Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fur is Fabulous, As Are the 70s

Much to devoted partner's delight chagrin, I found a television channel that, at truly uncivilized hours of the day, shows old Charlie's Angels episodes. Now the DVR is packed with them. I am not a Farrah-come-lately in this matter. I have ALWAYS loved Charlie's Angels. Loved them as a young child, loved them as a teen, forever loved. Loved in a way I didn't love Love Boat or Dukes of Hazzard or any of the other similarly ridiculous shows of yesteryear. Charlie's Angels was special.

I covet (past/present/future) Jaclyn Smith's hair. If the genie came to grant me a single wish, I would seriously pause for a moment deciding between gobs of money and Jaclyn Smith's hair. Mostly because I'm not sure any amount of money will get me her hair.

And their outfits. Oh sweet jeebus. It was like Barbie writ large, but with guns. And judo. And the exceptionally tingle-inducing sound of John Forsythe's voice. Remember when Vanna White wasn't made of robot parts? And she wore spangly dresses and was resoundingly awesome? That's what the angels look like in every episode. And don't even get me started on their Mustang Cobras etc. In short, they can do no wrong. I am even generous with the later, forgettable angels in a way I have never been with the later execrable Timothy Dalton Bond (who starred in a Charlie's Angels episode, by the way, as the jewel thief boyfriend of Farrah Fawcett come back for a special guest star role).

As luck would have it, this week's assortment of reruns included a two-parter. Set in Vail. Where they skied in fur hats. Actually, the hat Sabrina wore is in my closet. I must remember to wear it more this winter. When they weren't in their ski garb, they were in the most fantastic assortment of 70s fur things. I wanted them all. Similarly, Helen Mirren wore a fur jacket in Red that fostered the same neediness within me.

I have only a passing consideration for living things - mostly the living things I like, so fur has never even registered on my list of things that are horrible. The differences among wearing fur, wearing leather, eating a hamburger, shooting at stray cats with a pellet gun, are small (you're welcome, AB). You should have seen me when we went to Montreal and to the fur store - I was seriously smitten with everything. It is my lifelong dream to own, and pull off, a muff. So seeing the wide array of furstrosities modeled by the Angels was and epic merge of two things I unashamedly love despite good taste.

And if you're really curious, or really bored, the nice kids at YouTube have a condensed version of the episode.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fellini It Isn't

For someone who has, in her life, taken great pains to appear smarter and more cultured than you, the evolution of taste takes its toll. The truth is, on any given evening, I would prefer to watch Dune than The Seventh Seal. In fact, on any given evening, I would prefer to watch Dune over most other things. I have a Dune problem. I'm going to attempt to not cast my lower-brow tastes in any kind of hipsterish rejection of the highbrow and merely say that after an adolescence of total modernist immersion with some Renaissance epic poetry thrown in for good measure, I'm ok with the fact that I can't stand the New Yorker and generally won't even read it on the toilet.

We saw the movie Red over the weekend and I loved it. Now my love of ensemble action-esque movies is nothing new. I have been a Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, Murder on the Orient Express, etc. fan for many years. Little pleased me more than the original Ocean's Eleven simply because I hoped it was the start of more 70's-era ensembles of silliness. Red, which is decidedly lowbrow was a delightful romp with all the attendant irony I look for in such things. Also, Helen Mirren has a sick body. Sick.

But it dawned on me that maybe I have ever so little less to prove by my choice of media consumption. After all, as devoted partner notes, my humor tends towards the eight-year-olds never so apparently as when I'm watching Family Guy and laughing at doodie jokes. When I reach for a book to reread, it's true that it's frequently Foucault's Pendulum, but the others that get reread often are American Psycho and Tim Cahill's Road Fever. So it's not all semiotics and fancy words. I have tried, and disliked, many of the new guard of intellectuals, leading me to believe that what I'm looking for has changed, not merely that the new guard of intellectuals is a bloviating morass of mediocrity (see how I used really snooty words there?).

And, as is a case I have heard from other recovering, or semi-recovering, self-satisfied asshats, I'd rather read good non-fiction these days than mediocre fiction. Philip Roth, a shining example of self-satisfied asshattery, has become more of a punchline than a good read. After all, I know of no one other than Philip Roth as interested in Philip Roth's erectile dysfunction. Now, I'm not yet at the point where I salivate over the newest biography of a nineteenth century politician, but I don't discount the possibility that that time may come.

As for film, or shall I say movies, I never much went in for the idea of film as art and I'd much rather laugh at a movie than feel consternation at one. Again, a good documentary would serve me better than a mediocre thought experiment.

Now, I'm not over the hump yet. I will still disdain the bottom of the barrel with full voice. You need not worry about seeing me thumbing through Danielle Steele or any of the author's who have ads on the subways, nor will you catch me waiting in line for Jackass 3 or a Rob Schneider movie (were another to ever be made), but I'm just no longer interested in subjecting myself to what is cast as High Art for the sake of having experienced High Art. I've experienced a buttload of High Art and it's taught me that not all of it is actually good (I'm looking at you, D.H. Lawrence, you pitiable hack).

Devoted partner, on the other hand, is not off the hook for his choice of reading material, and frankly neither are you if I catch you reading a book about Vampires that wasn't written by Bram Stoker.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Fruits of my Labor

It was pointed out to me by Jen, a devoted reader, that I don't show you the photos of what I knit. This was sort of intentional as I know most of you could give a crap. But perhaps, you think it's odd that I would tell you about my digestive health and not my hobbies, and I can see the logic in that. So today, in honor of Friday boredom and lack of inspiration, I give you the past several months of sweatering.

Most recently finished.

Very tiny yarn, very tiny needles, took forever.

Impulse yarn purchase in Maine. Cozy sweater of which there will be more.

Tapping into my inner Renn Faire.

First attempt at lacy work.

So now you have proof that I waste my time hobbyistically. I'll try not to forget about your deep and abiding interest when next I finish a project.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Research in Mistranslation

A Free Union and Familial Life:
Concubinage is a union made between two persons of the same sex or of different sexes who live as a couple. This union presents the character of stability and continuity. The rights and obligations of concubines are limited when compared to married people. The persons living in a free union are not subject, in particular, to the obligation of debts and assistance. In case of the decease of one concubine, the other does not inherit save for a testament in his/her favor.

Civil Pact of Solidarity:
The civil pact of solidarity is a contract. It is concluded between two physical persons for organizing their communal life. The two persons must be majors (it is impossible to conclude a pact of three person or more) of different or the same sex.

Civil Marriage:
Two people can get married in France even if they are not of French nationality on the condition that they are of different sexes and are aged no less than 18 years. The marriage is celebrated in the commune where one of the two future spouses has a domicile or a residence since at least a month of continuous residence at the date of publication provided by law.

Marriage Without Contract:
There are no formalities. This regime signifies that that which each possesses or owes before the marriage rests in personal property and the goods which he receives through donation or succession throughout the marriage. The product of work of each belongs to the community.

Marriage With Contract:
In the absence of particular formality, the spouses are subject to the regime and the rights of the commune called the regime of the commune property. If the spouses want to opt for another regime, they must pass a contract of marriage.

Food Obligation:
The food obligation and an aid of material which is due a member of a close family (ascendant, descendant) in the need and who is not in measure to assure his subsistence. His amount varies in function of resources of he who is demanded of lodging and needs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Originally uploaded by reallyct

The first, and frankly most important, thing to note is that I emerged from my day at Rhinebeck very under budget. I treated the festival the way I treat the casino: take the money you're willing to lose IN CASH and do not, under any circumstances, get more. I also had a list of things I was looking for which kept me from the :SQUIRREL: effect.

