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12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Ischler Cookie



Day 2 of our 12 Days of Cookie Recipes is from a maven of baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum, a woman who wrote the book on Christmas cookies--literally.   

At the end of October, Beranbaum released her latest cookbook, The Baking Bible and it's in those pages that her favorite cookie can be found.  Below is a note from Rose Levy Beranbaum about what makes this the cookie above all others for her, followed by the recipe.   Come see us tomorrow for the next cookie to try. 


IschlerCookies_RoseLevyBeranbaumI first heard of the Ischler when I learned to make strudel at the Zauner bakery in the town of Bad Ischle where the cookie originated. I also learned of the story of emperor Franz Joseph and how he claimed to be visiting this bakery while instead clandestinely rendezvousing with his mistress nearby.

I researched different versions of the cookie in cookbooks and on line and came up with my own version. Rather than dipping the apricot-sandwiched cookies in chocolate the way all the other versions do, I spread a thin layer of it over the apricot filling so that one would have the crisp fragile almond cookie, the tang of apricot, and the bittersweet chocolate with every bite.  I also love that the Ischler speaks to my Austro-Hungarian heritage. My great great grandfather, Adolf Lansman, fought in Franz Joseph's army. He later came to America and brought the now ubiquitous Heckel's and Wusthof knives to this country. He taught my father the art of knife sharpening and my father passed this valuable skill onto me. -- Rose Levy Beranbaum

 

The Ischler
Makes Forty 2. inch sandwich cookies
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 6 to 10 minutes for each of four batches

This Austrian cookie ranks as one of the finest of all time. It was created in the wonderful Zauner Bakery in the spa town of Bad Ischl, which was said to be the favorite vacation spot for Emperor Franz Joseph. The classic method is to sandwich the fragile, thin almond cookies with apricot lekvar or preserves and then to dip the cookies halfway into melted chocolate.

Because I am one-quarter Austro-Hungarian (my great grandfather fought in Franz Joseph’s army), I feel I am qualified to adapt the recipe slightly by spreading the melted chocolate onto the entire inside of the cookies so that I have the glorious taste of apricot and chocolate with every bite.

Special Equipment:
Two 15 by 12 inch cookie sheets, nonstick or lined with parchment
A 2 ½  inch scalloped or plain round or heart-shape cookie cutter

Cookie Dough
VOLUME   /  WEIGHT

  • unsalted butter, cold 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) /  8 ounces  / 227 grams
  • powdered sugar 1 cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 2 tablespoons /4.7 ounces / 132 grams
  • sliced almonds, preferably unblanched / 2 cups/  7 ounces /  200 grams
  • about ½ large egg, lightly beaten / 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) /0.7 ounce / 21 grams
  • pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) / . .
  • bleached all-purpose flour 1 ¾ cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 1 tablespoon /7.8 ounces / 220 grams
  • fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams


Make the Dough
Food Processor Method:
Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and let the cubes soften slightly while measuring out the remaining ingredients. The butter should be cool but soft enough to press flat (60° to 70°F/15°to 21°C).

Process the powdered sugar and almonds until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter and process until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add it to the processor and pulse just until incorporated. The mixture will be in moist and crumbly particles and hold together if pinched.

Stand Mixer Method:
Soften the butter to 65° to 75°F/19° to 23°C.

Using a nut grater, grate the almonds until very fine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream the almonds, powdered sugar, and butter, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed to medium, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated and the dough just begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Chill the Dough: Scrape the mixture into a plastic bag and, using your knuckles and the heels of your hands, press it together. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press down on the dough, kneading it until it is smooth.

Divide the dough into quarters, about 6.9 ounces/195 grams each. Wrap each piece loosely with plastic wrap and press to flatten into discs. Rewrap tightly and place in a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 2 days to firm and give the dough a chance to absorb the moisture evenly, which will make rolling easier.

Preheat the Oven: Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Roll and Cut the Cookies: Remove a dough disc from the refrigerator and set it on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 10 minutes, or until it is malleable enough to roll. Roll the dough ⅛ inch thick, moving it from time to time and adding more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.

Cut out twenty 2 ¼ inch cookies. Set them a minimum of ½ inch apart on a cookie sheet.
Set aside any scraps, covered with plastic wrap, to knead together with the scraps from the next three batches.

Bake the Cookies: Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 2 to 6 minutes, or just until they begin to brown at the edges.

Cool the Cookies: Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for about
1 minute so that they will be firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Use
a pancake turner to lift the cookies onto another wire rack. Cool completely.
While each batch of cookies is baking, remove the next dough disc to soften before rolling
and then roll the dough for the next batch. After the last batch is cut, if desired, knead
together all of the scraps and repeat chilling, rerolling, and cutting.

Super Firm Chocolate Ganache Filling:
Makes 1⅓ cups/10 ounces/285 grams
VOLUME/  WEIGHT

  • bittersweet chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped / . /  8 ounces /  227 grams
  • heavy cream, hot /  ¼ cup (59 ml) / 2 ounces / 58 grams

Make the Ganache Filling In a microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), heat the chocolate until almost completely melted.

Remove the chocolate from the heat source and stir until fully melted.

Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth. The mixture should drop thickly from the spatula. Set it aside in a warm place. If the ganache thickens before all of it is used, it can be restored in the microwave with 3 second bursts or in a double boiler set over hot or simmering water.

Apricot Lekvar Filling:
Makes 2. cups/651 ml/29.6 ounces/840 grams
volume / WEIGHT

  • dried apricots / 2⅔ cups / 1 pound / 454 grams
  • water / 2 cups (473 ml) / 16.7 ounces / 473 grams
  • granulated sugar / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons /  8 ounces / 225 grams
  • lemon zest, finely grated / 2 teaspoons, loosely packed/  ./  4 grams
  • apricot or peach brandy / 1 teaspoon (5 ml)/ . .

Make the Lekvar Filling In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dried apricots and water and let them sit for 2 hours to soften.

Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan tightly, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on the lowest possible heat until the apricots are very soft when pierced with a skewer. If the water evaporates, add a little extra.

In a food processor, process the apricots and any remaining liquid, the sugar, lemon zest, and brandy until smooth.

Scrape the apricot mixture back into the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deep orange in color and very thick. When lifted, a tablespoon of the mixture will take about 3 seconds to fall from the spoon.

Transfer the lekvar to a bowl and let it cool completely. You will need only about ⅔ cup/ 158 ml/ 7 ounces/202 grams, but it keeps just about indefinitely refrigerated. Making a smaller amount risks scorching the lekvar. Lekvar made from dried apricots is the most delicious and concentrated, but the apricot glaze that follows makes a viable alternative.

Fill the Cookies:
Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread the bottoms of half of the cookies, up to ⅛ inch from the edge, with a very thin layer of the apricot filling (about ½  tablespoon /3.7 ml). Spread the bottoms of the remaining cookies with a slightly thicker layer of the ganache (about . tablespoon/6 grams). Set the chocolate coated cookies, coated side down, on the apricot coated cookies. Let them sit for a minimum of 30 minutes for the ganache to set completely.

