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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

A Recipe-Filled Diary From 1968 Offers A Taste Of The Past

Last year Georgie Williams was browsing through a South London market . She bought a vintage cabinet and she found something intriguing inside it: a brown booklet, with Official Diary 1968: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office inscribed on the cover. It contained 150 handwritten recipes, written by a mysterious cook. Williams is now recreating each of the diary’s retro British and European-inspired dishes in her own kitchen, and documenting the process on her Instagram, Forgotten Delights.

Read more: Gastro Obscura

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Elizabeth Bishop Reads Selected Poems

Via 3 Quarks Daily

A Saint From Texas

An excerpt from Edmund White's new novel, A Saint from Texas, that traces the extraordinary fates of twin sisters, one destined for Parisian nobility and the other for Catholic sainthood:

For my spring semester abroad I arrived at the big old-fashioned apartment of Pauline’s grandmother on the Avenue Mozart (she’d taught me to say “Moh-Zar,” not “Moht-zart” as we pronounce it—correctly, I might add) with 17 pieces of luggage and an extra taxi. For the door on the ground floor Pauline had given me the “code,” whatever that was. I saw a panel with some numbers and punched them and wedged my hat box in the heavy wood door, lacquered teal blue and adorned with a heavy round brass knocker. Though I’d tipped them extravagantly the drivers had just dumped my bags on the sidewalk. I moved them all into the big entrance hall to the building of rather dirty black and white tiles and smelling of fish (cod, as I later learned, since the concierge was Portuguese and ate nothing but bacalao). She looked suspiciously out through her lace-curtained window and disappeared. Wasn’t it her job to help me?
The elevator was big enough for only two people. I decided to haul everything up in three trips to the fifth floor and the entrance to Mme de Castiglione’s apartment (in French with two ps, appartement). When I got everything up there I sat on my suitcase for three minutes till I stopped perspiring, then rang her bell. I didn’t expect her to hug me exactly, but I did expect her to greet me in slow but precise French with a formality and a certain warmth.

Instead she looked at my mountain of matching Vuitton luggage, put her hands on her hips, and snarled, “Mais non! C’est impossible! Vous exaggerez, ma chère. You have rented only a chambre de bonne, a maid’s room one floor up, and you can never fit all that—” She made a wide, despairing gesture and tilted back her head, lips downturned.
“This is not the Ritz. Oh, non, full of American clothes, no doubt.”
Still clucking like a broody hen, she gave me a key to my room and said, “I’ll see you at eight for dinner,” then slammed the door. I sat down on my biggest suitcase and sobbed. But I decided to be peppy and happy, like a true Tri-Delt, and within three minutes had pulled myself together, carried all my bags up in three elevator trips, found the right door, and let myself into a maid’s room with a sink, no toilet, one window, a room no bigger than my closet in Dallas, the narrowest bed I’d ever seen with the thinnest mattress and just one coffee-stained blanket and a pillow, which, if you peeked under its crisp white pillowcase, you saw had turned tobacco-yellow with years of sweat. Other people’s sweat. There was no closet and no armoire, just three wire hangers stuck into cracks in the wall. Everything smelled of old copper wire—or was that roach spray?

I discovered the toilet behind a curved door halfway down the stairs. It had a bare bulb, nothing to sit on, just two scored ceramic tiles on the floor, where you were supposed to place your feet, squat, and let fly into a stinking hole in the floor. The whole thing was no bigger than a phone booth. I couldn’t see any trace of toilet paper, though some scraps of a newspaper—Le Figaro—were probably intended for mopping up, which might have been okay if you had a bidet, which I didn’t. I assumed the shower was in Mme de Castiglione’s apartment.
No, the whole thing was impossible! I would rent a proper hotel room nearby where I could leak in comfort and hang my clothes and bathe but I would pretend to live here so I could still have my total immersion in French (if not in soapy water) and eat French food and participate in the life of impoverished aristocrats.
Read more:  Literary Hub

