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Andy Did You Hear About This One

A cousin at the bar mitzvah asked me how you know when a book is good, when you want to represent it? You sit up straighter. Your wheels start turning. You want to tell people about it. You can’t put it down. Your hands get clammy. Certain editors come to mind. Your skepticism slips away. A pitch starts to form. A title comes to mind. You can’t wait to call the writer. It’s all about urgency when you read something you love. Your passion ignites. You can’t fake it or force it. You get swept up. You feel you’ve made a great discovery. Then you shove another rugelach in your fat face.

a) what’s your favorite Jewish food b) what book or writer do you feel you discovered?

30 Responses

  1. a) Matzoh ball soup, made the way my dear Episcopalian mother makes it, followed closely by noodle kugel, which I haven’t had since my youngest cousin’s bat mitzvah maybe twelve years ago.

    b) Chris Ewan (Good Thief’s Guide series) and Chris Farnsworth (The President’s Vampire series) write amazing stories. I ‘discovered’ their books at Bouchercon, read them between panels, and ended up recommending them to nearly everyone I met. (no rugelach, but I did mainline pb M&Ms . . . )

  2. a) there’s a bakery on the upper west side called gideon’s. i don’t know if it’s still there. i used to live around the corner on fort washington and every sunday morning i would go to gideon’s for the raspberry horns and the cheese danishes (to die for) and a variable third pastry item then i would take them back to my apartment and curl up with them and the sunday times and spend a few hours in a paradise peculiar to that time and place.

    b) this is a tough one. i think i know what you mean. it’s been a long time since i had that feeling. the fact that any given book is already published clearly means i’m not the initial discover, but… i think i know what you mean. it’s that “you gotta read this!” reaction and you go pestering all your friends about it. i don’t do that so much anymore, but of all the books i’ve read over the past year, i’ll say 1) edward st. aubyn’s patrick melrose series is interesting; 2) gary lutz’s work should be read at least in part and in passing by any creative writer intrigued by what can be done with the language; and 3) the valmiki ramayana is a long, strange trip that will stay with you–and monkeys will never seem the same.

    • b.1) so many books, so little time. two that i read about a year ago and both of which had that “you gotta read this!” impact on me were brian greene’s THE HIDDEN REALITY (quantum cosmology in all its expansive enfolding complexity) and colin woodard’s AMERICAN NATIONS (why we’re such a mean and fractious bunch barely held together by a shaky myth of common identity). read ’em and weep.

  3. Andy? This week, I did hear about an Andy, in Lidia Yuknavitch’s killer memoir The Chronology of Water, the kind of book that makes your heart pump and brain wake up, the kind where you dog-ear pages and cringe both from disgust and envy, and you lie awake thinking you’re a coward because your sentences, and your feminism, are just too tame. That’s my discovery of the week. Of the whole the summer.

  4. Rugelach but only from the old Jewish bakery on Great Neck Road in you know where, you know what state. Rye w/ seeds Strickoff’s Bakery same town. Keeping to the Long Island theme: Montauk, Max Frisch. I discovered it, it went out of print where it has stayed for the last fifteen years so you’d better hope I don’t discover you.

  5. Just remembered, I did the first review in mainstream press (not trade) of Angela’s Ashes. It was quite positive, as it ought to have been. He was very friendly to me when we met, but I got none of the feckin’ money. He died too young to enjoy it all. Again: you’d best hope I don’t discover you.

  6. The rugelach they sell in delis and groceries in the plastic IED containers are from shitsville. An insult to the profession, whatever profession you’re in.

  7. Hebrew National Hotdogs?? And Felix J. Palma.

  8. Not sure in the food front – I don’t get much exposure to different foods with three kids 😛

    But as far as books, I was reading Jodi Piccoult way before you could find her face and name everywhere. Also The Hunger Games. I started reading before they were even all published and owned a shirt before talk of a movie was even heard. (As a matter of fact, I just mentioned these two authors/books in my recent blog post!)

