(*If you're not a straight white man.)
I went back and forth a few times about David Lehman’s new book. Does the world really need another biography of Frank Sinatra? There are several long ones, and a couple of excellent short ones, too, by John Lahr and Pete Hamill. So what does Lehman offer to make Sinatra’s Century worthwhile?
In the end, I come down strongly in its favor. There is much to love here, even though, let’s face it, there’s nothing about Sinatra’s life that can’t be found in most of the other books: the rise from modest means in Hoboken, the Major Bowes success (actually, Lehman doesn’t mention Major Bowes, although there is a photo of him, unidentified, with the rest of the Hoboken Four), the bobby-soxers, the pride he generated among Italian-Americans, the mob connections, the Ava debacle, the Rat Pack, the Mia debacle, the generosity, the thuggery. But although Lehman’s reportage may be derivative, it turns out to be the good kind of derivative; this is a compact-yet-complete portrait of a complicated guy who lived a long and active life; a guy whom Lehman calls “the most interesting man in the world.”
Lehman is a poet, and in structure and occasionally in style his book resembles an epic poem. In an afterword, he reveals that the strategy he chose, 100 discrete sections in honor of Sinatra’s 100th birthday (December 12, 2015), provided the answer to his own insecurities regarding purpose. “How do you write about someone who has provoked so many other writers, journalists, and novelists to erupt into prose?” Well, why not erupt into poetry, instead?
Charred, crispy textures and ingredients -- no longer limited to the world of barbecue -- are blackening everything from bread to vegetables. Not even dessert is safe. Yeah, it may look, feel and taste a little gritty, even a little ashy, but that's kind of the point, chefs say.
Cooking dinner can be stressful whatever your hours. It is hard to do as often as you like.
Try cooking breakfast instead.