Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior and the Bad Nutrition that Followed

After recovering from a near brain implosion at my residency—-so. many. good. things. happening!!—-I return to A Lit.eral Interpretation inspired and hungry. Good news for your belly, and bad news for your pant size.

Mary Gaitskill is a name that’s been circling in conversations involving awesomeness and literature, and for damn good reason.  Her collection of short stories, Bad Behavior, doesn’t hold any punches.  Where some books flirt with human folly and the resulting repercussions, she serves it to you raw. Without a chaser.  The characters are contradictory and rich, and as Alice Munro said of it, it has “fine moments that flatten you out when you don’t expect it.”

The term bad behavior is somewhat relative, but it seems to boil down to acting on one’s most base desires—-a disregard of self-control and morality.  When those terms are applied to food, they are a flip-of-the-bird to counting calories.  A moonwalk across the nutrition label. In the spirit of being truly self-indulgent, I’m offering up two recipes instead of one.  Here comes the naughty fix:

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Maple Caramel Bacon Crack 

*find the original recipe here

Note—- I know that the whole bacon craze has been done to death, but ask yourself this: do you ever really get sick of it?

Ingredients
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 pkg Pillsbury crescent rolls
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet (like a 15×10) with foil and liberally (Seriously. It will seem like too much) grease the foil with cooking spray. Unroll the crescent rolls into one single plane of dough and pinch any perforations together to seal. Stretch the dough out to fit the size of the pan with your hands so it’s even. Prick the dough with a fork all over. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your bacon. Cook it until it’s technically safe enough to eat and just about done, but still lighter in color and not quite crispy. You don’t want it fully cooked and crispy as it will continue to cook in the oven. I pulled mine out of the pan right when they were a medium-pink color. Drain the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Drizzle ¼ cup of the maple syrup over the crescent roll dough. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of the brown sugar. Top with torn pieces of the cooked bacon (I used kitchen shears to cut mine into pieces). Drizzle the remaining maple syrup on top of the bacon pieces, and top with the remaining brown sugar.
  4. Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until bubbling and caramelized. Remove from the oven and allow the pan to come to room temperature or warm to the touch before cutting or breaking into pieces. You can serve this at room temperature or slightly warmed. It tastes best the day of, but can be eaten the next day if stored airtight.

If that didn’t rev your inner glutton, here comes round two.

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Hot n’ Easy Cocktail

*Find the original recipe here.  I changed the name of the drink to better suit the story collection.  It will be listed under “Crazy Horse’s Neck.”

Ingredients

  • 1 part Fireball Whisky
  • 3 parts ginger beer
  • Long spiral peel of lemon
  • Orange bitters

*If you’re like me, you’ll try to cut out ingredients you deem unnecessary.  It might be tempting to ax the lemon peel and bitters, but DON’T!  They’re the difference between a good drink and a mind-blowing beverage.

Directions

Place a long spiral of lemon peel into a Collins glass. Secure one end of the peel over the lip of the glass. (The peel should run from the bottom of the glass to over the top) Add ice cubes. Pour in Fireball and ginger beer. Add a dash of bitters. Stir well.

Now sit back, relax with your crack n’ booze, and enjoy this tidbit from the story “A Romantic Weekend.”

“The store was clean and white, except for a few smudges on the linoleum floor.  Homosexuals with low voices stood behind the counter.  Arranged stalks bearing absurd blossoms protruded from sedate round vases and bristled in the aisles.  She had a paroxysm of fantasy.  He held her, helpless and swooning, in his arms.  They were supported by a soft ball of puffy blue stuff.  Thornless roses surrounded their heads.  His gaze penetrated her so thoroughly, it was as though he had thrust his hand into her chest and begun feeling her ribs one by one.  This was all right with her…None of this felt stupid or corny, but she knew that it was.  Miserably, she tried to gain a sense of proportion.  She stared at the flowers.  They were an agony of bright, organized beauty.  She couldn’t help it.  She wanted to give him flowers.  She wanted to be with him in a room full of flowers.  She visualized herself standing in front of him, bearing a handful of blameless flowers trapped in the ugly pastel paper the florist would staple around them.  The vision was brutally embarrassing, too much so to stay in her mind for more than seconds.”  

