The Economist Reviews Junot Diaz

From an Economist review of Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead), 8 September 2012:

The men cheat on their women; the women usually vanish, never to be seen again.  Most of the tales are narrated by Yunior, the alter ego who forms the backbone of much of Mr. Diaz’s fiction, circling around one relentless question:  Is he, as one girlfriend asserts, “a typical Dominican man:  a sucio (pervert), an asshole?”

These are stories about the difficulty of love:  how hard it is to recognise or hold onto.  In one, Yunior tries to save a relationship he has torpedoed yet again by cheating, on a beach vacation to his homeland.  In another, he seeks solace from his brother’s death with an older woman, and wonders if she ruins him for girlfriends his own age.  Some are bittersweet accounts of the fragile relationships between other recent immigrants.

On the next page is a review of a very different book:  A Very English Hero:  The Making of Frank Thompson, by Peter Conradi.

Frank Thompson was killed in 1944 aged 23, younger even than Rupert Brooke had been when he died in 1915, and in similarly futile and tragic circumstances.

Peter Conradi first became interested in Thompson while researching his acclaimed biography of Iris Murdoch.  The two had been contemporaries at Oxford the year before the war.  Thompson fell in love with the future novelist and with communism in the same week:  “two flights of irrationality . . .  two simultaneous conversion experiences.”  Their love could never be fulfilled.  But for Murdoch, “Frank grew to combine the roles of heroic martyr, potential husband and lost soulmate.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Zuni Creation Myth, As Re-told by Tony Horwitz, A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE

This section of A Voyage Long and Strange, in which author Horwitz traces the path of Coronado and his small Spanish army through the American Southwest, is truly fascinating.  In a section about the first encounter between Spanish and Zuni, Horwitz writes:

According to the tribe’s creation story, the world’s first people climbed ladders from deep underground before emerging through a great crevasse, sometimes identified as today’s Grand Canyon.  They then wandered in search of a promised land called the middle place guided by a giant water bug that stretched its legs to the far corners of the world.  Just beneath the bug’s heart was a spot equidistant from all these points.  Zuni called this Halona Idiwan’a, the Middle Anthill of the World, and they had lived there ever since.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

THE ART OF THE RESTAURATEUR, Reviewed in The Economist, Sept. 1, 2012

Here are a few things self learned from reading the review, in The Economist of 1 September 2012,  of The Art of the Restaurateur, by Nicholas Lander:

  • “Making the customer truly happy is the job, often unsung, of the restaurateur, who risks his money (and sometimes health, marriage and sanity) in one of the most stressful jobs in the world.”
  • “Around 60% of American eateries close or change ownership within the first three years.”
  • “Getting on with neighbours is essential:  their objections to noise, smell and crowds can doom a place, even if the customers adore it.”

Among the 20 iconic restaurants mentioned in the book are:  Hazel Allen’s Ballymaloe House, in rural Ireland; Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café in New York City; Gilbert Pilgram’s Zuni (The Economist mentions that it’s “in California,” which is strangely non-specific, since every other restaurant mentioned has a specific location.  And we all know that California is soooo large, don’t we, dear blog readers?)  and “St. John —  a British nose-to-tail restaurant that specialises in serving the animal parts that most chefs disdain;” Russell Norman’s Polpo in London, which serves cicchetti (Venetian side dishes).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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