Friday, July 31, 2009

Slacking revisted. Revisited.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: None

Odd of me not to post on Thursday or Friday, but sometimes I'm unpredictable.

I made baked falafel.

See? You didn't see that coming.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hypnagogic skillz, yo.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: 148-238

I don't mean to brag (except for how I pretty much do), but the last paragraph of the previous post was incredibly coherent and eloquent considering the fact that I was literally falling asleep at the keyboard as I wrote it. I actually had to backspace a line of repeated keystrokes that were caused by my sleep-paralyzed fingers lingering on the t. Anyway, that's not relevant, but I'm kind of amazing.

Charles is successful at Parisian art school, and eventually turns his hand to architectural studies, at which he is quite talented. Sebastian, however, sinks further into his alcoholism, causing numerous uncomfortable scenes at family gatherings. He eventually disappears and takes up residence in Casablanca (Which is in Morocco, if you didn't know. But you should have, because there's no excuse for not having seen the movie.) where Sebastian is later forced to track him down to tell him that his mother is dying. He's too busy living a debauched life with a young German man to come back to say goodbye to her (it's unclear whether they're lovers, but it could go either way pretty easily), and we're left with the impression that it'll all come to no good.

Julia, Sebastian's sister, enters into an unfortunate union with a longtime Canadian friend, Rex Mottram. He turns out to be rather a cad, but by the time she really learns that, it's too late for Julia to give him up, due to her abiding and passionate love, so they get married anyway. After the episode of Sebastian's mother's death, Charles makes his living as a professional architectural painter, publishing several folios of England's great houses and one of Latin American architecture, to great acclaim. He, too, is married, to the sister of a friend from Oxford, but the marriage hardly seems a happy one. What little we've seen of his wife pretty much consisted of the two fighting about the children, the house, and Charles's painting expeditions. As I left them, Charles and his wife were just setting off on a cruise to America upon which they had encountered, by chance, Julia and Rex. Cue romantic intrigue.

I realize this book sounds a helluva lot like many of the other books I've read, as far as the plot goes, but somehow it's entirely different. Whether it's the fact that Waugh's writing in 1944, that he's gifted and evocative with his characterization and description, that I'm in the right mood for him, or, more likely, a combination of the above, this book is far more compelling than its counterparts written in earlier times. I don't know what it is about 1920s prose, but it kind of drives me insane. It wasn't, it seems to me, until later in the century that the tone of the modern novel actually managed to resolve itself into something admirable.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: 68-148

I was right about Sebastian's salvation of Charles, which he neatly accomplishes by breaking a bone in his foot and calling for Charles to aid and entertain him while he's laid up in bed. It doesn't take long, of course, for Sebastian to be up and about, and the two young Oxford lads spend the summer drinking the Earl of Brideshead's (Sebastian's father's) wine, reading poetry to each other, and conducting decorating experiments. After a month or so, Sebastian takes Charles to Venice, where the Earl of Brideshead lives with his mistress. Charles has a lovely time sightseeing on the Brideshead dime, but eventually the two must head back to school.

Their mutual sophomore year is much different than their freshman year, in that their old circle of friends disappears and the two are almost always alone together. During various vacations and holidays, when Charles nearly always goes to Brideshead, it becomes apparent that Sebastian is rapidly becoming both an alcoholic and an outcast from his family. Because Charles is so often around the family, but clearly Sebastian's friend, he finds himself in the awkward middle territory of being called on by Sebastian to stand with him against his family and the world, and being called on by the family to influence Sebastian for the better. Charles tries to avoid the issue as well as he can, and though he and Sebastian are, at one point, arrested for drunkenness, things continue fairly uneventfully until Sebastian reaches the nadir of his alcoholism, and is found drunk, in middle of the afternoon, by his 10-year-old sister. Sebastian's sent to live with a supervising priest at Oxford, while Charles decides he should go to a European art school and learn to paint.