This is your brain on drugs.  Literary crack, that is.

 

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The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield

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This is where I do some gender-bending.  I’ll admit I was a bit out of my depth here.  The eyebrows? To five-o-clock shadow or not to five-o-clock shadow? (I obviously went with the latter, as I have no facial hair tricks up my sleeve other than the old coffee grounds method—-not terribly realistic.) There was also a great deal of debating over how a male would hold a cigarette.  In short, I have very little knowledge about being a dude.

So here it is: Holden in the red hunting cap, chain-smoking (as usual), still in prep school tie and oxford, pondering where the ducks in Central Park go in the winter, or whether Jane Gallagher still keeps all her kings in the back row, or why everyone is a goddamn phony.

While Holden is escaping school, I’m heading out to it for the second residency of my MFA program.  Readings will be attended.  Writing will be workshopped.  Lectures will be held.  Swooning over the collected talent will be (hopefully) kept to a respectable minimum.  And then I’ll return with a new list of required reads to play with here on A Lit.eral Interpretation.

In the spirit of good literature and good writing, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mr. Antolini’s conversation with Holden near the end of the novel:

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

Holden Caulfield and the Too-Good-to-Throw Snowball Cookies

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The nostalgic journey through my bookshelves continues, and I can’t overlook this character: Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye‘s misguided rebel with a golden core—-well, maybe it was golden before he smoked all those cigarettes.

People tend to love or hate Holden, his critics labeling him a whiny kid who won’t act on anything.  In his defense, so is Hamlet, but we still keep him around.  I happen to be one of his fans—-how can you not love a teenager that tries to wipe away the “Fuck You” graffiti  to protect the innocence of children? A teen who mock-tap dances in the bathroom of his prep school to get a rise out of his roommate,  prancing around the washbowl saying, “I’m the goddamn Governor’s son. He doesn’t want me to be a tap dancer. He wants me to go to Oxford. But it’s in my goddamn blood, tap-dancing. It’s the opening night of the Ziegfeld Follies. The leading man can’t go on. He’s drunk as a bastard. So who do they get to take his place? Me, that’s who. The little ole goddamn Governor’s son.” I’ve read the book more than I care to admit, and that scene gets me every time.

Besides loving it for my own selfish enjoyment, this book is also extremely teachable.  It’s an exemplary bildungsroman (if you’re a writer and your coming-of-age text gets compared to Catcher, consider it high praise), and it has symbolism coming out the wazoo—-the baseball glove, the hunting hat, the snowball, the carousel, the record, the ducks, the museum, the graffiti, the actual song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”…you can’t throw a punch at an elevator pimp without hitting something symbolic in this text.

The story doesn’t exactly spin warm fireside fuzzies, but it does take place in New York at Christmastime, so it captures a certain holiday feel.  The recipe for snowball cookies was inspired by the scene below:

“I didn’t throw [the snowball] at anything, though. I started to throw it. At a car that was parked across the street. But I changed my mind. The car looked so nice and white. Then I started to throw it at a hydrant, but that looked too nice and white, too. Finally I didn’t throw it at anything. All I did was close the window and walk around the room with the snowball, packing it harder.”

I mean, come on.  How could you not slip into a frenzy of literary analysis on that one?! Not wanting to muss up something so white and pure? Not finding an emotional release, so instead packing those feelings in tighter? (You’ll have to excuse my nerd-isode.) Don’t worry, the only thing you’ll be packing these snowballs into is your belly.  Maybe your handbag.

I used Food Network’s version, because it’s the Food Network.  However, there are other versions that use pecans instead of almonds, and depending on your locale, they might also be called Mexican wedding cookies.  Click here for a link to the OG recipe.

