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Friday
Feb112011

The Husky Western Bookworm Rides Again.

Here are some random things on a Friday. Nothing revolutionary. Or even exciting, really. So, if you skip out right now, I understand.

Ok here we go.

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--  I've been reading MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot and its becoming this real problem for me. I like the book a lot but it's also a little bit of work to navigate. Eliot's super duper Victorian writing style is hard for me to snack on at the end of the day, when I'm pretty whipped and laying in my bed to read until I fall asleep. Yet, I have that problem where I know if I put it back on the shelf for another day down the road, I'll probably never dive into it again, and I really wanna read it, since it's a mega-classic. Some say it's one of the best novels ever.

Sometimes I get to thinking that I wish I had a time machine and that I could go back in time and find Eliot and somehow keep her from writing this one book, thus ensuring that many years later: I wouldn't have to deal with this conundrum.

Then I get to thinking: what are you, a fucking lunatic? Just put it down. No one will ever care.

The book will never come up in discussion at a dinner party. NO ONE EVEN EVER INVITES YOU TO FUCKING DINNER PARTIES, DIPSHIT! And even if they did, do you know how many courses it takes until MIDDLEMARCH rolls out of its musty old coffin and dances out on to the table like some skelatal granny all hopped up on her own reincarnation?

Do you?!!

It takes at least three hundred courses, I tell myself.

And your stomach stretches to a bubblegum bubble and then simply Jackson Pollacks across the room after about forty or so.

But still. I want to be able to finish it. I need to.

=====================

--   Monica bought me a pizza stone for my birthday back in December. It came with a pizza book and a pizza cutter. She got it for me because I love pizza and I miss pizza and I want to make my own pizza maybe more than anything in this world. So, a few weeks after the holidays were over, I was up one Saturday morning/gave Violet some microwave pancakes/got her situated with some Great Pumpkin on her little dvd piece of shit/ and I started Googling around trying to pick up some pizza making tips.

That was sort of a bad move. One thing led to another, links led to message boards. Messages led to pictures of bags of some kind of .00 flour, and voices from the electric wilderness screaming at one another that they didn't know fuck-all about making your own dough; people telling other people that if you don't understand why you want to use expensive cans of imported Roma tomatoes for your sauce than you should smoosh a grenade launcher barrel against your eye socket and pull the trigger because you will never know how to make a goddamn pizza or anything else for that matter.

After about two hours of absolutely pummeling my own desire with the thick oak switches of the people of the pizza, I was a mess. I had no idea where to start or what to do. To be honest, I think my research had made me know less about making homemade pizza than when I started.

I wanted to make my own Margherita Pizza. I ended up scaring the shit out of myself. It's February now, and still: my big Friday pizza is one of those Wal-Mart 5 cheese jobs. I rip up some basil and throw it on there after it's cooked and I eat it with three fast shots of Chianti while we watch House Hunters or something.

And it is what it is.

=====================

I took a break from MIDDLEMARCH, in case you were still wondering about that. I didn't put her back on the shelf or anything; I just left her there on the little table by my bed. I figured maybe she might need a little time too, ya know? Time to really look at herself and think about how she is going to fit into this changing world. It's hard being an old book, I guess. It's not easy to be the late-night stromboli stuffed with Vicars and Parishes and winding lanes leaking your insides off the paper, dripping your old-recipe grease down into the half-moon eyes of someone from the future who wants to gorge himself to sleep. You gotta fight to stay relevant/ you gotta struggle just to remain even a little hot.

Maybe it's me. Maybe it's the book. It's probably me. She's had so many lovers, she has to know what's up. Anyways, we're taking a little break. And you and I know that shit never sounds good.

=====================

-- So I read THE GLASS CASTLE instead. It took me about a week of nights. Moving from MIDDLEMARCH into this one was pretty much like going into any pizza joint in Brooklyn or Philly and getting a slice and just eating the hell out of it right there at the counter, by the garlic salt and the oregano and the napkins. There was no baking it myself. No fucking cans of this or that. Nothing to understand/ no temperatures or yeast bullshit. I just walked into this lady's story, ordered a slice, and ate the hell out of it. Five nights in a row.

I'm not going to lie to you. It was really nice. It was really motherfucking nice at the end of the day.

