Monday, 30 May 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen at a recent book signing at The Mall Of America
In a previous review about books I've never read, I stated that even the slighter volumes of literature, or at least those that weigh in at less than two or three hundred pages, were just as satisfactory for killing silverfish. Well, I stand corrected and it took this book, The Corrections, to correct me about this misconception. Well, truthfully it took a little more than that. After a couple of nights of intense silverfish whacking using less weighty books that demanded three, four and even five strikes to kill the crafty creatures, my arm hurt worse than if it too had been smacked over and over again with a new edition of say, War and Peace (another book I haven't read and so will be reviewing soon...stay tuned), complete with a new preface, introduction and an added forty pages of footnotes. So, arm in a homemade sling cobbled together from an old dishcloth, some dried sausage skins and a Bad Boy big mouth bass fishing lure, I scanned my bookshelves for something more worthy for silverfish killing and enlightening for the mind too and came upon this little number. Well, let me say I haven't been disappointed. First off, I love novels that take place in correctional institutions and this far-reaching opus, one might even say groping at times, has proved a worthy adversary for both my intellect and the vermin that hide in my bathroom late at night. Five friends whose lives intersect at the Ballyworth Correctional Facility in Montana, Texas, speaks big not only in locality but in the spanning generations of families and friends this book depicts. Dudley Forsythe, lady's man, Fitz Fitzsimmons, the brain who all the friends come to for help, Alex Parflebintz, a fish out of water, Glick Mung, concealing a forbidden Chinese love for Enid Milbosmarm, a Texas rancher's wife, and Billy Bob Bobby Bob, a good old boy who would give his life, his wife or his four-wheel drive to save his friends' hides. As these five lives and their families intersect, the bright side of the American Dream and its sleep apnea-suffering underbelly are revealed in an emotional interplay that I haven't encountered since I didn't read Franzen's previous book, The Mispronounciations. What few people realize about this fine novel and what Mr. Franzen has stated in interviews, is that the genesis of the story lies in actual lives of people Mr. Franzen's Uncle Wally knew when he was a butcher in Porgondo, Alabama. This is the picture he had hanging in his butcher shop, a picture Mr. Franzen hung on his wall during the writing of the novel and turned to again and again for inspiration. Glick Mung is the one in sunglasses.
The toll all five characters pay from working in the Ballyworth Correctional Facility and how it affects their families, along with the shooting of Glick Mung in a Wal-Mart for correcting someone in the checkout line, that person turning out to be none other than Enid Milbosmarm's husband, Minton Milbosmarm, drives the plot of this narrative like an old pickup truck down a gravel road filled with hopping toads, many being squished before they can even croak for help.
With Glick Mung now horribly disfigured from the shooting and walking with a limp too as the bullet entered his eye socket and then ricocheted down his body into his leg, Billy Bob Bobby Bob goes into action to avenge his friend's shooting, gunning Minton Milbosmarm down in cold blood (well, actually warm blood because it was fresh from his body and it was the height of summer in Texas when this occurs) in front of Lorpongo's Plumbing Supplies where Milbosmarm had gone to buy some nylon straps to hold his toilet tank in place during a cattle drive because the thundering hooves were shaking all his fixtures and appliances.
A re-enactment of Minton Milbosmarm before the shooting testing the stability of his toilet tank during the cattle drive.
Billy Bob Bobby Bob is put into the same correctional facility he once worked at, now as a prisoner and in the meantime lady's man, Dudley Forsythe, begins sleeping with Enid Milbosmarm, who is lonely since her husband died, but Glick Mung finds out and kills them both in a jealous rage but because of his limp the authorities catch him pretty quickly. He too joins Billy Bob Bobby Bob in the correctional facility and guess what, plenty of those prisoners they used to watch over and occasionally mistreat and taunt with liquor and pornography, are overjoyed to see these former correctional officers in the same boat as them and, well, let me just say, Mr. Franzen pulls no punches in his graphic descriptions of prison rape and its attending anal maladies as a result of these techniques. Definitely not for the squeamish unless you like that sort of thing, in which case some of the passages simply sing like a lark in June. Not long after their incarceration, Fitz Fitzsimmons, the brain, goes to work on a plan to break his friends out of jail. He enlists his children, Troy, Boffo and Ladybug, to help carry out his plot, and, well, all I'm wont to say is this book really gets rolling like a roller coaster or speeding train or a falafel vendor during lunch hour in the business district. Alex Parflebintz, the fish out of water, and who has been quiet throughout most of the book, and by quiet I mean you can't even hear him walking or breathing because he has gills and fins, a result of constant exposure to some pesticides he was using to grow bigger cauliflowers, finally returns to the sea, though sadly he must leave behind his wife, Fletchen, and his goldfish, Molly. All I can say is whew, I was sweating by the time I didn't finish this book, because, well, it's a lot of pages and I must've killed sixty or seventy silverfish with it. Now there has been a lot of controversy over Mr. Franzen and famous talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, over this book and the subsequent fallout over Ms. Winfrey's comments and suggestions. I got the inside scoop on the whole thing from Moumahad Reynolds, who sold shwarmas to her cue card holder, Eddie Pluffnutter.
Eddie Pluffnutter
It seems that after Mr. Franzen's previous book, The Mispronounciations and the one before that, The Palpitations, both did so poorly at the bookstores, Ms. Winfrey felt that if he were to put her picture on the front of his book, he would be laughing all the way to the bestseller bank, so to speak. Mr. Franzen took offense and not only did he walk off her show, he even took back his promise of the deal he could get her on a miniature pony that she'd had her eye on for a while. Now I, for one, don't agree with Mr. Franzen on this issue. Ms. Winfrey is a vibrant and striking looking human being whose bouffant hairdo would catch the eye of any bookstore browser sleepy from looking at so many boring book covers. Such a hairdo would cause me to buy any book in an instant, regardless of the subject matter. You know the old adage, you can't judge a book by its cover? Well, you can certainly judge it by its hairdo and in fact, Ms. Winfrey even offered to supply some of her own locks and strands to be glued to each book to make the whole affair a more tactile experience as you could stroke the hair while you read the book and thus increase your reading pleasure.