Almond Snowball Cookies

Ingredients

3/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, sliced and softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Pulse the almonds and sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. Add the butter and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the dough off the inside of the bowl, if needed. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and pulse to combine. Add the flour and salt and pulse to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of waxed paper and roll into a log about 15 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the chilled dough into 1/2-inch pieces and roll by hand into balls. Space the cookies evenly on the prepared baking sheets and bake until slightly golden, rotating the sheets once, 15 to 20 minutes. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a pie plate. Briefly cool the cookies on a rack, then gently toss in the confectioners’ sugar until evenly coated. Return to rack, cool to room temperature, and then toss again in the confectioners’ sugar.

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Wishing you all a Merry Everything from A Lit.eral Interpretation.  Enjoy the family, the goodies, the awkward silences when relatives ask insinuating questions.  And as Holden would say, “Sleep tight, ya morons!”

 

Christmas Dorothy and the Heroine

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I know what you’re thinking–Dorothy and heroine? I knew she seemed overeager to take a siesta in the poppies.  Except we’re talking heroine with an E, Smartypants, so cool your jets.  Ya know, the badass female kind.

Let’s talk adventure.  At some point in your life, you’ve come across the hero’s journey, knowingly or not.  It’s a story format that occurs over and over again throughout literature and film.  Given in to the recent Star Wars mania? You just witnessed a form of the hero’s journey.  Harry Potter? Yeah, him too.  And also Percy Jackson,Odysseus, Ender Wiggins, Simba, Shrek, Hercules, Aladdin, Edmund from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Nemo…and on, and on. These are the types of examples I learned when first introduced to the concept, and they’re likely the examples most teachers use to teach the concept.  But then I got to thinking Where the ladies at?  Don’t The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feature some adventurous females that follow roughly the same path?

Here’s the standard diagram, created by Joseph Campbell:

hero journey

Shall we do a test run?

  1. Ordinary World: Dorothy in Kansas, singing her someday-over-the-rainbow woes.
  2. Call to Adventure: Maybe I’ll run away.  Come on Toto, let’s go get FroYo in the big, bad city.
  3. Refusal of the Call: Crystal ball shows worried Auntie Em, aka Dorothy isn’t the runaway type (but who’s that fortune-telling dude? It’s like he’s some kind of wizard).
  4. Meeting the Mentor: No wait, that fortune-telling dude IS the wizard.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: One-way tornado ticket to Oz, please.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: Are you a good witch or a bad witch; hey, these munchkins have some sick dance moves; and I’ll-get-you-my-pretty introductions.
  7. Approach: Off to see the wizard with my homies Scarecrow, Tinman, and a Lion of the cowardly sort.
  8. Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth: Dorothy vs. Wicked Witch, aka mean-ass neighbor who wants to take Toto for the pound put-down special.
  9. Reward, Seizing the Sword: Dorothy: “What do you mean you’re not a real wizard?!”  Wizard: “I’m just a man, but here take these symbols of things you’ve had from the beginning.”
  10. The Road Back: Tap your heels together three times.
  11. Resurrection: Bring on the neighbor.  I’m ready.
  12. Return with Elixir: There really is no place like home.  Let’s have pie.

Fits suspiciously well, wouldn’t you say? It’s difficult to become something you can’t see, so let’s make sure we’re rolling out the lady examples of courageous doings (in addition to the Luke Skywalker goodness) when covering this ever-recurring story type, ya feel me. Good talk—- fist bump.

The Wonderful Blizzard of Oz

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Ah, there’s no place like home for the holidays.  This time of year gives me a case of nostalgia something mean—-a residue of all that Christmas Eve is-Santa-coming hoopla I can’t seem to scrub off after all these years.

Since I have a little break n’ breather before my next MFA term starts, I thought I’d feature books that remind me of the good ol’ days, when staying off the naughty list was a simple matter of eating your veggies and not getting caught terrorizing your sibling. And when I wrote letters to Santa, ya know, just in case (never got that puppy, by the way).

