It's natural to think of independent businesses when Independence Day rolls around. So, over the weekend, before the food, drinks and fireworks kick in in earnest, enjoy the bountiful community spirit radiating from your local independent businesses and celebrate your neighbors' labors. Independent minds make an interesting and engaged society full of independent businesses thoughtfully providing goods and services -- the cycle of independence, ideally. We hope you enjoy this newsletter of independent thought, this time with bonus recipes for this weekend's grilling feasts. Have a wonderful time with family and friends this summer, at table and in the pages of books.
John & all Dieselfolk
Based on a passage from Homer's The Iliad, this poetic re-imagining of King Priam's journey to ransom his son Hector's body from Achilles following the siege of Troy captures the tumultuous emotional landscapes of two men at war with the grace of a bird in flight. Malouf raises to the level of myth Achilles' obsession with his loss - the way he daily desecrates Hector's body by pulling it behind his chariot only to find it, each morning, restored to radiant splendor; and Priam's debilitating regret for a life of sedentary inaction - how the simple pleasure of standing barefoot in a cool stream could be so poignant and cathartic - through prose so sharp and insightful it often seems as though you are remembering the most powerful dream of your life for the first time. When the two men finally meet, the result is one of the most affecting I've encountered in any book, ever. In 219 pages, Ransom conveys more about the male experience than Sal Paradise, Patrick Bateman and Jay Gatsby combined. -- Grant Outerbridge
There is something very wrong with John Waters, and he wants to tell you all about it. But first, let's meet some of his role models. How do you feel about angry lesbian strippers? Militant fashionistas? The Manson Family? What about outsider marine porn or confrontational art? Ever been to a scary redneck bar, or considered having sex with a racist ex-con? No? Well perhaps you should. John Waters may be a perverse raconteur and social renegade, but he is also a romantic gold digger. And the treasure he finds is not what you might expect or where you might expect to find it - valuable things like bravery, redemption, loyalty, and compassion. The fact that he has found them in places where most people fear to look is his great talent and the source of his power, the ability to peer into the depths of humanity and revel in that singular quality which knows no barriers: trash. -- Colin Waters
This behemoth of a book is a revelation of storytelling, pure and simple. A post-apocalyptic vampire tale of epic proportions could easily be yawn-inducing in our Twilight age, but the quality of Cronin's prose, the depth of his characterization, and the sheer vastness of his vision circumnavigate the tired tropes built in to the genre.
At the heart of the story is Amy, abandoned six-year-old daughter of a prostitute on the run, who becomes part of a grotesque and dangerous military experiment involving a virus discovered in South American bats. Everything goes horribly wrong and, overnight, America - and possibly the whole world - is turned into a nightmare wasteland of predator and prey, where the predators outnumber the prey a million to one.
The book then catapults 92 years into the future and examines the life of those who survived and live within the confines of a walled city-state. Guards keep watch at the ramparts day and night, aided by bright lights to ward off the virals - leathery beings, all teeth and claws, nearly immortal and hard-as-hell to kill. But, as the power source that keeps the lights on at night begins to fade, it becomes apparent they must leave to find a new home.
Miraculously, Amy has survived. But she is not an old woman, she is barely a teenager. She has forgotten how to speak, but she cares for and protects the group as best she can. Together, they travel to the origin of the experiment, looking for answers and a possible end to the tidal wave of death that has characterized their lives for generations.
The first book of a trilogy, The Passage shines and the writing is superb. Through his use of narrative turns that are at once majestic and breath-taking, dream sequences of frightening clarity, government documents from 900 years in the future, diary entries, emails and action sequences that leap off the page, Justin Cronin has penned the first chapter of a saga worthy of comparison to The Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials. -- Grant Outerbridge
I've been thinking about how to write a review of this monumental novel, which I loved, and still can't quite figure out how to describe it critically and intelligently in a way that would help another reader understand what it's about. All the reviews I've come across have avoided descriptions of exactly that, and for good reason - if you lay out all the pieces of the 5-part narrative, they don't make much sense; and in fact don't make much sense as you're reading them until you get to the end and realize, wow, I'm starting to grasp the connections, slowly at first and then more and more but, by that point, it doesn't even matter because it's clear the book is an awesome piece of work.
Consider these elements:
A trio of literary scholars in England, Italy and France
A reclusive Italian writer
A Chilean professor and his daughter relocated to Mexico
A magazine writer assigned to cover a boxing match
The mysterious killings of young women in Santa Teresa
A German "giant"
Bolaño's writing is mesmerizing, but not in an ostentatious or pretentious way - he wraps you into the worlds he creates and reveals beautiful and horrible and thoughtful things in a clear, unsentimental voice. Is it his own? I imagine his narrators, both here and in The Savage Detectives to be himself. Whether that's the case or not, it's part of the Bolaño mystique I carry in my mind. Anyway, I think it's clear I think Bolaño is a genius. One of the giants of literature. One of my all-time favorites. Read this, read The Savage Detectives, read anything of his you can get your hands on. Just do it. - Kim Okamura
In 1830s New York, the newspaper business was bustling, and one newspaper in particular, The Sun, took the city, then the country, then a large part of the world, by storm when it ran a series of articles claiming the existence of life on the moon. Beavers that walked on their hind legs! Unicorns! Lunar man-bats! The story was both a sensation as well as sensationalist, and it changed the way journalism would be viewed and regarded for years to come. Author Matthew Goodman takes this absurdly hilarious story and makes it even more interesting by weaving sub-stories of the figures affected by the Moon story, such as P.T. Barnum and his own career as a hoaxer, or a young Edgar Allan Poe accusing The Sun of plagiarizing his own celestial short story. The Sun and the Moon is not only entertaining but one of the most well-written history books I've read in a long time. -- Geo Ong
The grilling dynamic duo has done it again! If you're not familiar with their groundbreaking The Thrill of the Grill or License to Grill, then you're in for a treat. For those of you that do, this is more of the same with a bit more emphasis on condiments and larger cuts of meat. Keeping true to the DK publishing format, the instructions are clear and straightforward with lots of color photographs. What's so great about these guys is that their recipes include a wide variety of ethnic ingredients, all readily available so you don't have to go traipsing all over the place looking for something obscure. It's all about having fun, cooking easy, tasty food and enjoying the company of your friends.
A friend of mine gave me one of their cookbooks as a gift once with little slips of paper marking all their favorites. I thought I'd do the same thing for you, so here's some of my recommendations from Grill It!:
+ Grilled Filet Mignon w/Gorgonzola, Pancetta and Peach-Balsamic Jam
+ Grilled Mussels w/Mango Curry Sauce
+ North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Barbeque w/Tidewater Coleslaw
+ Spinach and Grilled Peach Salad w/Blue Cheese, Bacon and Sweet & Sour Dressing
And don't forget to whet your whistle with a Watermelon Mojito. Seriously, my stomach is rumbling now. -- Cheryl Ryan
Ryan and Sís have created a nearly perfect homage to the small dreamy boy who became the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Young Naftali Reyes (Neruda's real name) is a small, somewhat sickly child with a rich inner life and a vivid appreciation of the sensory world. His overbearing father belittles his son's interests, exhorting him to more practical and manly pursuits. Beleaguered but resilient and precocious, Naftali enjoys the affection and support of his stepmother and siblings. Ryan's lyrical writing combines with fragments of Neruda's own poetry and together with Czech artist Peter Sís' fabulous, intricately stippled and deeply imaginative illustrations make this a book to treasure and reread. -- Margaret Simpson