Oprah demonstrating how long one of her hair strands would be if you unraveled it.
In the end, where does this leave The Corrections? Well, it's still a very fine novel but really, the addition of Oprah's hair could've put this thing over the top because it's hard to put a book with hair in the bargain bin. And it's a known fact that fondling, stroking or twiddling hair while reading helps one to retain twice as much information. Doubt this? Just ask my barber, Yargo Varnish, The Butcher of Dorchester. He has oodles of the stuff that he sweeps up from the floor and puts in bags for later use and, well, he's a pretty smart guy most of the time.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Reviews Of Books I Have Read

The Shabbas Goy Conspiracy by Lenny Goldfarb
The author, Lenny Goldfarb, posing with an early prototype of the Shabbas Goy, built in a secret, underground laboratory somewhere in the Nevada desert.
Picture this. You're walking home late one night, maybe whistling a tune to bide the time and keep yourself company, a tune like Sweet Marie or Only The Vanquished Wear Cement Boots, one of those jaunty songs of yesteryear, when suddenly, out of the blue, a man comes running towards you, his arms waving frantically. His eyes are wide, a sense of urgency twisting his features, a palpable feeling of desperation wafting through the night-scented air as if his limbs all akimbo are fanning the fear into your very nasal cavities. You stop, unsure. He runs up to you and wasting no words, blurts, "Are you Jewish?" Yes, you reply and then he sadly hangs his head, all the nervous energy suddenly drained from his body and says, face sagging, "Then, you can't help me." What is it all about you ask yourself? What could drive a seemingly normal human being out into the night to corner a stranger and ask such a question? Putting himself in jeopardy, in harm's way, because after all, you could be a mugger or an air conditioning and refrigeration repairman coming home from a night of drinking with a chip on your shoulder because of a leaky valve in one of the units you were fixing earlier and you had to order the part from Taiwan and it's going to take two weeks and you're looking to take your frustration out on somebody, anybody.
And then you realize, of course, it's shabbas. No self-respecting Jew would dare to open a fridge or flick on a light switch on this holy night, and this poor man must need someone to open his refrigerator for him so he can maybe have a nice piece of roast beef or a glass of orange juice or maybe he needs the light switch flicked on in the bathroom so he doesn't pee all over the toilet seat, but, unfortunately, you're a fellow Jew and he's looking for a shabbas goy or, in other words, someone who isn't Jewish to do his bidding so he doesn't break any of the laws on the Sabbath. Because the list of things forbidden on the Sabbath is quite lengthy and I know, besides using electricity, you can't operate venetian blinds, there's no sending semaphore signals to passing ships, no alligator wrestling, no telling traveling salesmen's jokes and no washing socks in the sink, especially if they're argyle or of a polyester cotton  blend.
It's an eye-opening experience, especially when you're sleeping and your eyes open suddenly and there's a man standing over you in bed, cradling a boiled chicken, tears streaming down his face, then dripping off his chin and salting your bedspread with his pain. Oh, wait, that was my neighbour, Voltar, the other evening. I must get my lock changed. Anyway, it is not often that I find a nonfiction book as riveting as this one, or as startling in its revelations about secret events happening in our own backyards with repercussions that could be devastating. Lenny Goldfarb really hits it out of the park with this one, and then he races out of the ballpark, catches his own ball, brings it back into the park and hits it out again. That's how good this book is. It all begins with Mr. Goldfarb stumbling across some letters in the lost and found box of his father, Moishe's, dry cleaning shop. "What're these, Dad?" Lenny asks his father and Moishe replies, "How should I know? You think I don't have better things to do than look around in that cardboard box, you putz?" The letter is from Yossi Mendelbaum to a shadowy figure known as Rabbi Gelflunkenbrot and refers to a missing blueprint for a Shabbas Goy prototype being worked on collaboratively by the Las Vegas Yeshiva and the U.S. government. So begins Lenny Goldfarb's long, strange journey into a shocking piece of investigative journalism, from a lowly nut and bolt factory through some of the highest corridors of power and even insinuates that the Kosher Council of Rabbis of North America worked hand in hand with scientists who thought nothing of mixing meat and dairy and even lubricated some of their robots with pork grease.
Hot on the trail, Mr. Goldfarb tracks down some of these retired scientists, but hits a dead end with the few still-living rabbis who won't talk, even when he tries to ply them with all the gefilte fish they can eat. Nevertheless, Goldfarb gets to the bottom of the secret Shabbas Goy plan, first begun in 1959, and the brainchild of Rabbi Gelflunkenbrot, and discovers the first prototype was finished at the end of that year and put to work in the Rabbi's house. Although the robot was quite successful at doing the Rabbi's shabbas bidding, its menacing physique and stature unfortunately scared the Rabbi's wife and children and a second prototype was begun in the winter of 1961. This one, Goldfarb reveals, was codenamed 'The Shabbas Goy Stepford Wife.' In fact, this is where Ira Levin got the name and idea for his popular 1972 novel, as Mr. Levin's father, Itzchak, was the owner of Itzie's Deli, where the Kosher Council of Rabbis liked to grab a bite to eat and where they drew up the plans for the first Shabbas Goy Stepford Wife on a napkin stained with pastrami grease, which they then mistakenly left behind. Young Ira was busing tables for his father when he came upon the napkin with the plans and codename and it stuck with him until his novelist days.
The Making Of An Early Shabbas Goy Stepford Wife
In fact, young Ira was almost assassinated because of his knowledge of the Shabbas Goy Conspiracy, but luckily the Kosher Council Of Rabbis intervened before the CIA could eliminate him, promising the Pentagon free corned beef for two years in exchange for Ira's life and the promise that the boy wouldn't talk. The pastrami grease on the blueprints though, smeared some of the finer wiring details, and the Shabbas Goy Stepford Wife suffered some terrible short circuiting problems along with a penchant for lobster thermidor and shrimp cocktails, which could turn any house unkosher from one hundred feet, even with ground fog and low visibility. A third prototype, the Shabbas Goy X-1-Z-2000, was the next step in the technology, and although it proved a bust in the shabbas chores department, it excelled at tailoring and fitting shoes.
