Friday, May 16, 2014

Reading: Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth

Moving slowly through the books published in 1966 in 1001 Books To Read... my next novel is John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy. An enigmatic title alright! Barth is described as having "comic genius" as he tells the tale of Billy Bockbuss "saved as a baby from the belly of a super-computer and raised at the teat of a goat."


Born in the USA in 1930 and now aged 83, John "Jack" Barth's first book in 1956 was The Floating Opera which was a National Book Award finalist, followed by The End of the Road (1958) and The Sot-Weed Factor (1960) which marked his discovery of Postmodernism.

In Giles Goat-Boy, a lengthy novel, the protagonist carries out all the tasks described by the mythologist Joseph Campbell in his non-fictional work The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In this book Campbell explores the theory that myths over thousands of years follow a basic structure. Amongst many other artists, the director George Lucas's debt to this book in influencing his Star Wars films is well documented.

 reprint book cover with the image of Hamill as Luke Skywalker near the bottom right corner

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Oh me oh my!" The Crying of Lot 49 - Reading Challenge

1001 Books describes Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 as "The blueprint for a generation of clever-clever novels that combine highbrow and pop cultural sensibilities, this is the one with which to start."

It's clever-clever alright and open to many interpretations, no doubt a favourite among university professors teaching post-modernist American literature. Having done my time with Joyce's Ulysses, Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds and Jorge Luis Borges, this was like a return to those reading experiences of not quite knowing if it was ever going to fall into place.

Reminding me of the Michael Douglas film The Game as the tale progressed and the question of the puzzle's validity is called into question I'm not sure if on finishing it I am any more enlightened.

Certainly of its time with LSD references and Beatles-like band members, to have written this clever and enigmatic novel at just twenty-nine shows his brilliant and playful mind. One to add to the list if you are studying PoMo Lit,but maybe not to read for pleasure.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Niki Segnit's 'The Flavour Thesaurus'

I have spoken of this lovely book before ( and constantly refer to it when I have an excess of one particular item in my fridge and am looking for inspiration on how to cook.

I've scribbled notes in the index of particular flavour pairings I like and have several post-its dotted around. But I now have prepared this reminder list for myself of the most useful tips/ recipes she suggests.

-Carrot & Peanut salad; Coarsely grate 4 carrots & mix with 75g peanuts, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp oil.

-Pork marinade: 1 tbsp honey, 2 tsp cumin, 5 tbsp red wine, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar.

-Dried apricots: stuff with goat’s cheese.

-Seed crackers: 125g flour, ½ tsp bp, ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp seeds (fennel,celery, cumin,caraway). Add 25 ml oil & 125ml water till dough comes together. Knead and roll 5mm, press out & bake brushed with water 25 mins 160.

-Baked cheese: Wrap box without lid in foil, prick surface and pour over 100ml white wine. Bake 180 20 mins.

-Asparagus-roast & serve with grated parmesan.
                   -wrap with prosciutto while still hot.

-Pistou (French pesto)-basil, (-pinenuts), sometimes Emmenthal instead of Parmesan.

-Tomato sauce (pizza/pasta): rough chop 4-5 garlic soften in oil. Add 4 tins whole plum tomatoes, break up season,  add herbs and bring to boil. Pass through sieve,  discard garlicky pulp and return to pan. Simmer & reduce to thick sauce.

-Carrots mashed with butter + 1 tbsp Pernod.

-Tinned Tomatoes- a light squeeze of lemon removes metallic taste.

-Fish breadcrumbs: 100g breadcrumbs, lemon zest, chopped herbs, 50g melted butter, pinch chilli flakes & seasoning. Pat on 4 fillets, bake 200 20 mins.

-Oven risotto: In casserole, heat oil + finely chopped onion, add 175g rice and coat. Add 575ml stock,chopped herbs & seasoning. Simmer then into oven 150 20 mins. Stir in 2tbsp grated parmesan & back in oven 15 mins. Sprinkle over 50g parmesan and serve.

Chocolate Tart-Fill sweet pastry case with: 300ml double cream scald in pan. Off heat stir in 200g dark choc & 25 g butter. Chill 2-3 hrs.

Poached pears-fill cavity with broken Florentines in whipped cream.

Coffee cake: Beat together 175g sugar, 175 g sr flour, 100g butter, 4 tbsp milk & 2 eggs for 2-3 mins. Bake  180 50-60 mins in 20cm tin. Ice with 125g icing sugar+ 2 tsp instant coffee in 2 tbsp hot water.

Pernod & pineapple juice-refreshing long drink.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Reading Challenge- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

My post last month described my reading challenge; the books published in 1966 from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and quite manageable at just six books.

The first on this list is Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. It's on order from the library and not knowing anything at all about Pynchon I thought I'd read through 1001 Books to see what I could find out.

Born in the U.S. in 1937, there are apparently very few photos of Pynchon which must be the root of this Simpson's cartoon:
The first reference to Pynchon is the statement that "without Lolita it is difficult to image Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49" . I guess I'll understand that comment after reading it. This is followed by the comment that "alongside works by (among other authors) Pynchon...opened the floodgates for a wave of U.S. fiction which war represented with a new countercultural sensibility in a language every bit as wild, grotesque, and bizarre as the real thing."

His first novel V was published in 1963 and won the William Faulkner Foundation Award. This novel "established Pynchon as an enigmatic cult hero of American literature."

The Crying of Lot 49 was published in 1966 and won the Rosenthal Foundation Award. Described as "the postmodernist's perfect thriller, guaranteed to fox the literal-minded sleuth, while deliciously deft with its play of possible interpretations."

Gravity's Rainbow published in 1973 won The National Book Award, and this "massive work opens with London under attack from V-2 rockets during the closing stages of the Second World War."

Considered to be "as futile to attempt a plot summary of Gravity's Rainbow here as it would be to say that Ulysses is about two men and their day in Dublin."

In Vineland published in 1990 "Pynchon returns to a modern American setting, after the historical European excursions of V and Gravity's Rainbow."  With this novel said to be "finally emerging after the dark complexities of Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's Vineland was a disappointment  to many critics, and it remains Pynchon's most misunderstood and underrated novel."

Mason and Dixon was published in 1997. Described as "loosely speaking, a kind of "updated" eighteenth-century novel that reanimated the lives, loves, and adventures of the two astronomers/ surveyors who drew the boundary line across America that would eventually be used to distinguish the slave-holding states from the free states and is still used to distinguish the South from the North to this day."

Not covered in my copy of the 2006 version of 1001 Books are any reference to the since published Against The Day (2006), Inherent Vice (2009) and the most recent Bleeding Edge (2013).