Coming from an underprivileged family in the restaurant industry, I learned early on in life that although cash may change hands, food is the ultimate currency. Greens hold more value than greenbacks, and bringing home the bacon wasn’t a figure of speech — it’s what my parents literally did. Although we were disadvantaged, because of my parents’ profession, food was always plentiful. In our house, money wasn’t used to coerce us to do the right thing, but tasty treats were always fair game.
e-national-imagination/), by Bianca Lech, Ploughshares
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer re-situates history. 3 million Vietnamese died, and 58,000 American soldiers. The US lost the war, but still got to write its history into the American imagination in a way that, as imagination tends to do, glosses over reality. A generation later, Nguyen has given this history an authentic voice—a voice that has been brushed aside, hidden from discourse, from textbooks, from individuals whose identities contain it.
I started to read The Sympathizer this past summer, when a friend of mine, a man my father’s age, who happens to have avoided the draft by going overseas, gave me a copy. I got twelve pages into the book when I decided that if I continued to read it, I’d need some historical context for the opening sequence of The Sympathizer, which launches with the fall of Saigon.
The new book — stretching over 2,000 pages, with step-by-step images and a hefty list price of $625 — chronicles the history and science of bread-making in depth (“Baking is applied microbiology,” one chapter begins), breaking frequently for meticulous, textbook-style tangents on flour and fermentation. Its recipes require a commitment to close reading, and to flipping back through the books for deeper explanations. But each has useful variations that work with many kinds of mixing and cooking methods, for both professional and home kitchens.
Above all, the book is a call for cooks to rethink one of the world’s oldest foods — to understand how bread is made, using more than their instinct and intuition, so they can push the craft forward.
The prevalence of the ocean in this story is not simply atmospheric; it is central to the symbolism. As the Melville epigraph affirms, “meditation and water are wedded for ever.” For Anna the sight of the sea provides an “electric mix of attraction and dread” while for Eddie it’s “an infinite hypnotic expanse” and for Dexter it’s “never the same on any two days, not if you really looked.” Egan really looks, and so do her characters. Turning their backs on the crowded constraints of their urban lives, all three look to the ocean as a realm that while inherently dangerous also promises the potential for personal discovery and an almost mystical liberty. This is a novel that deserves to join the canon of New York stories.
Crime fans are spoiled for choice these days. But sometimes, what a devoted crime reader wants isn’t anything too fancy. Sometimes, what we want is a good, solid police procedural, preferably set somewhere interesting, preferably with a troubled, renegade investigator who refuses to listen when their boss tells them to leave an avenue of investigation alone. And in Sarah Ward’s A Patient Fury, that’s exactly what we get.