So, Weekly Geeksters, tell us, do you have a collection, (or are you starting a collection,) of one particular book title? If so, what's your story? Why that book, and how many do you have, and what editions are they? Share pictures and give us all the details.
This is a lovely and inspiring idea - to collect all available (and possibly unavailable) editions of a beloved book. If I were to do this, I would go for a giant collection of Roald Dahl works or maybe various editions of The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic, one of my favorite books and the subject of my graduate thesis in English literature. But at the current time, I have no collection plans or carefully culled assemblage with which to wow you here. What I have are my accidental collections.
Come on, don't you have accidental one title collections of your own? Everyone has five editions of Jane Eyre and four of Swann's Way, right? And the really sad part, my book loving friends? These photos represent just two random examples of my accidental collections. Maybe I required a specific edition for academic work. Maybe I fell in love with the UK cover of a book after already acquiring the US edition. Maybe I was young and moving about, and forgot I already had a few copies of something left at the parental digs. Maybe I am just the most unlibrarianish of librarians.
Do you have a one title collection story of your own? Feel free to share here and over at Weekly Geeks. And please tell me you have accidental collections of your own. I will feel less guilt.
I think just about every reader has a least one book that they've been meaning to read for awhile (months or even years) but, for one reason or another, they just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe it's a book a friend recommended last year, or a title you've flirted with in a bookstore on more than one occasion, or maybe it's a book that's sitting right there on your bookshelf, patiently waiting for you to pick it up -- but the thought is always there, in the back of your mind: Why haven't I read this yet?
This week, tell us about a book (or books) you have been meaning to read. What is it? How long have you wanted to read it? And, why haven't you read it yet?
Sigh. This list is so long but three titles jump immediately to mind. Books that I own, and still have not read. The first, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has been on my shelves so long that I can't even remember when I acquired it. The second two, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Enchantress of Florence, were purchased in hardcover the weeks of their release because I simply had to have them immediately. So of course I have yet to read them. And they are now out in paperback.
Some will answer this today, and not own the titles they list. Then, I suspect, there will be even more, like me, who own the titles they have long meant to read. And why do we buy books and then not read them for quite a while or maybe never? Treats for ourselves? A type of consumerism we can't free ourselves from? A feeling that if we own the book then we will not forget it amongst all the other books that cross our path? Sometimes when the subject matter appeals to me, I just want to own the book as a means of connecting to the idea and sometimes as a means of connecting to the book as object. A feeling of satisfaction I still cannot imagine deriving from a Kindle. Holding that desired books in your hands. Again the Basbanes, A gentle madness.
"Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I am a human wineskin." But I seem to be conflating brands of Christianity. The Catholic rite of confession or penance with the Protestant embrace of sobriety. Catholicism sounds more like "Someone grab Monsignor's keys. He can't drive like that." So perhaps a confession more appropriate to my faith would be "Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I bought you cheap wine for Christmas."
Love wine and am willing to spend impractical sums of money for it. I look back on certain bottles with great emotion and affection as I associate their consumption with a happy occurrence, a particular friend, a moment of boredom and exhaustion on a Wednesday night in 1997. If you share my guilty pleasure you understand. If you are not quite there yet, but secretly crave a seat at the bacchanalia, may I suggest two great, non-snob starter books with exhaustive but user-friendly content? Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly and Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine by Mark Oldman.
This week's geek assignment - "Take us on a literary tour of your hometown!
Do you live in a place where a famous author was born? Does your town have any cool literary museums or monuments? Does Stephen King live at the end of your street? Was Twilight set in your hometown?'
Dozens of ways to approach this topic went through my head. I live in the Washington DC metro area where more than a few great books have been set or written. But Thursday night I popped over to my favorite independent, Politics and Prose, to hear George Pelecanos read from and take questions on his new novel, The Way Home. A main topic of conversation was why his books are all set in DC and if he ever considers writing about another place. But essentially, he writes not only what he knows but what he sees, and has no plans for straying from his DC home.
