes then put them in water to cover the potatoes.  Boil down, WITHOUT BURNING, the potatoes so that the water is absorbed.  Mash with the electric mixer, adding salt, pepper, butter and cream (or half and half) until the potatoes are smooth.  Place in a casserole dish and pepper the top.  Put a large pat of butter in the middle and heat when you are ready to serve.

Here’s a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for grilled lamb chops that looks good:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/grilled-lamb-chops-recipe.ht

  I would serve English biscuits for dessert.  I love the McVities chocolate covered digestives and found them recently in the foreign food section of Kroger.  They pair very nicely with Caramel Ice Cream.

MUSIC

From WW2 to 1980s; from England to Greece.  The options are huge.  Here are some songs I thought of while reading.

I’ll Be Seeing You, Frank Sinatra  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL60OQLekWQ&feature=share&list=RDoL60OQLekWQ

The White Cliffs of Dover, Vera Lynn

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Vera Lynn

Downtown, Petula Clark

She Loves You, The Beatles

Moonlight Serenade, Glenn Miller Orchestra

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Oh Donna! The Goldfinch

Image

   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.”

                                                                            Image

  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.

MENUgoldfinch

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!

Love in the Time of Cholera: War, Peace & Parrots

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    Gabriel Garcia Marquez died at age 87 on April 17.  The New York Times called him the “Magus of Magical Realism” in an obituary penned by noted literary critic Michiko Kakutani.  http://nyti.ms/1eFI0VX

    It seems an appropriate time to revisit my recent post about Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel about love, passion, life, death and time.

      While the choleric anger of petty rage inflames ego-driven wars to ravage the countryside and population of an unknown Central American nation, a doctor, his wife and the man who has loved her for decades spend their days involved in their own lives.  Sheltered from the country’s wars by wealth.  Suffused with longing.  Having an astounding amount of sex.  Love in the TIme of Cholera, published in 1985 by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is at times a study of frustration, devotion, persistence, ambition, betrayal, forgiveness, obsession.  It is a novel of life and yet the author warned readers of Love, “not to fall into my trap.”  He also told the New Yorker that the book is based on the love story of his own parents.  http://www.themodernword.com/gabo/gabo_serenade.html Fermina, the daughter of a successful but disreputable business man, falls desperately in love with beak-nosed, skinny Florentino, a man without resources other than his ability to write really hot letters.  Fermina’s father forbids the relationship and thus the love grows, desperately, until one day Fermina runs smack into Florentino and decides the Garcia Marquez equivalent of:  Ugh.  What have I been thinking.  Frankly, his description sounds rather crow-life (and not nearly as good-looking as Javier Bardem who played him in the 2008 movie), yet despite all that, Florentino becomes rather the Don Juan and Wilt Chamberlain of his time and place, devoting the next 51 years to satisfying every woman within reach (including his 14 year old ward) while reveling in his own unrequited love.

wilt Javier220px-DonJuanP

  Because you see, Dr. Juvenal Urbino takes as his wife Fermina and they what Juvenal believes to be happily ever after.  Until he falls off a ladder trying to return his pet parrot to its cage (not a spoiler because this happens in the first few pages).   Ah, such is life.  Florentino then must try to take advantage of Fermina’s sudden availability to requite the love that has delightfully tortured him for the past five decades.  “Fermina,” he said, “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.” The book is dazzlingly full of brilliant natural descriptions, the confusion of human emotions, of journeys.  The book is perhaps, most importantly, a metaphor for life. For your book club, I suggest a South American menu, including (and perhaps most importantly) a drink called a Pisco Sour.  Pisco is a brandy common to Peru and Chile and this drink is delicious.  There are harder ways of making it:  whipping the egg whites, folding them in bit by bit, etc. but this recipe works:

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups ice cubes
1 cup pisco
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg white
aromatic bitters
DIRECTIONS:
1. Place ice cubes, pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and bitters in the bowl of a blender. Blend on high speed until finely pureed. Pour into two glasses and garnish with an additional dash of bitters.

I would add a warm wild rice salad with fresh julienned vegetables and spicy popcorn shrimp, some guacamole with blue corn chips and a Tres Leches cake for dessert.  I have not tried this recipe, so I’m simply giving you the link to the all recipes page.  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Gs-Tres-Leches-Cake/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=tres% Music:  oh this is way too easy, I know, but iTunes and Amazon actually sell the soundtrack for the Love in the Time of Cholera movie.  And if you want something sexier, try mixing Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Frank Sinatra. 1920s_valentine_kiss_retro_art_beverage_coasters-re95e368b14ad424d85fba372ca135ad6_ambkq_8byvr_512