Store Airtight: room temperature, 5 days; frozen, 6 months.

Rose Levy Beranbaum is the author of several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Baking Bible

BakingBibleRose Levy Beranbaum



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12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ovenly's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie



Now that Thanksgiving is over, holiday baking will soon be upon us.  I love the tradition of making cookies, the more the merrier, and sharing them with friends.  With this baking bonanza in mind, we decided to gather 12 days of cookie recipes and today is Day 1.  We're starting off with a cookie that just says "holiday"--Ovenly bakery's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie.  Check back on Omni over the next 12 days for recipes from folks like Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Giada De Laurentiis, Gina Homolka, and more.  Now on to our first cookie: 

Ovenly is an award-winning bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they recently created their first cookbook, Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery.   

OvenlyCover

OvenlyBakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is in this delicious tome that the Eggnog Sandwich Cookie and I first crossed paths, and Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga were kind enough to share the recipe:

 


EGGNOG SANDWICH COOKIES

Yield: approximately 30 cookies (depending on cookie cutter size)

EggnogSandwichII

This sparkly Christmas cookie has become a holiday standard at Ovenly. The rum cream filling combined with cinnamon and nutmeg in the sugar cookie is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite wintertime cocktail.

SUGAR COOKIES:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons rum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
  • Sanding sugar, for decorating the cookies

CREAM FILLING:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ¼ cup heavy cream + more for thinning

DIRECTIONS:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream together the confectioners’ sugar, butter and corn syrup until very fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, salt and cloves and beat until combined, about 30 seconds more.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and rum, and then stir in the baking powder until it dissolves completely. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture and mix until barely incorporated. Turn the mixer off and add the flour. With the machine on low, mix until the flour is well incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 1 minute.

3. Divide the dough in half, and form it into 2 disks, each 6 inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until the dough is firm.

4. Line 3 rimmed sheet pans (if you do not have 3, you will have to bake these cookies in batches) with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and sprinkle the dough with extra flour to prevent it from sticking.

5. Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting it as you roll and flipping it over a few times to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. With a cookie cutter (we usually use a 1½-inch round cutter or a small glass), cut the dough into the desired shape and transfer the cookies to the prepared sheet pans (these cookies do not expand much, so you can bake 20 per pan). Reroll and cut any leftover dough.

6. Place them in the freezer (you can stack the pans in the freezer by placing parchment in between each. If you do not have 3 pans you can stack cookies in single layers, lining parchment in between each layer) for 15 minutes before baking. This will allow the cookies to retain their shape.

7. Sprinkle each cookie with sanding sugar, and bake the cookies pan by pan for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are slightly golden on the edges. Let the cookies cool completely before assembling.

8. While the cookies cool, prepare the cream filling. In a large bowl, whisk all the filling ingredients together thoroughly until a thick, but spreadable paste forms. Thin the filling with cream if it is too dry.

9. Spoon a dollop of the cream filling on the center of a cookie and top it with another cookie, pressing down lightly to ensure that the filling spreads evenly in between but not beyond the cookie edges. Repeat this process until all the cookies are filled.

EggnoggSandwichI EggnogSandwichIII



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Author P.D. James Dies at 94



1e44810ae7a09018b64e4210.L._V192596150_SX200_.gifP.D. James died at her home in Oxford, England this week. She was 94 years old.

A consumate stylist, James did not begin writing novels until she was in her late thirties. She went on to write 20, including poetry, notably introducing the fictional Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh to the world.

According to a recent BBC interview she had no plans of stopping:

"With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write," she told the BBC.

"I hope I would know myself whether a book was worth publishing. I think while I am alive, I shall write. There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too."

I had the chance to interview Ms. James for Omnivoracious a couple of years ago, upon the publication of her novel Death Comes to Pemberley, which is set in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The full interview is below:

 

511EpQoiqiL._BO2,204,203,20035,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Recently, we had the pleasure of posing some questions to the distinguished crime writer P.D. James. James has won numerous awards and has been inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame. At ninety-two years old, she is beloved by so many, having written some twenty novels, many of which have been adapted to television (as well as to movies, including one of my all-time favorites "Children of Men"). Her most recent novel is Death Comes to Pemberley, in which a murder takes place in the world of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.

 

Omnivoracious:  How long have you been thinking about setting a detective novel in world of Pride & Prejudice?

P.D. James: The idea of combining my two enthusiasms, writing detective stories and Jane Austen, in one book had been at the back of my mind for a few years but I did not seriously start to plot it until some months after the publication of The Private Patient. 

Omni: What pitfalls were there in entering the world of another author? Did you feel you were playing in Austen's sandbox, or did it feel like your own?

P.D. James: As I re-read all Jane Austen’s novels at least once a year her world was not strange to me and I did not feel I was imposing on her creativity.  I enjoyed introducing new characters and I think the magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, made a particularly effective contribution to the plot.

Omni: You seemed to bring more of the real world into Austen's. For instance, there are mentions of women's rights and other modern changes. Was your intention to break the hermetic seal and flesh out Austen's world—or did these added details just follow logically?    

P.D. James: I did not wish to break the hermetic seal of Jane Austen’s world.  The added details were matters of concern to most educated people of Jane Austen’s time and I thought it right to introduce them.

Omni: Who was your favorite character to write in Death Come to Pemberley (and was this your favorite character from Pride & Prejudice)?  

P.D. James: Darcy was my favorite character to write, and Elizabeth my favorite from Pride and Prejudice.   

Omni: You have traced your literary influences to four writers - Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh. Do you enjoy each of these authors for different reasons, or do they share one or two of the same qualities?

P.D. James: I enjoy them for different reasons, but all have a virtue in common: the ability to write brilliant dialogue.

Omni: Do you have favorite books by these authors that you could recommend to our readers?

P.D. James: I would recommend A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, and any book by the other three.

Omni: You began writing in your late thirties. Before you wrote your first novel, Cover Her Face, how much writing were you doing? Did you write short stories, parts of novels? Or just letters and grocery lists?

P.D. James: I was busy earning a living so had little time, but I did write a short play for radio and received an invitation to submit another, but my first novel prevented this.

