Friday, March 27, 2009

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I've grown to love Bourdain by watching No Reservations on the Travel channel. The man is incredibly passionate about food albeit somewhat of an asshole from time to time.

I snagged the audio version of this book, read by Bourdain. It's actually an entertaining memoir about the underbelly of the culinary world. I really had no idea that restaurant kitchens could be as seedy and dangerous as a back ally in LA. This book was released in 2000 and in the end Bourdain swears he'll die on the line but obviously he's moved on from the kitchen to hosting food shows. Not that I'm complaining because I love the shows.

The reader treks with Bourdain through his discovery of actual food as a kid in France to his first kitchen job to the CIA to his many many restaurants that he worked at in his career. Reading some of this may encourage you to never ever ever eat in a restaurant again but you'll just have to get past that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If The Buddha Got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl

I wouldn't call myself stuck in a rut but I would describe my life as a bit chaotic. I have been thinking "is there more to this life deal that I should be doing?" even while moving forward towards some goals. I just didn't want to take the chaos with me.

This book is excellent! The reader is walked through how to recognize that they are stuck and then through the steps to get unstuck. I really appreciated the information and have been trying to put a lot of it into practice. Baby steps.

One piece of advice Kasl gives is to just show up to your life. To be aware of what is going on around you and to be aware and in tune with yourself. This is a surprisingly difficult task to accomplish. Even just sitting and chatting with friends, I know that my mind wanders to other things often. I'm making an effort now to be completely present. World of difference.

The reader is advised to live in reality, no more making up stories or not telling the truth. We're shown exercises to practice to connect with ourselves and with life.

Lastly, we're advised on how to get ourselves into action and just let go. Letting go is probably the scariest part, just like stepping off a cliff. Whatever the outcome of whatever our plans, we're advised to just accept them, even if things didn't go our way. But you have to move in order to change. You may lose something in the process of action - quitting a job you hate may lose you status and money - but you move forward into a life that you want to live in.

This book was very inspirational and while I have some ways to go in practicing what it preaches, I'm on the path and moving forward.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

I've been listening to this book, courtesy of, for a while now. Not because it was boring or a bad book. Mainly because it's very in-depth and serious. To me, this is the kind of book that is almost impossible to read in one sitting.

As an aside, the reader for this particular book was extremely good. He provided music and was a great, steady reader.

This is a book containing several essays on being an African American among a white society. Published in 1903, it contains 14 essays ranging from initial slavery and Booker T. Washington to the songs of sorrow that are popular among the African American population. Some of the especially poignant essays are about young black men trying to make more of themselves, only to be pushed aside and treated very poorly by white people. Of The Coming of John and Of Alexander Cummell were two of the best essays, in my opinion.

All in all, this was an excellent book that gives insight into how the African Americans dealt with the lives they were given.

Also available on Project Gutenberg:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hemingway and Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers

This was a real short book and one that now has a permanent position in my home. We all know that some of the best writers were absolute drunks. Bukowski, Steinbeck, Hemingway. This book shares a little backstory of those writers along with drink recipes for their preferred adult beverage.

Bukowski favored a Boilermaker, which I'll admit to not knowing what that is. It turns out that it's something I really doubt that I would drink. It's a shot of whiskey with beer as a chaser OR a shot of whiskey dropped into a mug of beer. That would fell my sorry butt in a heartbeat. Although I do appreciate my whiskey.

Truman Capote imbibed in Screwdrivers, which I actually have the ingredients for and it sounds mighty good.

Alot of the writers were gin folks. That might be a staple that I need to add to my small bar. Although I'm usually a rum or whiskey girl, I'm willing to expand my horizons.

Obviously, I don't encourage the type of drinking that these writers did. But I see nothing wrong with partaking every now and again with friends or as a nightcap.


Friday, March 13, 2009

My Life at Grey Gardens by Lois Wright

I believe I'm beginning to get an unhealthy obsession with the Beales. My friend got me the documentary, Grey Gardens, for Christmas along with this book. I feel something familiar in the Beales.

Lois Wright spent 13 months at Grey Gardens with Big Edie and Little Edie, after having known them for quite a while. This book is basically her journal that she kept while she was there. For background, Big Edie and Little Edie are aunt and cousin, respectively, to Jackie O. They are part of the Bouvier family. Grey Gardens, the Beales house in East Hampton, became famous when the Maysles' did a documentary in 1976 (which is well worth viewing).

Grey Gardens is a run down home and Big Edie and Little Edie are the eccentric recluses that reside within. The home is run down enough that Wright is forced to wear a hat while walking in the house so she won't be hurt when rats or raccoons fall from the walls or ceilings. When, not if. The Beales do not have access to a lot of money so Jackie helps them out whenever possible.

I consider Wright a bit of a twit, myself, but then you would have to be somewhat twittish to live for over a year in Grey Gardens. This book does give you a little more background info than you get from the documentary and includes time surrounding Big Edie's death at age 81.

Read the book and see the movie. Both are pretty much worth the effort.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook by Charles Bukowski

One of the great things about Bukowski's essays and short stories is that you can read one or two and move on. It can take time to read a whole book, for me at least.

This collection is Uncollected Short Stories and Essays, 1944-1990. Some of the stories feel vaguely familiar, like I've read them before. I think I just recall the stories from Buk interviews and documentaries.

There are lots of stories to choose from but my favorites are his Notes from a Dirty Old Man, Just Passing Time, and I Meet the Master. I Meet The Master is about Chinaski meeting Bante...or Bukowski meeting Fante. A good piece of work about finally meeting your idol that includes some standout lines:

"It was obvious: what happened to people, good people, bad people, even terrible people, hardly seemed fair."

"It's when you hide things that you choke on them."

I ended up with a book that was underlined and dog-earred. Bukowski really sums up himself with "Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way."

Not a wasted word in sight.