Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair is not as funny as the Dickens' novels I have read, which is sad, although to be fair I may not be getting all the jokes. I think some of the names are a play on words or referencing famous people we don't remember anymore.  Perhaps it's like hearing a 200 year old Honey Boo-Boo joke.

One of the strangest aspects of this book is the narration. Throughout the novel the narrator keeps mentioning himself almost randomly.  It felt just like the old "Clippy" when Microsoft Word was new and Clippy would pop up asking if you were writing a letter. If you don't remember Clippy, well congratulations!  Either you are too young to remember him or suppressed this memory. In this book Thackeray is popping up telling you:  It looks like you are reading my novel.  Did you know you are reading my novel?

Yeah, we know, Clippy, calm down, that's what being an author is all about. I'm just going to put you in in the corner there, now feel free to fall asleep because I've got this.

Don't be tempted to read anything on the internet about this book (you'll be tempted to sort out the characters) but they put in spoilers. That happened to me.  I had about 30 pages left and spoiled the ending for myself. I had 200 years..... Anyway, this is not bad at all if you are interested in reading the classics, again this was originally published as a serial (that means it is very big--900 pages--so consider yourself warned).

Vanity Fair is a darker, more satirical and more critical of the society than most olden times books. I'm pretty sure Thackeray was a Gen-Xer. I think Social Security ran out right before he was ready to collect too.

Drinks: In this book, what you drank was a complete class "thing." In some ways that's still true but now it is more about quality than whole categories of drinks.  Gentlemen drank Claret or Madeira. Drinking gin was like one step above a homeless dude. Our villain (brilliant but evil) drinks a Rum Shrub which I think was not all that classy.  However, a Rum Shrub sounds kind of awesome.....Blackberry Rum Shrub:  2 ounces dark rum, 1/2 ounce shrub syrup, club soda.  The Shrub Syrup is 2 cups blackberries, 1 cup sugar and let that sit in a bowl for 1 and half hours. strain and add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (refrigerate--this keeps for 2 months in the fridge). Combine the rum and syrup in a Collins glass with ice and top with the club soda. It's getting a little cold for this but I'm hoping for an Indian Summer.  

Friday, October 9, 2015


Why do authors think time travelling would be all sunshine and rainbows? What kind of narcissist thinks they would get to meet Shakespeare and the Queen in the same afternoon? No, in the past you pooped in a hole. Finally a book that addresses pooping in a hole. I think that is why Octavia Butler got a MacArthur Genius grant. Well, it may be because this is a brilliant spin on sci-fi dystopian historical fiction written in 1979 and still holds up.

The plot is interesting. Our protagonist, Dana, a modern African-American woman, is involuntarily time travelling to an ante bellum slave plantation and that is not good. Yeah, time travelling is not always fun. I also feel this way when people talk about reincarnation, which I don't really believe in anyway, but if I did, why in the world would I think I was a French princess? If I was reincarnated my lives would look like this: peasant, farmer, serf, serf, thief, died in childhood from a pox, serf, serf, indentured servant, slave, pox, pox, pox (rough time), prostitute, merchant, farmer, serf, priest, tenant farmer. I was never fancy or rich except one time I did alright as a merchant and had a caravan that was as nice as a used Lexus. Also, I would take gifts (mostly snacks and beer) when I was a priest for forgiving your sins. If you gave me a nice cake I would even forgive a mortal sin. Mortal Sin Cake. So good.

Kindred is very short novel and I love that it has an actual plot.  I've been trying to slog through several books that were too postmodern stream of consciousness for me.  I don't care about people's dreams and I do like to know what the heck is happening. Also, it might be good if something is happening. So, this is was a good break. I've seen this book on a curriculum for a college course and it does include some historical tidbits that the educated reader might find tedious (if you are reading this--that's you). However, this book's concept is brilliantly subversive but it's a good read too. Genius.

Drinks: for some reason, I'm craving Mortal Sin Cake and beer.  I had a fun beer recently from 3 Floyds called Yum Yum. I take umbrage when people say that Indiana sucks. Not with that brewery. I do think, though, someone named Randy works there.  Brew serf Randy.