Archive for the ‘Biography’ tag

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, by David Lebovitz   no comments

Posted at 4:11 pm in Book review

David Lebovitz is rightly renowned for his dessert cookbooks–just ask anyone who’s tried the chocolate/guinness ice cream I make following his instructions. And as his blog makes clear, he’s an engaging, affable narrator. But until I read The Sweet Life in Paris, I hadn’t realized quite how laugh-out-loud funny he is.

Ten years ago or so, Lebovitz was leading a happy existence in San Francisco, following a long stint as a Chez Panisse pastry chef with a series of acclaimed cookbooks. Then his boyfriend suddenly and tragically died, of causes that Lebovitz doesn’t go into, and he decided to move to France. He describes this as running toward rather than away from something, an explanation that his loving depictions of French food support.

French food–if you don’t want to go there after reading Lebovitz’s  descriptions of it, there’s something wrong with you–is on the plus side of living in France. On the debit side, there are haughty salespeople, nonexistent customer service, and Parisians. But Lebovitz makes himself right at home, being so persistently friendly to shopkeepers that one of them consents to chat with him a mere five years into his stay. He also begins shaving before taking out the trash.

Interspersed among his very funny–and appetizing–accounts of life in Paris are recipes, all delicious-looking and no doubt well tested. You should make a lot of them. (Let me know in comments if you need my address.) And if you’ve ever wanted to go to Paris–or even more, if you haven’t–read this book.

Written by Lorin on July 28th, 2011

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Thirteen People Who Didn’t Change the World, by Paul Collins   no comments

Posted at 9:35 am in Book review

History is written by the winners. Or at least about the winners. There’s no shortage of tributes to, say, Shakespeare or Einstein.  But what about the losers? Happily, there’s Paul Collins—a great and, I think, under-appreciated writer—who in Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn’t Change the World, brings to life a group of people who were famous in their own day, but for various reasons have been completely forgotten. The best-known (if that’s the right word) of Collins’ anti-heroes is Delia Bacon, who was renowned on two continents for her brilliantly erudite lectures, but went mad, and in the process invented the Francis Bacon-wrote-Shakespeare’s-plays theory. (She and Francis were unrelated, though late in her life she seems to have forgotten this.) Martin Farquhar Tupper was a famous writer of revoltingly treacly Victorian poetry, bizarrely much admired by Walt Whitman.  René Blondlot was a brilliant scientist who believed that he had discovered N-rays. Collins manages to evoke sympathy for his hapless protagonists, though it’s perhaps not unmixed with schadenfreude. Still, in this deeply fun book, they finally have the last word.

Written by Lorin on December 30th, 2010

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