Although Frank’s riffs occasionally recall Gertrude Stein’s dizzyingly obscure Tender Buttons, overall, he’s produced a...

THE MAD FEAST

AN ECSTATIC TOUR THROUGH AMERICA'S FOOD

A journey in search of America’s tastes.

Frank (Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, 2014, etc.), a former restaurant worker, eats his way across the United States with a few questions in mind: “What does a typical foodstuff associated with said state mean? How do state and history and foodstuff relate?” His “spastic, lyrical anti-cookbook” devotes a chapter to each state, a collage of impressionistic fragments that are alternately interesting and exasperating: personal anecdotes, history, geography, botany, zoology, food lore—and ending with a recipe. In Oregon, for example, besides relating the creation of the hybrid Marionberry, beloved by Oregonians, the author considers cannibalism, inspired by his discovery that the state’s motto was written by a settler whose wagon train companions headed for California, doomed to become the infamous Donner Party. Among myriad other historical details, readers will learn that Rhode Island was named by the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano because he believed it resembled the island of Rhodes. Enough water pours over Niagara Falls every minute to make 640 million cups of coffee. New Mexico’s official state butterfly is named the Sandia hairstreak for its “zippy flight.” As for food, in South Carolina, where “racist white men…make the state’s best barbecue sauce,” the author finds perloo—“sister to jambalaya, brother to pilaf, cousin to paella, to risotto, biryani”—based on rice imported, along with slaves, from Africa. In Iowa, Frank extols the Loosemeat Sandwich, which, unlike a hamburger, “begins its life closer to being chewed and swallowed,” an appropriate dish for a landscape often chewed up by tornadoes. Boiled bread, a bagel expert tells the author, began in the Middle Ages, when Jews were forbidden to bake dough. During the Black Death, they strung boiled bread rings onto rope and fled the pestilence.

Although Frank’s riffs occasionally recall Gertrude Stein’s dizzyingly obscure Tender Buttons, overall, he’s produced a surprising, entertaining look at what Americans eat and why.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63149-073-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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