The things that make this book so remarkable are Waugh's humorous and incisive style and his uncanny realism of characterization. I honestly don't know how he does it. It doesn't even seem like it should be a particularly memorable story, and yet I find myself captivated by it, simply because Waugh's prose gives me no choice in the matter. Ah, if only I could write as well.

There are some interesting homosexual threads through the text, too, which it would be hard not to incorporate into such an important series of male relationships. When Waugh acknowledges the possibility of male-t0-male attraction, he does so matter-of-factly, not as though it's not important, but rather as though it's simply a matter of course. (Then again, Britain is the home of Eton and prefects, so I guess it makes sense, after all.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

A promising early career

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: 3-68

Oh, man. This book is awesome. I don't know what it is, precisely, but I find the prose compelling in the extreme. The voice and the character development is superb in its realism, and lends the story humor, nostalgia, and intrigue at intervals. I'm telling myself not to read too much of it all at once, but I don't know if I'll be able to hold out. (Although the thought of the upcoming Naked Lunch should keep me from going too fast.)

So far, we've met Charles Ryder, currently a Captain in the British army during World War II, whose company has just been transferred to an area near the Bride river. As it turns out, Charles spent a lot of time there during his days at Oxford. After that short introduction, we're plunged into the story of Charles's Oxford days and how he came to spend so much time at Brideshead, the manor house located near the Bride. Charles wastes a lot of his time at Oxford with Sebastian, the second son of the Earl of Brideshead, who carries around a teddy bear at all times and charms most of the student body. Basically, we've witnessed their meeting and subsequent hijinks, and the final term of Charles's first year has just let out for summer. Because Charles has squandered his allowance for the year and his father won't give him any more money, he's forced to sit at home and brood about all the fun things he could be doing. He's only been home a couple of days, but it looks to me as though Sebastian, or something else, might come to save him from his poverty and boredom.

Like I said, Evelyn Waugh's kind of amazing. This story doesn't sound all that thrilling, but with Waugh's characterizations and powers of description, I find myself enthralled even by the most insignificant of interludes. It even made me lose track of time on the elliptical machine. Considering that I class working out as a form of self-inflicted torture, that's fairly impressive.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Slacking revisited*

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: None

I have the book now; I'm just a slacker.

Also, it's a movie edition. Why do people do that? I hate movie editions of books. I realize the cover doesn't matter at all, but it makes it seem like the movie came first. Movie covers should be reserved for novelizations so you know they're horrible travesties of literature.


*I bet I'll be able to use this title a good five times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: None

Can't read when you don't have the book. Still waiting for InterLibrary Loan. I don't know why it takes four days for a book to travel across the city. I should really just start going to the branch libraries.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Negative. I am a meat popsicle.

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: 368-460 (end)

Well, Ursula and Birkin join Gerald and Gudrun at Innsbruck, where they all stay in a snowy little hostel and converse with other travelers, artists, and young people. Eventually, Ursula tires of the place, specifically the unending and philosophically unforgiving snow (Don't ask me. Apparently snow is cold and eternal like the stars and makes one realize one's insignificance.), and she and Birkin leave Gudrun and Gerald there. The relationship between Gerald and Gudrun quickly sours; Gudrun demands Gerald love her, and he can't. She can't love him either, but she can't leave him until she establishes her independence by rejecting his love. Since he can't give it, they're at something of an impasse. They end up fighting horribly, and Gerald is moved to a murderous rage by Gudrun's demands upon him, but only puts his hands to her throat and doesn't actually strangle her. The whole scene takes place outside the hostel, and afterward he wanders off into the snow to clear his head and ends up freezing to death. Gudrun, who'd decided to leave him anyway, is unable to properly grieve, but Birkin and Ursula are quite upset. Birkin feels as though he's lost one kind of true love, which Ursula is hurt by and incapable of understanding.

