Book & Food Week Three and 4.5

I have been really good on the books, not so good on the food – but to be fair I have hosted various dinner parties (Slaying Sushi Party and a Rosser Potluck) AND I have been working on my cookbook… Still, lacking in the cooking new food department.

Book Five: Incidents in the Life of a Salve Girl Written by Herself, by Harriet Ann Jacobs. I got this one on my Kindle app. I hate to admit, but I am really digging this service. I love being able to go on weekend trips (or upcoming jury duty) and have a dozen books at my fingertips. Although, I still think some of them are a bit pricey…

This book is one of the rare examples of Southern slavery literature written by a woman. Harriet Jacobs called herself “Linda.” As a child, she was taught to read and write and raised in such relative comfort that she was unaware she was a slave until she reached puberty. While for many white girls at this time becoming a woman was something to look forward to, for a slave woman, it typically meant an entire new set of demeaning and abusive standards. It reinforced the reality that her body was not her own. Every inch of the slave woman is property, and even the children she grows inside herself are considered a stranger’s chattel. She’s a machine with a vagina that has her legs forced open and has stock for her owner ripped out of her insides. And those who love her are helpless to assist her. Even if they can, their fate still rests on the precarious whims of whites who have been bred to believe that the merit or inferiority of others is based on skin color.

In order to avoid the advances of her owner, “Dr. Flint,” Linda hatches a plan to have an affair with a somewhat sympathetic white doctor. She wishes to remain pure to honor her religion and her grandmother (especially her grandmother), but with the inevitable complete ownership of her body by a white man, Linda settless for the lesser evil. This decision results in two children, a boy and a girl. The majority of Harriet’s memoir describes her quest to free herself, and most importantly, her children. Eventually Linda is forced to hide away in an attic for seven years, unable to stand or stretch, while she views her children who believe she has left them, and watches as her owner’s relentless quest to hunt her down and claim her.

The book has many different important messages, but what I took away from it was the indomitability of the human spirit and the gravity of education. I think how differently it would have been if all slaves had been taught to read or write, and I am in awe of the courage of those who could. Slave owners knew that anyone who was ultimately unable to read or write was enslaved within themselves. And they exploited that. It’s bittersweet when someone’s triumphs are birthed from another’s ignorance and cruelty.

BOOK SIX: Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography, by Michael Grecco. Yes, I actually read the whole book. Tech books I have a tendency to skim; but I did read the entire book. Pretty good. But with some photography books, I have the same complaint that I do when I go to photography conferences: I did not sign up for a self-help lecture. I’m like Dragnet – just the facts, please. I don’t want to read a book, or listen to a photographer speak on how to believe in myself, or how to better organize my time, or how to listen to my inner child, or how to communicate with models. Just tell me how to light round shiny metal objects. Teach me new tricks in Lightroom. Show me how to set up strobes from banisters. It’s not that I don’t like a chatty style, or use of metaphors – but only in relation to the subject manner. If you are worried about my confidence, don’t tell me to be confident; tell me how the hell to shoot fast action in a low-light situation using a rear-synch flash. That will make me feel much more confident than you pushing self-help mantras I can find in the aisles of my local Hallmark store. I once went to a conference to see this award-winning photographer and he spent 50% of the time talking about how much he regretted not going for his second chance on trying out for major league baseball and how we should always take chances and opportunities. In fact, he brought up his baseball snafu no less than 6 or 8 times. Clearly, 20 years later, this still bothers him – but I did not pay to hear this. Nor did I pay to hear the other 25% of his lecture talking about how to make women with jowls, or “chicken cutlets” feel beautiful. The 25% of his lecture that focused on posing and lighting were pretty good, but I still could not help but feel jipped.

This book was not too bad. There was a section showing specific shots and describing how they were done – but I wish it had been more. That section was by far the most interesting. There are books like that – heavy in technology but I feel somewhat light in creativity. Still, overall pretty good and I am definitely making a point to read ALL of my tech books.

BOOK SEVEN: The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Wow! Of course, I am a fan of the movie and I always love seeing how books are translated into movies but… wow!!! What an amazing book! A lot of the book was just as in the movie, but there were also a lot of subplots that did not make it as well as some characters’ back stories.

The seduction of power. Family allegiance. The power of loyalty. A chess game of flesh, blood and brains. The leverage of greed. It was a modern-day crime monarchy. Expectations of their roles in life were defined at birth, and the characters either accepted or rejected them, and struggled with the consequences of either living up to or failing in these prescribed roles.

I love tangents. Love them. But nothing is worse than a tangent gone wrong. For example, footnotes are a scholar’s excuse for being tangential. Have mercy! But a tangent done poorly is confusing, sometimes jarring, quite often distracting – and just overall, irritating. Puzo’s setups were perfect. He expertly shifted back and forth between various characters, plots, etc. without once losing the reader. His point of view was spot on! For example, in telling Sonny’s death he told the mortician’s story. Gave some backstory on him, explained how the godfather had called him and requested his favor, and at the end of the chapter – BAM – that is how he revealed Sonny’s death. Brilliant! Of course, I already knew this from watching the movie, but imagine having no idea. What an inspiring execution (no pun intended).

Because the Godfather was such a cultural phenomenon and so popular, I am sure, as always anything that resonates with popular culture, there is a snobbish tendency to dismiss it. But damn, this book was excellent and by far one of my favorite books that I have read this year. In fact, I can’t wait to read it again!

FOOD THREE – Peach arugula salad with basil vinaigrette. Excellent! I got this recipe out of a health magazine. I have been a little bit too social these past few weeks (the whole school break thing is completely intoxicating). Eating out a lot, having dinner parties, going to dinner parties – I have been slightly slack on my cooking. But since one night I was having a potluck, I figured I would try this and just in case it sucked there would be plenty of other food to sample. It didn’t. It was wonderful, and very simple to make. It was so wonderful, I made it for another friend for dinner later that week. It is my new favorite summer salad.

FOOD FOUR – Kiwi Daiquiri. Okay, technically this is not food. And maybe I am cheating because I have been so lazy about it but – this was also excellent. Basically a smoothie with booze. How perfect? Again, I liked it so much, I made it for another friend. Pain in the ass to peel the kiwis – but worth the wait.

I must get better on the food. Have some things lined up for next week…

And I am actually grateful for the iPad & Kindle app. I am now in intense therapy to save my left arm/wrist. By 3pm it is usually tortuous to even turn the page of a book, let alone hold one. So, the kindle has been a blessing… Still, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hand. That magic will never go away.

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