LZ enjoys…

This is a list of my recent favorites; also check out the list of annual Best-ofs.
(Updated Aug 2014, just covering the best books I’ve read over last 8 months)
Dwight MacDonal’s collection of essays are stunning
Masha Tupisyn’s Beauty Talk & Monsters
Barbara Tuchman’s history of the 14th century
Renata Alder’s Speedboat
Really anything by Virginia Woolf, but Death of the Moth is a good place to start.
Thoreau’s Journals
Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook
Megan Marshall’s bio of Margaret Fuller

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Mixed Greens with Herbed Vinegar Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup packed fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano)
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 shallots thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
5 handfuls of young lettuces (arugula, peppercress, etc)
1/4 cup chervil & tarragon leaves

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Macaroni & Cheese

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
2 cups milk
1.5 cups Monterey Jack, grated
3.5 cups cooked macaroni
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, (reserve the juice)
3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
350 degree oven, butter a casserole dish; in saucepan, heat the butter until foamy, sprinkle flour in, whisk until it turns golden, slowly pour in milk & continue whisking. Simmer over medium & let thicken. Stir in cheese, remove from heat. Fold in macaroni, add tomatoes by squeezing them thru fingers into small pieces. Mixture should be loose like thin batter, if too thick add milk or drained tomato juice.
Pour into casserole, spread breadcrumbs over surface, sprinkle more cheese (1/4 cup), & grind pepper over top. Bake 25 minutes.
From: Cooking for Mr. Latte

Haricots Verts with Walnuts and Walnut Oil

1/3 cup walnuts
Sea salt
3/4 lb. haricots verts, trim stems
3 Tbs. walnut oil/good olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper/grains of paradise
350 degree oven, bake walnuts for 5 minutes, chop coarsely. Boil large pot water with salt, add verts & cook until tender but firm (4 mins). Drain, toss in bowl with warm walnuts & walnut oil. Season with pepper/salt.
From: Cooking for Mr. Latte

The Colossus of New York

Bleak and soft emotional underpinings of the granite city. Enjoyable, but not preferred. The unfinished sentences conveyed the hollowness of NYC, a bit mournful, lonely look into city souls.
A glimpse inside–
From “Downtown”:
Hipsters seek refuge in church, Our Lady of Perpetual Subculture. There is some discussion as to whether or not they are still cool but then they are calmed by the obscure location and the arrival of their kind. Keep the address to yourself, let the rabble find it for themselves. Wow, this crappy performance art is really making me feel not so terrible about my various emotional issues. He has to duck out early to get back to his bad art. Three cheers for your rich interior life, may it serve you well come rent day. Beer before liquor never sicker. This one’s on me. Somehow he always ends up buying every round. Hour by hour the customers change, grow humps horns scales. The little noises they make: her boyfriend’s out of town, his college roommate is in town, my friend’s band is playing downtown. He made too many plans with too many people and things will not turn out okay. She’s a little worried because at midnight the new legislation goes into effect and the draconian Save the Drama for Your Mama laws are really going to cramp her style. Hit the town. It hits back.

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Top Picks of 2003

Here are my top picks for 2003.
The Winners
1. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
2. The Widow’s Children by Paula Fox
3. Consider the Oyster by M.F.K Fisher
4. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
5. Birds of America by Mary McCarthy
The Honorable Mentions
1. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
2. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
3. Why Girls are Weird by Pamela Ribon
4. One up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch
5. Jarhead
6. Salt
7. Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

A peek under the veil of life in Iran; Dr. Nafisi teaches a secret class on Thursday mornings to her most devoted literature students, reading Nabokov (Lolita), F Scott Fitzgerald (Gatsby), James, and Austen (which are the 4 sections of the book), and Mark Twain, Saul Bellow. Nicely done interweaving of Nafisi’s conflicts with the Islamic revolution with the literature analysis. Students setting themselves on fire, being executed secretly in jail, the adoption of the veil against her will, meeting her “magician” in a cafe to exchange books and having to move tables when it was raided b/c they weren’t related (women can’t consort with unrelated men), the deep red nail polish of one of her students’ nails covered by gloves, the blind film censor, putting Great Gatsby on trial, her former student naming her daughter Daisy for James’ Daisy Miller, the stories from her selected students (Azin, Yassi, Sanaz, Mitra, Mahshid, Manna, Nassrin), the Iraqi missile attacks on Tehran, the painful decision to leave Iran for the US, the covert satellite dishes, bootlegged vodka, the bus story: Iranian writers encouraged by the regime to travel to Armenia to a conference only to have their bus precariously stop atop a precipice to be toppled over if it weren’t for the quick reflexes of an insomniac onboard.
Nafisi is an excellent writer, and seems to be an amazing lit teacher, with a unique perspective on Iranian life.