What has become of the Shabbas Goy experiment and research since those fateful, somewhat innocent beginnings, now that technology has finally caught up with the original concept? And where is the conspiracy that Lenny Goldfarb mentions, not just in the introduction, but in the title itself? Well, I'm not telling, not because I'm trying to hide anything or steer the reader into buying this book (which you should), but because I fell asleep in the bathtub while reading this wonderful work, the book dropped into the water and now all the pages are stuck together. Just when I was getting to the conspiracy part, I think. Anyway, if anyone has read this fine book and knows how it all turned out, let me know or send me your copy (I promise not to read it in the bathtub or while having a bowl of soup), because this not knowing is killing me and frankly, my life feels incomplete, much like a Shabbas Goy robot without a master to serve. All I know is that another superpower was involved, the Russians most probably, as evidenced by the picture below. In fact, the rivalry to produce the best automated Shabbas Goy was bigger than the space race itself.
There is also a rumour, although Mr. Goldfarb does not mention it in his book (or at least the sections I read before the bathtub mishap), that his own wife ran off with a Shabbas Goy robot (model X-9-Z-8000) and that they currently live somewhere near Thunderbay, Ontario, where they run a bed and breakfast. Can this be true? Here's a photo, sent to me by one of my top secret contacts in the Thunderbay B&B's Resident's Association. I'll let you be the judge, but if you ask me, it looks like Esther Goldfarb and the X-9-Z-8000 are a little more than just friends.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Putting The Borscht Back In The Belt

Most only know me as a man of the science of the mind, from psychiatry to phrenology, not to mention my experience in animal husbandry, especially in the chicken, squab and giant frog raising departments, but before I devoted myself to these selfless pursuits, I was well-versed in the world of haberdashery. One might even say I was a bit of a dandy as the photo below, taken just before I left for Vienna to study with Freud (not Sigmund but his brother-in-law, Hubert, who I went to study mens corset-fitting with, whereupon I met Sigmund while measuring him for a cummerbund and, well, the rest is history), so aptly illustrates. The fitting machine is of my own invention and revolutionized the suit measuring, pleating, folding, cutting and stitching industry and even led to advancements in dry cleaning and steaming vegetables for chow mein.
It was during this time that I began to work on my borscht belt theory as an applicable garment for everyday usage that your average man-about-town could wear, say, both at lunch and later, for cocktails, dinner and dancing. Truthfully, the whole idea took flight while I was fitting Freud for his cummerbund and knowing, as I did at the time, being a neophyte but still not completely ignorant in the ways of psychoanalysis, that he had just finished his book, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, I was able to draw a correlation between borscht belt jokes and the hidden keys to the unconscious mind. Beginning with Henny Youngman and his "take my wife, please," punchline as a natural transference of penis envy among Jewish females of the Catskill Mountains, handed down from mother to daughter, much like a kreplach recipe, Freud and I talked long into the night, as I worked on readjustments on his cummerbund. He was also startled to find I had drawn a connection between the Oedipus Complex and lactose intolerance, especially prevalent among young men whose fathers were either traveling salesmen or owned button factories on the outskirts of large cities. Here's a photo of Freud testing this theory by emulating the object of desire as filtered through the borscht belt subconscious in all its ego/id glory. By the way, the dress and hair styling was of my own design and Freud was so enamored of the outfit he wore it every Friday while attending the Viennese Symphony.
Of course, this theory would hold no water if we didn't test the lactose intolerance portion of the complex and so it was that I made my first borscht belt, which we used to secure a pair of trousers to a cow with bursting udders, milk ready to squirt out at even the smallest flick of a teat. It seemed less dangerous than testing it on humans at the time.
The lactose seemed ready to split the seams of the poor, but tolerant beast and in the end the experiment failed miserably or at least the cow showed no sign of any Oedipal tendencies, but what was a success was my marvelous borscht belt. It worked so well, its fastenings holding so securely against an onslaught of Henny Youngman, Milton Berle and even Mickey Katz jokes, that both Freud and I knew that if my life in science didn't pan out, I could always make a killing in the borscht belt and other fashionable accoutrements business. Freud was so confident in my invention that he boarded a plane with a priest, a rabbi and a minister, wearing the borscht belt knowing full well that there was only one parachute between the three of them. 
 Later, when I studied with Jung, he was all ears about this experiment but I told him, "Carl, I'm afraid the borscht belt just isn't in the cards for you. Freud, maybe, but you don't strike me as a man who could pull it off." Nevertheless, my meeting with these two great minds helped me to create my own psychoanalytical technique which I coined, 'Frungian,' but more about that in a later post. Well, my younger days are behind me but lately I've been feeling the stirrings of my passion for haberdashery, deciding to bring the borscht belt out of hibernation and back into circulation among the fashionable set. Unfortunately, I've lost the original plans for my creation and age has not been kind to my memory, so I've been forced to rework the borscht belt from scratch, and let me tell you, it hasn't been easy. For starters, borscht is liquid and belts are solid. I don't know how I got around this problem in the first place, but somehow I did. My first step was to secure some borscht, which unfortunately was missing from my pantry, so I knocked at the door of my neighbour, Voltar, but he was busy brushing his guinea pig's hair and told me to come back later. Next, I tried my landlady, Mrs. Grabowsky, and once she'd finished threatening me with eviction if I didn't clean up my snail breeding facility I'd set up in an aquarium in the front foyer of the building, she begrudgingly handed me a can of beets, muttering that she wasn't the food bank. Back in my room, I opened the can of beets and pondered the problem at hand. It seemed to me that with a bit of liquid mixed with the canned beets, a reasonable facsimile of borscht could be obtained, so I set about mixing it up in one of the many Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets I keep on hand for such experiments. Around this time there was a knock on my door and Voltar asked if I would like to see his guinea pig. He is very proud of this creature and has entered it in countless guinea pig-offs across the country, but I find it a devious little beast and have reminded Voltar time and again that in some places they put these things on sticks and roast them with a bit of allspice, fresh pepper rings and a little chimichurri sauce for dipping. And that's after they win the best-dressed category.