=====================

-- Now I'm reading a book I found at Savers the other day for three bucks. THE WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga. It was a Man Booker Prize Winner for 2008, which evidently wasn't enough to keep it from the nasty fate of landing on the paperback shelf under the bright halogens down at Savers, but whatever. I'll tell you this: it is super awesome. It's a tale of India. That's usually enough to get me interested, so I bought the thing. But it turns out that it's also one badass slice of mind pizza. Adiga is a pretty spectacular writer. He's comical. But he's also an intensely great storyteller. Too many novelists forget about that, about telling the story. Too many people forget about the pizza when they build these big pizzerias.

=====================

-- I can't wait to meet our son. We have three names picked out and we still haven't decided which one it's going to be. I like them all. One day I wake up in the morning and pour myself some coffee and one of the names pops into my head and it's like:YEAH THAT'S IT/ THAT'S HIS NAME. Then that lasts for like half a day and then another one of the names slams into the Honda when I'm cruising down the freeway, and I get to thinking that: of course, THAT'S the name.

It's been the same for my wife, the same names coming and going.

Oh well, he'll force our hand if he has to.  And that would be just fine, too.

Reader Comments (21)

Dude, you HAVE to read Shantaram. It's a story - somewhat autobiographical - about a man who escaped prison in Australia to end up in India where he became somewhat of a hero in the slums. It's a fascinating story both about the man and his adopted country. I think you would love it.

You three hang in during the countdown!

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBren

Ack, Middlemarch, I did not like reading it either. I gallumphed through it eventually. You can too. I do go to dinner parties sometimes, but my friends are all Caddyshack quoters ( I like that too) and my extensive knowledge of 1800's ballet, famous actors of the middle ages, Buddy Bolden, and, yes, Dorothea, is generally untapped. Hooray for idealism throughout the ages.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterck

the thing about dough is you just have to give it a try. what the worst thing that could happen and it has to be better than that frozen crap. Good Luck

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranne

Thanks for the reference... I'm reading "How I Became A Famous Novelist" based on a review from one of your old posts and I keep laughing out loud... its embarrassing but I don't care because it's just so much fun... I'll check out the India one too (we have a killer library in Napa) so thanks.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura B

"...for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

I was never able to read the whole book, but the sentiment expressed at the end will live through the ages.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCporter

If you liked White Tiger then there is a whole genre of incredible Indian literature that you will just want to inhale....they're not quite Walmart pizzas, but there's no yeast involved either. Think of it more like going to a fancy deli and getting all the fancy ingredients to make an amazing pizza...but never having to scrub out dough from under your fingernails or worry about whether your tomatoes are Californian or Calabrian.

Can I suggest that you start with A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Amazing. It'll take you a month of nights if you're disciplined. If you're undiscipined Violet will be eating microwave pancakes evry meal for a week because you won't be able to put it down.

Shantaram is your Walmart 5 Cheese with a doubl serve of pepperoni - meaning it'll make you sick if you eat the whole thing. I tried, but i couldn't finish it..... and it was like trying to force yourself to finish bad pizza.....you find yourself asking what on earth you're trying to achieve other than getting fat and sick.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

my two cents about pizza dough:
i too fell in the trap of over investigating the whole affair, and reading about cooking pizza under the broiler on an upside down cast iron pan, or breaking the security latch on your oven so it can reach unsafe temperatures that replicate a restaurant oven's, and i got confused. i let go of the idea and then i found this:
http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/09/pizza-even-sweeter/
it's a recipe from mario batali. i've made it twice to great results, the simple additions of honey and white wine seem to contribute to that slight sourness which is perfect on a pizza dough.
just thought i'd share :-)

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranother monica

I gave my friend a pizza stone from Pampered Chef and it warmed my heart to see it all browned up with pizza wheel marks on it. Pampered chef sells a giant wheel. My uncle owned an Italian restaurant in Florida. I asked him about the secret of a good crust...he leaned in and whispered that he ordered them frozen in 3 thicknesses, adding that Proofers are expensive.

George is a great pen name. Hey it's the big guy's BD coming up soon. I prefer to celebrate Feb 22 to the 14th,

I hope you guys have that baby today!

