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Monday, October 14, 2019

Baking A Better Loaf Of Bread, by Wendell Steavenson, The Guardian

The great food writer Julia Child once said British white bread tasted “like Kleenex”. Maybe that is why we load our white sliced toast with so much jam and chocolate spread and peanut butter. Wholegrain, sourdough bread is a very different beast; crunchy, crusty, chewy, with a complex taste that is rich, nutty and tangy. Quite often, I find a couple of thick slices, spread with a generous swathe of butter, a satisfying lunch.

The revival of ancient varieties of wheat is inspiring a new movement of agronomists, farmers, millers and bakers in the UK. They are coming together to develop and grow new kinds of wheat that do not need dousing with chemicals, to mill the grain in such a way as to keep taste and nutrition intact, and to bake loaves that are delicious and healthy. In the process, these artisans want to challenge the dominance of chemical agriculture and the supermarket loaf, to establish a new kind of supply chain that links our diet to nature and creates healthy communities.

A Double Dose Of Cosmic Horror In 'A Lush And Seething Hell', by Jason Heller, NPR

What constitutes cosmic horror? The term has been in use for decades, usually to describe the work of H. P. Lovecraft and his ilk — that is, authors who explore the marrow-deep terror humanity feels in the face of the unknown. We're not talking about things that go bump in the night. We're talking about inscrutable beings with godlike proportions who straddle the universe, who wield mysterious forces that predate the Earth itself. It's not just that we're afraid of being hurt or killed, cosmic horror seems to be saying; it's that we're existentially petrified by the knowledge that human civilization is nothing but an insignificant smudge when placed against the gaping vastness of reality.

So when John Hornor Jacobs writes "We are but small vibrations on the face of the universe" in "My Heart Struck Sorrow" — the second and final novella comprising his new book, A Lush and Seething Hell — he's making it abundantly clear that cosmic horror is his literary turf.

'Orpheus Girl,' Painful And Beautiful, Puts A Modern Twist On Myth, by Alethea Kontis, NPR

Raya and Sarah's story is a credit to Rebele-Henry's own teen voice, mature beyond her years. The emotionally dramatic narrative, though loose and seemingly disjointed at times, rings incredibly true. It is a tale, much like the myth referenced in the title, similarly painful and beautiful.

How To Become An Ex-black Man, by Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

The son of a mother who is “unambiguously white” and a father whom none has described as “anything other than black,” Williams grew up in middle-class New Jersey suburbia, where he sought to assert his black identity through hip-hop, basketball and BET. Blackness, and America’s racial binary, became “so fundamental to my self-conception that I’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations,” he writes.

But now Williams has reflected, and he finds blackness lacking. Not just blackness but whiteness, too, and any divisions and hierarchies based on race or color, those resilient constructs to which Americans attach such weight. Williams, a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, has come to see himself as an “ex-black man,” a transformation he contemplates in a thoughtful yet frustrating memoir, “Self-Portrait in Black and White.” The precipitating force was the birth of his daughter, Marlow, who entered the world with blond hair, light skin and “a pair of inky-blue irises that I knew even then would lighten considerably but never turn brown.”

Face It By Debbie Harry; Year Of The Monkey By Patti Smith – Review, by Kitty Empire, The Guardian

Patti Smith and Debbie Harry went to something like rock’n’roll high school together, as the Ramones might have put it. But that’s the only common denominator to be found in their two memoirs. New York in the 70s was a school of hard knocks, from which these fellow travellers emerged with honours of very different sorts.

Review: Julie Andrews' 'Home Work' A Graceful Look Back At Her Hollywood Years, by Patrick J. Kiger, Los Angeles Times

“I never anticipated any of it,” Andrews says of her film career. “I just took the opportunities that were in front of me and waded in.”

That degree of candor — and Andrews’ refreshing unpretentiousness and gentle sense of bemusement at her life’s adventures — make “Home Work” a book that will appeal to fans of her films, as well as anyone who wants to be reassured that being a celebrity doesn’t have to involve scandal.