Anyway, Voltar agreed to leave Nunzio (the guinea pig) back in his rooms and assist me in my borscht belt project. Once my beet liquid had achieved the proper viscosity, I began to pack it into small sandwich bags and found that ten of these receptacles, stretched end to end, was enough to encircle Voltar's ample waist. Using a combination of elastic bands and twist ties, I managed to fasten the sandwich bags together so that they formed a series of links. I thought of freezing the liquid inside to provide a sturdier framework but there was no time as Voltar had to leave within the hour for a glass eye cleaning appointment (frozen borscht is actually integral to the history of the borscht belt since the early 18th century when Borscht Belters, pioneers of the Eastern European regions, would make belts out of frozen borscht to protect this valuable food source from marauding gypsies, Cossacks and insurance salesmen). So I simply wrapped the now finished belt of borscht about Voltar's girth, had him tuck the two ends into the elastic band waist of his underpants to hold the belt in place until I could solve the buckling problem at a later date, sat him down in a comfortable chair so as to make him feel secure because the questions I was about to ask were going to reach down into the darkest nooks and crannies of Voltar's mind. I then began the final phase of the experiment using questions of my own devising, bolstered by both Milton Berle and Henny Youngman jokes to activate the borscht belt and get to the root of Voltar's deep-seated psychological problems. Below is a transcript, verbatim, of the dialogue that occurred between Voltar and myself as I probed the murky recesses of his mind. What you are about to read is startling, unsettling and perhaps, even, disturbing, so be forewarned.
"Are you feeling comfortable, Voltar?"
"Yes, this is a very nice chair. How much you pay for this? Maybe you want to sell to me."
"Perhaps. Why are you asking this? Are you insecure about your own furniture? Maybe this insecurity is part of a larger problem?"
"What are you? Nuts? I just like the chair."
"Okay. Forget that. Listen to this and tell me your thoughts. The ideal wife would be a beautiful, sex-starved deaf mute who owns a liquor store."
"What th'hell's that supposed to mean? You really are crazy."
"Ah, yes, typical avoidance and perhaps some misgivings about your own identity. Okay, try this next. A penthouse suite is very swell, but some girls want a suit with two pairs of pents."
"I don't know no pents. Listen, I've gotta go and check on Nunzio."
"No. Wait. I think the borscht belt is working. Do you feel it vibrating?"
"Only thing vibrating is your brain. With nuttiness. I always told Mrs, Grabowsky, don't rent to that guy. He's got a coupla' screws loose."
"Take a look at this picture and tell me what you see."
The original box the Oedipus complex was kept in after Freud discovered it. Here's two of Freud's students showing off its contents.
"Two teenagers holding a record player. Are we finished yet? I think I hear Nunzio squeaking."
"Have you ever felt like killing your father?"
"What? Have you seen a doctor?"
"I am a doctor, my good man. Now answer my question."
"Jeez, my father's dead. Sheep shearing accident. Very ugly. And they make my mother pay for the bloodstains in the wool. Three bags full."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Now, have you ever had any feelings towards your mother that weren't, uh, exactly of a maternal nature?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. You mean, like I accidentally lose her dentures down the garbage disposal so she'll give me some of those steaks she keeps in her deep freezer. After all, she can't eat what she can't chew and me, I'm sick of wieners and beans."
"Wieners. Interesting. Have you ever felt any pangs of penis envy."
"Okey dokey. See you later. Actually, I never want to see you again. If you see me in the hallway, look the other way or hide on the fire escape 'cause I'm sure as shit gonna punch you in the face."
"Hmm, deep seated aggression, especially when you feel threatened by another male in the vicinity. Marking of the territory. Do you urinate outdoors frequently?"
"Son of a bitch. This goddamn belt contraption's leaking. I swear to god, you gonna pay for my dry cleaning if I get borscht in my pants."
"Hmm, fear of fluids, I perceive. Have you heard that there's a parallel between a woman's breasts and a Martini. One is not enough and three are too many. On that note, are you lactose intolerant?"
I wish I could say that I was successful in delving deep into Voltar's psyche with the borscht belt in full swing as it were, but after he removed the belt of borscht and hit me across the head with it, causing beets to splatter across the room in a kind of abstract-expressionist motif that would've pleased Jung but ticked Freud off no end, my results were jeopardized. So, what is to be concluded from these findings? Can both the casual and man-about-town borscht belt ever be obtained?
Is it possible to create a version impervious to leaking? These are the questions that would stump  Freud and Jung, even on their good days. On their bad days, jeez, they'd be happy just to get their cummerbunds on straight. But I'm not discouraged. The life of the mind and that of haberdashery are intertwined. Whether the belt is made of borscht or the borscht is part of the belt is inconsequential. What came first, the chicken or the egg, you may as well ask. But as Henny Yougman is my witness, the borscht belt shall rise again, worn with the style and panache it so richly deserves so that my good friend Sigmund may rest easily in his grave at last, and with any luck, for all eternity, barring any leakage of beets into the trouser pleats.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

Lady With Lapdog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
 Well, my bookshelves are bulging once again, brimming with books I have never read, nor shall I ever read, for that matter. I'm positively giddy with the prospects that these books hold for me after such a fruitful haul at the local community centre has supplied me with enough material to keep me busy reviewing well into the next century. Now, when I left you last in my book reviewing life, I was smiting silverfish with some of the heftier tomes of literature, but now I wish to sing the praises of slighter volumes of work. That's not to say these smaller books carry any less an impact than their weightier cousins, not, of course, when it comes to smacking silverfish, but when it comes to stirring the mind and the senses with the enlightening thoughts contained in their pages. Although, let me be blunt, these works play no second fiddle in the silverfish smacking department--it's just that, due to their lighter weight it takes a second or even a third or fourth strike to obliterate the vermin. But, no more beating around the silverfish, let's get to the book. Anton Chekhov was a Russian writer, famed for his short stories, plays and sousaphone technique, which he picked up while on a visit to the States where he'd gone to oversee the production of his play, The Titmouse. Here's a still from the play showing Act 3, Scene 5, the house of lead character, Stumpson Divalichek, in complete disarray after the titmouse has wreaked havoc upon his family and his Thursday night card game.