Pop over to his blog and hit the Washington tab if you want to see what I mean about writing what he sees. Thursday night, he told everyone how he photographs (with his iPhone now he offered) the various locations and markers about town that will appear in his stories, the visual cue of the image presumably supplying the sharpness of detail for which his prose is praised. Really important to take note of the Washington he photographs for this is the subject matter of his books. Gritty portraits of the residents of the nation's capital who arrived pre-gentrification, of the marginalized, of the displaced and the struggles that mark their daily existence.
The Way Home examines a difficult relationship between father and son, a relationship challenged by both the son's incarceration and subsequent efforts at redemption and the hit the father's working class presumptions and values take because of his son. The juvenile detention center featured in the novel is actually Oak Hill here in the district. The author's visits there lend stark realism to the dialogue in the those sections of the book. The neighborhood where the working class father has lived his whole life is Friendship Heights, now a neighborhood for the well-heeled, a neighborhood that does not remember its decidedly middle class roots. Read through and perhaps you will recognize other places in DC with which you are familiar. And many places a typical tourist never sees. But the father and son dynamic here could have occurred anywhere. Click here for more info on The Way Home.
Here is George Pelecanos signing your new book last Thursday night. Comment with a reason why you would like to take this particular trip to DC, and I will pick one out I especially like next Saturday. If they are all so compelling that I cannot possibly choose, it will be a random draw for one signed copy of The Way Home. And don't forget the author's website for more info on the novels, the author (including his huge success with The Wire), and, of course, Washington DC.
Photo credit for first image to Andrew Councill of NYT in 2006.
This week you are asked to share books (fiction or nonfiction) and/or movies which center around an animal or animals.
When I was a kid, I memorized Poe's "The Raven." Just loved it. The rhyme and rhythm, the vague eeriness, and some romanticized picture I had in my head of the "rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore." I wrote her whole story in my head. And I love birds, especially ravens. For a moment today, I considered writing about owls (love them too), but felt sure someone else would take up that lovely, someone else who experienced the same sharp intake of breath at Hedwig's demise perhaps. But ravens it is.
Mind of the Raven by biologist Bernd Heinrich was published a couple of years to ago to well-deserved glowing reviews. The author's scientific observations reveal a startling intelligence in ravens as well as playfulness, the ability to plan, and a whole host of other characteristics that illustrate the complexity of this bird. A complexity that rivals that of humanity in some instances. The author obviously loves this bird, and it is that personal affection that makes this book of science as easy and enjoyable a read as most novels. Well, for me at least. Love this book.
In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell is a beauty piece for raven lovers. Am always tempted to rip the book apart and start framing it for the walls. But I don't. The science here from biologist Marzluff is as compelling and detailed as Heinrich's, but I am so distracted by Angell's gorgeous artwork that I occasionally lose the thread of the text while reading it. Just look at the elegance of that cover image. Ooo, and check out this one below also.
Many cookbooks I read are checked out of the library because it would be difficult for me to justify the expense of all those I want to peruse especially as my taste in cookbooks runs in the lofty price range. Restaurant inspired cookbooks make me absolutely purr. Many so beautiful, so well-produced as to replicate that feeling of fantasy that makes dining out so magical given the right environment and food. I am not even sure that I want to replicate all of these recipes at home so much as vicariously live (or re-live in the most fortunate circumstances) that dining out experience.
"At San Francisco's acclaimed A16 restaurant (named for the highway that cuts across southern Italy), diners pack the house for chef Nate Appleman's house-cured salumi, textbook Naples-style pizzas, and gutsy slow-cooked meat dishes. Wine director Shelley Lindgren is renowned in the business for her expeditionary commitment to handcrafted southern Italian wines. In A16: FOOD + WINE, Appleman and Lindgren share the source of their inspiration--the bold flavors of Campania. From chile-spiked seafood stews and savory roasts to delicate antipasti and vegetable sides, the recipes are beguilingly rustic and approachable. Lindgren's vivid profiles of the key grapes and producers of southern Italy provide vital context for appreciating and pairing the wines. Stunning photography captures the wood-fired ambiance of the restaurant and the Campania countryside it celebrates." (from the publisher)
Meatball Mondays is a popular weekly event at the restaurant that originated from a need to put meat trimmings to good use. Fantastic weekend comfort food. The home-friendly recipe:
10 ounces boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor
10 ounces beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor
6 ounces day-old country bread, torn into chunks and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor
2 ounces pork fat, cut into 1-inch cubes and ground in a meat grinder or chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes and then finely chopped in a food processor
2 ounces prosciutto (4 to 5 slices), cut into 1-inch cubes and ground in a meat grinder or chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes and then finely chopped in a food processor
1 cup loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2/3 cup fresh ricotta, drained if necessary
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes with juice
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Block of grana for grating
Extra virgin olive oil for finishing
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the salt, oregano, fennel seeds, and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small nugget of the mixture, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the mixture with salt if needed. Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.
Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are browned. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300°F.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill fitted with the medium plate. Alternatively, put the entire can of tomatoes in a large bowl, don an apron and then squeeze the tomatoes into small pieces with your hands.
Pack the meatballs into 1 large roasting pan or 2 smaller roasting pans. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
Pull the pans out of the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.
For each serving, ladle the meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate the grana over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish, and serve immediately.
And the other object of my desire. Have only viewed this one online. Must hold soon.
"Chef David Waltuck calls Chanterelle "a fantasy of a restaurant, dreamed up by a little, food-loving kid, that somehow, magically, came true." For over 28 years and from two different New York City locations, Chanterelle has broken the boundaries of French cooking, winning over such fans as Gael Greene, Richard Avedon, Keith Haring, and Malcolm Forbes along the way. Now, co-owner and co-founder Waltuck invites you into his bustling kitchen with a sumptuously illustrated cookbook chock-full of the recipes that have made Chanterelle a destination restaurant of international stature. From their signature Seafood Sausage and other fish and shellfish creations to salads and first courses, poultry and rabbit, meat and game, side dishes, and desserts, the book simply overflows with nouvelle cuisine classics. A must for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of dining there -- and perfect for professionals and the armchair market -- Chanterelle is a cookbook to savor." (from the publisher)
So much more to say and share, but, my god, I think I would spill over on to page 2. What cookbooks do you covet?
“This lavishly illustrated and comprehensive guide celebrates the close relationship between the visual and literary arts in Proust’s masterpiece.
With over two hundred beautifully reproduced paintings, drawings and engravings, and accompanying texts drawn from the Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright translation, this book is an essential addition to the libraries of Proustians worldwide and a handsome volume in its own right. _
Eric Karpeles has identified and located all of the paintings to which the book makes exact reference. Where only a painter’s name is mentioned, he has chosen a representative work to illustrate the impression that Proust sought to evoke. Botticelli’s angels, Manet’s courtesans, Mantegna’s warriors, and Carpaccio’s saints are here, as well as Monet’s water lilies and Piranesi’s engravings of Rome, while Karpeles’s insightful essay and contextual commentary explain their significance to Proust.
Extensive notes and a comprehensive index of all painters and paintings mentioned in the novel provide an invaluable resource for the reader navigating In Search of Lost Time for the first time or the fifth.” (from the publisher)
Difficult to find right now for less than a hundred dollars or more, but the publisher, Thames and Hudson, has promised delivery of a reprint soon. Should have bought one when I had the chance. She who hesitates...
One excerpt from the book:
"One Sunday, while I was reading in the garden, I was interrupted by Swann, who had come to call upon my parents.
“What are you reading? May I look? Why, it’s Bergotte! Who has been telling you about him?”
I said it was Bloch.
“Oh, yes, that boy I saw here once, who looks so like the Bellini portrait of Mahomet II. It’s an astonishing likeness; he has the same arched eyebrows and hooked nose and prominent cheekbones. When he has a little beard he’ll be Mahomet himself.”
...Swann felt a very cordial sympathy with the sultan Mahomet II whose portrait by Bellini he admired, who, on finding he had fallen madly in love with one of his wives, stabbed her to death in order, as his Venetian biographer artlessly relates, to recover his peace of mind." - Marcel Proust (Swann’s Way)
“When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves. It radiates towards the loved one, finds there a surface that arrests it, forcing it to return to its starting point, and it is this repercussion of our own feeling which we call the other's feelings and which charms us more then on its outward journey because we do not recognize it as having originated in ourselves.”
"Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself." Marcel Proust