 

 



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Punk Rock Girl



Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A MemoirViv Albertine's new memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a book is divided almost straight down the middle. Side One is the story of her upbringing in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill: It's the mid-seventies, and the Sex Pistols are at the head of a massive, angry (or at least frustrated) cultural insurgence. Her rebellious tendencies have led her into the center of punk culture, and inspired by its outsized personalities and  confrontational style, she picks up a guitar, forsaking traditional training for the DIY ethos of the day. After her band with the pre-Pistols Sid Vicious (The Flowers of Romance--a possibly sardonic suggestion from Johnny Rotten) fails to launch, Albertine joins forces with The Slits, a ska-infused, all-girl outfit that, through the force of its collective will and audacity, elbows its way to the front of a stage filled with sharp, mostly male elbows. Everyone is wearing Vivenne Westwood's provocative clothing purchased from Malcolm McLaren's infamous boutique, SEX--at least as much as they could afford. Mick Jones of The Clash wanders in and out of the story, first as a gangly proto-punk spending all of his time and loose change trying to put together a band, and later as Albertine's on-again, off-again boyfriend (the classic London Calling track "Train in Vain" was inspired by her). It's a story in the best rock & roll tradition: Initiative leads. Ability chases. Success looms. Then someone bumps the turntable.

Side Two. The band has blown apart. Grownup problems ensue: education and career; marriage and kids; serious illness, divorce, and identity. The actor Vincent Gallo. Albertine moves through all of it, drawing from the same well of determination that compelled her to pick up the guitar for the first time. The two sides of the book may tell very different stories, but they share perspective and style that are both straightforward and ultimately uncompromising. If you love this music (and your library contains titles like Please Kill Me and Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp), then this book is fascinating and essential. If not, it's fascinating and inspiring. It's occasionally coarse, and often terribly funny and fun.

In the spirit of the title, we asked Albertine three memorable examples of the three main themes: clothes, music, and boys.

 

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes
Your three memorable articles of clothing or outfits, where & when you wore them, where you got them, and what made them special.

My first cool outfit was by mail order, all the rage in the 1960s. It was a purple corduroy three piece suit, a fitted jacket, mini-skirt and hipster bell-bottom trousers with big belt loops. It came in pieces, so my mother had to sew it all together. Best of all there was a "Donovan" peaked cap included, like a Dylan cap, which I wore to death.

When I first went to Vivienne Westwood's shop "Sex" in 1975, I couldn’t believe that what I was thinking about and drawing at art college, someone else had thought to put onto clothes. I’d never thought of combining erotica, feminism and insurgency with items of clothing. I wore this look with my own embellishments from that day onwards and I didn’t have one peaceful journey through London for the next six years because of it.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaAs my 18-year marriage started to fall apart, because I’d started to play my Telecaster again (still a powerful weapon in the wrong hands), I began to think about how I was dressing. I had become very conventional, not wanting to be noticed, hiding away in a nice house by the coast away from London, and I had to think again about who I was, who I wanted to project with my clothes. You hear all these phrases like "mutton dressed as lamb," but I think good taste is good taste whatever age you are, and clashing prints with cuban heels now or matted hair and loads of black eye-liner back then are good taste - my version of good taste.

Music, Music, Music
Three inspiring/influential/rewarding musical experiences of your life. Bands that you’ve seen, shows that you’ve played, people you’ve met, or any other musical moment.

The first time a live show transported me was when I saw Fleetwood Mac play at a free night-time outdoor concert on a wild piece of land called Hampstead Heath near my home in North London. Everything about the evening was dark and mysterious and forbidden. Fleetwood Mac came on and played "Albatross," the guitars wailed over the tops of the black silhouetted trees, I felt like I was flying and swooping with them.

The second time has to be when I saw the Sex Pistols live at Chelsea School of Art. I was transfixed by Johnny Rotten, not because he was extraordinary, but because he was as near someone like me that I had ever seen on stage and I found that shocking, inspiring and fascinating. He couldn’t sing or play an instrument (like me), he came from North London, a poor family, below-average schooling, bad housing (all like me) and yet unlike me, he wasn’t ashamed, apologetic or embarrassed about any of this. The next day I went out and bought a Les Paul Junior and started to learn to play guitar.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaI stopped playing music for twenty five years. I felt it wasn’t an interesting medium anymore. By 2008 a couple of things had happened, the internet (making it possible to reach people without the conduit of record company men), I became healthy again and I went back to art school one day a week to explore my thoughts and feelings creatively. All this made me want to pick up the guitar and play and write songs again. Big changes in your life aren’t always about eureka moments, sometimes it’s just painfully slow, hard work and dogged determination.

Boys, Boys, Boys
Three who had a profound effect on her life, good or not so good.

The thing is, in the 1970s, ordinary girls and women were very repressed and oppressed, we had no role models, I never once met an interesting woman, in the arts or music who I could imagine being. They weren’t even in the media. The first woman who resonated with me was Yoko Ono. So I was influenced by boys. I wanted to do things boys did and I dated boys that interested me on that level. That realisation has made boys less interesting to me. What do I want or need from them now? Especially now I have my own home and a child. If it’s just about companionship, for years on end…well, that person is hard to find, male or female.

The three boys I nominate are: my first proper boyfriend, Magnus (who I still know and love, we are neighbours), he was interesting, well-read, an amazing artist, from a poor background, and I followed in his footsteps for a while to gigs and art school. I was thirteen, he was fifteen and we went out together for three years.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaNumber two has to be Mick Jones (guitarist with the Clash) who I met at art school when I was nineteen. I watched as he tried over and over again to form bands, full of passion, love of music and determination, which was very rare in a young person back then. He was also extremely intelligent, self-taught, interested in politics and all aspects of life. From him I learnt how to run a band. We are still friends and love each other too.

Number three is myself. I am the boy now. I am whole. I don’t look to a man to complete me, to inspire me, to lead me somewhere I haven’t quite got the courage to go to by myself. It’s taken fifty or so years to get here. Love and romance sure do look different from this perspective. Most relationships look a bit pathetic to me to be honest. I am questioning what two people are doing, clinging together for years and years on end, way past the relationship’s sell-by date. I would like a new paradigm to be the norm, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Photos 1 and 2 by Carolina Ambida; photo 3 courtesy the author



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Dean Koontz Interviews His Dog, Anna, Who Interviews Him



Dean Koontz's latest novel is The City. On December 9 he's publishing a Kindle Single, Odd Thomas.

His dog Anna's, ahem, new book is Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn.

~

Dean Interviews Anna

AnnaDEAN: Hey, sweetie, how does it feel to see your first book, Ask Anna, in print?

ANNA: Better than a bee stinging me on the nose, maybe not as good as being given a membership in the Sausage-of-the-Month Club. I'm a little worried about the celebrity thing, so I've ordered a custom disguise that makes me look like a poodle.

DEAN: There's an article in your book that reveals how people like Noah and Albert Einstein changed history by listening carefully to their dogs' advice. Are you aware of any more recent famous people who failed to heed the advice of their dogs?

ANNA: Tragically, yes. Mr. Johnny Depp's dog warned him not to play Tonto.

DEAN: Is there any down side to a dog being a successful author?

ANNA: Carpal-tunnel paw. Hollywood wanting to buy the film rights and recast me as a gerbil to be played by Adam Sandler in a furry suit. Perhaps a catty review here and there. Static electricity from the computer screen standing my fur on end, so that for hours at a time I go around looking as if I stuck my tongue in a wall plug.