It is these themes of alienation, despair, hopelessness and titmouse devastation visited upon a house, and the resulting strain it places on the residents, that are beautifully foreshadowed in the earlier stories of Chekhov and eventually take wing, much like a tufted titmouse in the spring, with the full weight of his maturity in his three, final great plays; The Titmouse, Don't Look Under That Rock and Coffee Cake With Bilragaard. But to understand these plays, it's the stories that must be examined first. The title story should probably have been called, Lady With A Lapdog On Her Face, for as you can see in the Angliotti Falucci painting that begins this review, a painting commissioned by Chekhov himself to accompany the story, the main character of the piece, Mrs. Paplinkovavlodistock, has an excessively hairy face. So hairy in fact, that her husband, at one point, mistakes her for their pet schnauzer, Ogden, and gives her a bone to play with. She retires to their country home on the Siberian border where she takes to wandering the countryside, distributing heavily-brined pickles to the peasantry. "Vladimir," she writes to her husband, back in Moscow. "It is with a heavy heart and hairy face that I write this letter to you, on this day, the day of our wedding anniversary. I remember when we first met and how you said I looked like a rolled up plump and tasty blini and now you treat me like schmaltz herring. No, I take that back. Even schmaltz herring gets more love from you than I do.
I refuse to be treated like this. It's as plain as the hair on my face that your love for me is as empty as our vodka bottle after your Aunt Smooladavitch has paid a visit. And I have fallen in love with another. His name is Grigor Popopogavodovodovitch, a widowed peasant with a mustache like the tail of Catherine The Greats' horse and when he snorts, rutabagas from here to Vlavlidostock are shaken from the earth." It is in this letter (which, by the way, can be seen being held by the hairy-faced woman in the aforementioned painting), that the mastery of Chekhov's refined writing and the art of his subtle, descriptive details illustrates his full range of emotional force seething beneath supposedly calm surfaces and spiritual recalcitrance in the face of religious persecution. Take, for example, the rutabaga metaphor. Is it anything more than a show of Grigor Popopogavodovodovitch's phenomenal strength (because, believe you me, it isn't easy pulling a rutabaga out of the ground let alone shaking a whole bunch of them out of the earth with just a couple of snorts), or is it, instead, a sign of the rising tide of the peasant class heading towards revolution, the rutabaga a symbol of the hardened heads of these hardy proletariats and the snorts really a reference to all the dirt they get stuck up their nasal passages as they roar across the filthy landscape of the Siberian outback on their horses and kangaroos, charging towards the capital to slice off the heads of the Czar and his family and his accountant and his personal chef and his barber, Ludmilla Frobisher. By the way, you might be shocked to find I dropped kangaroos into my analysis but I've done a great deal of research on this subject and have found that kangaroos actually were originally from Siberia where they were tamed as domestic beasts by the Cossacks but then crossed the great ice bridges that spanned the Eastern Hemisphere, via Hong Kong, the Philippines and parts of Muncie, Indiana, before reaching the great continent of Australia, where the kangaroos settled but became wild again and have remained that way ever since.
In fact, this bit of animal husbandry history was immortalized in the great poem, A Cossack And His Kangaroo, by famed poet, Gromolodov Gasparvilitiblotch, which begins:
Listen; what is that harkening
Thundering on the flattened hooves
Of a darkening horizon,
Aloof, avast, the beat of a thousand
Kangaroo feet pluming the dust
Where before there was no dust but only gooseberries,
And now carrying on the wind
The promise of the pouches of doom
Where steadfast hold their young,
Eyes fixed in stony stares
And forever ready with runny muzzles of damnation.
And if that doesn't convince you of the whole Russian-kangaroo connection, then just let your peepers have a gander at this poster:
It's no secret that years later, Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Engels would get together to box kangaroos in the basement of the White Palace, the loser being the one to have to write out The Communist Manifesto. I rest my case. Anyway, back to the story. It's also noted that in her reference to her own excessive facial hair, Mrs. Paplinkovavlodistock is understating the case that it is obvious she feels her husband's mustache and beard are a paltry endeavour compared to her own, and that it is she who wears the pantaloons in the family, she who can drain the samovar with one gulp and she who the Cossacks turn to when they need advice about milking goats during the drunken Cossack games they play between pillaging villages and raping kangaroos and sheep. And that's just the tip of this Russian iceberg that Chekhov touches upon with his gifted touch. There's also a story called The Grasshopper, about a man who gets headaches after gazing at grasshoppers and his wife, Olga, tries to kill him by taking him to see the Great Locust Exhibition that took Stalingrad by storm during the summer of '86 and so captivated the Slavic race that for a while the grasshopper replaced the bear on the Czar's coat of arms and also on the arms of his coat.
The fact is, Chekhov had a fascination for hopping things as evidenced by many of his works, including A Boring Story, also part of this collection, in which a man hops on one foot for ten pages until he collapses and then everyone sits around and has tea and apple cake. Chekhov, though, was mordantly afraid of rabbits, and even their incessant hopping couldn't deter his fear that their tiny pink eyes were a sign of the rise of Communism. This is where the term 'pinko' was born, a derivative of the original Russian phrase, 'pink eyed with proletarianism', or just 'pink eye' for short and is why people say in schools everywhere, "the pinkeye spread through the classroom like communism", and the term, pinko, still survives to this day in certain trailer parks and gypsy caravans where no car part, wallet or chicken is safe. Here is a rare photo of Chekhov with his friend, Leo Tolstoy, posing for the camera with the dreaded creatures of communism. Chekhov is the one with the carnation in his lapel, Tolstoy in bib overalls in homage to the Russian peasantry. The look on Chekhov's face has been attributed to being told, only moments earlier, that both friends and foes referred to him as Old Hoppy behind his back.
