The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt is a marvelous read for a details freak such as myself. A while back I was fantasizing about an ebook that would have hot links to every obscure reference -- I found myself wishing for those very hot links as I made my way through this beautiful, rich, and alluring story.
It's not for everyone -- because of this denseness. And it's not as compelling a story as Byatt's Possession which ranks as one of my favorite books. But I truly enjoyed it and will reread it to revel in all the lush details.
This is what The New Yorker had to say:
Byatt’s mammoth novel, spanning the two and a half decades before the First World War, centers on the Wellwood family, led by a banker with radical inclinations and his wife, the author of best-selling fairy tales. At their country estate, they preside over a motley brood of children and host midsummer parties for fellow Fabians, exiled Russian anarchists, and German puppeteers. But the idyll contains dark secrets, as a potter whom the family takes in for a time discovers. Byatt is concerned with the complex, often sinister relationship between parent and child, which she explores through various works of art—pottery, puppet shows, fairy tales—using them to refract and illuminate the larger narrative. At times, an excess of detail threatens to overwhelm the plot: no aquamarine glaze goes undescribed, no psychological process unmentioned. But, despite risking tedium, the book is ultimately engaging and rewarding. ♦
And then there's The Road to Wellville, T. Coraghessan Boyle's exceedingly comic take on the health food industry in Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 1900's. The book is based on the real Dr. Kellog and I found it pretty hilarious. (There was a movie of the same name which evidently was quite awful.)
Wellville is another fairly dense period piece. There are several plotlines and some outrageous situations. But again -- I enjoy that sort of thing. Here's a review, that will tell you more.
Back on Wednesday, I was heading to Burnsville to teach my class when I passed a red-tailed hawk by the side of the road. I've seen him before, up in a dead tree nearby, but this time he was on the ground.
I was past him before I realized what I'd seen but he didn't take off so I stopped, fumbled around for my camera (which I'd foolishly put in its bag, in the backseat -- note to self: keep camera out, turned on!) and backed up.
The hawk wasn't hurt, thank goodness. It had a goodsized black snake -- probably road kill, certainly the first I've seen out.)
To my amazement, when I backed up, the hawk didn't take off at once. Finally, though, he got his dinner firmly in his talons and flew.
I was delighted with these two captures -- be sure to click on the pictures to biggify them and really see the hawk -- such gorgeous birds!
A while back, Nancy Meadows, one of my readers who grew up in the area where my novels are set, shared some family pictures and diaries with me. Her aunts, Odessa and Inez Henderson -- here seen on either side of their mother -- lived in the Walnut community in western NC (about three miles from my home and the prototype for the place I call Dewell Hill in my stories.)
Odessa and Inez kept daily diaries from the Thirties into the early Seventies and I so much enjoyed meeting Inez and Odessa in their own words that (with Nancy's permission) I've made them characters in my forthcoming book -- complete with diaries!
The diaries are of the five year variety -- just a few lines for each day -- but they provide a wonderful glimpse into ordinary life of a certain time and place
I wrote more about the girls and their diaries here and here .
"The stromboli -- homemade pizza dough spread with last year's basil pesto and soft-dried tomatoes from the freezer, topped with thin slices of prociutto and provolone, as well as grated Asiago -- was rolled up and baked brown. Molten cheeses escaped from its fragrant interior as Elizabeth served out the portions."
(from Signs in the Blood)
I usually make stromboli with some combination of cheese, pesto, roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto. I've also used fresh tomatoes (de-seeded) and plain old sliced ham.
This one had capacolla on it but, to tell the truth, the taste of the pesto and the roasted tomatoes pretty much drowns out the flavor of the meat. Another time, I'll omit it.
Roll 'em up and bake them or freeze them to bake another time.
Stromboli is a nice dinner entree with a salad on the side or it can work as an appetizer too.
If you'd like the complete recipe, go to my website , click on RECIPES, and scroll down.
The handsome fella in the middle is our Buff Orpington rooster. I always name our roosters Gregory Peck but this guy was raised by Justin and Claui who named him Reginald Dukakis.
It doesn't matter; he won't answer to either.
We have to keep our biddies in a pen, due to predators -- hawks, foxes, coons, and, alas, our own dogs. The birds seem pretty content -- they've got room to move around, a house to shelter in, dirt to scratch in, and we make a points of bringing them green stuff.
Reginald/Gregory is starting his little rooster dance -- preparatory to jumping on the hen's back and mating -- ah, chicken foreplay.
We have Buff Orpingtons and Gold-Laced Wyandottes, who lay pinkish-brown eggs and Ameruacanas, who are responsible for the pretty bluish eggs.
They are laying well now, after slacking off during the dark days of winter -- fourteen hens and most days we get ten eggs.
Good thing Easter's almost here! There'll be plenty of eggs for the Easter egg hunt!
It all began that night at the Workbench -- yeah, I know, the regulars are a bunch of tools but, hey, it's handy, man.
Me and some of the other fellas were drinking Rusty Nails -- it'd been that kind of a week and I was ready to get hammered.
Nine-Inch Nails was playing and the pounding beat was really getting to me when all of a sudden Brad says, 'Hey, hey, hey, look at that hot-dipped, galvanized little number. How'd you like to nail that one?"
And I see her over there, all shiny-slim and sharp-looking. She's with a couple of tacky losers, you know, the kind they always say has a terrific personality, but this one, well, she can ride in my nail belt any time!
Me, I'm a big galoot, tough as nails, and I stand out in this crowd of common nails. I can see she's looking me over, but playing it cool, you know what I'm sayin'?
So I sort of meander on over to where she is and offer her a coffin-nail. We stand there smoking for a while, just kind of getting to know one another. I ask does she come here for the music and she says yeah, I hit the nail on the head -- it sure wasn't for the company.
Turns out her name's Penny and she's got a boyfriend named Spike but I know this Spike --thinks he's a big stud when he's nothing but a common framing nail --I could chew him up and spit out carpet tacks.
One thing leads to another and I ask can I drive her home. She wants to know am I hitting on her but than she says yeah and ditches the girlfriends and once we're at her place, it doesn't take long for us to get to the point, if you know what I mean.
I didn't see her again - months went by and one night I'm on the computer, checking out exotic fasteners and then watching a video called 'Nailin' Palin.' when I get a call.
It's the hot number from the bar. She has to remind me and then-- well, not to put too fine a point on it, she tells me I'm a daddy -- says there's all these little nails and they're crowding her out of the house and she wants me to do something.