who has two thumbs and shouldn't be at work today? this girl! joe and i are both coming down with one of those protean winter malaises that cycles from the throat to the nose to the head to the why-does-it-feel-like-i've-been-beaten-with-a-lead-pipe?, and back again. i stayed home yesterday, but now that i've finished my book, watched most of the first season of top chef,* and started freaking out about what needs to get done for the ladymag before the end of the week, being home doesn't sound that great. besides, i get major brownie points for being here when i'm obviously ailing. until everyone else catches the malaise, of course.**
so today i shall tell you about things of great comfort. the first is susanna clarke's jonathan strange & mr norrell, a novel that came out (to fairly widespread acclaim) in '04 but somehow remained under my radar until last week. reviewers are fond of calling it 'harry potter for grown-ups,' but that's not quite right: it's more like jane austen for philip pullman fans, with a hearty dollop of neil gaiman on top (as far as i can tell, ms. clarke is a protege of his). it's the fussy-in-a-good-way story of two gentlemen, circa 1800, who re-popularize practical english magic. the style (scholarly footnotes and period diction) and subject (faerie) teeter right on the edge of twee, but clarke stays on the good side. check out the reviews on her site, or over at amazon; this is solid middlebrow stuff, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. i wish i'd passed over the mass market edition for the more durable trade paperback, as i'm passing my copy to george ASAP (and forcing it on jen and wabes after that).
the second thing of great comfort was tucked into my groceries at the amish market yesterday: a friendly girl from TAMEF (a local turkish-american cultural group) gave me a warm takeaway container of noah's pudding, a galactially old recipe that middle easterners prepare for their neighbors. i am not a big pudding fan - tapioca in particular makes me want to crawl out of my own skin - but this stuff, wheaty and toasty and full of unexpected goodies like apricots and pine nuts, was really good. it was so good, in fact, that i'm going to make some of my own and inflict it on those of you who are within dessert range.*** when i was little and couldn't say my name, i called myself noah: coincidence? i think not.
*now hosted, weirdly enough, by padma lakshmi, aka mrs. salman rushdie; she replaced katie lee joel from season 1. i feel certain that bravo will tap melinda gates for season 3.
**that's what happens when you don't give people their own offices, corporate america.
***not on the actual day of ashura, mind you - i'm not sure that totally co-opting someone else's calendar is cool.