Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Remembering Marcella Hazan and her Italian cooking...

Marcella Hazan died Sunday at her home in Longboat Key, Fl. She was 89. I never knew her, I didn't know about her cooking, but today there was such an outpouring for her passing that I had to learn more about her...

A biology teacher by trade, Marcella came to New York in 1955, a newlywed native to Italy with no grasp of English, and not familiar with the so called cooking in America. She was rather put off by what the American's called Italian cooking and slowly went about educating those around her about how to cook Italian authentically. Word spread fast and soon she was writing a cooking book, and teaching the best. Here's a wonderful article online from The New York Times about Marcella Hazan.

I love to cook. I have a zillion cookbooks with many dog-eared and splattered pages, and yet, there is not one cookbook from Marcella Hazan on those shelves. But there will be! There are some classic Marcella Hazan recipes I found today that just say, "Cook Me!", and so, since I love reviewing cookbooks, look out for a review of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, which is to Italian cooking as Mastering the Art of French Cooking is to French cuisine. Want a sample of one of her recipes? Here's her infamous simple 3 ingredient Tomato Sauce...


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter Recipe
Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking
(Take a peek at SmittenKitchen.com  for beautiful full color photos to go with this recipe!)

One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find), tomatoes roughly chopped with their juices
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Heat a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Discard the onion. Serve over cooked pasta.

There are quite a few cookbooks written by Marcella Hazan, including Marcella's Italian Kitchen and More Classic Italian Cooking, but Marcella also wrote her memoir, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, which "tells how a young girl raised in Emilia-Romagna became America's godmother of Italian cooking.", which is a perfect addition to Memoir Mondays.

Have a favorite recipe from Marcella Hazan? Favorite cookbook? Share it!



Happy Cooking.... Suzanne




Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Banned Books Week Wrap-up!


Welcome to the Sunday Salon! This is the day during the week where we get together and talk books! So grab a cup of joe, find a comfy chair and relax! What bookish things have you been doing this week?

How did your Banned Books Week go? Here are the books I covered this week...

On Tuesday, I wrote about Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, the beloved children's book that had talking animals upsetting the sensibilities of some parents who thought it was blasphemous. 

Wednesday, I wrote about Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, the fictional account of a teenage girl, dealing with the realities of bullying, sex and drugs, and the pressures of growing up, which ultimately causes her to take her own life. 

Friday, I wrote about The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, the childrens book written in simple verse & simple illustrations, about the relationship between a little boy growing up and a tree. Originally banned because of sexism, there were also a whole host of other complaints of this deeply moving book. 

And this year for Banned Books Week, I opened the pages of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I've updated you along the way, Monday & Thursday,  and finally this morning I turned over the last page. I have to say that it was not anything that I had expected. Although I knew it had to do with racial issues, I had no idea where it was going to take me. We last left our narrator beginning his stay in New York, the harsh New York during the height of segregation. He witnesses an eviction of an elderly Black couple in a high rise apartment and is moved to speak to the riotous crowd that is growing dangerous. He speaks to the crowd from his heart, and they stop and listen. In the crowd though, was a man from "The Brotherhood", a bipartisan group who recruit him as their spokesman to "the people". As our narrator is "indoctrinated" into their cause, which he feels initially is his cause, he becomes disillusioned. In reality, The Brotherhood, which is suppose to be the Communist party, is trying to control things for their own purpose and not to help the people of Harlem. A race riot eventually ensues, and barely escaping with his life he falls through a manhole into a pile of coal. It is there that he realizes he is worn out from the fight. Not just the fight for equality, but the fight to become an individual who is seen for his unique abilities, thoughts and expressions. He finally accepts his invisibility.
          " I have been hurt to the point of abysmal pain, hurt to the point of invisibility."
In the afterward to Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, it is written that Invisible Man is, "Groundbreaking in its exploration of race and identity and virtuosic in its use of language and dialect." I have to agree. The writing was great; I could hardly put it down once I got past the prologue. I empathized with the narrator and his struggles to do what was right in the face of all the opposition. I could feel the tensions, the sights and sounds of the era. The characters came alive off the page. And the story was good. Can I say great? I hesitate because of the subject matter, because you can't read the book and feel uplifted, but I would recommend the book. It is a classic, timeless in it's writing, with the ability to feel fresh even though it was published over 60 years ago.

This week Invisible Man came to the forefront of Banned Books Week because it was banned recently in school libraries in Randolph County, NC after a parent of a high school junior complained about its language and depictions of rape and incest. The board had banned the book Sept. 16 by a 5-2 vote, but rescinded that order after an amazing nationwide backlash.
Board Chairman Tommy McDonald said the torrent of emails he received was “very enlightening,’’ although a few were “downright vulgar and very hurtful.’’ The backlash made him realize, he said, that “my job is to make sure that book is there whether I want to read it or not." from LATimes.com
Before this incident of banning Invisible Man, there have been other attempts to ban it over the years...

