Friday, February 29, 2008
I just ran into an article about truffle madness, and loved this conclusion:
"The trifalou [truffle hunter] said that when he finds especially good truffles, he visits the cemetery where his father is buried. His father hunted truffles just ten days before he died at the age of 88.
"There, at his father's gravestone, Agnello said he says something like, 'I found a big truffle in that place you remember.'"
On a $7000 truffle.
Or how about a "white-truffle-enhanced $270 baked potato at The Four Seasons".
This makes me appreciate Wegmans even more now, with their $999.99 ($62.50/oz.) a pound truffles... they are practically giving them away!
Julia Child said that she fell in love with truffles in France. Well... I fell in love with them at Costco.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
"This extraordinary work of fiction about the German occupation of France is embedded in a real story as gripping and complex as the invented one. Composed in 1941-42 by an accomplished writer who had published several well-received novels, Suite Française, her last work, was written under the tremendous pressure of a constant danger that was to catch up with her and kill her before she had finished.
"Irène Némirovsky was a Jewish, Russian immigrant from a wealthy family who had fled the Bolsheviks as a teenager. She spent her adult life in France, wrote in French but preserved the detachment and cool distance of the outsider. She and her husband were deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where he was gassed upon arrival and she died in the infirmary at the age of 39. Her manuscript, in minuscule and barely readable handwriting, was preserved by her daughters, who, ignorant of the fact that these notebooks contained a full-fledged masterpiece, left it unread until 60 years later. Once published, with an appendix that illuminates the circumstances of its origin and the author's plan for its completion, it quickly became a bestseller in France. It is hard to imagine a reader who will not be wholly engrossed and moved by this book."I would add to this that her writing style has hints, though to a lesser degree, of the same unsympathetic and objetive, almost cruel, relationship with her created characters, that Muriel Spark and Penelope Fitzgerald also have. That is not to say that her characters are lifeless, inhuman or uninteresting... but rather, they illuminate rather uncomfortable weaknesses that are often hidden but endemic to the human condition. It is as if they are under the harsh light of an operating table, shown in high relief. Endlessly, but somewhat gruesomely, fascinating.
I think, though, that it is not just the human condition that N. is trying to describe, but particularly that of the French character. I think the Book World author hints at this when she says that the tone is clearly one from an outsider. This is someone intimate with France, yet not one of them. N. is looking at a people (of course with particular exceptions) who, though of varied social and economic backgrounds, surrendered and eventually were complicit with their enemies.
To me it constantly brought to mind, as I read, Winston Churchill's speech in wake of huge French and Belgian military disasters, concluding with:
"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
It does seem marked that the British endured the Blitz and never surrendered, while only six days after the entry of Paris the French signed an armistice with Hitler.
This is no simple castigation of a faceless crowd though... N. shows one by one the personalities and motivations that lead them to this place.
Fathers and Sons - Books
I thought that Os's comment on why critics are lauding the book is also of crucial importance, highlighting the Postmodern tendency, "the book is judged in terms of its style rather than its substance." This could also be applied to many of the errors plaguing the conservative church at the moment.
Besides her very level headed response and skepticism of the Messianic promises of Barrak Obama, her article really swells at this point:
"The fact is that America is divided not because partisans and pundits stoke our disagreements, although they often do. We are divided because we are a nation of 300 million citizens struggling to order our lives together amid unprecedented pluralism. We hold some starkly divergent views about how to interpret America's founding ideals and apply them to contemporary issues. Those conflicting views generate divisions.
"We can heal some divisions with more civility and compromise. But our most fundamental debates about the worth of human life, meaning of marriage, role of government and source of our shared values cannot be resolved by splitting the difference.
"Although our postmodern minds might recoil from such categories as true and false and right and wrong, the first rule of rational discourse -- that is, the law of non-contradiction -- reminds us that some things really are that simple. A self-governing nation must make choices. Not every dispute can end in a draw."
How refreshing to hear that.
Recent book by Os Guinness echoes this need for real discourse: The Case for Civility and why our Future Depends on It. Here is an author interview.