The festival was huge. Way bigger than I had anticipated. Who knew so many people produced wool things?!? There were also tons of animals, including a for-sale border collie (see slideshow) that, despite the longings of my heart, remained for someone else to buy (intelligent Yelena knows that the border collie, while awesome, is about the highest maintenance of dogs and perhaps not suitable for the first-time dog owner). I also considered buying some goats. Especially after that Colbert Report report on how they can do my landscaping. But I like Pablo and I wouldn't want to put him out of a job (actual name of our landscaper is Pablo, please no one think I was making a generic Mexican gardener joke). Also I think goats might suck as pets. Though, on the plus side, if I got a lady goat, I could learn to make cheese.

And yet, amidst the sheer volume of things, I found myself rather, if not underwhelmed, undermotivated to buy. A lot of the yarn for sale was of the coarser variety than I am accustomed to, being that it wasn't very processed and kept a lot of the raw-wool essence that is especially popular with those enormous Scandinavian sweaters. Instead of shopping with my eyes, I was shopping with my hands. I'd reach into the hanks and if they weren't tactile-y what I was interested in, I didn't bother allowing myself to be seduced by color. Only if the touch was right did I then assess the colors. And, gosh, with few exceptions, there was little that leapt out at me as BOTH something I was in love with AND something that would be practical for a project I was going to make. There was lots of beautiful impractical stuff, don't get me wrong. But I was trying to be the kind of sanguine adult who makes responsible decisions.

I did have some unnecessary apple pie, though.

All in all, though, it was a simply perfect autumn day and I got lots of exercise walking from booth to booth to booth with Julie and Jen, my two fellow stich n bitchers, with whom I shared the day (thanks to the generous carpooling of Jen).

I think some of the pictures turned out quite well, though I'm still getting the hang of my prime lens. And next year, I think I might take devoted partner with me - if I can convince him to wear a kilt like some of the other boys I saw.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Going Round the Bend

There are people who like beef, and then there are people who take weeklong intensive butchering workshops. I think this is true for many likes. You have the people who passively like, occasionally indulge, etc. and the people who make special trips to bizarre locales to share their enthusiasm with likeminded obsessives.

This Sunday, I join their ranks.

I am going to my first fiber festival. Yes. An entire day of yarn-related activities. I think this qualifies as a gross escalation of my hobby.

I'm going with two of my buddies from my Wednesday night Stich 'n Bitch. We will drive nearly two hours to Rhinebeck, New York, where we will encounter an orgy of fiber the likes of which mere passersby of yarn stores couldn't imagine.

And I've been in training.

I've not bought yarn, even stuff I really wanted, in preparation. I've treated the outing, financially, the way I treat a trip to the casino: money in cash, in hand, and not a penny more. No revisiting the ATM. No, "oh just one more pull of the slots." No rationalizations that I might never see the like of x again.

I go knowing that those I encounter might be of the variety of manic crafters that I poke fun at and, that by my presence, I count myself among their numbers. I hope that this experience will not be a lifechanging one that has me flitting about the nation in search of other fiber festivals, dragging devoted partner in tow like a dog to the vet.

Trepidation abounds, but I think I'm ready for this milestone.

See you on the other side of crazy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Little Things That Prevent Me From Being An Adult

My aversion to showering is well-documented. This is a character failing I know. Most adults do not consider "took a shower" to be a milestone needing celebration. But I think it's important to note that it's not the shower qua shower that I object to, merely all the things showering implies: hair conditioning, exfoliation, combing of hair, application of various types of moisturizer - and that's on days when I don't suck it up and actually do my hair and makeup.

Our shower is perfectly sized, but short on storage. Since I have no special affection for the act of showering, I have done little to ameliorate this problem. As such, it is not unusual, especially during shared showers, for various wash items to fall to the floor: combs, body washes, conditioners, etc. And yet, as I attempt to embrace adulthood with all its hygiene requirements, I find that I would like to have more room for my stuff.