How Phillis Wheatley Was Recovered Through History

In a new book, “The Age of Phillis,”  the poet and professor Honorée Fanonne Jeffers rewrites the story of Phillis Wheatley who came to America on a slave ship and became a literary celebrity.
Two hundred and fifty-nine years ago this July, a girl captured somewhere between present-day Gambia and Ghana stepped off the Phillis, a slave ship, and onto the docks of Boston Harbor. The only existing account of this day records that she was thought to be “about seven years old, at this time, from the circumstance of shedding her front teeth.” Wrapped in nothing more than “a quantity of dirty carpet,” she was taken to the city’s slave market, where Mrs. Susanna Wheatley, the wife of a wealthy Boston merchant, was in search of a faithful servant for her old age. Though there were “several robust, healthy females” on display, Mrs. Wheatley selected the seven-year-old, “influenced to this decision by the humble and modest demeanor and interesting features of the little stranger.
Read more: The New Yorker

Monday, August 03, 2020

The Rabbit Hunter

Ten little rabbits, all dressed in white
Tried to get to heaven on the end of a kite.
Kite string got broken, down they all fell,
Instead of going to heaven, they all went to...

It begins with a nursery rhyme. Nineteen minutes later you die…The Rabbit Hunter is the sixth book in the Joona Linna series by Lars Kepler (aka husband and wife team Alexandra Coehlo Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril). Swedish cop, Linna Joona, is doing time in prison for a crime committed in the previous book in the series (which I have not read so I don't know what the crime was). He is released after the Swedish foreign minister has been murdered in a gruesome fashion and an escort who witnessed the act can shed little light on the motive or the identity of the killer. The government covers up the murder and puts pressure on the police force to solve the case. Terrorism is initially suspected and there is reason to believe that more murders will be committed. His former colleagues believe supercop Linna may be the only one who can stop it. As the bodycount continues to mount the terrorism angle proves to be a dead end and goes spectacularly wrong. The police learn there were ten murders planned and race against time to find a connection between the killings and stop the carnage. Alcoholic celebrity chef Rex Müller, his gay son and his assistant DJ Johnson play pivotal roles in this story and I waited for that puzzle piece to fall into place. The book is breakneck-paced, suspenseful and cringe-makingly violent (if you are an animal lover you're not going to like the rabbit parts). I found the plot rather far-fetched but it kept me hooked even though I don't generally read thrillers. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Tweet Of The Day

Lauren Groff Reads Her Short Story "Flower Hunters"

Lauren Groff reads her short story “Flower Hunters” from her short story collection Florida, with sound design and music composition from Naomi LaViolette.

Edgy Architecture

Edgy architecture: Architecture in the most impossible places  by Agata Toromanoff and Pierre Toromanoff  presents 60 case studies of houses built on cliffs, steep mountain slopes, and other treacherous places around the world.

Link and More Images: The Independent

Via Neatorama

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Short Story: Girls at War by Chinua Achebe

The first time their paths crossed nothing happened. That was in the first heady days of warlike preparation when thousands of young men (and sometimes women too) were daily turned away from enlistment centres because far too many of them were coming forward burning with readiness to bear arms in defence of the exciting new nation.
The second time they met was at a check-point at Awka. Then the war had started and was slowly moving southwards from the distant northern sector. He was driving from Onitsha to Enugu and was in a hurry. Although intellectually he approved of thorough searches at road-blocks, emotionally he was always offended whenever he had to submit to them. He would probably not admit it but the feeling people got was that if you were put through a search then you could not really be one of the big people. Generally he got away without a search by pronouncing in his deep, authoritative voice: ‘Reginald Nwankwo, Ministry of Justice.’ That almost always did it. But sometimes either through ignorance or sheer cussedness the crowd at the odd check-point would refuse to be impressed. As happened now at Awka. Two constables carrying heavy Mark 4 rifles were watching distantly from the roadside leaving the actual searching to local vigilantes.
‘I am in a hurry,’ he said to the girl who now came up to his car. ‘My name is Reginald Nwankwo, Ministry of Justice.’
‘Good afternoon, sir. I want to see your boot.’
‘Oh Christ! What do you think is in the boot?’
‘I don’t know, sir.’
He got out of the car in suppressed rage, stalked to the back, opened the boot and holding the lid up with his left hand he motioned with the right as if to say: After you!
‘Are you satisfied?’ he demanded.
‘Yes, sir. Can I see your pigeon-hole?’
‘Christ Almighty!’
‘Sorry to delay you, sir. But you people gave us this job to do.’
‘Never mind. You are damn right. It’s just that I happen to be in a hurry. But never mind. That’s the glove-box. Nothing there as you can see.’
Read more: Biblioklept

"Politics" by William Butler Yeats

US Marine Officer Stephen Conteagüero reads "Politics" as part of The Favorite Poem Project.