~

Anna Interviews Dean

Koontz2ANNA: Hey, Dad, what's it like having to share the limelight with me now that I'm a published author?

DEAN: I have no jealousy whatsoever. I hope you enjoy a career that is bigger than mine. And don't worry: I would never--never!--put one of those annoying post-surgery cones around your head for no reason at all except envy or something. And I would never--never!--change your name to Pussycat and make you answer to it.

ANNA: Good to know. Sometimes we go for a ride in the car and you let me drive, and then you insist on sticking your head out the window. Are you mocking me when you do that?

DEAN: No, short stuff. It's fun! All the great smells!! My ears flapping in the breeze!!! People pointing and laughing!!!!

ANNA: Since my book is about advice, is there any advice I've given you that you're sorry you didn't take?

DEAN: That incident with the angry ferret comes to mind. But they sewed the thumb back on nearly where it was before, and I can still hitchhike with it if I ever need to.

ANNA: Hey, Dad, let me put the loop of my leash around your hand, and I'll take you for a walk.

DEAN: Great! Can we go to the park? Can we? Can we? Will you throw the ball for me? Better yet, the stick! Will you throw the stick?!?

~

> See all of Dean Koontz's books

> See Anna on Facebook



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Excerpt: "The Fall: A Father's Memoir in 424 Steps," by Diogo Mainardi



ThefallBrazilian author and journalist Diogo Mainardi's unflinching story about raising a son, Tito, with cerebral palsy, The Fall: A Father's Memoir in 424 Steps is comprised of 424 short passages, each representing Tito's steps walking toward the hospital whose errors caused his disability. 

------

Just before he was 6 months old, Tito went for another examination at Padua Hospital.

His neurologist lay him face down on the stretcher. At that moment, he should have rolled over onto his back. Instead, he merely waved his little arms about, but -- like a turtle -- he was unable to turn over.

That was the first sign that he had cerebral palsy.

------

I had found out that my wife was pregnant exactly one year before.

I wrote about it on 23 February 2000 in my column in the magazine Veja.

I started by saying that, up until then, my rejection of fatherhood had been one of the rare, unquestioned certainties of my life. I went on to say that my wish -- and I quote word for word -- was to have "a turtle child, and whenever he became too agitated, I would just have to roll him onto his back and he would lie there, silently waving his little arms."

I got my turtle child.

------

Some days after the examination at Padua Hospital, we received the results through the post. According to the neurologist, Tito had suffered "damage to the extrapyramidal system."

------

I know how to read.

Reading is my job. I think by reading. I feel by reading. When we received the result of the examination at Padua Hospital, I read all about the extrapyramidal system. Nothing I read prepared me for what we were about to discover.

------

Now I know what Tito has.

According to the neurologists who have examined him over the last few years, the damage to his thalamus was caused by his bungled birth. The thalamus is part of the extrapyramidal system. The damage is infinitesimal, so much so that no machine has ever yet managed to detect it. But it's serious enough to affect all his movements.

Tito can't walk, pick things up or talk normally.

------

After examining Tito, the neurologist at Padua Hospital sent him to a physiotherapist at Venice Hospital.

During the weeks that followed, the physiotherapist put him through a series of tests.

It was only when all the tests were over that -- with a feeling of fear and panic -- I first heard the term which, from that moment on, would come to dominate my life.

Tito had cerebral palsy.

------

The fear lasted a week.

Then it passed.

The reason why it took only a week for the fear to pass was a fall.

Tito was sitting on my lap. I was sitting on the sofa in the living room reading the newspaper. My wife, who was rushing about, caught her foot on the rug and fell flat on her face in front of us. When Tito saw her fall, he laughed out loud. We both pretended to fall over. And he laughed and laughed and laughed. And we laughed with him.

Tito's cerebral palsy immediately became more familiar. Slapstick was a language we all understood.

Tito falls. My wife falls. I fall.

What unites us -- what will always unite us -- is the fall.

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2014-09-30-ScreenShot20140930at4.29.36PM.png

Abbott and Costello Go to Mars: On a voyage into outer space, Lou Costello gets his astronaut's boot caught in a storm drain and falls over when he wrenches it free.

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Francesca Martinez is a comedian.

She has cerebral palsy. All her performances revolve around that topic.

According to her, the term cerebral palsy can only have been invented to induce "fear and panic." That is why she likes to be described as a "wobbly" person. She is always wobbly, always about to fall.

Francesca Martinez's humor -- like Lou Costello's -- takes its inspiration from her falls.

Cerebral palsy is her astronaut boot caught in a storm drain.

------

Francesca Martinez told the Daily Mail what had happened to her.

Her cerebral palsy, like Tito's, was caused by a medical error. Her mother was left unattended for some hours because "being a Sunday there were fewer hospital staff on duty." Francesca remained in the womb and was left without oxygen for seven minutes.

Cerebral palsy, she explains, "occurs when part of the brain fails to work. It affects one child in five hundred. Each case is unique, but usually people's muscle control and mobility are affected."

The best way to describe how cerebral palsy affects her is that she appears to be "slightly drunk." Her speech is slurred and her balance wobbly.

------

Two weeks after learning that Tito had cerebral palsy, I wrote about it in my column in Veja:

My 7-month-old son has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. From the outside, that piece of news might seem utterly desperate. From the inside, though, it's different. It was as if they had told me my son was Bulgarian. If I discovered that my son was Bulgarian, the first thing I would do would be to consult a book to find out more about Bulgaria: gross national product, principal rivers, mineral wealth, etc. And that is what I did with cerebral palsy.

------

After saying that cerebral palsy was a term that struck fear into the heart and that, for the first time in my life, I belonged to a minority, I ended the column in this shamelessly sentimental way:

I consider myself to be a humorous writer. For me, there is nothing funnier than frustrated expectations.
Frustrated expectations about social progress.
Frustrated expectations about scientific discoveries.
Frustrated expectations about the power of love.
I have always worked from that anti-enlightenment viewpoint. Now I've changed. I now believe in the power of love. Love for a little Bulgarian.

------

From that moment on, Tito's cerebral palsy became a recurrent theme in my columns.

Over a period of ten years, I devoted eight columns to him.

If, as Francesca Martinez estimated, cerebral palsy affects, on average, 1 child in 500, I published a column on the subject, on average, every 500 days.

Cerebral palsy affected the lives of my readers as often as it affects life in general.

------

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Francesca Martinez stated: "That's the huge secret about disability -- anyone with experience of it knows that a disabled person is just a person they love."

In my first article about Tito, that was the only "huge secret" I had to reveal.

Astonishingly, for me and for Anna, Tito's cerebral palsy was never a cause for sorrow. Astonishingly, for me and for Anna, Tito's cerebral palsy never seemed a burden.

At 7 months, Tito was simply a person we loved.

