Sure, it’s been a busy Book Expo weekend, but I found time to peruse my favorite literary rag too, so here’s a very quick rundown of this weekend’s New York Times Book Review. I hope we’ll pick up with more thorough coverage again next weekend, but I didn’t want to completely forget about the NYTBR today.
It’s the Summer Reading issue, featuring a very engaging piece by Scarlett Thomas on a book called The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I hope Scarlett Thomas will write here more often, and I’m also psyched to see an appearance by David Byrne of Talking Heads, here reviewing, oddly enough, a book on the politics of bicycling called Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes. Reviewing about bicycling is kind of like singing about buildings and food, but David Byrne does manage to provide a useful argument for the importance of the bicycle in our future (though I wish this talented multi-artist didn’t play the review assignment quite so straight).
Then there are several pieces I didn’t have time to read, then a few more pieces I did have time to read but wished I hadn’t, all of it capped by a superb endpaper by Jonathan Miles on Mark Kurlansky’s The Food of a Younger Land, which collects depression-era writings about American road food. Here’s an opener I really like:
The sun is hot and yellow, gas is cheap again, the fun’s gone out of flying, and America, proud and resilient, beckons anew. Citizens, it’s time for a road trip. Pick your road, any road: the “holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road,” to quote from Jack Kerouac’s guidebook, though good luck plugging those into MapQuest. It might be better to try, say, I-95, that nice fat highway that loosely hugs the Atlantic coastline. The highlights of any road trip, of course, are the pit stops for food, and — on paper at least — I-95 should offer a cornucopia: Maryland crabs, North Carolina barbecue, Virginia ham, Georgia boiled peanuts. Yet as we’re all sourly aware, Interstate exits rarely, if ever, yield memorable culinary pit stops. Without strenuous preplanning, road food is almost always bad food, sad food, chain food, clown food.
That’s all I got for you today, and I expect we’ll resume with the guest reviews next weekend.