Oh who am I kidding? The entire bathroom could use some assistance. Neither of us is really all that keen on bathroom maintenance (see empty roll of toilet paper on the dispenser and active roll of toilet paper on the counter; towering stack of magazines; unused but unmoved cups; assorted daily items not replaced in medicine cabinet). I don't even grok this, which is what I found when I google imaged "Martha Stewart bathroom." Now, I also read the post that accompanied the picture of an impossibly groomed medicine cabinet (who does this?) in which the author admitted to being occasionally lazy, but her occasionally lazy and mine have two entirely different meanings.

I did, however, take solace in her 8-minute regimen. Take 8 and only 8 minutes to do something tidy. I like this in theory. Much like, "only eat until you're full," it makes a lot of intellectual sense. In reality, my full and other people's might be different, ergo I simply avoid eating altogether. I would very much like to become an 8-minute kind of person. Since the last cleaning of my kitchen (long long long long overdue) I have been wiping up when I see spots of stuff on counters and stovetops, so there might be hope, but amidst that hope is the stepstool with the stack of magazines that didn't fit in the bathroom perched precariously on the top step so...

I have been to many of your houses (I'm looking at you AMY) and I notice that they all seem well-kept. Do you have maids? Or do you actually take time to fix your own houses and how do you do this when the DVR beckons? Or the knitting site? Or, really, well, anything?

But this weekend we will pack ourselves off to the Container Store for 8 minutes of looking for bathroom organizers. And I will try very hard to spend 8 minutes actually unpacking and installing our purchases.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mistakes Were Made

On a crisp fall morning, when sloth was attempting to reign, devoted partner muscled us out the door and into Manhattan to visit the New Amsterdam market even though, as I said, I didn't need anything. He thought the act of simply doing something would be good for our constitutions and morale. Also, he wanted to take me to lunch at a rugby bar.

I'm pretty sure I learned about the New Amsterdam market from Clay and I decided it would be a good time to figure out how to use my prime lens and also check out the vittles. We could not have been blessed with a better day and after only 15 minutes, we managed to find parking near South Street Seaport, which is no small feat on a Sunday. The market was not what I expected. First off, I expected it to be IN the Fulton Fish Market, not haphazardly outside of it. And yet, and yet, someone looking for food and fun would not be disappointed.

Having now seen some farmer's markets outside of New York, I must say that while I applaud the greenmarket program for hewing to the ideal of 100% local 100% of the time, places like San Francisco, Portland, and frankly even Durham, North Carolina have markets where a person could theoretically do all of his shopping, not just the raw materials. And I like seeing what local food artisans are making just as much as I like to see what local farmers are growing. The New Amsterdam market, while small, had a decent combination.

There were people actually cooking things on site as well as people selling pre-packaged goodies like oils and candy. And there was glorious meat product. And that's where the problems started. Country pate? Clearly needed. Oh, no, and there are duck rillettes - absolutely needed. Devoted partner apparently needed cheese. And Scandinavian bread. I needed fancy caramels. And a bar of regrettable, half-a-bite-only, bar chocolate.

I like this market. I want to go back again and again.

Then we made more mistakes at the rugby bar where beer and shepherd's pie magically appeared. In my defense, I ate about 1/4 of what was put in front of me (rugby players need lots of food; more food than perhaps I would like to eat). The rugby bar was more of a slick Pacific rim bar/resto, but there was rugby on the TV and immediately after my telling devoted partner that all rugby players looked alike we had to suppress a giggle as one sat down next to us ably proving the point.

I responsibly froze the rillettes so that we could concentrate on the pate without distraction. But knowing there are delicious ducky wonders in my freezer is keeping me sane in these times of rice cake and chicken austerity.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Gets Better

These days I spend a lot of time in front of the computer crying. If you know me, you know it sometimes doesn't take much: the At&T and Folger's commercials are perennial crying favorites. I like to think emotional freedom is a trait I picked up at home: my dad's a good crier. We're all good criers. Some would say it's an ethnic thing, some would say it's political, I don't know what to think. I just know that it's always been ok to cry and that empathy was never greeted as weakness.

