Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From Books to Films

Two of the books I listed in my top ten for 2010, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and One Day by David Nicholls are soon to be released as films. I've just come across their posters on the web. I love the poster of The Help, don't you? I can't wait to see these movies both of which I think will translate very well to the big screen.

The Help stars Sissy Spacek, Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard while One Day stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Interesting cast choices for both. Are you looking forward to seeing these movies? Do you know other recent novels that will soon be made into films?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Extremely Loud - the Second Time Around

I finished this late last night and I just couldn't sleep after that. Wow. Notice I wrote wow with a period after it and not an exclamation point. This is a quiet wow, a breathless wow and a sad wow all rolled into one because of how the ending affected me. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer has blown me away with its beauty. And to think I read a few pages of this book last year and abandoned it. I only decided to give it another try after I loved his wife's book, Great House by Nicole Krauss. I'm fascinated by this young couple who are married, have two children, live in a brownstone in Brooklyn, New York and produce such heartbreaking works of art.

Krauss once said in an interview that they never discuss work and they only read each other's books once they are in proof form. There are definitely some similarities in their styles but they're both still quite different. However, it's obvious that one style influences the other and vice versa. How can it not with two writers living so close together? Of those two books above, the superior one for me is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Of course, I have yet to read their other novels.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has been described as being pretentious and to be honest that was what I first thought upon reading a few pages last year. 'I can't read this," I thought. "This isn't my style at all." The prose is loud and in your face There are run-on sentences and paragraphs that just go on and on. It does take some time to get used to. On my second reading, I persevered and after just a few pages, I was entranced by the wonderful protagonist, Oskar, and his impossible quest to find a lock that fits a key that belonged to his dead father. This is a book about memories, love, loss, loneliness, longing and managing to go on living after the one we love is gone. Heartbreaking and touching. A book to hug, to hold on to and cherish and put on the shelf next to my other favorite novels of all time. I'm so glad I gave this another chance.

This is also an incredibly visual book. A book that should be read in its print edition. There are photographs, blank pages with only a few words and 15 pages that form their own flip book. I also just found out that it's soon to be a film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. A sure hit I'm sure but please, please, read the book first.

My next reads are The History of Love by Krauss and Everything is Illuminated by Foer. Which one do you recommend I read first? Both were books I abandoned years ago but ah...I am now certain that I gave up too soon. I suspect that I'll appreciate them more this time. Which goes to show that books, just like some things in life, have their time and place. A book you were not ready to read before maybe be the perfect one for you now. A book you abandoned long ago may be something you'd actually love now. Have you ever abandoned a book and then gave it another chance at another time? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Great House

I won't even attempt to give an in-depth review of Great House by Nicole Krauss because Bookworm Violet at Still Life With Books has already written an excellent one. Her review convinced me to give this book another try. About a month ago, I started reading Great House and like many readers, I found the first 50 or so pages to be wonderful. However, after that it veered into a completely unexpected direction with different characters. Frustrated, I put it aside. This feeling wasn't a complete surprise to me as the exact same thing had happened when I read The History of Love, Krauss' acclaimed second novel. I never got through the second part of that book.

I decided to give Great House another chance after Violet's glowing review and this time I loved it although I can't really explain why. It's not a perfect book but I thought Krauss' prose was elegant and beautiful. It's a book I'll have to reread in the near future. In fact, this might make an excellent book club choice because it will be interesting to hear what others thought. Great House is like a rubik's cube or as Violet says, a set of Baboushka dolls, because the book slowly reveals new stories and new characters at every turn. How are these people related to each other? What do they all have in common? Even now after finishing the book, I'm not exactly sure. We are led to think that it's an antique desk containing several drawers and one locked one. This desk passed through the lives of the characters in the book. But Great House is so much more than the desk that links these characters. It's about life, love, death, loneliness, regret and marriage. I'm still trying to piece all the pieces of the puzzle together in my head and it's not that easy especially as I read a Kindle edition. Next time, I'll have to take notes.

The book starts out in New York in the 70s where twenty-something Nadia becomes caretaker to a desk that belongs to Daniel Varksy who says it once belonged to Federico Garcia Lorca. We later learn that the desk was given to Daniel by a woman in England who keeps it hidden away in an attic together with her terrible memories of world war two and after. Then there's Weisz and his two children. Weisz searches for furniture looted from Jewish families by the Nazis. The desk once stood in his father's study and he spend his entire life hunting it down. There's Isabel who loves Weisz's son but can never get close enough to him. Then there's the aging father with the estranged son. These four different stories make up Great House. Stories that move back and forth through time and spanning different places - Jerusalem, New York, London, Oxford, Santiago. Great House is an exceptionally unique and very, very clever book. This is one book where somehow knowing the ending will bring a deeper understanding to the whole. And that's why I'll just have to read this again.