------

In mid-2001, we took Tito to see a neurologist in New York.

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Tito and me in New York.

------

In New York, I became Tito's first mode of transport.

He would point left and I would go left. He would point right and I would go right. He would point at his grandmother and I would hand him over to his grandmother.

Tito would choose my fate by sending me off to the right or to the left.

------

The New York neurologist was very encouraging.

After doing a few tests, he predicted that, in two years' time, Tito would be speaking normally. He also predicted that, in four years' time, Tito would be walking on his own.

Both predictions proved false.

Tito never spoke normally. He never walked on his own.

------

Christy Brown had cerebral palsy.

During the first few months of his life, his parents took him to various neurologists in Dublin.

They all said that Christy Brown would remain forever in a state of "torpor," because he was an "idiot," "mentally defective," a "hopeless case" and "beyond cure."

In his autobiography, My Left Foot, Christy Brown described how he was able to overcome the worst prognoses, finding a way of typing and painting with the big toe of his left foot.

------

Like Christy Brown's parents, Anna and I learned to ignore all the doctors' stupid prognoses, whether positive or negative. Like Christy Brown's parents, Anna and I learned to celebrate each step taken by Tito, however wobbly.

After a certain point, we even learned to celebrate his falls. In the early years, Tito would always hurt himself when he fell. Over time, he developed new ways of breaking his falls.

Knowing how to fall is much more valuable than knowing how to walk.



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Punk Rock Girl



Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A MemoirViv Albertine's new memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a book is divided almost straight down the middle. Side One is the story of her upbringing in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill: It's the mid-seventies, and the Sex Pistols are at the head of a massive, angry (or at least frustrated) cultural insurgence. Her rebellious tendencies have led her into the center of punk culture, and inspired by its outsized personalities and  confrontatonal style, she picks up a guitar, forsaking traditional training for the DIY ethos of the day. After her band with the pre-Pistols Sid Vicious (The Flowers of Romance--a possibly sardonic suggestion from Johnny Rotten) fails to launch, Albertine joins forces with The Slits, a ska-infused, all-girl outfit that, through the force of its collective will and audacity, elbows its way to the front of a stage filled with sharp, mostly male elbows. Everyone is wearing Vivenne Westwood's provocative clothing purchased from Malcolm McLaren's infamous boutique, SEX--at least as much as they could afford. Mick Jones of The Clash wanders in and out of the story, first as a gangly proto-punk spending all of his time and loose change trying to put together a band, and later as Albertine's on-again, off-again boyfriend (the classic London Calling track "Train in Vain" was inspired by her). It's a story in the best rock & roll tradition: Initiative leads. Ability chases. Success looms. Then someone bumps the turntable.

Side Two. The band has blown apart. Grownup problems ensue: education and career; marriage and kids; serious illness, divorce, and identity. The actor Vincent Gallo. Albertine moves through all of it, drawing from the same well of determination that compelled her to pick up the guitar for the first time. The two sides of the book may tell very different stories, but they share perspective and style that are both straightforward and ultimately uncompromising. If you love this music (and your library contains titles like Please Kill Me and Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp), then this book is fascinating and essential. If not, it's fascinating and inspiring. It's occasionally coarse, and often terribly funny and fun.

In the spirit of the title, we asked Albertine three memorable examples of the three main themes: clothes, music, and boys.

 

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes
Your three memorable articles of clothing or outfits, where & when you wore them, where you got them, and what made them special.

My first cool outfit was by mail order, all the rage in the 1960s. It was a purple corduroy three piece suit, a fitted jacket, mini-skirt and hipster bell-bottom trousers with big belt loops. It came in pieces, so my mother had to sew it all together. Best of all there was a "Donovan" peaked cap included, like a Dylan cap, which I wore to death.

When I first went to Vivienne Westwood's shop "Sex" in 1975, I couldn’t believe that what I was thinking about and drawing at art college, someone else had thought to put onto clothes. I’d never thought of combining erotica, feminism and insurgency with items of clothing. I wore this look with my own embellishments from that day onwards and I didn’t have one peaceful journey through London for the next six years because of it.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaAs my 18-year marriage started to fall apart, because I’d started to play my Telecaster again (still a powerful weapon in the wrong hands), I began to think about how I was dressing. I had become very conventional, not wanting to be noticed, hiding away in a nice house by the coast away from London, and I had to think again about who I was, who I wanted to project with my clothes. You hear all these phrases like "mutton dressed as lamb," but I think good taste is good taste whatever age you are, and clashing prints with cuban heels now or matted hair and loads of black eye-liner back then are good taste - my version of good taste.

Music, Music, Music
Three inspiring/influential/rewarding musical experiences of your life. Bands that you’ve seen, shows that you’ve played, people you’ve met, or any other musical moment.

The first time a live show transported me was when I saw Fleetwood Mac play at a free night-time outdoor concert on a wild piece of land called Hampstead Heath near my home in North London. Everything about the evening was dark and mysterious and forbidden. Fleetwood Mac came on and played "Albatross," the guitars wailed over the tops of the black silhouetted trees, I felt like I was flying and swooping with them.

The second time has to be when I saw the Sex Pistols live at Chelsea School of Art. I was transfixed by Johnny Rotten, not because he was extraordinary, but because he was as near someone like me that I had ever seen on stage and I found that shocking, inspiring and fascinating. He couldn’t sing or play an instrument (like me), he came from North London, a poor family, below-average schooling, bad housing (all like me) and yet unlike me, he wasn’t ashamed, apologetic or embarrassed about any of this. The next day I went out and bought a Les Paul Junior and started to learn to play guitar.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaI stopped playing music for twenty five years. I felt it wasn’t an interesting medium anymore. By 2008 a couple of things had happened, the internet (making it possible to reach people without the conduit of record company men), I became healthy again and I went back to art school one day a week to explore my thoughts and feelings creatively. All this made me want to pick up the guitar and play and write songs again. Big changes in your life aren’t always about eureka moments, sometimes it’s just painfully slow, hard work and dogged determination.

Boys, Boys, Boys
Three who had a profound effect on her life, good or not so good.

The thing is, in the 1970s, ordinary girls and women were very repressed and oppressed, we had no role models, I never once met an interesting woman, in the arts or music who I could imagine being. They weren’t even in the media. The first woman who resonated with me was Yoko Ono. So I was influenced by boys. I wanted to do things boys did and I dated boys that interested me on that level. That realisation has made boys less interesting to me. What do I want or need from them now? Especially now I have my own home and a child. If it’s just about companionship, for years on end…well, that person is hard to find, male or female.

The three boys I nominate are: my first proper boyfriend, Magnus (who I still know and love, we are neighbours), he was interesting, well-read, an amazing artist, from a poor background, and I followed in his footsteps for a while to gigs and art school. I was thirteen, he was fifteen and we went out together for three years.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaNumber two has to be Mick Jones (guitarist with the Clash) who I met at art school when I was nineteen. I watched as he tried over and over again to form bands, full of passion, love of music and determination, which was very rare in a young person back then. He was also extremely intelligent, self-taught, interested in politics and all aspects of life. From him I learnt how to run a band. We are still friends and love each other too.

Number three is myself. I am the boy now. I am whole. I don’t look to a man to complete me, to inspire me, to lead me somewhere I haven’t quite got the courage to go to by myself. It’s taken fifty or so years to get here. Love and romance sure do look different from this perspective. Most relationships look a bit pathetic to me to be honest. I am questioning what two people are doing, clinging together for years and years on end, way past the relationship’s sell-by date. I would like a new paradigm to be the norm, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Photos 1 and 2 by Carolina Ambida; photo 3 courtesy the author



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Moosewood Cookbook 40 Years Later: Guest Post by Mollie Katzen



MoosewoodCkbk400It's hard to believe, but the Moosewood Cookbook turns 40 this year with a beautiful commemorative edition that includes a new introduction by author Mollie Katzen.  

According to the New York Times, Moosewood Cookbook is one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time and for many of us it revolutionized the way we think about vegetarian cooking.  First published as a spiral-bound notebook with hand-written recipes and simple illustrations,  this classic cookbook has stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular guides to making delicious home-cooked vegetarian dishes.  Restaurants today pride themselves on menus highlighting seasonal ingredients, but in the pages of this cookbook Mollie Katzen has been showing home cooks how to make the most of in season fruits and vegetables for decades.

We asked Katzen to write a guest post for us, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her first cookbook*, and to share her favorite recipe from the book which turns out to be Califlower-Cheese Pie.

*Since Moosewood Mollie Katzen has written several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.


The original Moosewood Cookbook originated, in part, from random notes used to help keep track of what my friends and I were cooking in the tiny kitchen of our modest 1970s restaurant. “Vegetarian” was in the early stages of becoming a “thing,” but it was highly unofficial. We were greatly inspired by international dishes as remembered from various world travel (actual or via the “ethnic restaurant” route), discovering cuisines from other countries that placed far less emphasis on meat and more on creative preparation of garden- and orchard-sourced ingredients.  (At that time, hardly anyone in the United States had heard of tabouli, pesto, hummus, or many other then-considered-exotic items that are now ubiquitous.)

Our food was largely plant-based, although that term was not yet in anyone’s vocabulary. The notebook was an attempt to more or less standardize our “cuisine,” which was varied and eclectic and often quite spontaneous—determined largely by the produce delivery of the day and the imagination and skill level of the cook. We had a casual approach to everything (including the idea of standardization itself), so this would ideally help us keep things somewhat consistent.  An inveterate journal keeper and art school graduate, I turned these notes into a booklet, speaking with an informal voice through my own hand-lettering (didn’t own a typewriter; computers decades short of existing) and pen-and-ink illustrations.

In 1974, I photocopied the booklet and sold copies through a local bookstore. Over the next couple of years, it ended up selling thousands of copies. In the fall of 1977, the national edition (the one many people have come to know) was first published by Ten Speed Press. It was not an overnight sensation; it actually took a few years to catch on and begin to sell. To this day, amazingly, the Moosewood Cookbook has never been out of print.

For Moosewood Cookbook’s 40th birthday celebration, Ten Speed and I have collaborated on an upgraded package with a fresh new look, built to last. For those of you with old, stained, notated, dog-eared, scotch-taped, rubber-banded (and in some cases, coverless) copies from yesteryear, you might appreciate this newly refreshed edition—whether for yourself or for someone who is new to this tome, inspired more by  curiosity, perhaps, than nostalgia.  In any case, we are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with you.  We hope these recipes—and this style of cooking, in general—will call out to you, giving you a range of ideas to keep your cooking fresh in all ways and helping you make or keep your kitchen a place of creativity and enjoyment.  --Mollie Katzen

 

CauliflowerCheesePieRecipe

 



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Best Children's Books of 2014



BOTY2014KidsCollageThis year there seemed to be as many great children's books in the first half of the year as the second, great news for all of us book lovers who didn't have to wait until the big fall books to find the gems.  Case in point, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems--our top pick for 2014 that released in April--is hilarious whether you're 4 or 44. 

Deciding on the top 20 children's books is always difficult, but I won't complain about having so many beloved books to choose from over the course of 2014.  Below is a sampling of the Best Children's Books of 2014, the top five (of a total of 20) across all ages.  You can also see the top 20 for each category:

Top 5 Children's Books of 2014:

1. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems (ages 3-5): A new book in the beloved Pigeon series, even the flies think the pigeon needs a good scrub.  Hilarity ensues as pigeon does everything he can think of to avoid a bath but when the inevitable happens, the pigeon is pleasantly surprised.

2. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm (ages 9-12): The clever, funny, and uplifting story of 11-year-old Ellie, who is entering a new chapter of her life when her grumpy scientist grandfather ends up living with them under strange circumstances.  As Ellie discovers new friends and interests, she and her grandfather form a unique bond that results in the gift of possibility for both of them.

3. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (ages 9-12): Historical fiction for young readers at it best, The Boundless successfully mixes history, folklore, and imagination into a sweeping adventure story. Will and Maren's paths cross twice around the Boundless, a train of epic proportion.  Though they live very different lives, they are united in the face of the murderers, thieves, and deception aboard the train's inaugural run.  

4. The Heroes of Olympus Book Five: The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (ages 9-12): The final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan brings his A-game to end the story of these Greek and Roman demigods' battle to save the world from Gaea's destructive force.  Action-packed adventure, witty characters, and suspense make this one a page-turner from beginning to end.

5. Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume One by Kate DiCamillo (ages 6-8): Award winner Kate DiCamillo kicks off a new chapter book series with a character readers may remember from one of ther Mercy Watson books, Leroy Ninker.  A sweet and funny story about a would-be cowboy and the horse he loves, this is a great book for reluctant readers and young enthusiasts alike.

You can see all of our favorite chidlren's books of the year here.



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Guest Essay: David Baldacci, on the Origins of "The Escape"



In David Baldacci's latest novel, special agent John Puller hunts down an escaped prisoner who's become the most wanted man in America--his own brother. The Escape is an Amazon Best Book of the Month for November.

DB-AuthorPhoto

~

Baldacci2The year was 1983. I was sitting in my law school class at the University of Virginia. It was my first year there and I didn’t really know anyone. We had name placards that we had to slide into slots in front of us so the professor could call on us by name. No pressure. Sitting next to me was a young man in full military dress blues. I found out later the JAG (Judge Advocates General) School--which trained military lawyers--was located right next to the law school. Military lawyers-in-training would also have classes with us regular folks. I remembered being quite impressed. Over three decades later I conjured up that old memory to write a scene in my new novel, The Escape.