Well, for several years now, the internet has been trying to compete with TV for my tears and I blame Dan Savage. A couple of years ago it was this which just reduced me to a blithering mess. Upon rewatching, nothing has changed.

Now, more recently, it's this, the It Gets Better Project developed by Savage after a spate of suicides by gay or perceived gay teens. In an effort to give these kids some kind of support, gay adults, and quite a handful of straight ones too, have been making videos trying to explain that as crappy as adolescence is, especially if you feel on the outside of your society, it gets better as you get older and get to make your own decisions about where you live, whom your peers are, and how you want to live your life. To say this stuff is heartbreaking is a massive understatement.

However isolated I have ever felt (and I'll lump you readers in here with me - we're all super lucky), it doesn't even register on the same scale. While my immediate reaction involves fantasies of firearms leveled against those who disagree with me AND SIMULTANEOUSLY act against children whom they perceive as threats, my second reaction is just a sea of helplessness: all I feel that I have to give is money, and while I know the money is useful (donate here), I wish I could DO something. But all I have is compassion. I have nothing meaningful on which to draw and my rage isn't something I think would be therapeutic to share with people in real pain.

I try to understand how some people can be so utterly invested in the thoughts, actions, and lives of others; how they can think it matters so much that they would actively interfere in a stranger's life - I still don't get it. I mean, I've heard the explanations, but it has never rung true for me and so I don't even know how (other than with cleansing fire) to combat it.

So I'd like to thank the people who are making videos, who are sharing their lives with kids who think they have no life left to live. While I know emotion is preventing me from being as cogent as I'd like, I'm going to try and take a quiet moment to believe that not only will it get better for individuals, but for all of us; that we'll reach a time when this sort of abject hate is the exception and not the rule.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Internet Is For, Well, You Know

This morning, devoted partner and I shared a meaningful moment. If you're a couple, then I'm sure you'll know what I mean. Those unexpected times when your love calls out to you, something funny in his or her voice, and says those six words every lover wants to hear,

"I just saw Brett Favre's (rhymes with) sock!"

Eagerly, I took the stairs quickly, the surprise and anticipation in my voice, "really?"

Apparently, there's a new tactic in wooing that the kids (who the hell am I kidding, Brett Favre is like 108) involving photographing your junk and sending it along. I know that this must work since I am forever lamenting the lack of junk photos in my inbox and encouraging devoted partner, and really anyone else, to snap and send.

For a moment, let's just get the unspoken out there so that others may be spared: don't photograph your genitals. Don't! If you absolutely must photograph your genitals, do not ever email them anywhere. Ever! Unless your genitals are being photographed by Herb Ritts, you will not be pleased by what happens after others see the picture. I myself felt no compunction mocking Brett Favre's absolutely average genitals. And this was long before I mocked his motivation for photographing them in the first place.

And let's talk about that, Brett. I'm a woman. I like the genitals of men. Under no circumstances do I ever want to receive an email from someone I'm not already sleeping with (and frankly, I'm not that into receiving one from someone I am sleeping with as, presumably, I already know what they look like) showing a disembodied meat puppet. This is an ego thing, I guess. You think women don't care about the rest of you as much as they care about your vaunted pokey toy. This is a fallacy. And the only kinds of people who send these kinds of pictures are gross people with whom, if we weren't already sleeping, we certainly wouldn't start and, had we started, might consider stopping.

Flowers are nice. They say, "hey I'm interested in having a relatively meaningless casual affair with you based primarily on how you look in a cheerleading outfit" without, say, being disgusting. Now, I can understand if you gave her the picture so that she could supplement her income by selling it, but I think you missed out on the part of the equation that necessitated other people seeing it (I'm thinking your wife, kids, grade school teachers, etc. oh wait, Wikipedia also informs me you have a grandchild - kudos) if the young lady was to reap profits. Would it have not been easier to simply let 10 grand fall out of your pocket?

