Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mental Relief

I've hardly slept the past two weeks, so I'm stumbling around with a low grade headache, scratchy eyes, and a very low tolerance for bad drivers and sad books. I don't want to know about the pesticides in my lettuce or just what the "broth" that my chicken comes pre-soaked in contains. I don't want a tragic love story or a gritty tale set in the slums.

In a mood like this, there's only one kind of book to read: a romance. And of all romance writers, the best of them all is Lisa Kleypas. After years and years of writing Regency romances, she recently started writing some contemporary fiction set in Houston, Texas. Now I lived in Texas for three years. It has a very fond place in my heart and I have to admit that it makes a fine setting for a romance novel. There's just this feeling that hangs in the air there that anything, anything at all is possible. And in the hands of a talented writer like Kleypas, this setting just enhances every interaction her charming, funny, and sexy as hell characters have.

The book I just read is Smooth Talking Stranger. I'm not even going to tell you what it's about because that's besides the point. The dialogue just zings, the descriptions of high society are vibrate and original, and reading the book helped me forget the cranky tiredness and kept the headache at bay. That's a lot of powerful good from one little novel.

More later,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Food

I tried reading Thomas Pycheron's Inherent Vice but it didn't work out. Pynchon's one of those quality writers and so I felt obligated to give his book a try. And Colette Bancroft, the book editor at the St. Pete Times said this was his most accessible book and one of her favorite books of 2009. But sadly, I just couldn't get into it. It's kind of a cross between a classic detective mystery and a stony-beach culture, 1960's sort of scene. Cool enough concept but it didn't work for me.

So I moved on to Novella Carpenter's City Farm-The Education of an Urban Farmer thereby continuing my trend of reading food-based non-fiction, which is a very strange trend for me. And oh man, what a book, what a woman. Carpenter lives in the ghetto of Oakland. Drive by shootings, prostitutes on the corner, homeless men as "neighbors". She has to deal with a 13 year-old who pulls a gun on her to steal her bike, with police raids across the street, the highway visible and audible just a few yards away. In the middle of all this, she takes the vacant, weed-chocked lot next to her apartment and turns it first into a huge vegetable garden. Then she adds a small flock of chickens. Then a bee hive. And then finally in a burst of madness, she raises two pigs to slaughter and turn into bacon, salami, prosciutto, and ham.

She also raises and slaughters a turkey for Thanksgiving and sweet little bunny rabbits for stew. I have some major respect for this woman.

More later,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not pretty

I'm really struggling in the aftermaths of reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book about the meat industry. Eating Animals, you can tell from the title, has a slate to the information presented, but even so, the conditions he describes in chicken, turkey, pig, and cow farms are horrifying. Even fishing isn't off the hook.(Come on, how could I resist that pun?)

The sad thing, and Foer writes this, is that we all know that something's not right with our meat industry, but none of us really want to know the specifics. And it's true. I want my shredded beef burrito, my sushi, my chicken soup, and I don't want to think about tiny chick getting pitched in a grinder, or live cows hung by one leg, conscious seven minutes into their "processing". It's horrifying (see there's that word again.) He describes much worse in his book (don't get me started on the things they're fed) and then attempts to grapple with the moral turpitude that we must all suffer from--how else can you account for the massive cruelty and disgusting evolution of factory farming?

I don't know that this book turned me into a vegetarian. But I know I'll never look at a $4.99 rotisserie chicken from Costco the same ever again.

More later,