General Catch-Up…

catch_upIt’s been a busy few days which has included several new lesson plans, two batches of grading, and the normal day-to-day stuff, which helps to explain the silence in this space.

Actually, it also included one of the houses on our street exploding (!) just before we went to bed and so that took a few days before life resumed its normalcy for us. Quite a week. (And honestly – one of the houses five houses away from us literally exploded. You don’t forget that in a hurry.)

However, despite this, I have been reading and writing (although more slowly than usual) and that’s what I thought we’d catch up with today.

I happened to come across Angela Thomas’ debut YA novel called ‘The Hate U Give” whose plot revolves around a young African-American teenager who is in the same car as her (also AfAm) friend when they get stopped for a perceived infraction by a white police officer and the young man gets shot and killed. The novel moves forward in time as the young woman and her community try to deal with this situation with its murky causes.

Although a heavy (and timely) topic, this novel moves along at a fast pace as it deals with the issue of police-related shooting, morality, race, and modern life in a city, and it’s probably going to make one of my Top Ten Fiction Reads this year. For once, the hype is worth it and I recommend that you pick this up at some point soon and then you can judge for yourself. Thomas does a great job of covering the multiple perspectives in such an incident without resorting to usual state of black-and-white thinking, and whether you agree with how the characters act or not, it’s probably going to leave you thinking once you’re turned that last page.

file3I also learned the acronym behind Tupac’s phrase, Thug Life which (according to the author) means The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everyone (or maybe Everything?), meaning that it’s important to look after every person in your community whoever they may be. True that.

Moving on and to give myself a change in pace, I picked up a psychological mystery story, “The Girl Next Door” by Ruth Rendell, which was good fun to read (although oh-so-confusing at first due to playing with time and a lot of characters). I sorted it out in the end and I haven’t read just a mystery for ages, so this was rather fun and read like a hot knife through butter. Now I’m reading through one of America’s Best… series, this one a collection of science and nature from 2011 and edited by the wonderful Mary Roach. Just right for a Monkey Mind…

And then, thinking about a non-complicated plot and also filling in a slot in the Century of Books project that I have going on, I’m also reading the children’s classic, “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome (1930). I haven’t read any of this series before, and although I’m not a sailor and have next-to-no-familiarity with sailing terms, I’m enjoying this quick read of two families of children enjoying their island adventures up in the Lake District of England. (Lots of ginger beer et al.)

With the semester fully underway, there have also been loads of events at the university including an entertaining talk by visiting Ruth Reichl, NYT best-selling non-fiction author and restaurant critic, which was really enjoyable. Plus, it’s play season on campus and we went to watch the one-act plays that students both write and perform. Good stuff.

So, it’s been a busy few weeks, but now we’re in the home stretch of the university term, and then I’m looking forward to some time off from work. What to do, where to go… Those are the questions…


The United States of Arugula – David Kamp (2006)

book153A gossipy name-dropping history (of a kind) of the Foodie culture in the States, this was a superficial dig into the cult of chefs, restaurateurs and food critics. Not being a huge Foodie myself, I must admit that most of the names mentioned I knew next to nothing about, so it was a bit like being trapped at a dinner party where everyone is talking about their good friends who you don’t know, and about this major party that you didn’t attend.

Nah, it wasn’t that bad. I did learn some interesting bits and pieces about the Foodie World, and I have to say that there were some curious characters both in the U.S. and in France. (As an American author in an American book, there was, of course, a duly American focus.) Julia Child got a brief mention, but only in a flippant breezy manner, while James Beard and the older NYT food critic Craig Claibourne were given chapter after chapter (both for their culinary appetites and for their extra-curricular activities). I don’t really understand why Kamp felt he had to place so much emphasis on the s*xual proclivities of these two (apart from trying to maintain the gossipy “insider” slant of his writing). It seemed pretty gratuitous to me and just there for the titillation of the writing – “How shocked my readers will be!”

Apart from that, this was a detailed well-written volume about a level of gastronomical culture that is way above mine. (I still love baked beans on toast.) At least now I know the names of a few snooty restaurants on each coast. However, I would expect major shock when I had their bill at the end of the  meal…


Speaking of food, look at the delicious UK things I found in my kitchen…