"Excerpts banned in Butler, PA (1975); removed from the high school English reading list in St. Francis, WI (1975). Retained in the Yakima, WA schools (1994) after a five-month dispute over what advanced high school students should read in the classroom. Two parents raised concerns about profanity and images of violence and sexuality in the book and requested that it be removed from the reading list." from ALA.com

So there you have it, Banned Books Week in all its glory. Who would think that in the year 2013, there still would be the unfortunate issue of banning books. LATimes.com had an interesting article about the recent banning of Invisible Man, you can follow the link to LATimes.com to read it. The American Library Association is another great source to read more about banned books. Go to ALA.org to learn more.

What did you do for Banned Books Week? Read any good banned books?! I really missed being able to get around (in a leg brace unable to walk, a long story) because I really would have enjoyed reading at a Banned Book Read-Out, BUT there's always next year!

P.S. World Book Night book announcements coming soon, AND next we'll talk about the Man Booker Prize, which has new criteria and a big uproar because of it!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, September 27, 2013

Banned Books Week and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein...

"Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come... and he woud gather her leaves... and make them into crowns and play king of the forest." Thus begins The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The tender story of the power of love, the gift of giving and the consequences of selfishness. I remember reading this book as an adult and crying at the end. As the boy grows up, his demands become harder and harder for the tree to provide, until she gives the ultimate gift of her life.

The Giving Tree was initially challenged and removed from a library because the librarian thought it was sexist. I also read where the story had been interpreted as Sadomasochism, where the boy keeps demanding more and the tree keeps giving. Subsequently there has been a lot of chatter about the meaning behind the story, and it was banned due to others having said it undermines parental, school, and religious authority. I also read where someone thought it undermined the logging industry. Really?!

Have you read the book? The simple illustrations are wonderful, and the text is simple, yet powerful. I think it teaches a lesson to all of us. What do you think?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned Books Week continues with more from the Invisible Man...

I've gotten a little farther in Invisible Man and have gotten to know our narrator a little bit better... It's like that old saying, "if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all." Our narrator just can't do anything right. After the incident at college, where he introduces one of the white founders of the university to the seedier sides of the community, he get's expelled. Now, Ellison's reasons for having our narrator take that trip seem to be to show us that no matter what station in life our narrator feels he's in, what it all comes down to is that the color of his skin is still Black, and that the white people around him, really see no class distinction. If he doesn't play "the game", he won't survive. His innocent mis-steps showcase this and slowly he begins to wake up to the fact that his invisibility is not due to his doing what is expected of him, but to the fact that he's not considered an individual; Someone with thoughts and ideas.

As the story goes on, our narrator gets expelled from school, backstabbed by the Headmaster of the school (who is Black, but tows the line and doesn't want anyone upsetting his cushy life), moves to New York, and starts to adjust to a different kind of life. A life where Black and White interact on a daily basis, without much fanfare, and where he begins to experience prejudice from his own people. Up until now, Ellison makes huge distinctions between the races, and has his characters openly disparage the "White power", which of course would make some people reading his book very uncomfortable. But the banter in this book is reflective of the era that it was written. And to quote award winning journalist Roger Rosenblatt, "Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," which won the National Book Award in 1953, was instantly recognized as a masterpiece, a novel that captured the grim realities of racial discrimination as no book had."

I'm almost half way through the book... stop by for more insights as I continue reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison for Banned Books Week!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week... Highlighting Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Teen suicide

Sometimes a book is banned because the subject matter is uncomfortable. Such is the case in Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher...

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Thirteen Reasons Why is about teen suicide. It's about bullying. It's about how words and actions can hurt. First published in 2007, Thirteen Reasons Why still made the top ten banned list in 2012. Why? Because it contained drugs/alcohol/smoking, it was sexually explicit, there was a suicide, and it was deemed unsuited for age group. I have never read the book, but from researching banned books for this week, I  read a blurb on cnn.com from Jay Asher about censorship that just resonated with me and made me wish that people who try and ban books like this, would understand why it's important to have them available. Here's the blurb:
Having spoken to thousands of teens since my book came out, I even more firmly believe that books dealing with these issues need to be written as emotionally honest as possible. Not only is it appropriate, it's responsible. If people are dealing with it, we need to talk about it. Otherwise, we contribute to the main reason people don't reach out for help
The responses I read on the Thirteen Reasons Why Website, were amazing. Some were reviews from people who were dealing with depression, some who had attempted suicide and even a response from someone who realized they wanted to go into a field that helped teenagers like the protagonist in the story. In any case, if this book helps one person, it is a worthwhile endeavor. I just put this on my reading list.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banned Books Week Continues with... Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White is a Banned Book!

