Sorry this is so late but I just got back from Los Angeles and our cruise.
Jexy, Joe, Jacob and I joined, Joe's mom Barbara and extended family on a family reunion cruise to Mexico. We had a great time - it was my first cruise and Jacob was my "stateroom mate". Thanks again to Barbara and all the Bloom relatives for making me feel so welcome.
I finished Pete Hamill's new novel, North River. Jack and I have both enjoyed Hamill's earlier books like, Snow in August, Forever and Downtown. He is a classic New Yorker who writes novels and non-fiction books which capture the essence of New York and its history.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The North River is what real New Yorkers call the Hudson. Two blocks from its shore, Dr. James Finbar Delaney lives on Horatio Street in Greenwich Village. He is a GP, servicing the indigent poor. A wounded veteran of World War I, he is despondent that his wife, Molly, has deserted him and that his only child, Grace, has left her son, two-year-old Carlito, in his care. In the dead of winter in the Depression year of 1934, Dr. Delaney knows the cause of death was always life. Delaney is numb from the war and the abandonment of his family. When he saves the life of gangster friend Eddie Corso, Italian hood Frankie Botts is not happy. Delaney can feel the threat to him and his grandson in his bones. To further complicate matters, the FBI shows up looking for Grace.
If there's any consolation for Delaney in the chaos that has become his life, it's Carlito and Rose, his Sicilian illegal alien housekeeper, who has become little Carlito's surrogate mother—and Delaney's lov er. Soon the North River comes to symbolize Delaney's tormented life, as enemies and loved ones float in it, and Grace, on a liner, returns to New York to further complicate Delaney's new, delicate household. Hamill (Forever; A Drinking Life) has crafted a beautiful novel, rich in New York City detail and ambience, that showcases the power of human goodness and how love, in its many forms, can prevail in an unfair world.
Other books people were reading on the ship:
Joe's sister Lauren had just started, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Pollan also wrote The Botany of Desire which Lauren liked very much.
From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Pamela KaufmanPollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly."Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister.Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virgin ia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted.This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous.
He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him.
Just as long as we could eat at a table, not i
Joe's mom Barbara read (not on the cruise) and recommends Carolyn See's memoir called Dreaming. She is the mother of Lisa See who wrote Snow Flower and Secret Fan, On Gold Mountain and most recently, Peony in Love.
From Publishers Weekly
Award-winning novelist (Golden Days; Making History) and book critic See has a pungent, earthily feminine style that has never been put to better use than in this saga of her clamorous, perpetually inebriated family. Daughter of a hard-drinking, charming show-business hanger-on and an equally hard-drinking hellion of a mother, See also went through two chaotic marriages, countless gallons of tequila and white wine and enough mind-altering substances to knock her sideways for most of a decade before settling down, with two miraculously surviving and equable daughters and her elderly English professor companion, to become the quirkily admirable writer she is today. Her sister Rose, enmeshed for years in a life of petty crime, drug-dealing and appalling men, was not so lucky. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, all seemed somehow to be disappointed at what American (mostly Californian) life had to offer, and retreated into bottles, needles and pills. It all makes for wonderfully liv ely reading, but See's thesis that this is life for much of America's aspiring underclass doesn't quite ring true (perhaps it's simply that a preponderance of these goofily hope-addicted people wind up in California). And in the midst of all See's hard-headed, courageous and humorous observation, it is jarring to come across a paean to some of the more banal and outre of New Age gurus. What is lacking in the book, despite its many anecdotal pleasures and galloping readability, is any sense of a cultural context to Americans beyond a search for ways to feel better about themselves.
Website of the Week: Teach for America - http://www.teachforamerica.org/ - thought I'd share this site with you since this is how Jexy got into teaching right out of college. It really is a remarkable organization that has now been in existence since 1990. You can hear more about on the Satellite Sisters podcast that will be broadcast on Wednesday, August 15. They will be interviewing founder, Wendy Koop.
Podcast of the Week: Jack listened to this show about Ralph Nader on Pacifica, a public radio show out of LA and just thought it was amazing. "While I was sitting in LA traffic today I caught a program on Pacifica radio about Ralph Nader. It was a compilation of interviews and testimony he has given during his career, from his start in the 60s through an interview with Amy Goodman last month. I always thought well of Nader, but really didn't know much about him and was also annoyed that he "interfered" with possible Democratic wins in recent presidential elections.
After listening to this program, I was so impressed by the work and commitment of this remarkable person that I wanted to pass it on to you all."
You can listen or download a podcast at:
Vocabulary Word of the Week - I've chosen this Jewish word in honor of my relationship with Joe's mom, Barbara and my soon-to-be son-in-law, David's mom, Cora.
Cooking and Food Report:
Before the cruise, Jexy, Jacob and I went to one of the many new hip and trendy restaurant/bars opening up in her neighborhood of Highland Park. It is called The York - http://www.theyorkonyork.com/. Here's a review from Eating L.A. - http://eatingla.blogspot.com/2007/07/york-rocks-highland-park.html
As you might expect, the food on Royal Carribean's Monarch of the Sea was plentiful. The meals were fine - what was really outstanding was the level of service from the waitstaff and the entire crew. I was very impressed. The crew of 1600 men and women represent 60 different countries. They spend 8 months on board and then are off for 4 months.
That's it for now. I need to settle back home after my exciting trip. Have a great week!