I'm disappointed in the ending. There was a moment, 80 pages or so from the end, when I thought to myself, "Oh, god, I hope he doesn't kill anyone off," and then he went and did it. It was a transcendently realistic portrait of modern love, courtship, marriage, and the state of men and women in society, and then he had to go make it all ridiculously dramatic at the end. It doesn't make sense that Gerald would be moved to murderous rage - he simply would either have acquiesced and pretended to love her or he would have left her. Either ending would have made a clearer and more accurate statement about relationships and the pressures of society than stupid murder and freezing to death. Why do authors feel moved to do that kind of thing? Is it just to sell books? Is it the fashion of the period? What?

Anyway, overall, Lawrence said a huge amount about men, women, and relationships, especially the taboos and lusts that govern them, and painted a vivid portrait of the difficulties of philosophy and reality that surround them. The characters did a lot of philosophizing, but it was successful because young people often do that kind of thing, and the idealism rang true, if not always perfectly entertaining. Regardless of the ending, I'm deeply impressed by the nuance and bravery of the novel. I believe its place on the list is deserved.

There may be a delay before Brideshead Revisited because I'm still waiting for it from Interlibrary Loan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You may drool jealously.

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: None

I was too busy having a beautiful French dinner to celebrate my husband's new job to read literature: baked brie en croute with artichoke hearts, blue cheese-crusted filet mignon with pommes frites, duck a l'orange with potatoes, carrots and leeks, sauteed vegetables, and puff pastry filled with whipped cream and hazelnut coffee ice cream.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Or womyn.

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: None

Instead of reading, I went swimming with my husband. Just because Ursula and Gudrun couldn't. I was representing the sisterhood of women! Ok, not really.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Repent at leisure.

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: 265-368

Ursula and Birkin successfully make up, and Ursula, though reluctant, agrees to marry Birkin. They fight a lot, mostly about Hermione and Birkin's tendency to be a jackass, but there you are. Gudrun has become a little disillusioned with Gerald; the two have a jovial conversation about how marriage was unnecessary and ridiculous, but when Ursula runs off with Birkin and does the deed (which results in estrangement from her parents) Gudrun begins to have second thoughts.

Gerald's father finally dies, and, in need of comfort, he sneaks into Gudrun's room in the night. She receives him, though she's surprised, and allows him to sleep in her arms for a few hours. Rather than pitying him and growing more fond of him a result, however, she finds herself disgusted by him, both physically and emotionally (kind of the reverse-Florence-Nightingale-effect). Nothing much comes of it, but it's an interesting scene that illustrates Gudrun's unconventional reactions to the circumstances of relationships. After Birkin and Ursula's marriage, the two decide they simply want to wander around Europe a while, and Gerald and Gudrun decide to accompany them for a short while, at least. Gerald and Gudrun head off to London first, where we see Gudrun meet one of Gerald's former lovers in a club, though again, nothing comes of it. The couples are scheduled to meet at Innsbruck in a week or two.

I'm refraining from much analysis until the conclusion, but I'll just say this - I'm astonished by Lawrence's bravery and frankness in describing sex, lust, and taboo relationships. It doesn't surprise me that he was banned left and right, but it surprises the hell out of me that he was brave enough to put his name on something so starkly truthful and dangerous, and that he was willing to attribute to everyday people sexual needs and philosophies so completely unacceptable to public sentiment. Very, very brave man, that David Herbert.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why, it looks like young men playing leapfrog.

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: 176-265

Well, post-tragic-drowning, Ursula decides that she actually hates Birkin, and they have a pseudo-fight (meaning they pretend it's a discussion) about the incompatibility of their philosophies of love. Later, however, Birkin takes ill and disappears for a while; upon his return, Ursula convinces him to say that he loves her. Shortly afterward, he asks her to marry him, which incenses her, not because of his hypocrisy (which was what I thought it was going to be), but because it implies a desire on his part to control her, which is most notably expressed through his insistence on an immediate answer.

