Tuesday, July 20, 2010


You may be tempted to ignore these words. Do not. You were not chosen to receive this at random.
Do not discard this note. At some point in the near future, you will be desperate to reach me.
Do not share the contents of this message with anyone. I commit to you that the consequences of breaching my trust will be more severe than you wish to endure.
Blue will indicate that I am content. Orange will show my disappointment.
What do I want? I cannot answer that.
What do you have to offer? Give that question some thought.
When the time comes, we will reach an understanding. Despite all appearances, I am a reasonable man.
The Siege
Stephen White

I'm a huge Stephen White fan, and also a fan of Alan Gregory. The Siege is a compelling read--a great storyline. That being said, I found White's writing to be stilted more than a few times in this book.

And, I have some questions for him...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Seymour Ira Spencer of Manhattan and Southampton was a class act. Hey, the last thing you’d think was “movie producer.” No herringbone gold chain rested on a bed of chest hair; there was no fat mouth, definitely no cigar. If you could have seen him in his plain white terry-cloth bathrobe (which he was too well-bred to have monogrammed), standing on the tile deck of the pool of his beachfront estate, Sandy Court, sipping a glass of iced black-currant tea, talking softly into his portable phone, you would have thought: This is what they mean when they say good taste.

I’ll tell you how tasteful Sy Spencer was. He actually might have hung up, strolled inside and picked up a Marcel Proust book to reread. Except just then he got blasted by two bullets, one in his medulla, one in his left ventricle. He was dead before he hit the deck.

Too bad. It was a gorgeous August day. I remember. The sky was a blue so pure and powerful you almost couldn't look at it. Who could take that much beauty?...
The Magic Hour
Susan Isaacs

As I read the latest blog entry in French Word-a-Day, I was reminded of how for a number of years in the past Susan Isaacs was my favorite novelist. I think this book was my introduction to the phrase, the magic hour. Now, I'm loving the blue hour.
... The blue hour, the magic hour... crepuscule, twilight... the hour between daylight and night when the sky's luminosity draws artists out of their studios to see light's last glimmerings.

And, from Wikipedia: "The phrase is also used to refer to Paris immediately prior to World War I, which was considered to be a time of relative innocence."

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Elizabeth Bard knows the power of a first paragraph...

I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date. I say halfway because we had finished lunch but not yet ordered coffee. It turned out to be a decisive moment, more important for my future happiness than where I went to college, or years with a good shrink. The question was posed lightly. It looked like rain. We could sit it out in a café or, since his apartment was not far, he could make tea.
Lunch in Paris
Elizabeth Bard
reader's guide

And a great throwaway line when you feel someone is reaching beyond their station in life,
"Tu pètes plus haut de ton cul."
p. 58

An idiomatic phrase that means literally, "To fart above your ass." Or, slang for "Too big for your britches."

Friday, July 9, 2010


There's a hill covered with olive trees that nestles around our house like the strong, safe lap of an infinitely patient grandfather.... The tiny stone house sits tucked into the side of the hill so that tour bedroom window isn't exposed to the early rays of the sun, but that morning I was up with the first soft light in the sky. I had slept the sleep of the sated. Perhaps the three glasses of grappa at the end of dinner had helped a bit with that. Along with the bottomless pitcher of the local red wine that went down so easily with the wood-grilled lamp and the fried potatoes. God, those potatoes. Maybe it was all a dream; I never eat potatoes after a big bowl of pasta. Not in the same meal. Not in real life...
Living in a Foreign Language
Michael Tucker


It seems we never had time to get things done because our days were filled to the brim with lingering. Breakfast became a longer and longer linger.
p. 95

Great quote! This book is about food and meals and great wine, i.e. Italy, and specifically Umbria. The Tucker-Eikenberry contingent has found a way to live life to the fullest, to reap the benefits of their early labors. An inspiration.

video interview

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


The pilot paused at the edge of the wood, where already it was dark, oak-dark at midday. He propped himself against a tree, believing that in the shadows he was hidden, at least for the moment. The others had fled. He was the last out of the pasture, watching until they had all disappeared, one-by-one, indistinct brown shapes quickly enveloped by the forest.

All, that is, except for the two on the ground, one dead, one dying.

*  *  * 

Claire knelt beside the airman. She took her scarf from her head, opened her coat. In the candlelight she could see the man's face for the first time. He looked oddly peaceful, as though he were merely sleeping. He was twenty-one or -two, she guessed. The light made shadows of the bones of his face, the shape of his mouth. There were cuts on his forehead and cheeks, and his mouth was badly swollen. Briefly, she ran the back of her fingers along the side of his cheek. As she sometimes had for the others, she wondered who might be dreaming of this man even then, which mother, which woman loved him, prayed for him, received his letters, counted the days until he might come home.

Anita Shreve

Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris blog post today reminded me of this book and how much I enjoyed it--both times I read it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Standing on the white lady's back porch, I tell myself. Tuck it in, Minny. Tuck in whatever might fly out my mouth and tuck in my behind too. Look like a maid who does what she's told. Truth is, I'm so nervous right now, I'd never backtalk again if it meant I'd get this job.
The Help
Kathryn Stockett
p. 30

RvH passed this easy read on to me, asking for my opinion. I'm ready for an easy read after Ian Rankin and Charles Baxter. Not that those are difficult books, but this is an emotion-filled, family-duty week and I need mind-candy.

I enjoy the book and the care that Kathyrn Stockett takes with drawing me into the life of the early 1960s in Jackson, MS. Many middle class homes have help. Prejudice and segregation are the rule. A new day is dawning, slowly. Thank God.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I dreamed I had my wish:
                                  -- I seemed to see
the conditions of my life, upon
a luminous stage: how I could change,
how I could not: the root of necessity,
and choice.
Frank Bidart, The Golden State

He was insufferable, one of those boy geniuses, all nerve and brain.

Before I encoutered him in person, I heard the stories. They told me he was aberrant ("abnormal" is too plain an adjective to apply to him. He was given to public performative thinking...

He performed intellectual surgery using hairsplitting distinctions. At the age of nineteen, during spring break he took up strolling through Prospect Park with a walking stick and a fedora. Even the pigeons stared at him...
The Soul Thief
Charles Baxter

Like Saul and Patsy, Baxter again just ends this book like he's run out of story. No resolution.