01 magic for beginners (kelly link). i'd concuss myself / for the chance to discover / kelly link again.
02 atonement (ian mcewan). adolescence in / a rotten nutshell, rendered / with ageless sympathy.
03 sweet tooth (ian mcewan). spies on fiction, and / fiction on spies; atonement, / but so much more fun.
04 stranger things happen (kelly link). the hat story is / amazing, but i can't talk / about it. (terror.)
05 great plains (ian frazier). apprenticeships for / nonfiction aren't a thing, but / i'd be frazier's serf.
06 joseph anton (salman rushdie). a singular tale / of bravery for art's sake. / fuck yeah, publishing.
07 antarctica (gabrielle walker). with pym, this nonfic's / an overturned cooler of / polar-pure goodness.
08 pym (mat johnson). sometimes i wake up / and pad out to the shelf to / reread the best jokes.
09 boy, snow, bird (helen oyeyemi). snow white recast as / mothers, daughters, and sisters. / modern, clever magic.
10 every love story is a ghost story: a life of david foster wallace (d.t. max). a thoughtful bio; / predictably, made me miss / wallace even more.
11 beautiful ruins (jess walter). starlets, italians, / and the people who love them. / patchy but winning.
12 the dog stars (peter heller). apocalypse sans / j-law, plus a little plane / and a man-eater.
13 an equal music (vikram seth). better than dancing / about architecture. a / bit twee, but good twee.
14 the diviners (libba bray). more is more: psychic / flapper teens with ESP! / just let it happen.
15 amsterdam (ian mcewan). booker prize winner? / seriously? mcewan, / i expected more.
16 vengeance (benjamin black). john banville's crime books / lack some of their pulp lately; / i'll still drink to them.
17 my life (isadora duncan). craziest tunic- / wearer since cassandra; i / admire and fear her.
18 see a little light (bob mould). karmic opposite of / dean "scrooge" wareham's black postcards. / nice guy finished first.
19 the twelve (justin cronin). book 2, HIGHBROW BLOOD: / THE DICKENSING. honestly, / vampire methadone.
20 the starboard sea (amber dermont). probably i should / stop reading novels about / prep schools. most are MEH.
21 world war z (max brooks). zombie invasion / seen through a mosquito's eye: / i was entertained.
22 lost at sea (jon ronson). great subject choices, / less-than-diligent research. / funny, frustrating.
23 babayaga (toby barlow). are spies a match for / wicked old-country song-spells? / witch, please. (also fleas.)
24 how did you get this number (sloane crosley). i like crosley, but / this collection needs edits / and fewer bear deaths.
25 why we broke up (daniel handler and maira kalman). a sweet theme grows / cloying with repetition. / these teens don't charm me.
26 changing places (david lodge). dear me at nineteen: / we still think david lodge sucks. / regards, ancient me.
27 outrage (arnaldur indridason). clunky crime patter, / but good info on using / tandoori spices.
28 the psychopath test (jon ronson). i have a vein near / my eye that throbs when facts die. / it's python-sized now.
29 rivington was ours (brendan jay sullivan). the lower east side / had to deal with both this guy / and lady gaga.
30 melissa explains it all (melissa joan hart). she once threw water / in oscar de la hoya's / face in mexico.
31 the mad bomber of new york: the extraordinary true story of the manhunt that paralyzed a city (michael m. greenburg). assumptions sans facts, / a byzantine timeline, and / thesaurus abuse.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 what was the best book you read this year?
02 how do you feel about jason segel playing david foster wallace in the upcoming film adaptation of david lipsky's although of course you end up becoming yourself?
03 who would you cast as david foster wallace?
04 if you were a character in a supernatural young-adult novel set in the roaring twenties, what would your special power be?
05 is it even possible for john banville (benjamin black)'s philip marlowe novel to be any good?
06 do prep-school novels just suck, or should i hold out for more never-let-me-go-ish exceptions that prove the rule?


girl bear-hugging a dusty cello as "greensleeves" echoes down the subway tunnel like whalesong, i salute you.


                        And in the cellblock
of this logic, I eventually will have to try
a few things, as poltergeist,
on my own distant progeny, my sad
relatives, not too soon after my death
shall I do so, as that would be
so awful for all of us, but once a few
hundred years have passed,
and my future grandchildren
are living in their hovering tents,
I will attack them in their sleeping bags
with the silt of Mars making
its red tears in my eyes.