To sum this all up, from Bolshevism to borscht, Cossacks to Kalashnikovs, Stalin to smoked sturgeon, Chekhov, in his fictional world, never strayed from the true Russian state of mind and if he'd lived long enough to see the Soviet Union launch a dog into space, he would have thought, "Hell, I thought of that back in 1886. Of course it would have been a lapdog and sitting on a lady's face." Take that, silverfish. A little Russian morality upside the antennae and all that in less than 300 pages.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Saliva Producing Recipes

Nuggetized Chicken With Black-Strap Molasses And Pork And Bean Jus Dipping Sauce
I don't want to honk my own horn or pat my own back or spit-shine my own shoes, but I'm considered a bit of a gourmand in certain circles and before my hotplate began sparking and eventually caught fire, I hosted many an elegant dinner party as befitting a man of my stature. And a note to all my naysayers out there, you know who you are, Knuckles Falubian, a xeroxed diploma is still a diploma and it's only due to my foresight and deep understanding of the traps and tripwires this world lays in our path, that I had my diplomas from various esteemed universities xeroxed, since it was only weeks later that the originals were burned to cinders in a meerschaum pipe explosion. Now that I have gotten that out of the way, on to this most tantalizing recipe. As many of you have read in my profile, I have a vast knowledge in the raising of poultry for fun and profit.
Perhaps, one might ask, I see where there can be a profit but where, exactly is the fun? Needless to say, chickens are far more entertaining than you'd believe and can be taught everything from dancing to piano playing with a minimum amount of effort, a bit of diligence and a loving but disciplinary hand. Of course, the right chicken helps as some are unteachable and would rather be pecking for seeds than playing Bach's Concerto #5 in E Minor at the local 4-H club. But the right chicken is like a breath of fresh barnyard air and the entertainment possibilities abound.
But once a chicken has exhausted its entertainment options, whether through old age, disease or just plain delinquency, then it is time to put that bird to rest and turn it into something delicious. This may be a hard thing to imagine if you've grown to love a certain chicken, but as we in the Poultry For Fun And Profit business understand, these are the laws of nature and cannot be tampered with. So, once you have beheaded your chicken, gutted it and plucked its feathers (amazingly, this can be done in a small space and I have had excellent results in my sitting room with just a pair of rubber gloves, some pinking shears from the dollar store and a wastepaper basket), it is time to start whipping up this saliva-producing dish.
Now, the origins of nuggetized poultry can be dated back to the 14th century and was greatly beloved by kings, queens and the aristocracy. It's a complicated recipe, as befits fine French cuisine, but here you shall find I have simplified the ingredients and instructions to adapt the dish to the more contemporary palate and pantry. A note here. Retain the chicken veins, for these are to be mashed up with a bit of buttermilk and the juice from the can of pork and beans to add a richer flavour and texture to the gravy-based dipping sauce. Originally the dish called for pigeon gizzards but I like to substitute dried squid flakes. If these cannot be found, simple ketchup-flavoured potato chips will do the trick, whatever brand's on sale. And it's nice to put a bowl of them out beforehand, a kind of amuse-bouche to tantalize the taste buds and tease your guests. Next, the poultry must be cut up into nuggetizing-sized pieces, which is a bit of a subjective process because I believe everyone desires a different nugget size based on the shape and amount of space in one's mouth. My preference is a medium-sized nugget that I've learned to measure out in the back section of the left side of my mouth, where I'm missing a couple of molars. I have found that if I cut the chicken pieces into the size and shape of the space of the missing teeth, this makes an ideal size for mastication. On the other side of my mouth, of course. If I forget and chew on the molar-less side, where, without fail, a piece of chicken will become stuck in the crevice, due to the precision of my earlier measurement, the poultry can be dislodged easily. To attain this measurement, I simply pack the molar-less area with some raw chicken, which I then remove and take my measurements where the raw chicken so ably shows the proper indentations and perimeter markings.
Even if you're not missing any teeth, this formula works wonderfully and all you need do is insert the piece of raw chicken in your mouth, feel about with your tongue to find the size best suited to you, use all the devices of your oral cavity to make the proper markings in the poultry, remove from mouth and then cut accordingly. Remember, the chicken will shrink a bit due to moisture loss during cooking so take this factor into account when measuring. Now, it's on to the breading. This is a crucial factor in the nuggetizing of the poultry for it's this crispy encasement, or carapace, if you will, that will help the chicken retain its juicy tenderness while being put to the flame. I have found that a combination of cornmeal, panko crumbs and Calabrese bread shavings work magnificently, but if these ingredients are not available or even if you're missing one of them, which will throw the whole breading off, then, again, crushed-up ketchup-flavoured potato chips will work sufficiently. I have experimented with roast-chicken flavour chips but found that the real poultry mixed with the simulated poultry seasonings creates a clash of tastes, that, although not unpalatable, is nonetheless overkill for the subtle flavours in this dish. Once your breading mixture is ready, it's time to prepare the poultry for the final nuggetizing step before cooking. Blend together milk, melted butter and salt and pepper but for those of you watching either your weight or your pocketbook, tepid water will do. In fact, I'm a firm advocate of  tepid water as a breading adherent since I feel it allows the full range of flavours from the poultry to not be masked by other savoury components. So, dip the chicken pieces in whatever liquid you choose, then into the breading or crushed potato chip blend and let rest on a plate while you heat up your cooking implement. I like to light three to four Sterno cans to get proper flame coverage under the frying pan or turn your hotplate to high or if you have a stove, well then, lucky you. Remember though, some of the best chefs in the world use nothing more than a box of wooden matches, some tinfoil and a partially melted spatula. Once you have cooked your nuggets to a golden brown, place them on a paper towel or toilet paper to soak up any excess grease, but not all of it because that's where the flavourization crystals lie, and then open up your can of pork and beans. Amazingly, I found this can at my local Sally Ann, puffing up a bit at the aluminum seams, but none the worse for wear and absolutely delicious. If you can't find this brand, I'm sure your local groceteria will carry something as good.
