Monday, October 31, 2011
I guess I sort of missed out on the Halloween thing, but my excuses are by all accounts legitimate. So many great books have come out these past few weeks, I've had a whirlwind of a time chugging through them. Until I do, here's a quickie: Bainbridge Island's own (and beloved) David Guterson released his newest, Ed King (Knopf, 320 pgs, $21.56), Portland's Chuck Palahniuk's latest, Damned (Doubleday, 256 pgs, $19.96), continues rising in NY Times Bestseller success, and Michael Ondaatje's, The Cat's Table (Knopf, 280 pgs, $20.80) was put on the shelves -- just to name a few. Oh, and don't forget Jeffery Eugenides' The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 416 pgs, $22.40). And Neil Gaiman was also on NPR, talking about how awesome The Graveyard Book is! What a week! A reading list to scare the pants off of you!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It's here. It's coming. It's creeping through your skin! Right Right. Not Halloween, silly, Japanese sensation Haruki Murakami's latest mega-novel 1Q84! (Knopf, 944 pgs, $24.40). If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Murakami, consider yourself invited. Murakami deals only in the strangest of worlds -- or is it the realest? -- where strange creatures, formidable beings, and that metaphysical, existential cramp you've had since college seems to unfurl through your muscles like pharmaceutical drug still in the experimental stages of chimpanzee testing. This newest novel (which I haven't read yet -- it just came out today) is apparently about this, that, and everything else. A New York Times Magazine interviewer explained it as a wildly ambitious book, "full of anger and violence and disaster and weird sex and strange new realities...[that] makes you marvel, reading it, at all the strange folds a single human brain can hold;" he later adds "its plot may not even be fully summarizable -- at least not in the space of a magazine article, written in human language, on this astral plane." (Check out the rest of the article here). If this description makes you at all skeptical about involving yourself with a book by this Murakami guy, I repeat, consider yourself invited. His books are at times challenging, but so often give you that rare epiphanous sense of glee and understanding that only a truly wonderful (and sometimes challenging) book can give you! Check it out! I repeat: Check it out! And check this cool picture out, too. Murakami running (it's where his creative energy comes from, he says):
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Neil Stephenson's Reamde (William Morrow, $28.00, 1056 pgs) -- I can't even feign contention with the NY Times' review of REAMDE which described Seattle-based writer Neil Stephenson as that kind of author who shows up at your house unannounced and reeking of weed, stays longer than you expect him while doing things you don't understand, and all of a sudden leaves without a trace, making you wish he might've stayed a little longer and shared a little of what he was smoking. Or something along those lines. Anyhow, I've been ripping along through his latest, REAMDE, which is indeed a book that could've been written by a man like that. Strange, sidereal, it is an entropic sort of global-thriller that involves everything and everywhere from Russian Gangsters, trolls, mages, a hyper-detailed computer game called T'Rain, Northern Idaho, a former mine in B.C., a trailer park in Iowa, Seattle, China, and everything/one in between. A must read for die hard fans of Stephenson (whose Snow Crash is listed as one of Time magazines top 100 books in the English language), and a damn good (and strange) book for the rest of us, REAMDE is definitely that fall vacation you couldn't afford.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
(No, it isn't some long lost Robert Ludlum title...)
So recently, Workman publishers asked us if we'd cook a few things from the up-coming Mourad: New Moroccan (by Mourad Lahlou, Workman, 400pgs, $40.00) cookbook and do a bit of blogging and tweeting about it. Of course we jumped at the idea, as did a few other independent bookstores across the country, and got started preparing for a two-night feast of harissa bloody marys, lemon preserved-chicken, grilled kefta kabobs with grapes, a yogurt-herb spread that goes with truly anything you can find in a refrigerator, beets with avocado puree and pumpkin seed crumble, and, to top it all off, chocolate gingersnaps. Yes: Yummm.
Before we get too much further, I think that it's probably necessary to explain what sort of culinary family we're dealing with. What I'm really saying is that my mom, Suzanne (LBB owner), is truly one of the worst cooks to have ever found her way into a kitchen. To her, a nice dinner is a bottle of wine, crackers, and some skanky vegetables she found in the bottom of the fridge hastily roasted and then slathered with salt. Her 'signature' dish is a beef stew so bland even a Brit wouldn't touch it, which nobody -- and I mean nobody -- will get close to but her. It looks like a cross between Alpo dog food and elementary school chili on its way out. (Sorry mom.) So anyways, what I'm trying to say is that if we can cook these dishes, really anybody can. They're not hard. They are delicious. And you can make them. If she can, you definitely can. Back to the feast:
PREPARING. The lemon preserves were the only thing we had to make ahead of time, and it couldn't have been easier. Salt. Jars. Lemons. A few weeks time, and done. In all, the needed ingredients were pretty easy to gather. Beside from a few spices we had to go to Seattle to find, everything we needed was right at our local grocery store and pretty cheap, too -- a rarity when it comes to cookbooks these days.
THE COOKING: Really fun and really easy. We had a great time skewering grapes, rolling the kefta into balls, and, of course, slugging our harissa bloody marys while stirring the yogurt and vinegar sauces. All in all, the directions were simple, precise, and quick to accomplish. It probably took 4 people an hour and a half of actual 'cooking' time to get everything done.
THE EATING: The whole night was really fun from start to finish, and it goes without saying that the food was incredible. Particularly the chicken with lemon preserves and the kefta with grapes. Wowsa.
THE EXPERIENCE: I think we all agreed, using the cookbook was awesome for everybody who came over and taught us a lot about Moroccan food (more than just lamb and couscous, apparently), Moroccan culture, and Mourad, the chef -- who does a really cool thing by infusing his life story into all of the recipes. Highly recommended for anything from an awesome group-cook dinner party where everyone is involved to making a quick yogurt sauce when you've got just a little time. Really good food. Really cool story. Really great book.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
It's been some time since I've done one of these things now...busy, work, things, moving, what have you. And some big things have been happening in the book world, I'm happy to say. September, surprisingly short, I always think, contained "Banned Books Week" (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/), saw Jonathan Safron Foer reveal his newest novel, Tree of Codes (Visual Editions, 285 pages, $32.00), to be a brilliant, play-giaristic take on Bruno Schulz's novel Street of Crocodiles (SEE COOL STORY AT: http://www.jewishliteraryreview.com/2010/11/jonathan-safran-foers-tree-of-codes/), and publications by Jim Harrison, Paolo Coelho, and -- shockingly -- a thriller by far-right radio host Michael Savage whose books are usually titled something like "Liberalism is for Retards," hitting the shelves. (For more on the Savage thing, check out this really strange interview where Savage calls his book The Great American Novel.)
As for "Banned Books Week," I think it was Salman Rushdie who said something like, "No one values the power of the written word than a police state." And it's true. Although the regular banning of books in our country shows a profound disregard for the 1st Amendment and personal freedom, we may forget that it's also a testament to the continuing power of the written word and authors today. Just think about it. Would parents in Alabama be tripping over themselves to get "Harry Potter" or "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" taken out of their libraries if those books didn't touch upon some absolutely vital part of the gut?--If they didn't depict something real enough to scare the bejeezus out of us? It's something to think about. The way I see it, as long as books are still being banned, authors are succeeding at their jobs. Just look at the list. How many of the banned books are bad? None of them. In fact, just about all of them are classics.