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Working From Home With Emily Dickinson

Wrong Hands

The Celebrity Bookshelf Detective

 The New York Times checks out the reading habits of Tom Hanks, Gwyneth Paltrow, Regina King, Charlamagne tha God, Yo-Yo Ma and others.

On “The Today Show,” July 7
1. The Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson, Volumes 1-3: Transcripts of 700 hours of telephone conversations that Johnson secretly recorded that include his dealings with the Kennedys, cursing about Vietnam and his push to help the cause of civil rights. 
2. “St. Marks Is Dead,” by Ada Calhoun: This close-up look at the history of an idiosyncratic New York City street where both Emma Goldman and the Beastie Boys partied is also a meditation on all that changes in urban spaces and all that stays the same. 
3. “The History of Manned Space Flight,” by David Baker: A very complete history of the early space missions — Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and onward — for the NASA geek.

The Wild Laughter

An excerpt from The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes, 2020 First published by Oneworld Publications:
Before the bubble burst, the conditions were set in by which the Chief would have to work his dying day, tilling his grave in the fields with the heatless sun hung low in the sky. Until then, we wouldn’t know the goings-on of his mind, never mind the spoiling meat of him. To think of the foreign things he let eat him alive for he wouldn’t leave his sons a worse debt than what he’d already accumulated. The foreign things we’ll get back to. First, how did he get so sick as that, as if his lips had been stretched round a chimney flue? By association. Haven’t we the Black Death and the well-fed crows and the Famine Roads going nowhere to teach us that in Ireland? Many a friend the Chief had despite his being largely silent. When he had something to say, he knew how to open the chamber of his throat and come out with something brief but mighty, so that everybody heeded him and the principles he lived by—hard-earned learnings. The stories he told were local in the sense of being local to the soul, not to the landlocked midlands culture. But primarily, he was a listener.

* * *
One day in the height of the country’s delirium, he listened to a subsidy-suckling sheep husband by the name of Tony Morrigan, whose palms convened round a pint of Guinness of a Sunday morning. With a necktie he must’ve tugged up from his grand-father’s grave, he’d come to our house midday midweek to show the lazy hours of a sheep-farming property owner (he’d hired shearers) with the advice of the centuries: ‘There’s azy money to be made off bricks and mortar. Spain’s past its best now, so you’ve to know what you’re at. I’ve four bought off-plans in Bulgaria. I’ll keep one and dole out the rest to my pals with only ten percent atop the price I got them. Going up sure as escalators. More reliable even. Stairs! I’ll be having me ease retiring before my own father, I’ll tell you that for nothing. There’s a ticket out of this slog, Manus, and here’s me handing it to you on a platter.’

I won’t make excuses for the Chief—he shouldn’t have heeded such an infested-arseholed skiving prick, but they’d copied each other’s algebra sums on the school bus, so why shouldn’t they copy each other’s assumption sums on the train to Dublin? The way you come to trust a thing you’ve known your lifelong is the way you come to trust the sea, until one day you’re napping in your La-Z-Boy and a tsunami rolls in and wakes you with the lungful of salt water and the shame of dying without your feet on the floor. Like that, he wound up with an apartment in Malaga and the plan for one in Sunny Beach—the portent of it—on the east coast of Bulgaria by the time Morrigan had jellied him up like an aul sow in muck and introduced him to the creditor—citing the Chief ’s land for leverage, his cultivator, seeder, sprayer, the harvester he’d been prompt in his hire-purchase payments for. The three of them sipping lattes and our father who never had a latte in his life—who drank milky tea only. Our father who didn’t have an atlas to look up where Bulgaria was besides—not for stupidity or naivety, but he was a working man with no time for atlases or affogatos or amortisations.
Read more: Guernica

Monday, July 27, 2020

Step into an Imaginary Photography Studio From the 1850s

Predicting the Past—Zohar Studios: The Lost Years by photographer Stephen Berkman presents the colorful cast of characters in attendance at the mythical Zohar Studios, a 19th-century Lower East Side photographic establishment of the eponymous Shimmel Zohar — an Eastern European Jewish immigrant who came to the United States in the 1850s. The images possess an archaic quality that is beautiful and strangely unsettling.