In the meantime, Gudrun and Gerald are falling deeper in love. (Especially Gerald, who wasn't doing a very good job of realizing his affections before now. (Because boys are stupid about that stuff.)) The father of the Crich family is ill, and Gerald and the rest of the children are feeling a considerable amount of distress about it. As a result, but also because he just wants to spend time in her company, Gerald asks Gudrun to tutor his little sister in drawing and sculpture. (The sister, Winifred, is kind of awesome. She's a sassy, bright little kid who talks like she's about twenty. (Also, Winifred, Gudrun, and Ursula? Christ, Lawrence. Punish your poor girls some more with these names, why don't you?)) Anyway, that's all fine and good and going well.

Right after Birkin's poorly received proposal, he heads to Gerald's house for a little manly comfort. And by manly comfort, I mean naked Japanese wrestling (which seems to be what I always knew as Indian wrestling, as far as I can tell). The two men strip and fight until they're sweaty and exhausted, and that makes them feel better about their relationships with women. You go right ahead and read the obvious homosexual subtext in, because it's definitely there. I mean, come on:
"He seemed to penetrate into Gerald's more solid, more diffuse bulk, to interfuse his body through the body of the other, as if to bring it subtly into subjection, always seizing with some rapid necromantic foreknowledge every motion of the other flesh, converting and counteracting it, playing upon the limbs and trunk of Gerald like some hard wind." (255)
I'm not sure it's actually possible to sound more like you're talking about sex. There's even a big discussion of the ability of men to fulfill each other's emotional needs more completely than women can fulfil them. Very Greek, this bit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guns N' Roses

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: 81-176

I think the rose petal that our cat ate has caused him to go completely mad. This is not related to Women In Love.

Apropos of literature, Gudrun has fallen in love with Gerald and Ursula with Birkin, but both women are struggling with the fact that they have deep reservations about the men to whom they're attracted. (I would like to take this moment to point out that I tried to leave the preposition at the end of that sentence, so that I'd sound more like a normal person, and I was incapable of letting it stay published. The end.) Birkin's problem is that he "doesn't believe in love," in that horrible, philosophizing, jaded way that people think they don't believe in love when a) they've never really experienced it and b) they're afraid of what it might do to them. (Not that I'm editorializing or anything. Because this blog never indulges in knee-jerk criticism. Ever. Really.) Gerald, on the other hand, is just horribly classist and sexist. I'm not really sure which problem is worse, but at least Gerald might be educated out of his. Anyway, both couples are basically in the midst of courting, although there's a great moment before Birkin is obviously involved with Ursula when Hermione whacks him on the head with a lapis lazuli paperweight. That's classic literature right there, guys.

The couples, now, are being seen in public together, and go to a public picnic and boating party hosted by the Criches that's a village tradition. They have a lovely day, during which Gudrun and Ursula take an afternoon boating trip alone and use the opportunity to bathe naked in the river. It might seem like a little lesbian-tinted moment of voyeurism, but actually, it's a nice tie back to two earlier episodes in the novel - the first, I mentioned before, when the two girls long to be able to swim in public like men, and the second, at Hermione's party, when the crowd goes swimming together and both girls refuse to join in. It's interesting that they refuse in company but swim together in private, and indicative of the fact that their longing for freedom is ever constrained by society. Even when freedoms are offered in a limited way, such as swimming with a group in bathing costume, they are unsatisfied - it must be unobserved, naked swimming, or it's just not good enough. (I like it. Stick to your guns, Brangwen sisters. Your naked, solitary guns.) When they return, they split back into couples, but there's a tragic accident during which Gerald's sister and her beau are drowned, and that's pretty much the end of that party.

D. H. Lawrence pretty much rocks. I don't know how he does it, but even though the book consists almost entirely of his characters sitting around talking (aside from paperweight-assault and accidental drownings, that is), I'm still captivated by his prose. The conversation, as I mentioned in the last post, is so sharp and intelligent and viciously pointed that I can't help but both enjoy and be drawn to analyze and apply it.

Also, he used the phrase "meretricious persiflage." Oh, man. Stuff like that is why I majored in English.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend update:

Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: None.


