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WRB—Mar. 23, 2022
Curry, Quotations, Cod, and uh...Cimino
In the world of books, content is produced by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the writers and critics who review books and publish interesting essays, and the Managing Editors who link to them. These are their stories:
To do list:
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The Atavist has their latest sumptuous feature story out, by Bill Donahue: the story of a young boy’s odyssey with his father across the Bering Strait, to America, in 1945, in a kayak.
Two on food and cooking: Bee Wilson in LRB [WRB style prefers “Across the Pond.” —Nic] reviews two Indian cookbooks and explores the history of the misleading term “curry.” [I was surprised to learn that korma has overtaken tikka masala as Britain’s favorite curry. I was not surprised, but still horrified, to learn that “some British cooks believed that curry powder improved with age, like a bottle of claret.” —Chris]
Along the same lines for The New Yorker’s “Kitchen Notes”: Danny Chau on the discreet charms of blasphemous culinary fusions.
And not about food after all, apparently: Ben Smith’s new media venture will not be called Soup. (Nor will it be called Barack Obama.) Axios reports that he settled on the very sensible moniker Semafor. [No, that’s not samovar. —Nic]
If you think about this exact sort of thing as much as Chris, you might find this interview on Lithub interesting, with the art director, the designers, and the Jonathan Franzen behind the recent redesign of that novelist’s cover art.
On the West Coast Bryan Garner, of Modern English Usage fame [I thought he was a DFW character. —Chris], reviews The New Yale Book of Quotations quite favorably: “[I]f you need the confidence of impeccably authoritative attributions, the Yale Book is your best source.”
Morten Høi Jensen writes for Gawker in defense of reading fiction instead of the news.
[I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something completely comical to me about the Folio Society putting out an edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism. In any case, The Atlantic has republished the new introduction. —Chris]
In Unherd, Bret Easton Ellis has a wonderful biographical essay on Michael Cimino’s dramatic fall from grace. [I love The Deer Hunter, but honestly, I sometimes mix it up with The Fireman’s Ball. —Nic]
The Financial Times informs us that ties are out, at long last.
Afghanistan’s last finance minister is now a D.C. Uber driver. Maybe he should start a Substack too, not that it pays the bills. [It might if we ever got around to invoicing for Classified Ads. —Chris]
Bob and Edith’s recently opened their sixth diner near the King Street Metro station. We wish them the best, but it seems that with each new original location, the chain strays further from the charm of the original location on Columbia Pike. [It’s the true and only Heaven. —Nic]
The Managing Editors would like to congratulate Sohrab Ahmari, Matthew Schmitz, and Edwin Aponte on their economically sized journal. We hope that, true to its name, the first print edition of Compact appears on a postage stamp. [The WRB is proud to be a part of the “independent media gold rush” (NYT). —Chris]
A woman in the city is selling a fax machine. [I’m told this is the quickest way to reach Don DeLillo. —Nic]
What we’re reading:
On Monday Chris read through, on his walk home from work, every one of the little pieces described as “fiction” linked on Sheila Heti’s website and liked most of them a lot.
On Tuesday he read the first third of Shadowbahn, on his walk to and from work, and was pleased to discover that someone has already made the playlist from the novel on Spotify. [This book is, basically, insane. —Chris]
On Wednesday, he is going to read Tiknor, which came in the mail yesterday evening, on his walk to work.
Nic, in anticipation of his copies of The Fruit Thief and Quiet Places, picked up Peter Handke’s A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. Like most people of a certain persuasion, his only prior experiences with Handke are the movies Wings of Desire (which he did not like) and Wrong Move (which he did). He found The New Yorker’s recent assessment of Handke’s career basically unedifying, but he readily admits to political naïveté.
On Tuesday, Nic picked up an anesthesiologist’s entire library of medical textbooks and reference books. The doctor asked, “Oh, are you in the field too?” to which he could only blush in reply.
March 24 | Hodder & Stoughton
From the publisher: Palaeontologist Dr David Hone tells us everything we know about dinosaurs – and everything we don’t yet know. We have made more discoveries about dinosaurs in the last 20 years than we have in the previous 200, and there is a wealth of cutting-edge research that has never been written about before, from their skin (some had feathers) to their extinction (the myth of the meteorite), much of which is David’s own personal research and discovery. In The Future of Dinosaurs Dr David Hone shows us the extraordinary advances in palaeontological research that are starting to fill in these gaps, and sets out the future of dinosaurs for the next generation.
I am going to be preparing quite a lot of Fuchsia Dunlop’s crowd-pleasing recipes for twice-cooked pork and dry-fried green beans for my houseguests this week, both out of the irreplaceable volume The Food of Sichuan—if I can manage to find some more sweet-flour paste and douchi, both of which ran out in the cabinet without my noticing. I’m also pondering preparing this weekend, in a much smaller quantity, that famous miso cod. —Chris
“Out Here: Flowering” by P.K. Page
“I have not been a tree long enough yet.” —Jonathan Griffin.
Such stern weather. Metallic. When I was a human child
my surrogate mother smiled like that –
frostily from stone eyes – no heart in it –
a withering blasted cold
that coated me with ice – I, a small tree glistening in a field
of glassy snow – shot
beautifully through with rainbows and somehow – absolute.
But spoiled. Utterly spoiled.
No wonder the blossoming has been slow,
the springs like flares, the crowding flowers
a surfeit of whipped cream. How many years have I stood sere
brown and unseasonable in the subliming air?
But now the melt has begun and the weather pours
over me in a pelt of a petalled snow.
[Happy peak bloom. —Chris]
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