A beloved children's story, about a little girl Fern, who lives on a farm and falls in love with a runt. And how that runt grows up to be a bashful pig named Wilbur befriended by a spider named Charlotte. A story about friendship & sacrifice, and the cycles of life. A story I loved as a child and last year celebrated it's 60th anniversary!

Charlotte's Web has sold more than 45 million copies and has been translated into 23 languages. And in 2006, was challenged because some parents in Kansas thought that talking animals were blasphemous and unnatural. Challenged also because the passages about the spider dying were "inappropriate subject matter for a children's book." (I still cried when I reread that this week!)

A wonderful writer of children's books including Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White lived on a farm, where the inspiration came for Charlotte's Web. Here is what he had to say about writing the book...

"As for Charlotte's Web, I like animals and my barn is a very pleasant place to be, at all hours. One day when I was on my way to feed the pig, I began feeling sorry for the pig because, like most pigs, he was doomed to die. This made me sad. So I started thinking of ways to save a pig's life. I had been watching a big grey spider at her work and was impressed by how clever she was at weaving. Gradually I worked the spider into the story that you know, a story of friendship and salvation on a farm. Three years after I started writing it, it was published."

Amazing that in the 21st century, Charlotte's Web would be a target for censorship. What do you think?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week starts with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I met the Invisible Man the other day. The end of his story is really the beginning, as I met him as an old man or an older man. He frightened me a little because the more he talked the more he seemed disjointed. He seemed paranoid, angry, maybe even a little mentally unstable. I wondered if this is what happens after years of being an invisible man. But he wanted to tell his story from the beginning and when he finally started, things became clearer and he was well spoken...

Here are the first words he spoke to me...

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

The ebook version I downloaded starts with an introduction written by Ralph Ellison from 1981, almost 30 years after the first publishing of Invisible Man. He explains how he came to write the book, which began in the summer of 1945, in a barn in Waitsfield, VT.  Interesting that the generosity of some of the people that believed in him, put him in a situation that he was far from invisible- a black man living in an affluent fifth avenue building, where "the doormen of buildings located in middle and upper-class neighborhoods routinely directed such as myself to their service elevators". But then again his invisibility and the invisibility that his protagonist experiences in the book, is created by the prejudices and stigmas that people impose on him. Some people did not see him for who is actually was, but for whom they thought he was, based on the color of his skin.

About the book so far... I'm on chapter 4. The writing is wonderful & complex. Ellison really gets you into the head of the "invisible man", who is a mere boy just graduating from high school. Even at such a young age, the invisible man must deal with the moral dilemma of "getting along" or being true to himself. We first see a bit of the "rebellious" boy, when he is reading his high school graduation speech in front of an audience of influential white men in the town, and as they laughed & carried on, not really listening, the boy slips and speaks the words, "Social equality" instead of what was written in his speech, "Social responsibility". Dead silence follows and the boy must make a decision.

So far, there have been a few violent scenes, an incestuous rape and language that is suppose to be representative of the times, but may be offensive. I can see where this book may make people feel very uncomfortable. And I'm not sure if there is an age range that is appropriate when it comes to reading the passage of the incestuous rape . But I don't believe in censorship. I do believe that a parent should be involved in what their children are reading, and if they feel that their child is not mature enough to understand the material, they should do what they feel is in the best interest of THEIR child. BTW, the book is not all doom & gloom, there is some wit as the boy seems to have a habit of getting himself into these amazing situations while he's trying to be "invisible", and then has to figure out how to get out of them in one piece.

ALSO, the "invisible man", never has a name. Am I bothered by this? No, as this is his story and I know who it is. Although in my mind he is a person, and referring to him as the "invisible man" makes me feel like I'm discounting him too.

Have you ever read Invisible Man? What are your thoughts on the book? I'll be reading this all week long, stay tuned and check back during the week as I update the progress and how the book is going...


Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison... from the publisher: Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.  A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Sunday Salon and The Official Start of Banned Books Week!


Welcome to the Sunday Salon! This is the day during the week where we get together and talk books! So grab a cup of joe, find a comfy chair and relax! What bookish things have you been doing this week?

The Big news this week is that it is Banned Book Week! Be a part of the movement to save freedom of speech and read a banned book! There are all sorts of events thru-out the United States, including...

* Read-Outs, which are where people read "out loud", parts of their favorite banned books. Check out the state by state list at Bannedbooksweek.org  to see what's going on near you.

* Banned Books Week Twitter Party 2013! "For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Week. A party will be held on Monday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, Eastern Time, and Wednesday; a second party is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, from noon to 2 p.m., Eastern.  Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. And additional tags: #bannedbookparty, #heroes, @OIF, @KidsRight2Read, @freadom, @FTRF."