(josh bell, from "one day, alone on the houseboat, vince neil changes the name of everyone he has known, knows, or is like to know—male and female—to james," tin house #58)


the wild iguanas seemed comfortable in our presence

"rushdie plays backgammon, and i love, love, love backgammon," said the beautiful young attorney seated beside me on our plane from puerto rico, "so i'm hoping we can play the next time i see him." man, i thought. i was feeling pretty good about frolicking with wild iguanas and having a feral cat party and scooping a bee out of the sea, but playing backgammon with salman rushdie sounds pretty boss. i need to step up my game again.

tropical vacations for people who spend a lot of time thinking about david foster wallace are interesting propositions. mostly they aren't sinister at all, and when one is reclining on a chartered sailboat in the caribbean with some of one's best friends in the world it's easy to feel suspended forever in the sunlight like a beetle in amber. then one returns to land and is commanded by the well-intentioned but intimidating queen of the concierges to smile, to smile more broadly, to smile more broadly still you are in paradise, and one is beneath the waves in a sea of childhood-holiday-photo angst. the sea is figurative and the sailboat is real, though, so one is still doing pretty fucking well.

images of indolence are on their way; in the interim, please enjoy this photo of an iguana on a patio table. i know i do.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstance. 12:47 p.m. A parent said a 12-year-old daughter locked the parent out of the house.
Citizen assist. 2:52 p.m. The caller said a man was stealing lemons from his tree and looking through his window.
Disturbance. 9:26 a.m. The caller reported a man standing on the corner.
Assault report. 11:10 a.m. The caller said a customer tried to steal a pizza and threw it at the manager.
Suspicious circumstance. 10:43 p.m. Several juveniles were allegedly putting duct tape on cars and in the street.
Drunk in public. 7:28 p.m. A caller reported a drunken man speeding through the park in a golf cart.
Terrorist threats report. 4:20 p.m. The caller said his step son, who lives in La Palma, told him he's going to go down there and teach him a lesson.
Disturbance. 4:24 p.m. A local Starbucks manager said store employees refused to serve someone they believed was selling drugs on the afternoon of Aug. 31.
Disturbance. 8:00 p.m. The caller reported a man yelling at them to stop playing at the park.
Keep the peace. 10:18 p.m. The caller said her roommate wants to move out in the middle of the month, but is demanding to be refunded for her part of the rent.
Citizen assist. 1:08 p.m. The caller reported a nasty note from a neighbor left taped to his door several days ago.
Disturbance. 9:22 a.m. The caller said a man just punched him in the face.

*previous installment here.


the dirty dozen {twelve things before the tropics, where, i'm told, it is rainy}: part 2 of 2

07 thistle hill tavern's buffalo cauliflower recipe.
08 simon beck walks all day to make massive patterns in the snow.
10 joe called me at work yesterday afternoon to report that he'd looked at the little silhouettes on the cans more closely and it turns out we've been feeding steve and matty dog food for the last month. i asked the internet if this was irreparable. cats are not small dogs, the internet said.
11 on royal swan upping.
12 frank o'hara, from "meditations in an emergency:"
However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they're missing? Uh huh.


the missus and i are leaving for st. thomas at 11:59 on wednesday night; between now and then i'll have shipped a magazine (it's you or me, february 2014), dragged myself 1001 miles at long last, probably failed to donate blood, and slept, hopefully. matty has broken us down over the course of a week of restless nights without interrogating us or making any demands, which seems like questionable strategy, but whatever, i'm not a kitten.

the dirty dozen {twelve things before the tropics, where, i'm told, it is rainy}: part 1 of 2

01 an important video about gifts.
02 rachel's favorite gingerbread recipe.
03 cheetah cam at the metro richmond zoo in chesterfield, virginia.
04 raymond chandler's twenty-four los angeles homes.
05 david lynch nearly makes hemingway interesting in a 1988 obsession ad.
06 "letter to a hotel manager," a lydia davis story for this year's hay festival.


la cucaracha

We could eat grapes half the morning like Goethe
hunkered against an obelisk,
waiting on the proper angle for the season
to see the Sistine sun-kissed,

or we could slip a coin in the device
that illumines another masterpiece
in a sordid chapel (but soon again
dark shrinks it to a gleam of grease).