Fresh cherry-blueberry scones: awesome.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Current book: Women In Love
Pages read: 1-81

So far, my favorite part of this book is when D. H. Lawrence has one of his characters, a young wealthy man, introduce the idea of solipsism to a matronly older woman. Check it out:
"'People don't really matter,' he said...'Essentially, they don't exist, they aren't there.'
'Well,' she said, 'I would hardly go as far as that. There they are, whether they exist or no...You can't expect me to know them, just because they happen to be there. As far as I go they might as well not be there.'
'Exactly,' he replied...
'Except that they are there, and that's a nuisance,' she said."
Oh man. I love you, D. H. Lawrence, for reducing solipsism to ridiculousness through the satirical lens of upper-class English society. I laughed out loud.

Anyway, the actual substance seems like it's going to be largely a discussion of the modern condition (by modern, we're talking 19-teens) of men, women, and marriage in moneyed society. Our protagonists are the Cornish sisters Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen. They're both unmarried young women living in a coal-mining area. Ursula teaches school, and Gudrun has just returned from abroad and is not currently employed, but the family is comfortable financially and well respected socially. We've met some of their society, mainly Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich, two eligible young gentlemen of the area, both of whom seem rather atrocious for different reasons, but have caught the attention of our young sisters. We've also met Hermione Roddice, who's overtly interested in Birkin and something of a giggly twit, although she disports herself well in conversation.

Speaking of conversation (Hah. Get it?), that's largely what the book's consisted of so far. The sisters discuss their mutual fear of marriage and their dismay at the social controls on women of the time. (Quite poignant, that one. They watched Gerald strip his shirt and go for a swim, and Ursula bemoaned the fact that they could never, as women, dream of doing such a thing. I never thought of that, but it would have been fairly awful for something as simple as going for a swim to be an unfathomable possibility. Occasionally I long to live in dramatic historical periods, but I'm usually aware enough to think better of it for reasons like this.) Ursula, Hermione, and Birkin have a conversation about whether the social taboos on sexuality are harmful or virtuous, and there are various conversations concerning class and education as well. The book opens with a wedding, moves through several days of every day activities, and all of the important characters are currently attending a gathering at Hermione's country house, where most of these deep conversations are taking place.

I like Lawrence's discussions of important issues, and his characterizations are solid, so I'm enjoying the novel so far (which is kind of an astonishing feat on his part, since I'm pretty tired of 19-teens and 20s literature right now). He's got this very sharp, critical way of cutting directly to the heart of subject through his characters' observations, and he does it so cleverly that it makes you delight in his almost vicious success. Take that, stifling moral strictures! No wonder he got banned all over the place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: 431-522 (end)

I thought I'd finally figured this book out. I thought I'd discovered why the elder Gant wouldn't die and why Eugene could never really become independent from his family. I thought that the two must be unalterably connected - that when the elder Gant died, Eugene would be free. And I respect the hell out of Thomas Wolfe for proving me wrong.

Ok, plot points first, though. Eugene finishes his summer working various jobs and trying not to starve to death, but ends up with a sense of the great worth one can achieve by earning money with the sweat of one's brow. Back at school, with the majority of the student body enlisting in the military for World War I, he's entirely in charge of the school paper. In October, he's called home because Ben has pneumonia. After a protracted description of Ben's suffering, he finally dies and Eugene returns to college a changed (read: completely insane) young man. Seriously, he spends the rest of his college career wandering around campus in filthy clothes, refusing to bathe and spouting philosophy and poetry (I don't mean to be harsh, but we all knew that guy in college and he wasn't some stargazing genius - he was creepy and insane.)

Anyway, Eugene's professors think well of him, and he graduates draped in glory of various types. Afterward, at home once again, he's confronted with his father's imminent death. Just like always, though, the man refuses to kick the bucket. This time, instead of sticking to the destructive pattern of family strife, however, Eugene finally makes up his mind to leave for Harvard and never come back. (He makes this decision by consulting Ben's imaginary ghost, but what are you gonna do?)