Have any of you read Great House or reread it? What do you think of it? How does it compare to her other novels? Great House has convinced me to retry The History of Love and to hunt down her other book, Man Walks Into A Room.

Here are some lovely quotes from the book:

"I'd had boyfriends before, and I was familiar with the little mating rituals of getting to know each other, of dragging out the stories from childhood, summer camp, and high school, the famous humiliations, and the adorable things you said as a child, the familial dramas - of drawing a portrait of yourself, all the while making yourself out to be a little brighter, a little more deep than deep down you knew you actually were. And though I hadn't had more than three or four relationships, I already knew that each time the thrill of telling another the story of yourself wore off a litte more, each time you threw yourself into it a little less, and grew more distrustful of an intimacy that always in the end, failed to pass into true understanding."

"We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it's there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait."

"He awakened a hunger in me - not just for him, but also for the magnitude of life, for the extremes of all it has been given to us to feel."

“Nineteen drawers of varying size, some below the desktop and some above, whose mundane occupations (stamps here, paper clips there) hid a far more complex design, the blueprint of the mind formed over tens of thousands of days of thinking while staring at them, as if they held the conclusion to a stubborn sentence, the culminating phrase, the radical break from everything I had ever written that would at last lead to the book I had always wanted, and always failed, to write. Those drawers represented a singular logic deeply embedded, a pattern of consciousness that could be articulated in no other way but their precise number and arrangement. Or am I making too much of it?”

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

I haven't been this excited about a cookbook since I bought Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier a few years back. I purchased My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow, because I'm a big fan of her work and of her blog Goop not to mention that I love cookbooks. I always feel a cookbook is worth its price if there's at least one recipe in it that I'll make again and again. In that case, I think Gwyneth's book is definitely a winner many times over.

Aesthetically, My Father's Daughter is a beautiful book. The pictures are similar to its cover - bright, crisp and clean. The food photographs look delicious and healthy. Gwyneth shares her favorite recipes along with personal anecdotes of life with her late father, Bruce Paltrow, her mom Blythe Danner and her two young kids. There's also several intimate family snapshots in the book proving that this has been a very personal project indeed for Paltrow. It was three years in the making. Gwyneth reveals that her father taught her through "...his own enjoyment that gathering around a table is the high point of the day. Through shared meals and meaningful togetherness, he made happiness feel achievable. He helped me realize it's all about the here and now, that happiness happens on a freezing winter night or in the garden when the weather's warm, often with a good bottle of wine, and always with the people you love. You just need some good ingredients and a few simple recipes, maybe a couple of jokes, or  a topic to dissect at the table, the way they do at Nora Ephron's house."

Gwyneth also writes about why she doesn't eat red meat and how she created recipes that incorporate her health consciousness. Interestingly enough a lecture from Leonardo di Caprio when he was nineteen and she was twenty-one was one of the things that convinced her to drop the beef and pork. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a vegetarian book...there's fabulous recipes for brisket, chicken and fish. However, there's definitely a lot of healthy dishes and I just love that. I like it when a cookbook can teach me new things and that's exactly what I found with Gwyneth's book. For example, she uses real maple syrup instead of sugar without sacrificing flavor. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with some of the ingredients that I've never heard of before such as agave nectar, Vegenaise and spelt flour. Where oh where was I going to find these products in Manila? Vegenaise, and spelt flour haven't made it here yet but I did find an alternative non-egg mayonnaise at a health food shop and the agave nectar was surprisingly available in a few supermarkets. Gwyneth gives alternatives in case the ingredients aren't available where you live.

I recently made a big batch of her roasted tomato recipe yesterday and have it in the fridge to use in salads and sandwiches. They're so delicious that I'm making them again soon. Her peanut butter cookies are the best I've ever tried and my 5-year-old agrees. Her balsamic lime dressing livens up even the plainest salad. I can't wait to try the rest of her recipes. In the ever crowded genre of cookbooks, My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow is a breath of fresh air.

I know that many of you are not home cooks but I'm sure anyone can whip this up in five minutes.

Gwyneth's Balsamic & Lime Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light agave nectar or honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Whisk the vinegar, agave, and lime juice together in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
There was an error in this gadget


Related Posts with Thumbnails