(ange mlinko, from "revelations," granta 125)


in our exercise room on friday morning there was a man in loafers, dress pants, and a tucked-in oxford striving mightily on a stationary bike, and i salute him.


candied tangerine peels. the pith beneath the peels was so minimal and easy to remove that i didn't bother to try to trim it; i gave each tangerine a soccer-practice quartering, peeled each quarter and chucked the fruit into the juicer, julienned the peels after trimming their tips, and that was that. these were delicious, and we now have a jar of tangerine simple syrup for making old fashioneds. all's right with the world.

homemade cheez-its. midtown manhattan was uninterested in selling me annatto seeds with which to boehner my dough when i first attempted this recipe a month ago, so i subbed in a few teaspoons of pimentón; i also grabbed the wrong pepper grinder and ended up adding a dash of garlic powder by accident. i've repeated those mistakes in four(?) subsequent batches, and i'll probably repeat them in four more before the year is out. mike bloomberg would pose for a photo with these crackers.

pretzel & nut mix. at some point i should probably write david lebovitz and let him know he's been my kitchen's godfather for years. this mix takes no time to throw together, it's a deeply sexy blend of maple-syrup felicity and a chile kick, and it makes you feel like a roald dahl character who lives in a fabulous pie.

roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette. learning that ina garten was a nuclear policy analyst before she was the barefoot contessa has led me to forgive her for the fact that this recipe only works every other time i follow it (and thursday wasn't one of those times); she doesn't have time to idiot-proof her salads and weigh in on budget legislation (and source her weapons-grade velvet pantsuits; i saw one in person and was altered). i could of course be to blame for thinking i could sub mesclun in for arugula, but we needn't point fingers. in future attempts i'll be conservative with my greens, liberal with my vinegar, and in velvet of my own, hopefully.

green bean casserole. martha stewart takes a hell of a long time to pull together her gourmet version of a cream-of-mushroom-soup casserole base, but i'll concede that it's fancy-tasty; the whole casserole, moreover, can be pulled together and refrigerated a day ahead of time, so the fact that it takes, er, an hour isn't quite so terrible. i neglected to account for its chilled state when i got around to baking it on thursday, so it didn't reach the table in what i would call a piping-hot state. i hear this happens to everyone on thanksgiving? at some point i should develop an oven schedule like rachel's.

nick's nut roast with warm coriander dressing. this dish has been my friend cara's holiday main for years, the scotsman describes it as "a stonking veggie alternative to the christmas roast," and there was no way i wasn't attempting it. i found the lingham's chilli sauce at shi eurasia on orchard street; the owner, thrilled that i'd called her about it, took me through her mother's special recipe for fried crabs. the black nigella seeds turned up at kalustyan's on lexington, and i was straight-up smug by the time i packed the roast into my bundt pan on wednesday night (we didn't have a big enough loaf pan, and we grew so enamored of saying "nut bundt" that we felt we had to go with it). the roast wasn't especially interested in debarking from the bundt when i baked it the next day and looked a bit like a laird's ruined castle when i brought it to the dinner table, but it was crunchy, spicy, and like nothing i've made for a holiday meal before. omnivores went back for second helpings. you are good to me, cara.

savory mushroom gravy. god knows what happened to the gravy. well, hubris happened, as i assumed it was the one part of the meatless meal i definitely wouldn't shank (even tofurky gravy is good, and tofurky is the devil's doorstop), and gullibility happened, since i believed the internet when it claimed this was the BEST RECIPE EVAR, but i worked hard and played by the rules, and i expected to retire in comfort. instead i had to call joe in to what-seems-to-be-the-trouble-little-lady my nasty-ass gravy and spoil my solo-thanksgiving-prep streak, and it ended up tasting marvelous, and fuck capitalism.

butterscotch-pecan ice cream. another david lebovitz joint, and my favorite homemade ice cream of all time; it came out beautifully, as it always does. i was so excited the first time d-lebz tweeted at me that i printed and squirreled away a screengrab of the message. i'm not ashamed.

tangerine sorbet. also also lebovitz, and a solid formula for any citrus sorbet. i used a megajuicer i inherited from my magazine's food editor to juice my tangerines, and in retrospect i probably should have done it the old-fashioned way, for the pith that remained between the segments after i removed the peels gave the juice just a touch of bitterness. what are the domestic arts without a touch of bitterness, though?

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if martha stewart had worked for the government in the '70s, what would her job have been?
02 do you make schedules and charts when you cook, if you cook?
03 is the internet right about anything?
04 i'm leaving for my first-ever tropical vacation as a grown-ass adult next wednesday. what should i bring? (bathing suit already acquired.)