- A turquoise ring that once belonged to Jane Austen is on the block at Sotheby’s, accompanied by a note from Eleanor Austen to her daughter.
- Bookstores with cafés sell more reading material, figures suggest.
- Two more New York City bookstores, Washington Heights’s Word Up and Harlem’s Hue-Man, face closure. (The latter will continue as an online store.)
- Poet Simon Armitage crossed the Pennine Way as a modern troubadour, exchanging only verse for food and shelter.
- A new edition of A Farewell to Arms will contain Hemingway’s thirty-plus alternate endings.
- Celebrating Pie Week.
The local Junior League cookbook is the culinary bible of the Southern home. Every kitchen of my Alabama childhood had at least one well-worn copy of Magic, the Junior League of Birmingham’s 1983 recipe collection, with an enticing yellow-spiral binding and entries on everything from shrimp salad to banana pudding. Some would also have a copy of Palates, Platters, and Other Such Matters, the JLB’s 1950 edition, notable for its more liberal inclusion of lard and mayonnaise. Like every Junior League cookbook, the recipes were sourced from the community and thus varied wildly both in quality and in method of preparation. Still, the hand-me-down wisdom from Birmingham’s residents on how to properly prepare venison skewers or pimiento-cheese eggs had an authority that no celebrity chef or French instructor could muster. They were part of the trusted pantheon that my parents, whose taste ran more to grilled fish and apple pies than deep-fried catfish and layer cakes, would consult whenever a dish needed some extra flair. When I moved up to New York for college, my mother bequeathed me the most useful items she could think of for the journey: a ceramic teapot, a CD of Thin Lizzy’s greatest hits, and a copy of the newest JLB cookbook, Food for Thought.
It was part homesickness, part tiring of the endless meal-plan tuna melts that caused me to leaf through Food for Thought for more than just the pictures and familiar contributor names. (In scanning the index of recipes, certain contributors jumped out: the mother of a junior high crush, the organizer of the reception of my first and only debutante event, the family for whom my high school auditorium was named.) Sandwiched between essays waxing nostalgic about grits and poking fun at California cuisine were the dishes that taught me how to cook in earnest. After teenage years full of longing for escape from my muggy Southern home, I began, in my little dorm on 116th Street, clumsily making vats of overly spiced gumbo and punch bowls of mint juleps for my bewildered but grateful roommates. Read More
But how I got to thinking about my drunken love affair, years ago in Saint Petersburg, is Sam Gold’s new production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, playing now at the Soho Rep.
It’s ninety-nine-cent Sunday, and the line of sweaty New Yorkers edging for shade outside the eighty-seat theater is long. They are bored and tired. It’s a muggy ninety degrees. “We’re never going to get in,” I hear one complain to another; later, outside the bathroom, where they sell vodka shots for three dollars a piece, I hear an excited woman say to her date: “I can’t believe we made it!” Most of the people who stood or sat in line (many since two P.M.) did not see the show. My own guests, who had driven in from the Bronx for the production, were turned away.
“I’m the reviewer,” I tried to convince the guy at the door.
“Man, we don’t get lines like this, even for the Sunday show. I’ll have a revolt. It wouldn’t be fair.”
My friends went to see a movie, and my date and I went to our corner seats, right by the couch where the Professor would later be shot (and not).
- The London Olympics may be a couple of weeks away, but the poetry Olympics have already begun.
- Science-based art.
- The Elements of Style, as rap video.
- An appreciation of illustrator R.O. Blechman.
- Bookstore cats across America.
I am the first one in Stockholm’s Centralbadet this Monday morning, followed by James, then by an old man wearing big yellow goggles, who does a steady breaststroke around the perimeter of the pool. Watching him, I switch to breaststroke myself and match his speed. It feels comfortable. It feels relaxing. As the three of us swim counterclockwise, I channel my old age, my flabby form, my unself-conscious senior. I think of the two older women I passed in the locker room, whose modest black tanks encased humps and bones and bumpy flesh. The cruel phrase a friend once used to describe a woman’s backside: “a bagful of doorknobs.” I watch my hands trace their double ellipse in front of me, my mother’s wrists, my grandmother’s knuckles.
I was in Saint Petersburg, at a restaurant owned by a friend. It was in a strange building, a kind of old mansion. He took me back through several empty ballrooms—you could feel the springs beneath the wooden floors, installed many years ago, for dancing. We sat together in a small room. It had only two tables, and its windows were hung with heavy curtains. It was one of those private dining rooms that you read about in Russian novels, and my friend began to bring me different dishes. I recognized only the blini with black and red caviar; everything else was new to me. At this time, thirteen years ago, I was a wine drinker, but they did not have wine worth drinking in Saint Petersburg then, and he was pouring me glasses of vodka. Then several government officials arrived, important men, and he left me alone.
I noticed my waitress was beautiful. She was taller than me, with high aristocratic cheekbones, pale skin, lips full of blood, big firm tits. Very much the woman you want, if you want a Russian beauty. The type that has since made exported Russian prostitutes famous throughout Europe, the Middle East, and (lately) even large cities in the U.S.
I was determined to have sex with a Russian whom I did not have to pay.