In creating the John Puller series and wanting to immerse myself in the military world as much as I could without actually enlisting, I flew to Fort Benning in Georgia to spend three days with the infantry and the elite Army Rangers. (See photos below.) Jumping off parachute towers, firing sniper rifles, escaping from upside down Humvees and trying to keep up with two rock-hard Command Master Sergeants in performing the Army’s functional fitness training regimen was just what I needed to write the sort of books I wanted to. And most importantly of all, listening to soldiers from privates all the way up to generals tell me why they wanted to put on the uniform and risk their lives. That sort of information you simply can’t get by searching online.

The Escape is ultimately a book about brothers. So being the history buff that I am, I included a bit of history about two siblings from long ago, one famous, one not. We all know the story of General George Armstrong Custer, the flamboyant and publicity-seeking Civil War veteran who is best remembered for leading his Seventh Calvary to slaughter at Little Big Horn. What many folks may not know is that George had a younger brother named Thomas Custer, who was awarded not one, but two Medals of Honor during the Civil War for capturing two Confederate Regimental Battle flags. The second instance cost him a gunshot wound to the face, but did not stop him from riding back to his lines with the captured flag. This very same brother, along with an even younger brother, Boston, followed their older brother George to the very end, dying with him at Little Big Horn. Love can truly make you blind. But family is also forever.

~

> See all of David Baldacci's books

> Follow him on Twitter

> Visit his website

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Amazon Asks: Patricia Cornwell, on Her New Novel, "Flesh and Blood"



Flesh and Blood is Patricia Cornwell's twenty-second novel featuring forensic sleuth Dr. Kay Scarpetta. This time Scarpetta pursues a sharp-shooting serial sniper, and her investigation leads too close to a family member--her own flesh and blood. Flesh and Blood is an Amazon Best Mystery-Thriller of the Month.

Cornwell

Describe your new book in 10 words?

Cornwell2Scarpetta is unstoppable.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

My iPhone is loaded with a huge library of Kindle titles that make it easy for me to read while traveling. Some of the latest are Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin, A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and All We Had by Annie Weatherwax.

Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.

Book that changed your life, or made you want to become a writer?

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Books can change the world and fix what is horribly broken.

What are you obsessed with or stressed about now?

The Bermuda Triangle and Jack the Ripper (not stressed, just hugely motivated).

What's your most prized/treasured literary possession?

A book about Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture that was signed by Agatha Christie (which was a gift from her to someone named "Lucy Boo." I sure wish I knew who that was).

Pen Envy -- book you wish you'd written, or character you wish you’d created?

Okay, I admit I wish I'd created Sherlock Holmes.

What's favorite method of procrastination, temptation or vice?

Playing with our bulldog.

What do you collect?

Art by Dr. Seuss and really cool belt buckles.

Best/worst piece of writing advice you ever got?

Best: Don't take no for an answer. Worst: Do something else because you'll never make a living as a writer.

~

> See all of Patricia Cornwell's books

 



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Graphic Novel Friday: Grant Morrison's Tragic Triumph



A few hours after I finished The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, something happened: I got it. Now, I can’t shake the sense that I read the best superhero single issue of the year.

Morrison’s Multiversity project (available digitally on comiXology and Kindle, and in our third party marketplace) is a grand one for DC Comics: eight single issues--each a #1, and each issue features a parallel earth, complete with its own heroes and villains. Morrison promises that all of these #1 issues will eventually form a larger whole, a macro-look at DC’s Multiverse, a collection of 52 parallel earths targeted by a villainous collective known as The Gentry. Sounds convoluted, but the beauty of starting at #1 every time is that readers can jump in anywhere and catch a glimpse of a world that is brand new.

Pax Americana #1 features a world populated with heroes who resemble those from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (or, rather the Charlton Comics hero analogues that Moore used to populate his story). Readers may recognize The Question/Rorschach, Blue Beetle/Night Owl, Dr. Manhattan/Captain Atom, and so on, but this is only the top layer of Morrison’s story, and a familiarity with its framework is not at all necessary. Rather than follow the same deconstruction path that Moore paved, Morrison writes a love letter to superhero ideals while horribly undoing them.

Pax-americana-quitely

The President of the United States has a vision for peace, and with it comes a terrible price of which the President is well aware. In fact, he orchestrates the sacrifice by enlisting Captain Atom and Peacemaker. That it all goes so wrong is the apex of the grand tragedy, and readers see it occur in the first two pages—because Morrison’s script begins at the end, unspooling every piece that leads to it in reverse.

Yes, it’s a backwards comic, and the fact that it works so well is no small feat. With every flip of a page backward in time, Morrison continues the revelations—of schemes, plots, and origins. But how does backwards-action work in a comic book, where images are static? Well, it needs the deft hand of Frank Quitely, who not only illustrates characters falling upward in the air with believability, but who also fascinates with the panel layouts. One double-page spread contains 32 panels, while another contains countless as they shrink and stack upon one another. Quitely’s layouts, to say nothing of his character expressions deep backgrounds, adds one more layer to this universe—offering refrains to Watchmen’s structure while also crafting anew. It’s an artistic peak.

Because of the narrative structure, pieces only fit into a larger picture as the story nears its beginning. Readers would do well to remember the President’s ring, shaped like an “8” or a Moebius strip. Or, something else? There’s plenty left to interpret, and readers have already posted online analyses, but it’s that last (or is it really the first?) page that finally dropped into place for me. Pax Americana is one large loop, where this earth's superheroics end in tragedy because they must, since that is where they all begin.

--Alex

P.S. For another great Multiversity issue, check out The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1, with art by Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong!).

 

 



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Recipe Road Test: The Slanted Door's Ginger Braised Chicken



SlantedDoor2014 has been a really big year for cookbooks so deciding which one would be in the top spot for Best of the Year was tough. In the end, though, The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food really has it all. 

Let me start by saying that this cookbook is utterly beautiful and interesting to look through--every single page of text, be it recipe or brief essay, is accompanied by a full page photograph opposite. 

Broken into three acts according to the restaurant's location, The Slanted Door cookbook complements it's recipes with an entertaining history of a restaurant and the modern Vietnamese cuisine that has made it a top destination for food lovers living in, or traveling to, San Francisco for nearly two decades. 

The recipes that pack these pages are gorgeous, well explained, and inspirational.  The Slanted Door's Shaking Beef is one of the dishes I order every time I go, along with a couple of Ginger Limeade cocktails and the Stir Fried Green Beans--recipes for all of these are included in the cookbook, along with a wealth of other mouth-watering drinks and edibles you can now try at home.  Last week I made the Ginger Braised Chicken and it was heavenly.

If your evenings are as hectic as mine, I recommend giving yourself a little time ahead to do the prep work.  It's not too much, but I was really grateful that I'd cut the thin matchsticks of ginger and sliced the garlic cloves the night before.  This is a recipe I will make often in the future--everyone who ate it loved it, and Ginger Braised Chicken makes for a jealousy-inducing lunch the next day. 

