Fred Harvey was said to have “civilized the West” by bringing middle-class values to hardscrabble frontier towns, but his real accomplishments were more impressive: Harvey’s business model established the modern chain restaurant, created a major tourist market for Native American art, and gave opportunity to scores of young women escaping the confines of their Midwestern upbringings. In the late 19th century, Harvey Houses put many small towns on the map, providing sophisticated accommodations and magnificent public architecture that often became the locus of these communities, both culturally and economically. Through its promotion of the region’s landscape, architecture, and Native American cultures, the company also built a lasting fantasy of the American Southwest.
Fast-forward to 2011. Smartphones were now everywhere, and I noticed that the entirety of Proust’s novel—every volume but one in the original Moncrieff translation—was available to download for free on my cellphone, an HTC Incredible, thanks to Project Gutenberg Australia. I quickly downloaded all seven volumes. Finally, in the fall, shortly before my father turned 95, I began where I left off, in Sodom and Gomorrah, reading Proust on my cellphone at night when everyone else in the house had gone to sleep.
When I tell people this, they look at me like I have drowned a kitten. And when I tell them that not only did I finally finish all of Sodom and Gomorrah on my cellphone, but the rest of Proust’s opus, too, and in time to tell my father, they back away from me very slowly.
There is a certain perverse pleasure in imagining the world going down in flames. But what if it was more than a metaphorical conflagration? What if your neighbors, friends, colleagues, or family could ignite without warning, starting a chain reaction that could send entire cities up in smoke? What if this was happening simultaneously all over the world? And what if nobody knew how to stop it? In his new novel, “The Fireman,” Joe Hill drops us in just as everything is starting to go to hell, where nothing and no one is safe.
It’s a page-turner — or perhaps page-burner is more appropriate — full of edge-of-your-seat tension and moral quandaries that simmer.
The Mirror Thief is as difficult to explain as it is completely original. It's one of the most intricately plotted novels in recent years, and to call it imaginative seems like a massive understatement. The three stories are as different from each other as can be, and the fact that Seay weaves them together so skillfully is almost miraculous.
You’ve got your non-fat milk, full-fat milk, soy milk, and coconut milk; espresso shots; all the different flavored syrups, some of which are sugar-free; whipped cream; iced, hot, or “extra hot” if you’ve got a Kevlar tongue; different sizes; different roasts of coffee; and on and on and on.
Surely some of those combinations are gross—Venti green tea latte with peppermint and whipped cream, anyone?—but you can have them if you want them. And as Sophie Egan, a program director at the Culinary Institute of America, writes in her new book Devoured, that speaks to “a most American element of the American food psyche”: customization.