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Black Money

An exquisitely crafted mystery, my favorite of the Lew Archer variety. Each chapter was a delicious morsel.
Quick synopsis: Archer’s hired by the young, 3rd generationly rich Peter, to find out who Ginny Fablon’s pseudo French lover Martel was. (He was Panamanian). Taps, the French teacher, and his wife who has a crush on Archer; the ladies at the country club, the receptionist at the club. An unknown murderer kills Ginny’s dad first (blamed as suicide: dead body washed up on shore, death by drowning, and body chewed up by sharks), then 7 years later kills her mom and husband (Martel).

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Why Girls Are Weird

I devoured this book on my flight home to SF from ATL. I laughed, I cried, truthfully. The rawness of her father’s death stung me; as Anna arrives hours late to the hospital and finds her dad died while she was flying there, she feels a rustling and says her goodbyes to her father’s spirit. As for laughing, I admit to being unable to control my outbursts, meaning people around me thought I found Pirates of the Carribean (our inflight movie) hilarious in all the wrong places. Tiny wooden hand? I’m laughing now as I remember this section.
{off topic:}
I stumbled onto pamie.com last year and spent a day reading through the archives, doubled over with laughter. I’d never written a fan email to a website prior to pamie, and she responded kindly, just like the book. After joining her mailinglist, I found myself driving 6 hours south to LA to see her play “Call Us Crazy: The Anne Heche Monologues”. It was worth the drive and fighting LA traffic. Quick summary: a troupe of actors re-enacting Anne Heche’s autobiographical “Call Me Crazy”.
Scott Thompson was slated to guest star in the Valentine’s Day show, but had to cancel at the last minute after Touched by an Angel picked him up for two shows. Instead, we were treated to Edie McClurg (Mrs. Poole of Valerie, or Mrs. Beeker of 7th heaven fame). Thirteen other actors rounded out the cast. Each performed her reading of Call Us Crazy in a unique way, be it belting out a song about Mexican Lady Hands (Anne’s topless Fresno ecstacy trip was alleviated by a Mexican lady who took her in) or simply reading out the Table of Contents with special emphasis (“Love SLASH Other things”). Anne certainly set herself up for mockery with this book. I need to read it again to freshen my mind to the enormity of the humor. I think when I first read it I skimmed most to plow through the inanity. Pamie took the humor and made it bloom onstage. Bravo, Pamie!
{/off topic}
After finishing WGAW, I took out a pen and dropped some words of my own on paper for the first time in ages. I’m dying to post the tiny wooden hand story in our reprints section, but gotta ask Pamie’s permission first. Overall, I loved the book; not great literature, but a worthy addition to any library.

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The South Beach Diet

It was a little strange finally reading this book a few months after beginning the South Beach Diet. I got most of my information on the web on how to cut bad carbs out of my diet and go through the 3 phases. The wait list at the library finally brought this book to me, so I skimmed through and solidified some of the points that have been incorporated in my diet since late September. I was able to lose 6 lbs. during Phase 1, and have been keeping a steady weight since then, drinking wine & whiskey (but no beer), and dropping a lot of carbs from my intake. I also dropped caffeine from my diet, and am feeling healthier. Lately, I’ve been pretty bad, making full-on lasagna & chocolate souffles, but my beer belly is still much smaller than before.

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Cold Beer and Crocodiles

An expat journalist takes it upon himself to explore his adopted continent by bicycle. Through dust and wind and storms he trudges, dropping tales of chance meetings along the way. From Sydney, up the Gold Coast to Brisbane, across to Darwin, through the Kimberley to Broome (great beach town), around to Perth, through the Nullarbour Plain to Adelaide and Melbourne. Even a jaunt over to Tasmania, then circling back to Sydney. Sleeping outdoors or in roadside hostels, picking fruit, shearing sheep, conserving water for the desolate 100 mile stretches of 120 degree heat, cycling through the flu and road rash, meeting kind and unkind people along the way.
Quick read of an adventure story-sort.

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Moneyball

I could read this book all over again, starting tonight, when I just finished it. An insightful look into Billy Beane’s madness with the Oakland A’s. Bill James’ theory of baseball, taking luck out of the pitching stats equation (Voros McCracken). Scott Hatteburg’s lack of holes and incredible plate discipline, Chad Bradford’s unhittable underhand pitching. The tension between the front office and Art Howe, tension over allowing Ray Durham to steal bases (unnecessary risk which doesn’t lead to much of a reward). The supremacy of on base percentage and the rise of OPS. The valuing of ‘defective’ players by the A’s in order to get bargains. The 20 game winning streak of 2002. The insight into the Rincon trade, Billy playing other owners off each other. The future of baseball shaping up to include more teams that model themselves on the A’s strategy of more with less money (BoSox & Blue Jays). Most of all, the force of Billy Beane.
I want to read more books like this.

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