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w August 17, 2002

What's Happening Now

At least in the book world...actually, this title deserves some explanation. When I was about thirteen or fourteen, my parents took my sister and me on one of their forced marches through one state or another (typical summer activity in our household), and as we travelled through the backroads, noticed a hulking pile of brick high up on a hillside. Intrigued, because frankly the day had been fairly quiet from a sightseeing perspective, we stopped to inquire.

Our informant had been standing in his driveway, drinking beer with his compadres (it was a little King of the Hill, come to think of it), and evidently had been hard at it for quite some time, because when my father asked about Victorian Monstrosity, he swimmingly focussed on us and said carefully, "It was a hospital or the headquarters of the Red Cross, but then I think it became the Church of What's Happening Now". We thanked the man and peeled off before dissolving into convulsions at the utter rightness of that statement. Listen, I'm all for people finding their way spiritually, but there is something so inherently wasteful about creating a new religion for the sake of creating something new. And then, of course, you get sneered at by a drunken man in a tank top and a wandering, junk food bloated Canadian family. Not exactly the divine recognition I'm sure the CofWHN was looking for.

I seriously digress, however. My friend Camille has created a blog devoted to books and reading, and had invited me to post on it as well. I tried, but think that my post invite timed out. At any rate, I was sufficiently pleased, in an egotistical sense, with my posting that I thought I would try to at least recreate it here in the hopes of still reaching that oh-so-wide audience that I know I have. Sarcasm? Never.

The book that I most recently finished was Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples, a good, but not great, sequel to her first memoir, Tender at the Bone. Tender at the Bone was the only book in my fairly decent memory that sunk so deeply into my brain that the minute I finished reading it, I immediately went back and reread it. Strange? Probably, even for a person who tends to compulsively reread old favorites, but this book had something. Maybe it's just that I love food criticism, food literature, food description, but this is one of my very favorite books in the 25 years that I've been devouring the printed word.

Comfort Me With Apples, on the other hand, while entertaining enough, just didn't have the same spark. Perhaps this is the curse of all sequels, but I found myself sort of cajoling my mind to stay focused...and I didn't reread it immediately or even within a few days. Essentially this second book picks up where TatTB leaves off, with Reichl and her husband living in a commune in Berkeley, California, at the end of the 1960s, and follows a similar pattern of reminiscence-recipe-reminiscence-recipe. For some reason, though, the pattern was a little stale. In TatTB, Reichl takes the reader through her off-kilter childhood, adolescence and college years swiftly and endearingly; it may be that the older one gets, the less things change dramatically from chapter to chapter. I can certainly sympathize with that, but somehow it made the book seem just a titch too long. It rather reminded me of celebrity biographies that try to wring about 50 to 100 pages out of one or two minor scandals---no one's satisfied, the scandal has been forgotten by page 2, and actually it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place.

I'm glad that I read both books, and I would highly recommend both---but read them in order, and draw your own conclusions. A final note? Make sure to read both in close proximity to the kitchen.

by at August 17, 2002 12:18 AM | TrackBack Comments

Heather! Seems like ages... I had a bookmark to Hoffmang in my favorites and thought I'd check and see if Gene had (finally) done anything with the page, and lo and behold, you guys are blogging! Belated congratulations on the Bean and your consequent entry into Serious Adulthood, a state that I'm still far from myself. This gives me the right to think of you as older than me now... And judging by the transformation in other friends of mine with newborns, you probably feel older, too. :-)

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Looking forward to reading through more of your posts. Check out my blog (www.tomleslie.ca) for some recent info (& pictures) of me (& new girlfriend!). And feel sorry for me, stuck in an office in boring Hartford... :-(

Ciao! - Tom.

Posted by: Tom Leslie on August 20, 2002 4:32 PM
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