Strain the pork and beans from the juice using, again, either paper towels or toilet paper, retaining the beans for further use in another recipe. In a pot, begin to reduce the bean juice over the heat and then, slowly, pour in a half a cup of black-strap molasses. This molasses has an intriguing history, coming by its name in pioneer days when the strapping young men and women who forged their way from east to west, strapped great barrels of molasses, the-bringer-of-life as the Apaches called it, to their dirt-blackened backs as they hit the trail in search of a better life.
Once the bean juice and molasses has reduced to a jus, add the chicken veins if you have any and then place it all in a dipping bowl or Dixie Cup and serve immediately with the nuggetized chicken. It's been said this dish is what Napoleon demanded, just before being banished to Elba, knowing that perhaps, he would never see nuggetized chicken again. It's also what King Louis XVI ordered the night before being beheaded.
Voila. Your dish is complete. Your guests await. In my case, it's my landlady's, Mrs. Grabowsky's, cat that paws her plate and may I say, this creature really knows its chicken. An added note here. You may have noticed that I haven't given exact measurements of any ingredients. A true chef measures by eye and by taste and I urge you all to do the same. Also, if your larder is running short of essential condiments, any fast food chain stocks plenty of things like salt, pepper, sugar and ketchup. In fact, it's the latter, ketchup packs to be exact, that I usually gather to stock my larder in order to boost even further the flavour of the ketchup potato chips I use to bread my chicken. Just a suggestion.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Reviews Of Books I Have Read

Mandible Road by Lorbis Gorton
Mandibles! I'll say it again. Mandibles. When I say this word what comes to mind? Insects, spiders, salamanders, grasshoppers, Jehovah's Witnesses or certain kinds of French cheeses, maybe. Well, think again. Mandible Road puts a whole new perspective on the definition of mandibles and the creatures that wear them. Not to mention their relationships with the non-mandible creatures they cross paths with. And how the tension created between the species shakes up the foundations of a close-knit community whose only desire is to see their football team, The Van Goiter Buzzards, win a game. It's a love story, a war story, a story of exhilarating science and the peaks and pitfalls of great discoveries. Scientist, Brent Carruthers, leads an ideal life in the town of Magoonda, somewhere just outside of somewhere in Wisconsin. Working as a lead product development scientist at the local floor wax factory, Brent is well-paid and able to look after his family, but a longing in his heart to break away from the floor wax trade leaves him unsatisfied and striving to make the great scientific discovery that will cement his name in annals of science for eternity.
Building a home laboratory in the basement of his three-story Dutch Colonial home, Brent labours for long hours, ignoring his three children and wife, Gwyneth, causing Gwyneth to strike up an affair with the floor wax factory foreman, Rusty Gruntmire, and his children to befriend their neighbours' garden gnomes. Such is the steep price and lonely sacrifice one must pay in the pursuit of scientific breakthroughs.  After months of toil, Brent is finally ready to reveal his great discovery, although Gwyneth is unprepared for the shocking results. So are his children. Brent grafts a pair of mandibles on to his wife, Gwyneth, who is then forced to feed on snails for the rest of her life. How does this impact their relationship? What do the neighbours think? Will Brent receive further grant money from the Milton Plobsole Genius Foundation?  I'll tell you, I was on the edge of my seat. A seat not unlike those the esteemed scientists of Magoonda sat upon when they felt the foundations of their scientific world being shaken and maybe even collapsing (I won't give this part away but as a teaser, remember, when in a room facing a marvelous, groundbreaking but slightly terrifying discovery, refrain from using aluminum lawn chairs-the plastic ones, well, they're a little better but still, consider this a warning). In an act of vengeance against Rusty Gruntmire, who had been licking his lips salaciously over the fetching body of Gwyneth bi-weekly, and sometimes they licked each others lips and even, sometimes, they licked freshly waxed floors during the heights of their depraved ecstasies, Brent Carruthers commands Gwyneth to crunch Rusty Gruntmire between her mighty and very deadly mandibles. Also, she begins to resemble a giant mosquito at this point, although it's unclear why, and is the only fault I found with this book because if your wife turns into a giant mosquito, there should be a reason. 
Brent and Gwyneth then begin to rebuild their life together and it seems like, at last, peace and happiness is again going to settle on this three-storey Dutch Colonial home and the family that dwells inside. In a touching and telling scene, told with poignancy and heart-rending sobriety, the children return from the forest with a plastic bucket and say, in their chirpy, cheerful voices, "Look, Mama, we've brought you more snails to eat." She then sucks their blood a little, not too much because they're her children after all and she doesn't want to drain them dry. There is a moment, in Chapter Six, where during their lovemaking, Gwyneth nips Brent with her mandibles and for once, Brent is able to see the true nature of what he has created.  Mandibles are not a fashion statement, he soon realizes. They are something you are born with and wear with pride. And if you fiddle with nature, you're fiddling on a second rate violin while Rome is burning or in this case, the small town of Hooblerville, which is where Brent flees to after the good citizens of Magoonda, angered over the incident with the floor wax factory foreman, chase him to and then light the town on fire so he has to leave there also. Let me say, just when you think the plot is winding down, it gets a second wind with even more, exciting events that involve mandibles and marriage and the moral compass and fiber of a world gone insane. A war starts somewhere, far away, and I don't want to give too much away but rest assured, mandibles come into the picture. Gwyneth goes crazy and eats more human beings. Not to mention Brent is then thrown into a world of international espionage and intrigue. And mandibles too. All I can say is rush out to your local bookstore or library and grab yourself a copy of this amazing novel. Lorbis Gorton may not be a household name, like Ajax or Mr. Clean, but his first book is a doozy and I anticipate great things for his next work, perhaps in a similar vein. In fact, in a recent interview, the author alluded to his next book tentatively titled, Veins, A Memoir. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Heidegger Meets Whitesnake Over Pancakes

A recent visit to my local thrift store unearthed this treasure of early Americana music for me, enigmatically labeled Sid's Mixed Tape and it only cost me the quarter that I had jimmied from the change lock box on a shopping cart in the Safeway parking lot earlier. True, I had to spool the tape back into the cassette covering but I was richly rewarded with some very esoteric early Americana instrumentals of which one has lodged in my brain with its melodic and haunting qualities. The song of which I speak, or should I say, speaks to me, is titled Here I Go Again by a group of musicians who go under the name of Whitesnake. Such a primordial sound I have never heard before, except, perhaps with some of the early blues musicians, a few who allegedly sold their souls to the devil in exchange for mastery over their instruments, but not even being on Satan's payroll (in which, I believe, medical and dental was covered but eyeglasses were not included), could help an individual reach the ethereal breadth and depraved depth of the songsters known as Whitesnake. Here is their lead singer, Wrigley Festoon, wearing his lucky hat beneath, which it is said, he kept his pet snake, Willifred Martoni.

