Saturday, January 20, 2007

Literacy of the Damned

Being without the Internet was both a blessing and a curse. The curse, obviously, was that I was separated from you, my Beloved and Devoted Readers. And while I won’t admit to any addiction (be they alcoholic or internet-ic), I must admit that the forced weaning of my fingers from the keyboard of my Mac was not an altogether bad thing.

Of course, what good is the cure of your “aholism” of choice, if it doesn’t leave something better in its wake? You see, in the last few months I have rediscovered the arcane form of entertainment known as “reading.” That, naturally, required buying books en masse during all those long, internet-free hours. Some came via (not a bad option if you have a large order in mind) and other random jaunts to Toronto and India. Anyway you crunch the numbers, however, literacy is expensive drug.

Hubby, narrow minded git that he is, will tell you that some (or as he claims all) of what I read wouldn’t count toward the literacy of a rabbit let alone a grown woman with a pricey book habit. I freely admit that I like a good trashy romance as much as the next girl. The links to the right of this entry are proof enough of that KISA addiction. Nor do I apologize to anyone for enjoying a good Happily Ever After in this Unhappily Ever Is that we live in. Hubby believes that these books have given me false expectations of the real world. But hey, that’s why I’m the blogging freak and he’s the one at work… working.

But this episode of blog isn’t about those books. I’m not sure if maybe I’m maturing or god forbid growing up but I’ve been leaning less toward my romances of late and more in the direction of books that my parents would actually not make me hide when we had company. The problem is that I haven’t exactly been happy with all the heroes or authors in these new tomes. Knights in Shining Armor they were not. Examples? Well if you insist…

Before I left for Toronto, I ordered a copy of Bill Buford’s new book, “Heat.” Even though it arrived only after I had departed on my much-needed vacation, I eagerly tore into it shortly upon my arrival back in Kenya. I was thrilled to have the book in my hot little hands as one of the memoir’s central figures is my Food Network hero of Italian food, Mario Batali. Molto Mario’s cookbooks have been a constant source of inspiration in the Typ0/Hubby kitchens. Some of you may even have enjoyed what we have dubbed “Mario Sauce,” a menu staple in our house that was inspired by one of his recipes.

After reading “Heat,” however, the warm clog-orange glow has worn off of Mario in favor of a more honest semi-respect for his business know-how and chef derring-do. But what really bothered me most about the book was Buford himself and what I perceived as a serious lack of integrity.

You see, at one point in his Italian journey, Bill heads off to Italy to learn the art of Italian cooking from experts and folks who so long ago taught Mario himself. The time spent there was engrossing to read about and kept me at the edge of my kitchen counter seat. At one point in this journey of discovery, he meets Betta and over the course of much time (and pages), convinces her to teach him her special tortellini recipe. She naively agrees but on one condition – He can NEVER EVER, EVER share her secrets with Mario for whom she has little respect or, it seems at times, even liking. After the chef equivalent of a pinky swear Betta begins Bill’s tutelage.

Her teachings are recorded in his book ingredient-by-ingredient, process-by-process. Buford kept his promise not to tell Mario and instead published all of Betta’s secrets in a million-copy best seller. What a great guy. I would someday like to hear his defense of his broken promise and Betta’s reply.

(For the sake of full disclosure, I will note here that I really loved the book and it was well worth even its rather steep hardcover price. It was well written and kept me intrigued almost the entire way through. Cooking fans, Food Network fans, and fans of good writing would all enjoy this book. Betta, however, might not.)

A month ago, I finished reading “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden. Recommended to me by Princess MK along with the other awesomely good book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, I was eager to dig into this popular book which was turned into (from what I’ve heard) a fairly decent movie. I enjoyed “Geisha” as I
read it in Delhi and on the plane back to Nairobi in December. My enjoyment of the heroine (seemingly well-written by a guy, it should be noted) ended abruptly as the book’s final chapters drew the book in its inevitable downward spiral of woman-hating.

A tragic hero that is blessed with neither good looks nor tremendous disposition befriends, saves and loves our Geisha. She, naturally, sees him as just a friend. In fact, not only does she not love him but is also deeply infatuated with his best friend and boss. So, to thank him for everything the hero has done to help her, she stabs him in the back. I almost didn’t finish the book because I didn’t want her to have her HEA.

I have other reviews and books to share with you like “Shantaram” and “Glass Castle” and the porn-light brilliance of JR Ward, but I’ll leave those for another day and another episode of blog.

Now I turn to you, Dearest Reader, to share with me any good book or authors to be found on your “keeper” shelves. I’m running out of books that need to be devoured and am slowly coming face to face with the stack of those that I purchased in haste and am now doomed to read. So please save me and feed my literacy addiction.

History is a novel that has been lived,
a novel is history that could have been.
- E & J de Goncourt

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