So Kennedy had to do what she does so well: put one of the industry's most prominent directors at ease. And she's known Abrams since he was 14, when Spielberg had read an article about him winning a Super 8 moviemaking contest and hired the future director to restore his own childhood Super 8 videos. "We spent a lot of time talking about how meaningful Star Wars is and the depth of the mythology that George has created and how we carry that into the next chapter," she says. Finally, after a day of furious negotiation, the deal closed the afternoon of Jan. 25. To the bitter end, Abrams was telling associates that he still wasn't fully committed to directing the project. But Kennedy is confident that he will be in the chair when the cameras roll. She is less clear that the first film in the new trilogy will be ready by 2015. "Our goal is to move as quickly as we can, and we'll see what happens," says Kennedy. "The timetable we care about is getting the story."
The next day I abandoned my writing to join them on an excursion to a local hot springs. On the way, we stopped at a store called The Black Hole in Los Alamos, which sold surplus items from the famous nuclear testing site just a few miles away. Spencer convinced the owner to let him photograph one of the missiles, tall as a basketball hoop, and as they wheeled it into the road beyond the store parking lot, I took off my clothes. Once naked, I walked barefoot across the blacktop. Spencer suggested I hug the missile and smile. I did.
Should you worry about 19-year-old me? After all, I was a young woman—more like a girl—not even halfway done with college, getting swept up in the excitement of meeting a well-known photographer in an unfamiliar town. I was flattered that he'd want to see my naked body through his camera's viewfinder. I would pose however he wanted.
But even now, over 15 years later, that isn't how I look at it. I wasn't a passive subject. The symbolism of the photo was never lost on me. Here I was, an "All-American" blonde, a college co-ed, innocently cuddling something deadly—and phallic. I played a girl who doesn't understand the violence I'm embracing. I played that role willingly because I wanted to subvert it. My nudity wasn't transactional; I didn't give it away, and it wasn't taken from me, either.
For a city with such a reputation—back in the old days of foreign gunboats, spies and revolutions as well as now in the boom-boom modernity of the skyscraper city—Shanghai hasn’t generated that much crime fiction. Indeed, it has to be said, for a megalopolis of maybe as many as 24-million people it’s a pretty safe place. Novels about Shanghai have preferred to focus on the glitz, the glamour, the style of the city—China’s “capital of cool.” But, of course, there always was, and still remains, an underbelly down beneath the neon lights and the luxury penthouse apartments.
It is an iron law of food literature that the people who think only about food are the ones who write worst about it. Spare us the solipsistic reveries of the barely literate foodists, wibbling about their own genius in having lassoed the perfect tomato or sagely appreciated a dog sperm velouté while on a neophiliac odyssey of hipster gastro-tourism. Give us instead a writer of broad culture: one who, say, has been a restaurant reviewer a well as an architectural critic, a photographer and film‑maker and author of numberless unpigeonholeable texts besides. One who will, in his cookbook, quote Robbe-Grillet, Swift and Montaigne as easily as Elizabeth David and Len Deighton. Give us, I say, Jonathan Meades.
I’ll make no apologies for the fact that I have not, for the purposes of this review, tested any of Meades’s recipes. Such doltish literalism would signal a gross misunderstanding of the nature of the genre. A cookbook is a confection of imagined greed, virtual travel and convivial conversation, and only secondarily – if at all – a practical manual for preparing meals. (It is quite beside the point that I do also now have a vivid idea of what I want to do to my next chicken.)
The good news about “Priestdaddy” is that it roars from the gate. Its first third is electric. It’s not just that Lockwood has fresh eyes and quick wits, but that in her father she’s lucked upon one of the great characters of this nonfiction decade.
“Priestdaddy” is consistently alive with feeling, however, and I suspect it may mean a lot to many people, especially the lapsed Catholics among us. It is, for sure, like no book I have read. The Bible tells us to forgive our enemies, not our families.