First in line is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which actually is a 14-book series by L. Frank Baum.  And in the grand tradition of Hollywood sugar-coating (I’m looking at you, Disney), the Judy Garland movie version is much more saccharine than the novel.  Do you know the backstory on the Tin Man, for example?  Oh, he wasn’t always tin. There was a love story gone awry  with a little bit of “I-don’t-want-my-daughter-to-marry-a-lumberjack”-mom-meddling that resulted in a Wicked Witch chopping off all his limbs (the tin smith did help him out, but the new tin biceps were tricky to get the hang of, and he then cut himself in half with his own axe).

But enough about that, let’s have a cocktail!  A very wise relative of mine birthday-gifted me the most perfect book for my particular brand of nerdiness: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist.  It is from this bible of bookish booze that I took the following recipe for “The Wonderful Blizzard of Oz.”

Ingredients:

5 oz. pineapple juice

2 oz. coconut cream (it’s probably in the seltzer/mixer section of your grocery)

1 banana

6-10 ice cubes, depending on desired slushiness

*Now, most of the drinks in this book contain alcohol.  This one did not.  Crazy, I know. When I bust out a blender for a beverage, there better be some liquor in it!  And that’s how two shots of Malibu coconut rum snuck into the mix.

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ice is desired consistency.  Garnish with a pineapple ring, if you’re feeling ambitious.

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Warning: the consumption of this beverage has not been approved for munchkins or flying monkeys.  Blood-alcohol levels may vary.

 

 

 

Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson: “Emergency”

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They say Jesus’ Son had such a cult following at one time that it was printed in pocket-sized editions so angelheaded hipsters, and other cool kids, could carry them conspicuously in the back pocket of their artfully faded Levis.  Now, I’m not sure if the following admission makes me more or less cool, but it took me a while to come around to Denis Johnson’s masterful collection of short stories.  It’s been added to my list of things like Napoleon Dynamite and bacon Rice Crispie treats, that at first I didn’t quite understand, but that reveal their genius more with each exposure.

This wasn’t originally on my reading list, as I’d already read it twice, but I found myself craving a re-read toward the end of the term, so I snuck it in (it can be devoured in about 2.5 hours if you’re really hungry for it).

My favorite story in the collection is “Emergency,” partly because of the absurdly hilarious ride it unfolds.  Georgie, a type of idiot savant in the ER, has an unerring compassion toward living things, whether a man with a hunting knife through his eye, or a mother bunny hit by a car (his car).  He reminds me of a pill-popping Lenny, a la Of Mice and Men.

While surfing their stolen hospital med cocktail, the two main characters get themselves lost out on a joy ride.  A terrible snow storm sets in, so they get out of their car—-Survivor Man would so not approve—-and stumble across what they think is a cemetery, but turns out to be a drive-in movie theater.

“We bumped softly down a hill toward an open field that seemed to be a military graveyard, filled with rows and rows of austere, identical markers over soldiers’ graves.  I’d never before come across this cemetery. On the farther side of the field, just beyond the curtains of snow, the sky was torn away and the angels were descending out of a brilliant blue summer, their huge faces streaked with light and full of pity.  The sight of them cut through my heart and down the knuckles of my spine, and if there’d been anything in my bowels I would have messed my pants from fear.

Georgie opened his arms and cried out, ‘It’s the drive-in, man!” 

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Correction: Georgie is one part Lenny from Of Mice and Men, one part The Dude from The Big Lebowski.  The combination, I think you’ll agree, is some kind of dark-magic wonderful.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Sweet Tooth

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Remember the kind of treats you’d pick out as a kid? Blue raspberry, grape, banana—-none tasting like any sort of fruit found in nature, most tinting your teeth a sort of swamp-monster green (which you probably found AWESOME at the time).  Bubblegum ice cream? I mean, do you chew it, do you swallow it?  It was one of my eternal childhood dilemmas.

Lolita is mentioned to have a sweet tooth throughout the text—-probably a combination of her adolescent disregard of things as trivial as nutrition (from my observations high schoolers consider hot Cheetos and Gatorade breakfast) and an amplification of Humbert’s disdain for her uncultured, juvenile palette (I hear adults are more cultured, H-dawg).

