Empellon chef Alex Stupak owns four New York City restaurants devoted to tacos. He’s the author of a taco cookbook. But growing up in Leominster, Massachusetts, there was no Mexican food in Stupak’s life ("Old El Paso taco night" aside). Could it be, then, that the first taco Stupak ever had outside the home — and certainly the first taco he ever bought from a truck — was made of "light" ice cream, fake chocolate, chopped peanuts, and a sugar cone "shell"? Which is to say… a Choco Taco?
"That’s actually true," Stupak says. "Since I was a kid I've always been a fan of them." So when Dominique Ansel approached Stupak in the spring about a limited-edition dessert collaboration, the idea seemed almost inevitable. Who wouldn’t want the pastry chef best known for mashing croissants and donuts into one delicious portmanteau to riff on Choco Tacos, especially since Stupak is a former pastry chef himself? There was only one small problem. "Dominique, he’s obviously a French dude," Stupak says. "He had no idea what the fuck they were. I had to buy a box and feed him some."
It requires only a glimpse at bookstore windows to notice the phalanx of young authors challenging the idea that dating and sex aren’t serious enough topics for certain kinds of writers to engage with. These authors share something else, besides subject matter: They are women.
Their books are a departure from the raw, unfiltered confessional writing that the internet seems to have fostered in recent years: inward-focused pieces on abortions and addictions and affairs we have gotten used to clicking on, or past.
Instead, this new crop of nonfiction seeks to blend personal writing with social analysis, to fashion some kind of philosophy about how we live, and love, now.
Anyone who has groaned and considered crawling under the table after taking a standardized test will delight in the literary high jinks Alejandro Zambra performs in “Multiple Choice.” Like an exam, the book contains various fill-in-the-blank sections and brief narratives in “Sentence Elimination,” and concludes with fully developed stories in “Reading Comprehension,” all of which point with increasing ferocity at the alienation of the test taker, which in turn illustrates the alienation of the tested citizen.
This book is organised so thoroughly, in its plot, characters and themes, around the central image of the foetus suspended in the churnings of gravity and time that it becomes, as Polonius also says, “scene individable, or poem unlimited”. Nutshell is an orb, a Venetian glass paperweight, of a book; a place where – and be warned, it puts you in the quoting mood – Larkin’s “any-angled light” may “congregate endlessly”.
The daily effort required to complete a major creative project is monumental — and frequently invisible. It’s rare for novelists, artists, composers or computer programmers to pull back the curtain on the granular accumulation of alarm clocks set an hour back, day-job duties plugged through, sunny afternoons spent indoors, moments with family and friends unattended. Part of this is because it would be very boring. And yet we are fascinated by famous artists’ and writers’ daily routines: Benjamin Franklin and his naked “air baths,” Patricia Highsmith’s bacon and eggs for every meal, P.G. Wodehouse’s calisthenics.
So, it’s not surprising that the Times business reporter and editor Phyllis Korkki’s book, “The Big Thing” — which (in an expansion of a 2013 column that did the same thing) performs the trick of narrating her completion of the book she’s writing — is both slow and fascinating. It’s slow in the way hearing about someone finishing her book day after day after day in real life can be. And it’s still fascinating, because Korkki is such a sympathetic subject, and her hodgepodge of a meta-book — part Malcolm Gladwell-lite behavioral psychology, part self-help writing guide — always manages to be charming.
“Against Everything” is a portrait of the egghead as a youngish man (Greif was born in 1975), trying the culture on for size, deeming it too saggy in some places and too constricting in others.