Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Canape Reviews  So yummy and so clever

I don't know about you, but I could live on canapes.  If I were stinking wealthy, I'd hire a chef or two that had majored in hors d'oeuvres at Le Cordon Bleu or wherever and give them orders to keep 'em coming.  Breakfast lunch and dinner.  Savory and sweet.  Kistchy offerings to amuse me, featuring that nacho-flavored cheese in the aerosol can.  Retro nibblings, like mini pigs-in-the-blankets and devilled eggs for that Proust-y side of me.  Healthy bites, like baby vegetables for when I'm feeling Puritan and austere.  Appetizers from abroad, so that I might feel all smarty and pleased about the expatriate side of myself. And of course, canapes shaped like triangles, because that's my favorite food shape.

I should never try to write a blog entry when I'm really more interested in food entry.  Anyway, here are some morsel-sized reviews of books I've read lately.  It embarrasses me slightly to admit that they began life as Facebook statuses, but I rearranged them on a silver-plated tray and added some garnish.  Enjoy!

The Mist - Stephen King. A short novella that was originally part of Skeleton Crew. After a summer storm, a heavy mist descends across Maine, and there are eely tentacled monsters in it capable of destruction on a large scale. Townspeople trapped in the local food market wonder if it's an army experiment gone way wrong. I've always been rather fond of foggy weather; now I'm not so sure. Looking forward to downloading the movie version, which was directed by Frank Darabont, who has also directed other works by King, including The Shawshank Redemption.

Darkness Visible - William Styron. Short memoir of Styron's bout with depression back in the mid-80s. A little sparse, but even brief encounters with depression should be recorded, since it's a sneaky disease that is still difficult to understand.  Styron's labyrinthine sentences are so beautifully structured.

Three Men on the Bummel - Jerome K. Jerome. Sequel to Three Men in a Boat. Ten years after their trip down the Thames, George, Harris and J. decide they need a bicycle trip in the Black Forest. Starts out hilariously (I'm positive that Robert Benchley was influenced by Jerome -- that sly befuddled style) but turns into a travelogue then goes off the rails on a crazy train and becomes a critical analysis of the German people. Hugh Laurie read this on the BBC back in 2002, so I tried to imagine his voice. It got me over the rough spots.

I'm Not the New Me - Wendy McClure. After an unpleasant encounter with a photo of herself doing karaoke in Las Vegas, Wendy hies herself off to Weight Watchers and starts an online journal about her weight-loss called Pound. It's not the typical weight-loss memoir; Wendy doesn't feel comfortable being an inspiration for others. Frank, humorous, and thoughtful. The vintage WW recipe cards are a hoot.  Read this one as well as her most recent book, The Wilder Life.

Last Exit Before Toll - Neal Shaffer. Graphic novel. Businessman Charles Pierce feels like he's sleepwalking through his life. His car breaks down in rural Virginia and it takes days to fix it. During that time, the locals make him feel welcome and he begins drifting into a new and comfortable kind of life. I didn't care for the ending at all.

Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin. 1967 horror novel that still packs a chill or two. This copy has an excellent introduction by Chuck Palahniuk, who pointed out that in horror novels, people usually encounter horror somewhere other than their own home (like a haunted house), so Levin's book was groundbreaking.

Everyday Foods in War Time - Mary Swarz Rose. Written in 1917-18, this short (107 pages) book exhorts U.S. citizens to do their patriotic duty by cheerfully enduring the rationing of "wheat, meat, sugar and fat" but also illustrates how to get the most nutritional bang for their buck. Recipes included. An interesting look at history through food. I'd like to read more of Swarz's work.

 Joe - Larry Brown. The setting is 1980s rural Mississippi. It's like William Faulkner and Jim Thompson got together and went on a bender then drove drunk over to Erskine Caldwell's place to see what kind of trouble the three of them could get into.  Joe is a rough character, but he's got a noble cast to him.  His counterpart, Wade Jones, is one of the most despicable fictional creations you'll ever encounter.  He's the equivalent of crud on the bottom of your shoe.

The Blue Sweater - Jacqueline Novogratz. Nonfiction. A woman trained as an international banker and primed for Wall Street uses her education to go to Africa and discover, by trial and error, the best ways to help the poorest citizens succeed with their small businesses.  This book will help me to be more thoughtful about how I contribute to charity.

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea - Barbara Demick. I was reading this over Halloween weekend and it was a hell of a lot scarier than the usual horror fare.  Great research, reporting and excellent writing about the most enigmatic nation in the world and its strange government.  My admiration for the sheer gutsiness and determination of Koreans increased a hundredfold.

U and I -Nicholson Baker. Baker, best known as the author of Vox, delves into his hero-worship of John Updike with his usual prickly and picky flair.  Fun for Updike fans or Baker fans, or both, like me.

Hope you enjoyed snacking on my reviews.  I don't see any parsley stuck between your collective teeth -- I'd tell you; I really would.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of morsel sized books or food. I want something more filling!

You should do this for chunksters...I'd love to see the foods you come up with. :-D

Bybee said...

Fizzy One,
For chunksters, I'm thinking Hungarian goulash (real sour cream, not that lite, healthier stuff) with homemade dumplings.

Unruly Reader said...

Wow -- a smorgasbord of reviewlettes!

Tami said...

My, you have been a busy reader! Hubby and I read "The Mist" together last year - strange but very good.

I'm Not the New Me sounds interesting. I read The Wilder Life and loved it. Thanks for some new ideas for my 2012 reading.

BTW - I'm with you on the canapes - love em!

Care said...

Your posts are just so wonderful. As you might tell that chef of yours, "Keep 'em comin'."

Susan said...

Cool idea, canapes of book reviews! I could never live off of canapes, booktwin, so here is a difference between us. I want a full plate (even if it is is the small sandwich plate now)! You read a wide range of books, and I like the underlying sarcasm in some of them.

Susan said...

PS I read The Mist years ago, and saw the Frank DeBont tv version last year - quite good. I hope you can download it.