When an author becomes really famous they earn the right for first editions of their subsequent books to be more opulent than their earlier efforts. and Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things (TSOAT) is gorgeous. Since the book is set in the 18th and 19th centuries, the look of it is antique, with unevenly cut, thick ivory pages and a dust jacket printed to look like aged parchment. There are dreamy colored illustrations of orchids on the end papers and the hardbound cover is a soothing green-tinged ivory with an olive colored spine, the author’s initials stamped in gold on the front. The feathery edges of the pages are soft and the book is very sensual, befitting some of the subject matter. My copy is even signed!Continue reading “The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert”
Warlock by Jim Harrison
One of the first Jim Harrison books I ever read was Warlock and I remember loving it. In the fall of 1993 I went to Bordeaux as an ignorant young wine writer for Wine & Spirits magazine and had dinner at a modest chateau in one of the more modest appellations of the region–Cotes de Bourg or Cotes de Castillon or something like that. I learned two things at that dinner that I have never forgotten. One was that butter leaf lettuce drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt makes a delicious, wine friendly (no vinegar) salad. The other was an introduction to the existence of Jim Harrison, an American writer almost more highly regarded in France than in his home country. “You Americans,” the host Denis Dubourdieu fairly sneered, “You don’t even know your best writers!”Continue reading “Warlock by Jim Harrison”
Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna
I grew up in a windy town on California’s Central Coast that often smelled of broccoli. Later the town became famous for strawberries, and even later for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine grapes, all fragrant and lovely. But when I was young the dark, slightly sulpherous stench of raw broccoli hitched on the Pacific breeze from the west like a hobo soul escaped from a corner of hell reserved for flatulent failed farmers. Continue reading “Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna”
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
I read The Last American Man and Kitchen Confidential back to back, which wasn’t planned, it was just that I craved these biographical short books as transitional material after five volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. I tried to start My Struggle Volume Six, but my brain revolted. What I needed was an all-American male palate cleanser, make that two, and these books served the purpose well. Continue reading “Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert”
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
May you live in interesting times. The old unattributed Chinese curse has a stranglehold on the country and something interesting/disturbing/terrifying has been happening almost every day. The 2016 election, the hurricanes, the shooting in Las Vegas, more hurricanes, more Trump, the wildfires in California, the Russia investigation, the terrorist bike path attack in New York…
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Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was a busy, busy man. As I lay in bed watching Episode 23 of Parks and Recreation Season Two as if it were my job, I reflected on TR’s strenuous life and constant contributions and guilted myself into getting up and getting a new post started. By following the biography of his early years, Mornings on Horseback, with a selection of his own writing I thought I would stay engaged with one of our most energetic historical figures, but these writings focus on how to kill as many animals as possible, mostly for food. Yes, I eat meat, wear leather goods and have more animal skins scattered around my house than the average person, but I find myself wondering, “so when does the conservation part begin?”
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Mornings on Horseback, David McCullough
Theodore Roosevelt is one of my all-time heroes. As a near-sighted asthmatic myself, I love the stories of how he developed the idea of “the strenuous life” to overcome his ailments and went on to become one of the most admired and beloved figures in United States history. His tirelessness physically and mentally and his unwavering morality never fail to inspire. It is shocking to be reminded that he died at 60–his brain, his mouth, his pen or his body was in motion the entire time; no wonder he wore himself out relatively early.
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Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins
I was really looking forward to rereading the four Tom Robbins novels I’ve treasured since 1988 (Another Roadside Attraction, 1971; Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976; Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980; Jitterbug Perfume, 1984). I was never a fan of his later books, which started to seem stale and formulaic to me and so took the magic out of his loopy, genius metaphors and fantastic mix of myth, science, philosophy and magic. So when I started reading my battered paperback copy of Another Roadside Attraction, I was afraid I might have outgrown Robbins, or maybe that the late 1960s-early 1970s hallucinatory hijinks may not have aged well, or that post reading Ulysses and present North Korea/Trump shenanigans might have swiped any patience I have left for linguistic, idealistic antics.
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The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton
From the mat to the world–a break from yoga to plan a trip to NYC and get some de Botton civility.
I was thinking of going into some yoga-spiritual related books after the four yoga books I’ve just finished, such as Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, which was one of the first second-hand books I ever bought when I moved to San Francisco after college. Or Joseph Campbell, or Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume or Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or Still Life with Woodpecker, all of which influenced me so much in the late 1980s. But since I have a travel bug and am planning two or three trips (NYC next month, Jacksonville, Florida and for Thanksgiving, Kauai with high school girlfriends in February), I thought I’d better reread The Art of Travel. Continue reading “The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton”