Diana Slickman, ensemble member of Theater Oobleck and BoyGirlBoyGirl, can’t put down:
John Saturnall’s Feast I’m reading a terrific novel: John Saturnall’s Feast, by Lawrence Norfolk. It’s about a boy in 17th-century England, orphaned after his mother starves to death, who goes on to become the most celebrated chef in the country. Part romance, part cookbook, part history, part mythology, and wholly engaging. Comparisons will inevitably be made to Dickens (orphan boy protagonist, rags to riches, historical backdrop) but Norfolk’s style is less prolix and more involving—mysteries and characters unfold slowly against a vivid rendering of life before and during the English civil war. We live in a golden age of culinary innovation right now, but reading about the dishes on Saturnall’s menu will make you wonder how we lost our former glory. Norfolk lived in Chicago for a time (he lives in his native London now) and he’ll read at the Book Stall in Winnetka on September 24.
Jac Jemc, author of the novel My Only Wife, is entranced by:
Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) A lot of people are talking about Sheila Heti’s new novel, How Should a Person Be?, for the line it fails to draw between truth and fiction (sort of the opposite of that James Frey debacle). That was an enjoyable read, but the book I can’t get out of mind that plays with the same boundaries of fiction and memoir is poet Eileen Myles’s novel Inferno. She tells her story of making work and forming community and figuring out how to be, all while being, which answers Heti’s question in the only way it can or should be answered. Myles was hanging out with the cool kids in the heyday of indie New York: Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Nan Goldin, to name just a few. Her stories would woo you if they were pared down to bare bullet points, but it’s Myles’s voice that will entrance you. She unfolds all these rich stories with language so natural and improvised there’s often no time for punctuation. In being her singular self with such abandon, she’s inviting everyone to give themselves permission to do the same
Carrie Olivia Adams, poet and editor at Black Ocean press, is getting visionary with:
North Shore Distillery’s Sirène absinthe verte As a poet, it’s definitely a cliche (but there must be someone who puts the truth in the stereotypes), but I often find the ingredients for inspiration—or at least the loosening of typing fingertips—in a cocktail glass. My latest obsession—in part because of the ritual of its preparation and its artistic legacy (good and bad)—has been absinthe, specifically one locally produced—North Shore Distillery‘s Sirène absinthe verte. From its alluring bottle to its distinctive and rich aroma, the experience is perfect. And the taste is poised between the smoothness of licorice and the harshness of its proof. I am certain that it will keep me warm in the winter ahead, curled up with a copy of Mary Reufle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, it too, like Sirène the kind of poetic companion that won’t let you sit too long before filling your mind with words.