I picked a recipe that has a childish whimsy about it—-a faint reference to the Easy Bake Ovens of yore—-but that adults would like also (NOT bubblegum ice cream).  It calls for actual vanilla beans: you might get ID’d trying to lock those bad boys down.

The recipe used is one of Joy the Baker’s—-if you’ve never visited her blog, I highly recommend.  A sassy female with serious cooking chops (love those sassy females).  Here’s the link to Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies.  Sprinkles!

Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies

*makes about 18 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles (I prefer jimmies over nonpareils)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough will be thick (you may have to finish incorporating the mixture with a spatula). Fold in 1/4 cup of the sprinkles.
  4. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sprinkles in a bowl. Scoop up 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Dip the ball in the bowl of sprinkles to cover lightly. Put the balls on a plate. Repeat with the remaining sprinkles and dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Transfer the chilled dough balls to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space in between each ball.
  7. Bake until the cookies have spread and are just beginning to brown around the edges, but are mostly pale and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

 

Aaaannnd Sprinkles!

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Becoming Dolores Haze

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I first read Lolita as an undergrad—-barely legal myself—- and remember being taken by the breathtaking language and the shock value of the content.  Reading it a second time 12 years later, now both an adult and a mother, I found it to be so much more: more breathtaking, more complex, and much more disturbing.

The layers of storytelling alone are enough to make your head spin.  Nabokov is using a first person narrator who is writing, and intermittently narrating, about his affair with Lolita—-sometimes jumping another layer deep to read from a journal  he kept during the enterprise (summary: the author is writing about someone writing about their writing).

I found the most compelling element of craft to be Humbert’s transformation throughout the text—–the evolution (devolution, perhaps more accurately) of his tone and state of mind over the course of events is  remarkably well done.

In the beginning he reveals his audience-awareness in several passages.  Additionally, he is quite self-aware, both of his mastery of language and the hypnotizing effect it can create for said audience.  In that way Nabokov has truly depicted him as a smooth-talking, manipulative predator.  In the introduction he writes, “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied.  Look at this tangle of thorns.”

As he loses himself more to obsession, the visuals provided at times become unnatural, unhinged.  After one of his assaults, he writes, “My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys” (165).   He has moved beyond a desire for sexual interaction with Lolita, revealing his slavering urge to consume her, to possess her completely. 

Toward the end of the novel, Humbert’s sanity begins unraveling; he is paranoid and desperate. As he slips further into his downward spiral, the imagery veers with him.  Once he is sure that he’s being followed on the road, he becomes fanatical about every car on it—–is convinced that the pursuer is everywhere, changing vehicles at every turn.  To illustrate his unhealthy focus, the descriptions of cars become quite specific and overwhelming in number: “…led me to a profound study of all cars on the road—behind, before, alongside, coming, going, every vehicle under the dancing sun:  the quiet vacationist’s automobile with the box of TenderTouch tissues in the back window; the recklessly speeding jalopy full of pale children…”

To this day there are those who would argue that Lolita is not a canonical masterpiece—that it is pornographic smut, as it was claimed upon its initial release.  I’m on team Nabokov on this one.  The mastery of craft needed to deliver this story with all its complex intricacies in tact, in a way that is both beautiful and disturbing? It’s no small feat.

As I am long past my nymphet expiration date, I was a little nervous (and just…ewwww) about pulling this character off.  I approached it with a hope, a dream, and a liberal application of bobby socks.

“You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs―the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limbs, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate―the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”

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  So, yeah… How exactly does one segue from the pedophile post?

Oh look, puppies!

Toni Morrison’s Beloved: The Pie to End All Pies

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First things first.  It drives me completely BANANAS that the blog title formatting does not allow for underlining or italics. Sure, I could put book titles in quotations to differentiate, but that would be wrong, and would make this self-proclaimed book nerd look like an ignorant book nerd, and I just couldn’t stand for it.  So for the record, yes, I know it should be italicized, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  (Welcome to my head —-a real go-with-the-flow type place.)

