So Juliet, Naked was a winner. And then the next book I read, Await Your Reply, was I think the best novel I read all year. Didn't hurt that I read it on a weekend retreat in Santa Cruz, leisurely, in the sunshine, in view of the Pacific Ocean.
The story starts off with a bang - a man rushes his son to a hospital, in the middle of the night, somewhere in the Midwest (Michigan? I think). The son's severed hand is in a cooler in the backseat.
Then, before you find out what exactly is going on here (how did the hand get severed, fer Chrissakes?), the next chapter follows a young girl in Ohio, who is leaving her small town with her lover, the man who was her history teacher in the past year.
In chapter three, we are driving north through Canada with Miles, who is trying to find his long-lost twin brother.
And then we're thrown back into the life of the son from chapter one, but there's no mention of severed hands, so we must assume this is earlier in the timeline.
I really liked how I got set down in the middle of the story, catching glimpses here and there, without fully knowing what was going on. Slowly, the three strands of narrative come together, but it took me all the way to the end of the book to really get it - which was perfect. GREAT payoff. I think I must read it a second time, now that I've seen the tale unfold all the way to the end.
I ordered three novels from amazon.com recently, and the two I've read so far are total winners. Nick Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked, the one I picked up first, was right up my alley. It's about a nerd who runs a web site devoted to a musician who used to be famous in the Eighties, but hasn't published anything in twenty years. It's about the nerd's girlfriend and their breakup. And it's about the musician and his life. And then these stories connect.
I liked this a lot. I figured I would, because I've liked all of Hornby's previous novels, but it was still a pleasant surprise to dive in and be completely engrossed.
The novel's info page on amazon.com links to an interview with Nick Hornby. He has loads of interesting things to say about the topics he writes about - well, interesting to me, anyway.
Meanwhile, I am casting the movie in my head. Oh, and speaking of movies, when I saw An Education recently, I did not realize that Hornby had written the screenplay.
I don't think I've told you yet that I went to Kepler's a few weeks ago, where Laura Rennert appeared at story time, reading from her new book, Buying, Training, and Caring for Your Dinosaur. The audience was mostly kids and their parents, but I'll bet you I had as good a time as all the smaller people did.
If you or your kids are in the market for a dinosaur, get this book! It'll help you pick out which kind of dinosaur matches your personality and your lifestyle, and it'll help you train your new pet.
I really want a velociraptor, but I know that wouldn't work so well with my cats. Maybe we'll get a stegosaurus instead.
Oh yeah, I saw The Men Who Stare at Goats a couple of weeks ago. Not bad, but I expected more. The film never could decide whether to take its protagonists seriously or not, and the story never did come together for me.
It's a rainy day, the perfect complement to yesterday's sunny Thanksgiving, which was so nice that we were able to eat outside once again. (Third year in a row, I think.) Today is "ungemütlich", the German word seems to describe it better than its English translation of uncomfortable. It's moist and cool and gray and gloomy, and I've only left the house to go to the backyard a few times, emptying bits into the compost bin and trash can. Otherwise I've stayed in the house. It's the perfect day for the blend of household chores and laziness that I'm enjoying: did two loads of laundry, cleaned out that cluttered corner of the kitchen corner that's been bugging me, did loads and loads of dishes, started a loaf of rye bread to bake tomorrow, and just shoved the cake into the oven - I'm making a variation of this cream cheese pound cake that was a hit at the writing retreat. This version uses Meyer lemon juice and zest instead of lime, and I split it up into two pans since the last one was about to overflow its vessel. This also ought to mean that there's less danger of its edges blackening, and hooray! It will be done quicker.
My best friend Holly and I took Friday off and drove up to Yountville in Napa Valley, for a lunch at the famed French Laundry, considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the country. I tried very hard not to expect the best meal of my life - just a good meal well worth the experience. And I figured that if anything would turn out less than wonderful, at least I would be able to say I'd been there, and now I knew what it was like.
But you know what? It really WAS the best meal I have ever had, and I have a hard time trying to tell you what the best thing was, or which course I liked best.
It was the most expensive meal I have ever had (it's a ten-course prix fixe meal, and costs $240 per person), but it was honestly worth every penny. The service was impeccable. Classy and not snooty at all. Everybody made us feel welcome, and the staff took such excellent care of us that I wanted to marry at least three of the gentlemen on the spot. We showed up at 11am, were led gently and professionally without a rush through all the courses, and left full (but not overstuffed) and happy around 2:30.
The dish in this picture is well worth mentioning: Santa Barbara sea urchin with black truffle "pain perdu", tokyo turnips, granny smith apple (those pale green pearls), mizuna, and sauce périgourdine. I keep thinking of how this tasted. I've never had fresh sea urchin before, which was one of the reasons I picked this course over the other fish option, the bass. The orange bits are the urchin, and oh wow, it was like a mouthful of ocean become flesh. It was wondrously delicious, and this alone was worth the drive.