MyGingerBraisedChicken

 

Here is what my Ginger Braised Chicken looked like before I put it with jasmine rice. I went with full size drumsticks and did have to cook it a little longer to accommodate.  I'll stick to the smaller pieces per the ingredients list next time.

If you want to try this one yourself, the recipe and photo from The Slanted Door, our pick for the number one cookbook of the year, is below.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
BRAISED GINGER CHICKEN
from The Slanted Door by Charles Phan
 
My mother used to make this dish whenever a family friend was pregnant, since ginger minimizes nausea and aids digestion. I like to start with a whole chicken, cut Chinese style (see instructions below), and save the breasts for another use.
  • 1 whole chicken, 2 to 3 pounds
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¹⁄³ cup very thinly sliced fresh ginger, about ¹⁄¹6-inch-thick
  • ½ cup rice wine, such as michiu or sake
  • 1 cup chicken stock (page 246) or water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 or 4 Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
  • 6 green onions, white parts only, halved lengthwise
  • Slivered green onions, for garnish
  • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving

Serves 4 to 6 

1. Using a cleaver, cut the chicken legs from the body by cutting cleanly through the joint. Cut the drumstick from the thigh along the joint and, using strong, swift cuts, chop each drumstick and thigh through the bone into three pieces. Cut the wings from the body along the joint, and cut each wing into two pieces, a drumette and wing. Reserve the breast for another use.

2. Place the chicken pieces in a large mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the oil, the cornstarch, and the salt. Toss to coat.

3. In a wide-bottomed clay pot or sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken pieces and a few grinds of black pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the rice wine and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock, fish sauce, chiles, green onions, and a pinch of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with slivered green onions and serve immediately with steamed rice.

GingerBraisedChickenSlantedDoor



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2014 National Book Award Winners



At an event in Manhattan yesterday evening, the National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2014 National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, Young People's Literature, and Poetry. Phil Klay was awarded the highly anticipated prize in fiction for his collection of short stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Redeployment, while Evan Osnos's Age of Ambition was deemed the top nonfiction book of the year.

All finalists receive $1,000, and five panelists in each of the four categories decide who takes home the top prizes of $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. Since 1950, winners have included William Faulkner, Annie Proulx, Ralph Ellison, Katherine Anne Porter, Philip Roth, Alice Walker, John Updike, and Lillian Hellman, to name but a few. Congratulations to all of the 2014 finalists and winners.

See more National Book Award finalists and previous winners.

 

2014 National Book Award Winners:

TITLE

FICTION: Redeployment by Phil Klay

"Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned."

 
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NONFICTION: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

"Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail."

 
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Young People's Literature: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

"Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement."

 
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POETRY: Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck

"You enter the world of this spellbinding book through one of its many dreamlike portals, and each time you enter it’s the same place but it has been arranged differently."

 


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Excerpts from "BOMB: The Author Interviews" - Featuring Colm Toibin, Chris Abani, Patrick McGrath, and Martin Amis



BOMB-Author-InterviewsFor more than thirty years, BOMB magazine has been pairing artists, authors, poets, and painters together for intimate artist-on-artist conversations, more than 1,200 of them so far. In BOMB: The Author Interviews, published last week by Soho Press, the magazine's editor, Betsy Sussler, has compiled an incredible collection of authors interviewing authors: an unknown Jonathan Franzen; Roberto Bolaño, just before he died; Lydia Davis and Francine Prose; Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz; Jennifer Egan and Heidi Juilavits; and many more.

Below are snippets from two of those conversations, featuring two authors featured on Amazon's Best Books of the Year list: Colm Tóibín (Nora Webster), in conversation with with Chris Abani (The Secret History of Las Vegas), and Martin Amis (The Zone of Interest), in conversation with Patrick McGrath (Constance).

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CHRIS ABANI: I play with sexuality in all my books. There’s an ambiguity to all my characters. In The Virgin of Flames, the protagonist wants to be a woman. I write my characters from the inside out. There’s no spectacle to it, so of course the first question is, Where is your body in relationship to this text? That always fascinates me. Before I wrote this book about this guy who wants to be a woman—I had always prided myself on, while being straight, being not homophobic at all. Until I wrote a scene where the character is finally about to make love to a transsexual stripper but realizes that that’s not what he wants. In fact, he wants to occupy the stripper’s position. And you have that whole Crying Game moment, but instead of the penis revelation being the thing, it’s the penis disappearance. So this transsexual stripper is teaching this guy how to disappear his penis, so that he could wear a G-string were he to perform as a stripper. I researched it on the Internet. My girlfriend at the time read what I had written and said, “This reads like a manual.” The rest of the book was beautiful but then it’s, “Okay, over here we have the penis.” I really had to go there, so I hired someone who performs as a woman. I said, “Okay, show me how to do this.”

COLM TÓIBÍN: Do you have his number? (laughter)

ABANI: I wanted to ask you, did coming out change your interaction with the text or with readership or with editorship or all of this?

ToibinTÓIBÍN: Yeah. For me, writing down the opening section of The Story of the Night and publishing it, was a very big moment. It was like what you were describing, except I realized I was going to go on being it, even if I stopped writing about it. It was like writing down the truth, which is something we should all be very suspicious of. And the question then is that of putting the truth genie back in the bottle. I would like a rest from either being gay, gay, gay or being Irish, Irish, Irish. Some other thing you could be—French, maybe, or very old, or clean-living—I might try. Obviously, being a woman would be terrific. I did it in my first novel so I suppose I cannot do it again. I wish there were more categories. I suppose there will be in time.

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PATRICK MCGRATH: Evil accumulates?

MARTIN AMIS: Evil takes it out of you. Evil’s always been winning.

MCGRATH: Why should evil keep on winning? 

AMIS: Perhaps because the brain is partly reptilian. I have a rather schmaltzy notion of human potentiality which is, in fact, embodied in literature. 

MCGRATH: How do you mean? 

AmisAMIS: It’s a commonplace that literature evolves in a certain way but it doesn’t improve. It just stays there. It’s a model. I think literature has not just been about, but embodies: the best. The best that humans can do. 

MCGRATH: The best moral thought? 

AMIS: The best moral thought. The representation of humanity at the crest of itself. Something like that. In fact, I’ve never understood why the idea of literature as religion was demolished so quickly. It seems to me that would be a tenable way of looking at it. It’s a constant, making something out of the present and the past at the same time. Certainly an elitist thing, there’s no question about that. But it’s an elite open to everyone. 

MCGRATH: Do you see it decaying alongside everything else? 

AMIS: Literature? No. I mean, they say the novel is dead. Well, try and stop people writing novels. Or poems. There’s no stopping people. I suppose it’s conceivable that no one will know how to spell in fifty years’ time, but not while the books are still there. You don’t need a structure. The autodidact is omnipresent in fiction.



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