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergina

Whole Foods sells raw pizza dough on the cheap. Take the ball home, rub some olive oil on it, roll it out, poke a couple of fork holes then bake for a few minutes. Take it out, and add your toppings & bake again. You may not have made the dough, but the pizza, in the end will be yours, and it will be amazing.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramber

Before we lived near Trader Joe's, which sells great pizza dough, I used to buy the dough from a good local pizzeria. I have tried this in several states--occasionally someone won't sell you just the dough, but they usually do and it is good. So maybe try that.

February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKajey

hey if you're into india...have you hit Shantarum yet? its a long one though, and well, with the sleepless nights headed your way...you might wanna just pick up the latest Twilight novel. :) good news is you've already read all the baby books, so you dont have to read them again
xxoo

February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Oh, oh .... pizza. Pizza!! Do not get discouraged. And look no further than Smitten Kitchen. I think a reader has laready given a link, here's another one: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/01/pizza-and-the-limits-of-diy/ Deb is great, and given that her kitchen is the size of a thimble, she is not one to complicate things unecessarily. As for Middlemarch, do you know that the Victorians published their novels in newspapers in installments? The origins of soap opera! Maybe you should take it like that, read a chapter per week. Although, that might take a while. Best of luck to you and your family.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTanja

Just had to comment. I wrestled the Middlemarch beast from night stand to coffee table to airport bar for 6 months. I finished it in January. When you think that it basically reads like a storyline from 'The Young and the Restless' and only makes you feel bad about yourself most of the time, it just turns into a horribly disfuctional long-term relationship that is shallow and ultimately ego-draining. But at the end of the day, it's Eliot's writing that grabbed me and kept me reading, even as you slog through the mind-numbing minuitae of the religious, business, romantic, and political subplots. You're a writer--maybe you also are catching some of those moments of pure enjoyment from Eliot? And yes, love her in the true European style--you've got to indulge in other books on the side; otherwise, she feels like too much of an obligation!

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

Oh hells no, three words: Fleischmann's Pizza Yeast. Do they sell that stuff in the States? I figure if we can get in Canada, you must be able to get it there. Without fail the easiest way to go. Instant gratification. None of this "Wait an hour for the dough to rise...wait again...and again...". Smittenkitchen's recipe is delicious, but if you want pizza fast, get the pizza yeast. Also, for the sauce, I'm lazy: tomato paste, a little sugar, some salt, tonne of garlic, lots of basil and whatever else I feel like adding. Tasty every time.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Great Harvest (bakery chain that is everywhere I think, but individually owned) also sells (frozen) pizza dough. The key is to use semolina flour to keep it from sticking to the counter and your pizza paddle. Fresh tomatos, basil, mozzarella and bam! Done!

Home made pizza is the best. Swoon.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkate

Hey, thanks for the book and pizza tips. Good to know the world is full of people thinking about/contemplating pizza. There's way too much "balance budget" and "Hosni" in the news. Not enough pizza talk. Way more people eat pizza than balance budgets.

I am now the proud owner of a copy a A FINE BALANCE. I'll hook up with SHANTARAM through Amazon at some point this week. I also have copies of LES MISERABLES and DON QUIXOTE sitting on my shelf, waiting for my slow ass. I figure: at the rate I get through these things, those four books will last me the rest of my days.

Anyone read SIDDHARTHA by Herman Hesse? I have a copy of that too. I'll get to that one in the afterlife/ next time around, I guess.

February 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterSerge

A Fine Balance is my favorite book of all time. It is the one by which all others are judged, for me anyway.

Siddartha, yes! Also wonderful. A quick read.

February 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkate

Hilare, Serge. I tried to read 'Mill on the Floss' and NEVER could finish... and it drove me a little nuts, too-- the not finishing part, along with the novel.

Here's a link for pizza dough recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/02/my-favorite-pizza/ I use it all the time, along with some jarred pizza sauce from Trader Joe's and whatever toppings sound good. It's delicious! The hint to let the dough sit in the fridge overnight is a good one.

Hope your boy arrives soon!

February 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

PS Read 'Les Miserables' (unabridged) because of its reputation... reputation is overrated....

February 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Siddhartha is one of my favorite books! Enjoy!

February 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranother monica

By the way! You're a fantastic writer, but whenever you or Monica mention your cooking, i get curious. Do consider adding a recipe section, please :-)

February 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranother monica

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