  9. a) latkes: my great-grandmother’s recipe is the best, followed by a recipe I got at a “Latke Vodka” party (what can I say? I live in a town that thrives on festivals, parades and celebrations.)
    b) Over the years, I have assembled a small collection of odd notes left on refrigerators, corkboards and even found tumbling through parking lots. Some are humorous, some are the written ravings of a disturbed mind, all are a sort of primitive haiku to a stranger’s outlook. And the penmanship is just as fascinating as the sentences.

  10. poppy seed bagels toasted real dark but i heard that is so non-Jewish. the toasting part.

    i am finishing a non-fic and today i read a column in Chicago Now & this Loyola guy (my alma mater) wrote the opposite of my thoughts and all i can think is i will kick his ass.

  11. Stephen Elliott

  12. Favorite Jewish food – my sister-in-law’s chopped liver. No contest. But right now, I’d donate a kidney for a Kaufmann’s bagel (Skokie, Illinois) toasted, dripping with melting butter and cream cheese and barely holding on to its slices of lox, tomato and onion.

    I’m way too behind the curve as a reader to discover writers, but when I read Stephen Elliott and Lidia Yuknavitch, I definitely discovered the kind of writing that appeals to me.

  13. Here’s a Jewish story: my new grandson was born yesterday. He’s half Chinese and half Jewish, and my daughter actually found dual mohels, one Chinese (converted to Judaism) and one born Jewish to do the bris. Whoa. That’s Palo Alto for you.

    Welcome to the world, Sam Kao-Sussman.

    We’re having bagels, etc., needless to say.

  14. I have recently discovered Joseph Skibell, but I was obviously out of touch not to have heard of him. I think he’s the best writer I’ve ever read, no kidding. Touched by the Gods, without a doubt.

  15. Lovely.

    • I adore latkes, and blintzes, and grew up eating all the Jewish goodies because of my New Yorker Puerto Rican mother who tried to pass for Jewish, along with my Puerto Rican Papi who was a longtime waiter at Charles and Lillian Brown’s place in the Catskills (with maybe a stint at Grossinger’s too). And because Miami Beach was still Jewish when I was growing up in the ’70s, Wolfie’s was where I often went for breakfast after a night of drinking at Mac’s Club Deuce.

      As for writers, I feel I can say I discovered Averil, much to my pleasur, though not as early as MDSB and some others. Pretty sure I have Manuel de Unamuno all to myself, though. Nobody I know has read him.

  16. There’s something about pork for Jews, I want to say, regardless of how many generations from a kosher kitchen they’ve moved, and in mine that’s many. It still smacks of the forbidden. And ooh la la forbidden is always what’s most tasty. When I was a kid my father made what he called a Whistling Pig. They were made of a hot dog split in the middle with filled with a slice of cheddar cheese, wrapped in a piece of bacon and broiled till perfect. Then placed in a bun slightly smeared with a sauce two parts ketchup one part mayo and a slice of pickle. He always had a guilty grin when he handed that plate to me. Not in the official Jewish Food cannon but my favorite regardless. Beyond that put a little curry powder in the matzo balls, get me the nova at Zabar’s…I’m yours. Save the Manischewitz, more for you.

    Has anyone read The Guardians: An Elegy by Sarah Manguso? Shattering.

  17. b) Lost in the Forest, Jean Heglund (as opposed to Forest for the Trees)

  18. Matzo ball soup and whitefish salad.
    Spaulding Gray.

  19. Every time I’ve gone in a Jewish deli, which are few around here, I get traumatized by the tongue. It’s just sitting there in full view in the deli case, taunting me. I imagine it wiggling around, trying in vain to form words. Puts me off food entirely.

    I feel as if I discovered Kate Morton’s “The Forgotten Garden.” It’s such a beautiful story weaving in and out of centuries and places. Exactly my kind of fiction.

  20. I discovered William Gay, The Long Home. I entered completely the fog of the story and stayed lost in that fog even when I wasn’t reading the book. We were on vacation and my husband thought I was high. I kind of was.

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