Monday, February 25, 2013

Dinosauer reading

The Upper Room

This novel was in my Black literature section at home and since it was set for the most part in Florida, I thought it a good one to bring down for the winter.  I am enjoying it.  I have read really nothing much like it before.  lt is a strange vision of really poor and poorly educated Black community and is almost dark and funny.  The central character catches out attention; however, at times there is just too much repetition of the same rants.  The novel could have been shorter and done just as much.  Still, I keep reading and am about half way through.

The central character talks a good bit of Jesus but is basically amoral and narcisistic to a radical degree.  She kills anyone who gets in her way, even those who just basically annoy or in a vague way threaten her.  She believes she has magical powers and so do those in her family and community, but it is all simply strong assertion of a powerful will. No one can get in the way of Mama Ruby and live.

I can't say this is the best novel I've read.   It is too simplistic and the characters are all shallow with few real complications and no depth.  The main character simply rants about Jesus and the Devil, tries to use her healing hands, and murders men who get in her way and tries to isolate her "daughter" Maureen from the world.  The dead are all men in this book, those that are killed and those that just die. 
Still there is some fascination to the strange community of people and the rules that govern it.  And the reverse prejudices are interesting as well.
There are few good men and few good whites.  Big Red the sherriff is good to Mama Ruby in some ways but totally corrupted.

In the end it was just as disappointing.  Some of the resolutions seemed fitting.  Most of it seemed silly, really.  Still, for some odd reason I'm happy to have read the book.  Now i think it is time to get back to oysters. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tender is the Night

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of just how poorly I read lately is to say that I have just ow finished the Fitzgerald, which went to France with me and was supposed to be finished for the book group I get emails for but do not attend in mid November.
Another sad commentary, and a good reason for this blog, is that I've read this novel before, in fact, I've read this particular book before, and there in the final pages are a few of my notes. 
I don't remember it.
And having read it again, I can't really say it was something I managed to get a lot out of.  Too much was too obscure.  Too much required that one have sympathy for the independent rich.  I don't. 
The idea of suffering so much on the Riviera has always seemed to me absurd.

Perhaps I'll see what they did with it in a movie or read some crtical analysis to see what it is that I've missed.

I could not quite get Dick's inner struggles.  They all seemed too melodramatic.
I did chuckle that the last bit of his life was spent in small towns of the finger lake area.  It is these places that are presented as certainly the dullest places to live and work.  So hard for me to get that as I think of them as certainly as delightful as the riviera, perhaps more so.

Well, I enjoyed the book, nonetheless.  It did hold my attention.  The young girl traveling with her mother hit home when we were on the Viking cruise because we met a young girl traveling with her mother.  And there we were in France and having some of the kind of social interactions with people that are experienced on the Riviera.  A Viking cruise is a bit like the Riviera for modern travelers indulging themselves with a bit of Europe.

Best is that I am done with the novel. I've finished one of the dozens of books that sit on shelves here and at home with book markers in them. 

I intended to just toss this volume away in France, but it came home with me, and I guess I'll just keep it.  The last page is not attached but folded in half and kept in the book almost as a bookmark. The cover is detached.  The back cover is gone.  The book is really functionally useless.  But now that it has these personal struggles of these characters in it, I guess I'll keep it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

From the papers

Now it starts. Climate change is here and already affecting the way we govern ourselves. Down the road there will be no bailout for those who choose to live in dangerous locations. Private insurace will be so expensive few will be able to afford it and buy out plans will replace rebuilding plans. But people are slow to face reality and give up tradition. Nice to see New York acting first here too. Progressive government. I like it. Cuomo is doing a great job with the state. Hopefully we won't lose him to some crazy Presidential run. More reason to support Hillary if she runs.

It also could be noted that one of the things to do with this reclaimed land is to make oyster beds. Great idea! Kurlansky will be proud.

It is amazing what science can do now to reconstruct the past. This is an incredible story of finding the remains of Richard III.
Ear infection is much better today but resiliently hanging on.
That other ear infection, the roaring of the Super bowl better as well. Finished.
Now we can get on with baseball.


Ah.... I don't feel quite so crazy to have so many caps.

March 19
Another threat for cosmic destruction!/2013/03/sun-storm-forecast-tiny-chance-of-havoc.html

A good article on the issues around bringing back extinct animals.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Kurlansky's Choice Cuts

This is subtitled "A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History."

It is amazingly entertaining to anyone interested in food.  Kurlansky's selections are unique to his own love of historical trivia as well as reflecting his sense of humor.  The pieces, of which I've only read a half a dozen or so, offer more of a window on how people think about food, then practical advice or recipes.  What a fun book!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kurlansky's Blog

I found this easily.  However, he does not write very often.  Once again I noticed how much food works in his writing, and how much he understands the vast amount of meaning that is expressed in our eating and in the way we prepare our foods.
Here is a good example.  This solves the Basque dilemma for me.  I am not in favor of kept secrets because I think it makes rare and precious simple things subject to extinction.  However, I like how this recipe works to define a woman's life.

I also was thrilled with this report on the writing left by those who wrote when the government paid for the writing, writing which has been ignored for the most part.


Kurlansky's Oyster: History on the HalfShell

This book focuses to a large part on NYC and the abundance of oysters in the early times of the US.  It is sad really that such a wonderful natural resource was destroyed by overeating and pollution.  We don't learn from our mistakes.

The middens in NY City were not religious and much of the collected material was dug as a resource to build roads and such.  Little now is left of accumulations that had been there for centuries of Indian inhabitation.

I am about half way throught the book, having started in the library.

Today I was fascinated with the oyster barges that were set up along the East River.  What a fascinating idea.  In the back came the oysters from the oystermen and out the front came retail sales, much like our own Shelly's in Homosassa.  Quite a few are represented in the book.
I liked this view of the passing of the exciting time when small oyster places were all along the East River.

p.196   "It would all vanish in time.  Bridges would put an end to the all night street traffic of the ferries. and larger steamships would dock in the deeper water of the Hudson, abaondoning the East River as a working waterfront.  In time more food would enter the city by truck than ships, and the logic of the harbour front markets would be gone.  But in the nineteeth century there was no better New York experience than to go down to one of the markets late at night and eat oysters."

"An amiable English earl a few years ago paid a visit to the United States.  His great delight was to wander up and down Broadway at night and visit the principla oyster saloons in succession, regaling himself upon fired oysters at one place. stewed oysters at another,upon roasted oysters at a third, and winding up a the evening by a dish of oysters, a l'Anglaise.    On leaving New York to return to England. he miscalculated the time of sailing of the steamer. and found that he had an hour and a half upon his hands. "
So he returned to Broadway for more oysters.


Chapter 9 coins a great term:


And is in large part less history and more cookbook with some exciting and very old techniques in cooking oysters.

He returns to another visit by Dickens and tells some great eating stories of Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell.  It was all about being large eaters and their love of the fun of it and show of wealth.

Here too somewhere ??  are the stories of the immigrant gangs that ran New York.  It is quite interesting to see how tough the Irish immigrants were in those days.  Also, racism is covered.  Some of the Civil War was blamed on the blacks for some unknown reason.  And when they started immigrating North and taking poor folks jobs, the displaces workers were angry.

"Ostracized in the Golden Age"

This chapter starts with explaining how restaurants created a social peeking order.  It is interesting the the food itself did not distinquish the classes.  Poor and rich alike ate oysters.