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Posts Tagged ‘staff picks’

What We’re Loving: Bourbon, Poetry, and Mead

October 12, 2012 | by

This week, Lorin and I made a whirlwind trip to Houston, where we had the chance to visit the wonderful Brazos Bookstore. While browsing their well-curated cookbook selection, my eye was caught by a volume called 101 Classic Cookbooks, curated by the Fales Library. Published by Rizzoli, it is as much an art book as a recipe primer (although there are plenty of those too, from such luminaries as Julia Child and Alice Waters). Images of antique receipt books and mid-century food art make for great cultural history. —Sadie Stein

Charles Portis is that rare literary legend too few have read—me included. When I spotted a copy of his 1979 novel, The Dog of the South, on a friend’s shelf, I knew it was time to find out if the rumors are true. They are. There’s a hopped-up futility to this tale of a man in pursuit of his wife and her lover south of the border, and when Ray’s surrender is set off against small moments of truculence, it’s comic gold. One passage in particular, of Ray trying to outrace another car in a total clunker, reminds me a bit of the pie-fight scene in Gravity’s Rainbow, which was published only six years before; though the setup is far less surreal, it’s rife with absurdity:

I’ve had enough of this, I said to myself, and I was just about ready to quit when the exhaust system or the drive shaft dropped to the highway beneath the Chrysler and began to kick up sparks. Jack was down for the day. I shot over a rise and left him with a couple honks. Harvest yellow Imperial. Like new. Loaded. One owner. See to appreciate. Extra sharp. Good rubber. A real nice car. Needs some work. Call Cherokee Bail Bonds and ask for Jack. Work odd hours. Keep calling.

—Nicole Rudick

Walker Percy, the National Book Award winner and Paris Review interview subject, has a delightful and underappreciated piece called “Bourbon, Neat” on a topic near and dear to my heart. Percy claims that bourbon does for him what a bite of cake did for Proust and goes on to expound an aesthetic approach to bourbon in which the chief pleasure comes from, “the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bit of Tennessee summertime,” words that make this Kentuckian’s breast swell with pride. More importantly, this piece provides a ready-made, literary-minded rebuttal to accusations of alcoholism. A defense, I imagine, that might prove useful to more than a few of our readers. —Graham Rogers

I recently picked up The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of Poetry Magazine, which was released in celebration of Poetry Magazine’s centennial (thanks to Sam Fox for lending it to me!). If you need to be reminded of the incomparable poems that the magazine published first in its pages (including those of Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath), read excellent poetry by an author you might not have discovered yet, or simply remember why poetry is worth loving, this is the book to turn to. I recommend getting together with a few friends, taking turns opening to a poem at random, and reading out loud—knowing that you (and they) won’t be disappointed. —Emma Goldhammer

According to Robert Louis Stevenson in “The Secret of the Heather Ale,” the last Pictish king chose to have his son put to death and be killed himself rather than reveal the secrets of his favorite beverage to an invading Scottish army. You could try and re-create the ale that “Was sweeter far then honey, / Was stronger far than wine,” yourself this weekend by boiling five ounces of flowering heather tops (any color, although white is allegedly the luckiest) and boil in a gallon and a half of water. After an hour add seventeen pounds of honey and boil for a further half hour, before leaving the mixture to rest for another thirty minutes. Strain into a seven gallon wine fermenting bin and fill the bin to the top with cold water. Stir through one sachet of champagne yeast, skim off any foam that forms on the surface and decant into clean wine bottles. It should be ready after a week or two. —Charlotte Goldney

This week the loveable geeks over at A.V. Club published a tripartite list of the 1990s’ best films. It’s a neat little nostalgia trip on its own, populated by Tarantinos and Jarmuschs and Scorseses and such. But web-surfers were quick to point out that the skinny white dude aesthetic of the Club list-makers resulted in the absolute omission of black and female directors from this particular record of the nineties canon. Weirdly, this didn’t yield a firestorm: it produced a thoughtful discussion of the nature of institutional bias (think Linda Nochlin’s essay “Why Have Their Been No Great Women Artists” in 140-character tidbits), and the chance to reflect upon the contingency of our cultural consumption. Start at Slate if you’re interested. —Samuel Fox

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What We’re Loving: Pippi, Airports, Purses

October 5, 2012 | by

If you’ve only ever seen the awkwardly acted 1969 film Pippi Longstocking, in which Pippi tokes up with her young friends (not to mention Peppi Dlinnyychulok, the very weird Soviet version), you’re in for a treat. In the late fifties, Pippi author Astrid Lindgren published a comic strip about her precocious young heroine in the Swedish children’s magazine Humpty Dumpty. Drawn & Quarterly is bringing these strips to the U.S. for the first time ever, and while they’re fun to read, the best part—hands down—is Ingrid Vang Nyman's art. Relying on bold blocks of color and bright, simple designs, the panels are midcentury children’s art at its finest. —Nicole Rudick

What would you do if you were a passenger in a hijacked plane that circles the Dallas metropolitan area for over twenty years? An interesting question, to say the least, and one Manuel Gonazales proposes in the first story, “Pilot, Copilot, Writer,” in his Borgesian debut, The Miniature Wife: and Other Stories. However, instead of dwelling on the fantastical and farfetched elements of the plot, Gonzales concentrates on the interactions between the passengers, the emotions that birth from the subtle tragedy of plane travel that extends well beyond some of the character’s years. The routines of ordinary life never seemed so extraordinary. —Justin Alvarez

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What We’re Loving: Simultaneity, Latin Lovers

