For us, Book Order Meeting is not just a chance to talk about what is coming out, will we order it and if so how many. It is also a chance to catch up and talk about what we have been reading.
This week we came to a terrifying conclusion.
We have spent our summer reading about what one wag at the table called “enjoyment of the other, other white meat.”
We have spent our summer enjoying books that contain some form of cannibalism.
What brought this to our attention was Janet Maslin's review of Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans
by Ethan Brown in yesterday’s New York Times. Many of us had read the advanced readers copy that was floating around the offices. While talking about how much we had enjoyed it we came to the realization that we were rather ghoulish in our summer reads this year.
Brown tells the story of Zachery Bowen, who while suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome brought on not only by his survival of Hurricane Katrina, but also by stints as an MP in Kosovo and Iraq, murdered his girlfriend. As if this were not enough he then proceeded to demonstrate something Top Chef has taught us to view as knife skills upon her remains and then portion her out amongst the various pots and pans in the kitchen. This prompted the New York Post headline, Girlfriend Gumbo.
While Zach never went so far as to partake of his handiwork it did make us remember that this was not the first book we read this summer with the idea of loved ones as nutritional option.
The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
by Daniel James Brown was a staff favorite this summer. The Donners need no introduction and after reading this book you would not want one. Truly. But we loved the wonky historical details that the author included in this story of survival against all odds. I made the mistake of reading “The Chapter” while eating lunch. Which was chicken salad. I need say no more.
City of Thieves
by David Benioff has totally won a place in our hearts and if we don’t see a movie made of this book we will be most upset. Based on the true stories of his grandfather Benioff tells the story of a young man named Lev is caught looting a corpse during the Siege of Leningrad a crime punishable by death. In prison he meets Kolya, a deserter which is another offense punishable by death. But Colonel Grechko has a deal for the two young men. Find him a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake and they may go free. In their quest they discover a form of commerce in the market place that is a whole lot less than kosher. When a city is starving, how far will the denizens go to survive? Pretty far as it turns out. And it gives us an important lesson. If your city is starving you may want to stay far, far away from folk who are looking a whole lot more healthy that you. This is a lesson some of the Donner party could have told you. Because the chances are pretty good that they are not looking at you as a potential friend; they are looking at you as potential meal.
Here’s to the last barbecue of August. Let’s stick to what’s available at the grocer’s shall we?