Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading and drinking

Having made the point in the previous post that I am widening the scope of this blog partly to avoid giving the impression that I spend all my time eating and drinking, given the much greater frequency of posting on my food blog, here my first post is about drinking.

It doesn't make much sense to call interim posts "Current reading" and for lack of a better title, much of my current reading is concerned with drinking. I'm regularly reading Philip Greene's To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion and I have started a Hemingway countdown on the food blog, akin to the famous Julia Child blog -- 52 weeks, 55 cocktails! At the present rate, I'll be done in far fewer than 52 weeks.

I'm using the cocktail entries then as a way to explore Hemingway's short stories, most of which I've never read. I've had the Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway sitting on my shelf for eons, and now when Greene cites one of the stories as mentioning the cocktail in question, I read that story. Needless to say, the stories themselves go well beyond the mention of the cocktail. More on them later.

I'm also reading How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov, the wine critic for the New York Times -- and Isaac Asimov's nephew! He has a refreshing take on wine appreciation, debunking the wine snobs and their slavish devotion to points and trends. It's music to my ears. I stopped going to Calvert Woodley, at least on Saturday mornings, because I couldn't stand the press of balding, gray-haired, pot-bellied men (like myself!) airing their opinions (unlike me!) about wine and chasing the latest recommendation from the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post. There's too much good wine out there and taste is too subjective to pretend that there is a canon of wines that one must have and those that must be avoided.

The other nonfiction book I'm reading is Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image: A Biography, which I'm reviewing for the Washington Independent Review of Books. It's a good read, but I'll save my comments for the review, which I'll cross-post here.

I'm having another go at Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union, and I'm making much better progress than when I tried before and abandoned it. Chabon is unquestionably a good writer, but his prolix language is sometimes tough going and his characters are not always so sympathetic -- like the protagonist Meyer Landsmann in this book. But his wit and irony are engaging and this is a marvelous alternate history. It was a recent conversation with Fred Pollack that sent me back to this book, as he was praising Chabon's newest, Telegraph Avenue. Fred, a poet who teaches creative writing at George Washington University, has never steered me wrong.

Bedside reading is The Chester Chronicles by Kermit Moyer, one of the discoveries I made recently on the remainder shelf at Politics & Prose. The writing is elegant, if a bit studied. I'm not big on coming of age stories, but the appeal for me here is the re-creation of the world of the 1950s -- the world I grew up in. The format of linked stories is also just right for periodic reading.

On audiobooks, I'm "reading" Robert Kaplan's The Revenge of Geography. I'm still not ready to listen to books while I'm walking the dog, but I am now making more of an effort to listen to books when I'm in the car for longer than 10 or 15 minutes. Kaplan is something of a soulmate for me because he pays so much attention to geography, which is the basis for my book, The New Superregions of Europe.

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