* Virtual Read-Out on YouTube... The American Library Association (ALA.org) asked for submissions of readers reading from their favorite banned book that they had uploaded to YouTube. So search YouTube for tags such as "Virtual Read-Out" or "Banned Books" to see what people are reading virtually. The only requirement that the ALA asked was that the readings were no more than 5 minutes.

There's also a great Banned Books Week Blog Hop hosted by Mary at BookHounds and Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. Follow the links to enter for some great banned book giveaways!

My Banned Books Week choice is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Stop by monday to learn more about this book and follow my progress. I thought I might get in a rereading of Charlotte's Web by E.B.White if I have time.

What else happened this week? I read about Nelson DeMille's new book, The Quest. I was very excited about the premise, but discovered that it was a "version" of a book he wrote 40 years ago. Read what I have to say about that in I Can't Wait for that New Novel... Or Is It New? Share what you think about reissues. And here's my take on Banned Books with my opening post about Banned Books Week Sept. 22 - 28th.

What are you planning for Banned Books Week? Share what you're reading and what you think about censorship!

Happy reading... Suzanne


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Banned Book Week 2013: Sept. 22 - 28th!


It's Banned Book Week! (Really it starts tomorrow) How am I celebrating?! This years choice for reading is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which has been banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C. recently. Invisible Man won the National Book Award in 1953 and has been called the greatest American novel written since World War II. I don't know why I never read this before, but Banned Book Week gives me a chance to finally crack the spine on this one!



Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.     
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice

It's that time of year, again, when we celebrate our freedom to read and our freedom to express ourselves. The freedom to read what WE would like to read. The freedom to write what we'd like to write.

It still amazes me that books are still being challenged in the 21st century. Parents have the right to monitor and guide what their child reads, but that right shouldn't extend to another child whose parents don't object to the reading material. If every book that has been challenged or banned were not available any longer we would not have books such as Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Charlottes Webb and even a 1965 Dictionary!

I was a voracious reader when I was growing up. I was never limited to what I could read. I learned from these books. I did not learn hatred; I learned tolerance, acceptance, empathy. I learned about history. If I had questions, I asked my parents or a teacher. Reading opens the mind; Banning books takes away that opportunity. Fantasy did not turn me towards "the dark side", and sex in books did not make me turn into a sex fiend. In fact, reading Sherlock Holmes didn't even make me take up smoking a pipe. I love that parents are involved with what their children are reading! Just don't police what my child can read, or even what I can read.

Banning of books happens in schools, libraries and places that books are available. Protect your rights and the rights of others! Read a banned book this week! We'll be talking about Banned Books this week on Chick with Books, so stop by and see what books are highlighted during the week.

*Curious as to what books have been banned or challenged recently? Here is the 2012 - 2013 list of books challenged or banned as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Can't Wait for That New Novel... Or Is it New? Reprints, Reissues & Rewrites

New or Not So New, That is the Question...

Have you ever picked up a book by an author, thinking that it was new, and find out later that you owned the book, but the cover was changed? So many wonderful authors have humble beginnings  that publishers bring back the earlier novels so new fans can appreciate them. An author's new publishing house might want to also reissue older titles to attract new readers to their imprint. I appreciate this, especially when a book is OOP, or Out of Print. Anniversaries are a good time to update a books cover too, such as when Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird's turned 50. I also understand the great marketing strategy of releasing books with nicer, fresh and updated covers. A good example of updated covers is Penguin's classic novel covers redesigned by some of today's best graphic artists (Hmmm, sounds like another topic we should chat about another time). What I find interesting though, is an old novel coming back as a new novel.

When is a old novel "new"? When there are rewrites. New authors are familiar with the term as they ready their novel for the final draft, but rewrites spell opportunity for older books, whose well established authors may have wanted tweaks to the original work after the fact. All this came to mind when I read a blurb about Nelson DeMille's new book, The Quest. The premise sounds great...

While the Ethiopian Civil War rages, a Catholic priest languishes in prison. Forty years have passed since he last saw daylight. His crime? Claiming to know the true location of Christ's cup from the Last Supper. Then the miraculous happens - a mortar strikes the prison and he is free! 
 Adventure, a "quest", romance (of course a beautiful woman between the pages),  a foreign land rich in history. What more can you ask for? I'm excited to read it, I was just surprised it was a reissue, but not a reissue. Not touted as a reissue because of what must be extensive rewrites, I am curious as to how the story has changed, or been updated. Nelson DeMille has had a wonderful writing career spanning almost 40 years. The Quest was one of his earlier works, and with the popularity of anything to do with  The Holy Grail, it's a perfect time to bring this novel back. Reissue, rewrite, reprint; I love reading and I look forward to picking up The Quest and devouring it!

What do you think? Would you rather have a bit more disclosure when a book has been published before? And do you like the idea of rewrites on a book previous published years before? Anyone ever thinking of rewriting War and Peace?

Happy reading... Suzanne
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