Whew.  Felt good to get that off my chest.  Now, Beloved.  This made the reading list cut for a few reasons: I wanted to see how to write ghosts and keep it literary, I’ve been looking for texts that tread the line between realistic and surreal fiction ( this text throws in a little gothic bonus, too), and because it’s Toni Morrison—- ‘nuf said.

Deciding what to make for this novel was easy: of course it had to be a blackberry pie!  It was the pie heard ’round the neighborhood, the pie to end all pies (my idioms hurt, that’s all I’ve got).  When something—- maybe it was Sethe’s successful escape from slavery, her small newborn wrapped in a boy’s old coat —-possessed Stamp Paid to battle the thorns and thistles of the blackberry thicket near the river, it set in motion an unlikely chain of events.  Baby Suggs outdid herself, making enough food for the entire neighborhood—- including several pies from Stamp’s blackberry offering.  She had no idea that her gesture of impressive hospitality and kindness would instead be taken as prideful, reeking of excess.  She shared everything she had, the neighborhood ate, then decided it was boastful of her to make so much food.

“It made them furious. They swallowed baking soda, the morning after, to calm the stomach violence caused by the bounty, the reckless generosity on display at 124. Whispered to each other in the yards about fat rats, doom and uncalled-for pride.The scent of their disapproval lay heavy in the air.”

Who knew that pie ever caused anything but unicorn-frolicking-through-marshmallow-forests kind of stomach-y delight?!

Rest assured, you can make this blackberry pie without insulting anyone.  The recipe is from Epicurious, because they’ve got kitchen ethos like nobody’s business.  Check out the original here.  (I make recipes, but I don’t make recipes, if you know what I mean.)

Ingredients

    • Pastry dough (I used this recipe)
    • 6 cups blackberries (1 3/4 lb)
    • 1 to 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
    • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
    • 1 tablespoon sanding (coarse) or granulated sugar

*Note*

I opted out of the quick-cooking tapioca and used about a tablespoon more cornstarch.  Fewer ingredients make for a happy blogger.

Directions

    1. Make pastry dough.
    1. Place a baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F.
    2. Toss together berries, granulated sugar to taste, cornstarch, butter, lemon juice, water, and tapioca. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes.
    3. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 14-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity). Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top.
    4. Roll out remaining piece of dough into a roughly 16- by 11-inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 11 (1 1/4-inch-wide) strips with a fluted pastry wheel or a knife.
    5. Stir berry mixture, then spoon evenly into shell. Arrange strips in a tight lattice pattern on top of filling and trim strips close to edge of pan. Roll up and crimp edge. Brush top and edge with egg white and sprinkle all over with sugar.
    6. Bake on hot baking sheet until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Check pie after 45 minutes: If edge of crust is browning too quickly, cover edge with foil or a pie crust shield and continue baking.) Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Enjoy your gateway pie; you’re officially nearing holiday season.

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Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: Carrying the Fire

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One of the qualities that most impresses me about this book is its contradictory style.  At its core, it is pared down, stripped like the decaying world it depicts: it lacks most punctuation, the dialogue is short and utilitarian, and the mood is monotone and bleak.  Yet, it’s also rich with vivid description and emotional depth, defying the aforementioned sparseness.  The juxtaposition of the choppy, unadorned passages with the intermittent lyrical prose–the crossroad, if you will– is where the magic happens.

For those who like an eerie, dark read that does not fall within the “horror” category, the imagery McCarthy presents in this novel is beautifully disturbing.  And like many good dystopian and post-apocalyptic reads, much of the unease is created in the visceral feeling a reader gets from the possibility that in circumstances so dire, human nature might devolve to such sinister lows.

Here the “man” and his son have come across an abandoned home.  They approach with trepidation, as they’ve learned sometimes seeking shelter is more dangerous than being out in the open.

“You’re the scout.  I need you to be our lookout…

Do you think somebody is coming?

Yes. Sometime.

You said nobody was coming.

I didnt mean ever…”

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“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world.  The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth.  Darkness implacable.  The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe.  And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover.”

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