So, the surprise factor, then, was that Eugene was actually able to break away from the family without witnessing his father's death. Instead, he made the break as an active decision, proving that intention and power are far more important to the outcome of one's life than personal background and the vicissitudes of fate. It was, as I mentioned, a bit unexpected, and I liked the statement it made: yes, family and circumstance may drag you down, but you can choose to break free of them, though the cost may be great.

I don't know. I think I liked it. It was a very coming-of-age, bildungsroman kind of thing, but, in the end, interesting and bit unusual. I don't know that I would call it one of the 100 greatest novels of all time, but it's an original twist on an old theme, and successfully characterizes the feeling of the age in which it was written over a broad cross-section of the population of that age, including most of the major socioeconomic groups. It certainly qualifies as important literature, in any case.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

He will grope his way toward a foreign soil

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: 332-431

Contrary to the rest of my posts about this book, I actually have something to say in this one. I think it's because Eugene is finally growing up and becoming interesting. ("Was that an implication that children are boring?" you may be asking yourself. Yes. Yes, it was. Seriously, I don't know how people put up with them. I was at the library today, picking up, among other things, Women In Love for the Project, and there was a little boy waiting for the elevator with his mother. The mom said, "Ok, the elevator's almost here," and the little boy responded in the whiniest, most annoying, edge-of-a-tantrum voice possible, "I don't want to take the elevator! We always take the elevator!" That was all my tiny glimpse allowed me to witness, but I'm fairly sure it went on afterward. If I'd been his mother, I'd have said, "Why don't you whine about it some more? That'll make me change my mind. Or, when we get home, you can go to your room for an hour and think about how much worse that is than the elevator. Also, die in a fire." The problem with children is that sarcasm is lost of them. Little toads.)

Anyway, Eugene is learning lots at college (and by lots, I mean how to sleep with prostitutes and fudge his grades). Well, it's not quite that bad, but he does fall in with a rough crowd for a while. His professors also do a great deal to disillusion him, proving to him by their teaching and grading habits that hard work is a poor substitute for conformity and ass-kissing. He comes home at the end of freshman year to spend the summer back in Altamont, where he falls into first love with a woman named Laura. Eugene, being an early bloomer, is still only sixteen, and Laura is twenty-one. She raises this objection to their relationship, but Eugene denies her, claiming that true love is unaware of such paltry details. (He's right. But it doesn't matter, because it isn't really true love, as we'll see.) When she leaves for the Fourth of July holiday, she writes to tell him she's been engaged to be married all along and won't be returning as promised. He's completely crushed and returns to school jaded and world-weary, which, of course, makes him popular among the sophomores and solves all his social problems. At Christmas, home again for the break, he makes the mistake of drinking his father's stash of alcohol and fully realizing the horrors of his possible inheritance of alcoholic tendencies. After this episode, he tells his family that all they've ever done is hold him back and he wishes to be free of them forever. (Go, Eugene! It's about damn time!) He goes back to college for the second semester, during which World War I starts. When he reaches summer break, he decides to head north to Virginia, where Laura's married household is located, to try to reclaim her. He doesn't find her, though, and instead ends up taking a summer job as a foreman overseeing the manufacture of large machinery.

That's where I am, but what I've failed to mention is that during all this Eugene has had sex with a couple of prostitutes and flirted with three different other women, in addition to his doomed love affair with Laura. That does not, in itself, seem important. However, Laura was 5 years older than him, the prostitutes were both in middle age, the three other women he flirted with were all middle-aged or older, and at least one of them had been widowed. Normally, I would be the last person in the world to call attention to a pattern like this and call it an indication of an Oedipus complex, but I'm forced to do so because of the fact that Thomas Wolfe directly discusses the Oedipus story and Eugene's personal fascination with it at the end of one of the chapters. I want to forget that he did it, but I just can't. So Eugene has a thing for his mom, which he expressed by pursuing older women. There. Happy?

Oh, also, the elder Gant, though he's been threatening it for 200 pages, has still not managed to bite it. Alas.

Monday, July 6, 2009

But it's also the name of a town.