I am not the only one, Mr. Favre, who has now laughed not only at your grand scale stupidity, but also at your decidedly NOT grand scale Leaning Tower of Pisa. In fact we're laughing at you more than we did when you said you were retiring. We're laughing at you because dumb is funny and you seem to have gotten enough dumb to keep us entertained for quite some time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Pants Don't Fit

I've been hiding this from you because gloating is unbecoming. But yes, my pants don't fit in the good way. As I am solidly at my senior year of high school fighting weight, I find myself tugging up my waistbands more and more. Today, for example, I have a serious case of saggy baggy elephant butt, and you know what? I'm sort of ok with it.

I'll tell you the secret, because I know you're dying to hear the magic weight loss formula that has permitted devoted partner and me to jointly lose over 60 pounds this year, but I warn you, it's complicated. A serious regimen that requires round-the-clock attention and management. The kind of thing that takes dedication and organization and whose publication will probably net me millions.

The secret to weight loss is

(drum roll)

(more drums)

(yet more drums)

not eating.

(cue awed gasps)

Yes, dear friends, the secret to losing weight is to stop stuffing things in your face. In fact, in order to cut weight, you should adopt an adversarial relationship with food. Food is the enemy, the Delilah to your Samson, waiting for an opening (literally) to derail you with its promise of delicious delicious fat. Do not succumb. Try to forget how delicious an entire loaf of pumpernickel raisin bread truly is. Also bacon. Also army-sized bowls of pasta. Also brownies. And ribeye steaks.

And I'll tell you why you must forget these things and here's where the real secret lies: rarely is what you're about to eat as good as you want it to be. The number of times I've looked longingly at a chocolate chip cookie or brownie and then remembered that 98% of the time when I would buy those things before, they were rarely as good as I wanted them to be is staggering. Macaroni and cheese is another. Sure, all macaroni and cheese is good enough, but very little of it is transcendent. And if I'm going to eat it, I want it to rock my world.

For example, this afternoon I'm meeting my former chef from db for a bite at the new Payard on West Houston. What? you say, you're going to a patisserie? Quelle temptation! Indeed it will be. But I will order what I want and proceed as follows: take one bite; if confection is remarkable, take 3-4 more; else, stop eating. You see? This kind of thing works if you remind yourself that you'd like to be able to reserve those cheaty calories on things that are really really phenomenal and that you can't do that if you cram mediocre fat into your piehole (pies are another category of things that rarely measure up to expectation).

I'm halfway there. Halfway to a weight I haven't been since puberty. A made up number, really. A guess as to what would be healthy and look good. And I'm halfway to it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I have mentioned before that Dan is the motherplucking chicken whisperer. It may have been his beef that was served at Chelsea Clinton's wedding, but I feel his chicken transcends poultry in ways that are still not fully understood. I will not lie, though, these are not inexpensive chickens. In fact, given that you can probably pick up a purdue roaster for like $5 (honestly, I don't know, I've never had one) and Whole Foods will sell you a cooked one for like $10; Dan's are $7 a pound.

Believe me when I tell you (though, frankly, it's not important until next year since the chickens are done for the season) that it is worth $7/pound. Yes, there is something unsettling about not really getting change back from 30 bucks when you're buying chicken, but I am happier about eating this chicken than I am about eating 98% of the rest of the stuff I eat that I have decided price is unimportant.

For the most part the chicken comes to our house to be prepared in a most basic fashion. Specifically, the Amateur Gourmet's fashion. It has never not been good. Generally speaking it is out of this world. Two weekends ago it was exceptional, as were the veggies, fingerlings and cippolinis which were absolutely pwned by Maillard reactions.

