This week I would like to address a breach of civility that I call Yucking the Yum. Many people have asked me by what I mean by this. Well it’s just this: When you say “Yuck” to something that someone finds Yummy , or makes them happy, you are calling them out on their taste. It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Let’s say someone says, “I can’t wait for dinner tonight! It’s going to be a lovely piece of roasted salmon on a bed of arugula. “ This Someone will inevitably shudder with horror, do an eye roll and make that person feel like a circus freak for the joyful anticipation of that meal. I have seen this lately in discussions with books, films, just about anything under the sun that could make a person happy. You know what? If something is not your cup of tea, please just nod politely and either change the subject or formulate this week’s grocery list in your head. Thanks. Phew. I feel so much better now. Many of you may have missed this news story. There was a wolverine named Kasper who was on his way to Alaska from Norwegian zoo. There needed to be a plane change at Newark National airport where he would go through Customs. He was in a metal cage that proved no match for his sharp little teeth and he had managed to chew a hole in the cage to try to escape! Now this just goes to prove my point about Wolverines in general. Only a Wolverine would think that Newark Airport was a place to escape to. Really? You are given a choice between Newark and a 170 acre unspoiled Alaskan landscape and you choose Newark? Point proved. This week we have tenderness and compassion, Vichy France, North Korea, Korean Americans, and a Bake Off.
Of course we have The Playlist! Of course!
Sweet Ann is here this week after reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce. What did you think Ann? “This is almost a companion book to Ms. joyce's earlier novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In that novel, Harold Fry was walking across England to visit his friend Queenie who is dying in a hospice. In this new novel Queenie is writing to Harold as he walks across England. It is difficult for her to write and one of the sisters at the hospice helps her along with the story she is writing to Harold. Queenie wants Harold to know her real reason for leaving her job, where he also worked, and why she never contacted him again until she was very sick. This is a wonderful story filled with tenderness that at times will make your heart ache but it will also have your heart soar with the love and compassion of these characters. While it sounds like a sad book and it is in some ways, it is also a wonderful reflection on friendship and love.”
Barbara M is back in France and I know that makes me feel like all is right with the world. “I recently watched Claude Chabrol’s documentary film The Eye of Vichy made in 1993. It is a compilation of propaganda newsreels and films made by the Nazis and their French collaborators during the occupation of France in World War II. The aim of these films was to convince the people of France that working with the Germans would benefit France as a nation and that their real enemies were the Jews, the Allied Forces and the Communists. Field Marshall Petain's energetic speeches are filmed followed by children bringing him gifts and flowers in an attempt to endear him to the people. There are clips of young men happily leaving France to work in German factories. Propaganda is powerful and we’ll never know how many people embraced Petain’s vision. After the war most people claimed to be on the side of The Resistance but we’ll never know. This is a fascinating film about the power of the media. “
The Delightful Pat S is here and she’s back to her old ways too. Perhaps this sun and warmth is working its’ magic? “After a few recent forays into fiction, I have fallen back to an old favorite in this riveting memoir Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim. Set in the fall of 2011, Kim, a Korean-American writer infiltrates the only privately funded university in Pyongyang. Using her cover as a teacher to the sons of the North Korean elite in order to gather information about living under this totalitarian regime, Kim renders a portrayal which is almost visceral in its' intensity. There are the repressive day to day procedures-complete news blackouts, censoring of all communications, being constantly monitored 24/7. The students have no idea that the 'intranet' they are allowed to surf is only downloaded, pre-approved files, and not the World Wide Web. There is no contact with the world outside of campus unless it has been pre-approved. One such outing included a 98 mile ride on a government road-during which they saw not a single other car-coming or going. As for the students-Kim finds them age appropriately naive and charming-yet tragically stunted in their thinking. Their speech is constantly marked with references to the Great One, and the superiority of North Korea in all things-technology, farming, sports. Kim feels herself choking from the claustrophobia of this lifestyle after only a short while. But she can leave. This book will stay with you long after the last page.”
Steph? Yup she’s already anticipating even better days ahead. I’ll let her explain. “Something about this weather had me in the mood for a beach read, so I tried China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. This sequel to last year’s Crazy Rich Asians is exactly what you want in a fluffy, smart vacation book. If you read the first book, you’ll be delighted to hear that this one follows Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young after their wedding, as she discovers who her father is and gets to see another side of Asia. But if you didn’t read the first book, you will love this just the same. Lots of family scheming, social feuds, elaborate clothing and jewelry, houses and hotels and clubs you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, and strata of Asian society you didn’t even know existed. Because these characters aren’t just rich—they’re China-rich. I definitely don’t have what it takes to succeed in Hong Kong or Singapore high society, so it was delightful to experience a version of it vicariously!”
I have to tell you all about an amazing debut novel that I spent last week savoring like the best meal you’ve ever eaten. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal introduces us to Eva Thorvald who ends up becoming one of the all-time most influential chefs of her generation. Each chapter tells about a dish and the character attached to it that made Eva the famous amongst the food intelligentsia. I like to think of it as what Art of Fielding did for baseball, this book will do for the food traditions of the Midwest such as lutefisk and Bake-Offs. It comes out at the end of July and it has already earned a spot on my Top Ten List for 2015.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named which is rich with Wolverines. That’s all I am going to say about that. What’s good Pats? “Holy Cow by David Duchovny has been amusing me nightly. Sure I’ve read the reviews that pan this book as a hot mess and maybe it is but it has been making me laugh out loud on a regular basis and that’s never a bad thing. It’s a coming of age story of Elsie Bovary, a cow living the life on a milking farm in upstate New York. Elsie leaves her paddock one night with a friend with the intention of visiting the bulls. She wanders off and ends up viewing snippets of a television program at the Farmer’s house about industrial meat farming. This sets her on a journey to the holy land for cows, India. I’m still reading it and have been enjoying this delightfully bizarre tale.”