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: None

I'm a bad, bad blogger. Well, actually, I had a sore throat today and didn't work out as a result. I went swimming, but you can't really read and swim. Man, if you could, my life would be totally awesome. But I digress.

I made ham pilaf with raisins and pine nuts for dinner, though. Only I added thyme and a pinch of clove, because I'm awesome like that. Next time I'll toast the pine nuts and use fresh thyme, and it'll rock even harder. (If pilaf can rock hard, because I'm not sure that's possible.)

My sore throat's on the mend, so back to the elliptical and Thomas Wolfe tomorrow.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Proof through the night

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: None

I didn't post all weekend. New heights of irresponsibility, here. I'd claim patriotism, but since I'm immersing myself in literature on this blog, we all know that's not the case.

Monday will see things right again.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A good familiar creature

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: 224-332

Eugene finally goes to college! Everyone hates him there! Helen gets married! Gant keeps threatening to die but still won't! That's all!

I really wish I had more to say about this book, but I just don't. It's a story about Eugene growing up. I neither like nor dislike it, really. Eh.

In food-blogging related news, the chocolate mousse cake I made last weekend for a gluten-free friend of mine came out well. It was made almost entirely of eggs and chocolate, with a little sugar and water thrown in. It baked up into something akin to solid chocolate pudding. I think I'd make it again, but I'd be inclined to serve it with a dark fruit sauce and whipped cream. Also, when it was in the midst of construction, just after all the ingredients had been put together in the bowl, it sucked onto the whisk like Newtonian fluid. I wanted to perform experiments on it.

The sangria I made was amazing, as usual. I don't mean to brag, but I make truly excellent sangria. (The first time I ever had sangria, I realized that it was what I always thought wine would taste like when I was a little kid. I'd read about feasts in books, and they'd be eating roasted meat and drinking rich, red wine, and I'd imagine what it would taste like: dark and smooth and fruity, more interesting than juice, but still cold and sweet and beautiful. And then I tasted real red wine. Vinegar with a hint of lighter fluid was not what I'd had in mind. Late,r sangria was a comforting revelation.) I will share with you my secrets, loyal audience, because I'm selflessly altruistic. There are two things that are important: do not put liquor into your sangria, despite recommendations from the masses, and use, if at all possible, unsweetened fruit juice. The best result I've gotten comes from the method that follows:

1) Take one bottle of cheap red wine (I recommend Charles Shaw Shiraz, if you've got a Trader Joe's) and pour it into a pitcher or large bowl.

2) Add 1/4 of a bottle of Rose's grenadine.

3) Add an entire small bottle of maraschino cherries and their juice (about 12 cherries and 1/4 cup of juice).

4) Add 1 cup of unsweetened cherry juice. (I've also had success with unsweetened currant juice. If you can't get unsweetened, tart juice of some kind, cut some grenadine.)

5) Juice one large orange or two small oranges into the mixture. (Spanish tangerines are the best, if you can get them.)

6) Slice another large orange or two small oranges and add to the mixture.

7) Refrigerate for at least 12, preferably 24 hours.

Ta-da! Best. Sangria. Ever.

I also made white citrus sangria last weekend, which was a bottle of champagne with grapefruit soda, cherries, and oranges. I'm not willing to call it the best white sangria recipe, and therefore won't give you specifics, but I believe I'll tinker with it as a base recipe in future.

Sangria is considerably more interesting than Look Homeward, Angel. Trust me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The soul of wit.

Current book: Look Homeward, Angel
Pages read: 150-224

So, Eugene and Eliza come back, as anticipated. Eliza continues her property acquisition, Eugene achieves academic success and begins attending private school at the behest of a local millionaire, and Eugene's sister, Helen, goes on a singing tour of the southern states. That's really it. We're just witnessing the slow development of Eugene into an adult. I kind of can't wait until he goes off to college and things start happening in the real world. (No, rural Appalachia doesn't count as the real world. I should know. I lived awfully near there.)

Short post. More when there's more to be said.


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