There is a famous mention of these cakes in The Leopard - the Prince likes the ones bought from the nuns at the abbey in Agrigento in Sicily. The slightly churro- looking ones in the top left hand corner are called biscotti ricci (curled cakes) and my Dad found, to his nerdy delight, that the nuns are still there, and you can still go to the grate at the abbey and buy these cakes. We ate some this evening. They were mealy, marzipan-like and good with coffee. It reminded me that The Leopard is my favourite book mostly because of the stupendous cake metaphors throughout.
Hey! So we’re on the Refinery blog today! I think this is my favourite photo of the bookshop.
|Publisher's Weekly:||I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.|
|Claire Messud:||For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that?|
Yesterday I got into library school. It is making me reflective. This was my first library card. It was handed to me with a Twinkie. Due to my upbringing, it was the first time I had ever seen a Twinkie, much less eaten one, and I decided whatever a library was, it had to be great. When I found out that they’d let me take up to 30 books home at a time, no questions asked, I was hooked. And now here we are!
George Jones has died, and with him one of the great voices of our lifetime. George Jones was one of the craziest, country-est singers that ever existed. Try to listen to his song Grand Tour without feeling a surge of beautiful sadness, go on, just try:
Nick Tosches’s essay about George Jones is also my favourite piece of writing of all time. No kidding, you can keep your Tolstoy and your Joyce and your Austen and your everything else. That essay is the most a perfect example of music journalism, of American writing, of America, that I know. You can’t get at it on the internet, so to read it I think you have to Buy the Nick Tosches Reader (and you SHOULD), but I have for the first time taken a screenshot off Google Reader because I think it’s that important.
You’ll never guess what I did today, said my husband’s best friend Baker one night in a bar in the East Village. I was interviewed by This American Life.
And then he told us the story. About how one day he got a letter from a guy in England whose autistic son loved his paintings, and about what happened after that. We listened to it this morning and when the end of it came I knew what it would be, and I was also so moved, because Baker. He’s a beautiful man, and a beautiful artist. Have a listen to act 3 of the latest This American Life, and you’ll see.
The new company logo is a torch inside an obelisk
inside a five-pointed star inside a sixteen-sided die
against a backdrop of blazing sunlight. It took years
of focus groups, an in-house creative team collecting
only the smoothest, flattest stones from the banks
of the minor tributaries…
Ooooh, this poem is so good.
A tourist stops to get directions from a cop in Questa, New Mexico, 1926.Photograph by Luis Marden, National Geographic
The National Geographic Tumblr is starting to really cook now.
I like to have a back-up book. One big old trashy novel I haven’t read yet waiting for me on the bedroom bookshelf for a Dark Night of the Soul. Usually it’s a nice Jilly C or a sports biography or some YA sci-fi but sometimes, if there’s a new one, it’s a Marian Keyes. This is slightly self-defeating because actually if there’s one thing Marian Keyes specialises in it’s Dark Nights of the Soul, but she’s also very funny and you can get 200 pages into a Walsh Sister novel before you realise you’ve forgotten everything else.
About three years ago Keyes, one of the most successful commercial fiction writers in the world, admitted that she was suffering again with clinical depression. This didn’t come as a huge shock to any of her devoted readers - Keyes began to write while struggling with alcoholism, a subject she covered brilliantly in 1998’s Rachel’s Holiday - but the way she spoke openly about it was pretty cool. The new Marian Keyes, The Mystery of Mercy Close, is a ripper of a yarn about a missing boyband member but honestly it’s mostly also a very good book about depression.
Mercy Close is a Walsh Sister novel, (and anyone who read Anybody Out There? - the Walsh Novel about grief - knows those sisters have had a hard row to hoe) which means we get to spend some more time with Mammy Walsh. Mammy Walsh, along with Mrs. Bennett, is one of the top two comic Mothers in Fiction*. The heroine is her youngest daughter, Helen, and Helen is spiralling into the second big depressive episode of her life. Keyes does so well with things like this. Helen, a private detective, has lost her house to the recession and is beginning to struggle with eating and showering. Driving to her parents house one evening, she sees vultures circling around a petrol station. When it becomes apparent that the vultures are in fact seagulls, Helen knows she has to go to the doctor. She spends the rest of the book going downhill, while remembering the last time this happened to her and trying to manage to fall as sensibly as she can.
Perhaps the biggest triumph of Mercy Close is that Keyes offers no real solution to Helen’s illness. Helen’s last stint in the psychiatric ward wasn’t a panacea but it stopped her killing herself. Anti-depressants save her life but they don’t offer her the oblivion she really craves. A combination of gentle activity, family support and medication allow Helen fragile comfort and that, Keyes allows, is a fantastic triumph. What I love most about the way Keyes does this is that despite Helen’s illness she remains completely and utterly part of the narrative. We care that Helen is ok, but we also care what she does outside of her illness. Helen is a talented, determined ill person, and she is allowed all of that at once. It’s a brave and detailed bit of writing, as is most of Keys’s work, and we should all be grateful that Keyes herself has the support and determination to keep writing. There are some very good jokes too.
*just my opinion**
**my opinion is basically correct
UPDATE: I wrote this whole bloody post spelling the name of the author incorrectly. Thank you Anna. FFS.