September 28, 2012 | by

I’m not really a fan of family-drama novels—I make exceptions for Lionel Shriver and Jane Smiley—but when one is set in your home state and the author teaches at your alma mater, it seems like required reading. Now I can make Andrew Porter’s In Between Days an exception, too. This story of a family’s collapse begins after the falling apart—infidelity, divorce, coming out, leaving for college—has already taken place. There’s more dysfunction to come, but the real treat is Porter’s plainspoken treatment of his characters, quiet and intense, and the revelation of fine but substantive fractures that are impossible to repair. —Nicole Rudick

Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delauney published The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jeanne of France in 1913, calling it “The First Book of Simultaneity.” Cendrars’s poem, recounting a journey he may or may not have taken from Moscow to Manchuria, was accompanied by Delauney’s scroll of abstract forms in bright colors. The idea was that the reader should take in the text and painting simultaneously, and the poem strives gamely toward the same goal: “So many associations images I can’t get into my poem / Because I’m still such a really bad poet / Because the universe rushes over me / And I didn’t bother to insure myself against train wreck.” A facsimile edition of the original book—a gorgeous, unfolding paper accordion—has been published by Yale, and I’ve been staring at it all afternoon. —Robyn Creswell

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What We’re Loving: Voyeurs, A Trip to the Moon

August 24, 2012 | by

Have you ever had one of those days where it’s best, for everybody, that you stay in your room and turn off your phone and promise never to talk to anyone ever again? Gabrielle Bell understands. Her autobiographical comic strip The Voyeurs just rescued one such Thursday night for me. Bell makes social awkwardness verging on phobia look cool, or at least perfectly rational, and even at her most despondent, her pen notices what’s going on outside the window or in a friend’s facial expression—and as often as not, it’s funny and endearing, even beautiful. For an artist who skewers her own fecklesness and self-pity, Bell spends a lot of time secretly celebrating the world. —Lorin Stein

As my friends know, I have long held a somewhat irrational prejudice against all shades of purple, and when pressed, have only ever been able to come up with vague allusions to wizards and Lisa Frank. Imagine my glee, then, when, in a Q & A with The New York Times Magazine, Monocle editor and full-time jet-setter Tyler Brûlé declared the following:

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What We’re Loving: Cocktails, Borges, Color

August 17, 2012 | by

As though a blog written by a Merriam-Webster lexicographer weren’t exciting enough, Kory Stamper at harm·less drudg·ery recently posted on the thrilling discovery of color definitions. To whit: “begonia n … 3 : a deep pink that is bluer, lighter, and stronger than average coral (sense 3b), bluer than fiesta, and bluer and stronger than sweet william — called also gaiety.” In a kind of synesthetic treasure hunt, she races through the dictionary to follow the trail of colors. “I eventually ended up at ‘coral,’ where sense 3c yielded up the fresh wonder, ‘a strong pink that is yellower and stronger than carnation rose, bluer, stronger, and slightly lighter than rose d’Althaea, and lighter, stronger, and slightly yellower than sea pink.’ Carnation rose was clearly the color of the pinkish flower on the tin of Carnation Evaporated Milk, and Rose d’Althaea was clearly Scarlett O’Hara’s flouncy cousin, but it was the last color that captivated me. ‘Sea pink,’ I murmured.” —Nicole Rudick

“You probably wear lipstick, powder base and a little eye makeup every day. But have you ever considered drawing in completely new eyebrows, wearing false eyelashes, putting hollows in your cheeks with darker foundation, a cleft in your chin with brown eyebrow pencil or enlarging your mouth by a third? These are just a few sorcerer’s tricks available.” Among the most amusing tributes to the original fun, fearless female is Bonnie Downing’s affectionate Outdated Beauty Advice from Helen Gurley Brown over at the Hairpin. —Sadie O. Stein

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What We’re Loving: Eccentrics, Cult Figures

August 3, 2012 | by

All month I’ve found myself recommending Perry Anderson’s series in the London Review of Books on the birth of modern India. Anderson is hardly a well-kept secret; he is about as renowned as a Marxist historian can be. Still, his in-depth articles—on China, Russia, Italy, et cetera—are like nothing in any other magazine. Imagine the old Encyclopedia Britannica as written by the God of the Old Testament. He lays about him with a mighty hand. —Lorin Stein

I like biographies for beach reading. (And by beach I mean the roof of my building.) Lisa Cohen’s All We Know—a joint study of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, and a vivid portrait of between-the-wars bohemia—is just the thing: substantive, thoughtful, and juicy enough that you’ll risk a burn to find out what happens next. —Sadie O. Stein

If you are an eccentric, you will be thrilled to know that there is a club for you. It’s called, rather plainly, The Eccentrics Club. It’s based in London, was founded in 1781, and still exists. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t—it’s patronized by the Duke of Edinburgh, no less. The club’s stated mission is to promote, presumably just among eccentrics, “Good Fellowship” and “True Sociality”—“virtues which,” according to the club's rules and regulations of 1808, “are now getting rare and eccentric; but which it is the wish and intent of this Society to cherish within their narrow circle to the utmost of their power … in the occasional enjoyment of  ‘the feast of reason and the flow of soul.’” If you aren’t quite sure whether or not you qualify, do not fret, as the Society has a useful page to help you diagnose yourself. If you discover that you are in fact an eccentric, don’t get too excited: admission to the club is by interview only. —Arthur Holland Michel

Searching for Sugar Man—the story of Detroit cult singer-songwriter Rodriguez and his unlikely second act—is a solid, pleasurable documentary that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys crying alone at movies (I do). But even if you don’t catch it, check out the sound track: composed entirely of the subject’s own music, it makes a strong case for his place in the early-seventies canon. I’ve had Cold Fact on repeat for the past week. —S.O.S.

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