Sad Exits

June 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The New Yorker magazine was where HG discovered the late, great writer, Philip Roth. The New Yorker published young Roth’s short story, “Defender of the Faith.” Roth recalled that he bought a number of copies of the magazine when it came out and had moments of sheer delight seeing his fiction in print for the first time. For HG, the story was a revelation. Here was a writer, HG felt, who captured all of the complexities of being a Jew in post-Holocaust, post-World War Two, America. (The story was very controversial. Roth became the object of accusations and calumny from the Jewish establishment). As the years went by, HG read all of Roth’s short stories, novels and essays. Roth was unique. He could be searching, illuminating and intellectually challenging. He could also be very funny in the style of a stand up comedian like Lenny Bruce. Almost the same age, HG often mused that Roth spent a lifetime alone in a room crafting his fictions. HG, on the other hand, had a career in noisy newspaper and wire service “city rooms” followed by mingling with office mates as HG composed a million words of press release piffle. HG believes HG had a happier time. HG read Anthony Bourdain’s first piece in The New Yorker where he warned readers never to eat fish in a restaurant on Monday. Once more, an original voice was heard. HG/BSK had much joy watching Bourdain’s CNN television culinary/travel/culture/politics series. Thought HG, if HG could be another person, HG would be Bourdain. He combined all of HG’s food, moral and political passions. Moreover, he was paid well to travel the world and explore cultures. His suicide was shocking. A man who embodied pleasure, hid some dark demons.

Phillip Roth R.I.P.

May 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

He was the best. No one wrote better about the America of HG’s lifetime. Inventive, penetrating, fearless and funny. Made HG reflect on being a Jew, an American, a man. He relentlessly explored facets of male sexuality, portraying it, in turns, as funny, tragic, angry and an expression of power. HG believes he was the last of the male authors who have dominated American fiction for the last 60 years (Bellow, Updike, Mailer, etc.). Women (like Rachel Kushner) are taking over. Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood are absolute fiction all-stars. (HG believes there are five great masters of the short story–Munro, Chekhov, Malamud, William Trevor and Raymond Carver). Women have a huge repository of experience that has been minimized, their intellect an object of condescension; they have often been barred from power and, of course, sexually abused. In mass culture they have been characterized as unrealistic physical wonders used to sell virtually everything. Now, it’s time for women’s fiction to have the readership and respect equal to that of the late, great Phillip Roth.

Roth Nobel Snub Fury

October 9th, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

The morning started with HG in a fury. Once more the Nobel Prize committee rejected Philip Roth, HG’s favorite author. Sheer injustice. There is no living author who has produced a body of work to match Roth’s. Yet year after year the Nobel officials reject Roth for the literature prize. SJ has suggested that there is the whiff of antisemitism in the rejection, a sense that enough Jewish authors have won. Maybe? In HG’s youth, HG confronted injustice with direct action on the picket line and in physical confrontation. Now, as a member of the “golden years” population, HG seeks solace in food, wine, strong spirits, New Mexico sun and vistas. And, of course, HG’s good fortune in having BSK, a loving family and a recent addition– Toby, The Wonder Dog. Tonight, HG will hope for better literary judgement in the future and soothe HG’s abraded feelings with Craig Claiborne’s Mississippi smothered chicken. The late Claiborne was a pioneering restaurant critic with the New York Times and author of some very good cookbooks. Claiborne’s chicken recipe calls for a three-pound chicken to be spatchcocked (backbone removed). The flattened chicken is placed skin side down in cast iron pan with sizzling butter. Weighted down with a plate and a five pound object (brick, tomato cans, etc.) so the skin is in direct contact with the pan. Chicken is removed and a roux is made with flour, pan juices and fat, chicken broth. Chicken is put back in the roux and cooked some more until tender. (Check here for a precise recipe). HG does not favor roux. Instead, HG will use white wine, mustard, pan juices, a squeeze of lemon, a few capers and 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch (as a modest thickener). Reduce it all. Enjoy it with BSK’s smashed potatoes, sugar snap peas, ripe heirloom tomato salad, A robust red wine. Fury will subside. Pleasure will rule.


Sunday Feasting in The Bronx

November 28th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Read with interest the New York Times interview with HG’s favorite writer of fiction, Philip Roth. It seems Roth has had his say. No more books, no more arduous attention to the brutal task of writing. Sad news for serious readers. (And, why hasn’t Roth been awarded the Nobel? This is an injustice). The last time HG saw Roth it was breakfast time at Barney Greengrass, the venerable smoked fish emporium on Manhattan’s upper west side. Roth looked gloomy. The lox-bagel-cream cheese and coffee combo he was eating didn’t seem to lift his spirits. HG mused that the author was probably thinking that one more day of word wrestling lay before him. These varied Rothian thoughts lead HG back to long ago memories of Sunday-Breakfast-In-The-Bronx-With-Mom-And-Pop. (HG uses caps because this traditional breakfast was always an epic feast). No matter where HG had spent Saturday night, or from what bed HG had arisen, young bachelor HG always called Mom early Sunday to discuss breakfast (yes, the meal began at about 10:30 or 11 so these days it would be called brunch). HG visited the “appetizing” store on Kingsbridge Road and procured Nova Scotia smoked salmon, sable, pickled herring, a robust smoked whitefish, Greek olives, sour kosher dill pickles, potato salad and cole slaw. On that same morning Pop was off to the bakery for bagels, bialys, onion rolls, Jewish rye bread and Stuhmer’s pumpernickel. The table was set with plenty of sweet butter, Daitch cream cheese and sliced tomatoes and onions. Lots of coffee plus a bottle of cognac (both HG and Pop liked to “correct,” as Italians put it, their coffee with shots of brandy. The smoked fish delights lead into a big platter of softly scrambled eggs with fried onions and mushrooms. Danish pastry for dessert. HG worked all of this off in Central Park. Rough touch football. Ah, youth, you magic time.

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