This past weekend I bought my last chicken of the year. I even emailed Dan to make sure I could get my hands on one. Devoted partner and I decided jointly to try something new. He wanted something that utilized herbs, a more traditional recipe if you will, and I had seen a recipe that used root veggies in this month's Bon Appetit. It sounded fine. And as I had learned, it's really difficult to mess up Dan's chickens.

Until now, that is.

Scratch that, the chicken is fine, the meal sucked.

We threw out the pan juices that I was told to add lager to and reduce because the resulting concoction tasted exactly like skunked beer with meat in it; the root vegetables released too much water during cooking and as a result nothing caramelized and everything was bland. The saving grace? The cup or so of the previous week's pan juices that, when drizzled over this lackluster meal, went a long way to salvaging it.

I know every recipe won't be a winner, but this one was a real loser, the kind of loser that, coupled with my magazine malaise, is really taking Bon Appetit out of the running for renewal. I just can't believe that I messed up the recipe to such an extent that it was my negligence that made it taste bad. I think it was simply a crap recipe.

Tonight we'll give the folks at Saveur a try with a cardamom chicken curry. The chicken has been marinating in salmonella yogurt since yesterday, so if you don't hear from me tomorrow, you'll know why.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ooooh. A good book.

Whilst in Portland, the DuYos lent me a book. Now there needs to be some background to this. Once upon a time, JDuYo and I read most of the same books, eating up Auster and Delillo like any pretentious 15-year-old should. True, we occasionally disagreed, but for the most part, we were content to read and read alike. Then something happened: college. Maybe it started before college, but we were too busy to notice.

But on trips home during those four years, he kept talking about things like John Cheever and I kept talking about Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We both confessed to having tried the other's choice and having been mercilessly bored. Quelle horreur. When we roomed together after college, things got no better, for now we were set in our ways. Of 50 books read, perhaps 3 were in common, and we both just accepted that our tastes had irrevocably diverged. We tried not to make too too much fun of the other's preferences. That was difficult. Literary preference is only one rung down from sports team preference.

So eventually, we simply stopped recommending books to one another. After all, just because we didn't like the same books didn't mean we couldn't be friends. We should just avoid antagonizing one another with our tastes. Every once in a while we would hit upon something we both liked (though if I'm being honest, I can't remember the last one) and we could more often agree on what we didn't like - especially when it was the execrable work of former heroes.

But the book I was handed in Portland was handed over with a ringing endorsement and since I'll read anything, there was not reason not to begin David Beniof's City of Thieves.

Let's start off by saying I really liked this book. Thanks DuYos! And I'll tell you why. I think one of the points of divergence in our literary tastes has to do with protagonists and intent. My gauge is that JDuYo finds character to be kingly - even when said character is a middle class middle-aged white dude with no major problems. If the writer can capture the character brilliantly, it doesn't much matter if the character in question isn't that brilliant. I, on the other hand, thanks to a semester of Roth & Updike, no longer give a crap about the problems of the average white man. See also: Fight Club. I simply don't care. To me it's all so much blahblahblah. Now, in fairness, give me the average Indian man and I care. It doesn't make sense. It's just that the average Indian man is different - I don't know him - whereas I know the average 50-year old American or Brit.

My reading leans heavily towards the non-American or British author, excepting Colonial writers, because I'm reading to learn something I didn't know before. This doesn't always happen, but it's what I'm striving for.

Now Benioff is an American. A New Yorker. An easy mark to write Rothdike books. Yet he chose, for this story, the Siege of Leningrad among which to set his bildungsroman. Very well, I'm at least initially sold. I know less about the Siege of Leningrad than I know about Philip Roth's testicles ergo interest. And the story was good. And the characters believable not only for who they were but for who they were in the context of Russian characters. Benioff did a great job writing as if he was a Russian author. And as a great lover of Russian authors, that too held my interest. The book wasn't too long, something our young American writers are excelling at these days - it's fine if you're writing something like War & Peace, but a 600 page novel about how you can't finish your novel is really really really shite.

So I recommend the book wholeheartedly. And I'm ready for my own next recommendation!