As one can see, an old Civil War wound where Mr. Festoon caught a minie ball in the armpit, permanently froze his arm in a kind of ping pong ball return pose, but this did not stop him from delighting his fans with his lower body maneuverings, especially in the hips and knees, and it is from these movements that the group draws its name. The fact that ping pong wasn't even invented yet puts Mr. Festoon far ahead of his time. So, I was listening to this song, Here I Go Again, for the forty or fiftieth time, when a knock on the door shook me from my soul-searching reverie. Who should it be but an old patient of mine, Flapjacks McVitee, who just happened to be perusing the neighbourhood for used cats, when he thought to pay a visit. I bid him good day but insisted he leave his burlap sack of cats out back in the alleyway before entering my premises. I had cured this man of many obsessive traits, such as licking the metal poles on public transit and yelling out the names of dim sum buns whenever he saw a nun or priest, but he still has a soft spot for cats and it was my sense that every man should have a hobby. After all, part of the cure is about teaching the patient to channel those energies into more productive pursuits and judging by the noise and jostling going on in his sack of cats, Flapjacks was making great progress. Now Flapjacks is also an aficionado of early American music,  instantly recognized the song I was playing and immediately began to beat time with his bean spoon on the back of his head. A quick word about the back of Flapjack's head and how he got his name. The back of his head is unusually flat, many would say like a frying pan, as the saying goes, but I liken its shape to more of an anvil motif. In fact, there was a time, not long ago, unemployment nipping at Flapjack's ankles like the hounds of hell, when he thought of renting out the back of his head specifically for this purpose, as he had befriended a blacksmith who shod horses for a living. I quickly dissuaded him from this idea, not because either of us thought that his head couldn't take a good hammering, thick-skulled as he is, but because I believed the heat from the horseshoes fresh from the fire would burn off what little hair remained on his scalp. Hair that, I'm glad to say, assisted Flapjacks in getting a part-time job at the meat rendering plant due to the dignity it lent his appearance. So, there we were, well into the second verse, something about searching for answers and lonely streets of dreams and walking like a drifter and looking for snakes, when I began to see a connection between this song and the eminent philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Hide-a-bed Heidegger they used to call him because he worked in his brother-in-law, Gottfried's, hide-a-bed sofa shop although some folks called him Sieg Heil Heidegger because, let's face it, he never met a Nazi he didn't like. In fact, he sold most of the big shots in the Third Reich hide-a-beds at wholesale cost, which angered his brother-in-law, Gottfried, so much, he stopped inviting Heidegger over for Sunday night knockwurst dinner. Rumour has it Heidegger even sold Hitler a hide-a-bed sofa, the Enchanted Bavarian Evening model I believe, and it's said this is what Hitler and Eva lay down upon in their bunker when they took the 'big sleep.' It's also true that when Heidegger sneezed it sounded like a cuckoo clock and during hay fever season you could set your watch to him. Here's a picture of Heidegger entertaining the troops with some of his philosophical ramblings in his famous bear suit. He wore the suit, apparently, to temper the blow of the existential angst and sheer nihilism that Heidegger could eat for breakfast, with three pieces of pumpernickel toast no less, but could cause others to become depressed and even mismatch their socks.
I began to see the correlations between Heidegger's thoughts on existence and essence and the odours these states produce and Whitesnake's drifter walking alone on the lonely road, also smelling a bit from all the walking and searching and thinking and such, and Heidegger's ideas on the self and individuality and time and being and how they all co-exist until one of them can't pay the rent and Whitesnake's drifter never having to pay the rent but ultimately saddened by this because of not having a home to go to to take a load off of all his selves and just put his feet up and play with his snake. Anyway, Flapjacks couldn't agree with me more on these points and we coalesced our ruminations over a can of Hormel chili that Flapjacks had thoughtfully brought with him. I was out of Sterno cans, having used my last for an experiment with chicken fat, ants and a Tootsie Pop, but hats off to the Hormel people because, even cold, this stuff hits the spot.

All this thinking and Whitesnake listening had taken its toll on our brains, and even as I found myself winding down and sucking beans from my teeth, I could still feel the pulsations of Heidegger's philosophical treatises ebbing and flowing in my mind and sinus cavities. I even began to emit a bit of my own essence, which caused Flapjacks to take his leave. He retrieved his sack of cats and I watched him disappear down the lonely street, a drifter in time and space and meat rendering. Somewhere from up above or maybe across the street, like in that third floor window where that elderly lady is always hanging her brassieres and husband's underwear, I imagined the ghost of Heidegger smiling down upon Flapjacks, finally at peace with his own being not to mention the Black Forest cake and bratwurst grease odour of his own individuality and existence.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Mutton Chops Or Chopped Mutton

Recently, an old acquaintance of mine, Professor Yardley Snovel, dropped by my humble abode for a visit. I bade him welcome and after clearing the ant traps from the chesterfield and removing the horse-blinders I wear during migraine season, I beckoned him to sit down and take a load off his flip flops. It was then that I noticed the new and most impressive facial hair the Professor was now sporting. Mutton chops to be precise."Ah, you've noticed," he beamed. "The wife thinks it makes me appear more worldly." His wife has been dead the past fifteen years but I hate to remind the poor man of this. Seeing the admiration glowing in my eyes, the Professor suggested that perhaps I should grow a set of mutton chops for myself. Now I have always had difficulty with facial hair, due to genetics and a childhood accident involving a car battery, alligator clips, an electric eel and my Uncle Larchmount (the electric eel, in the end, wasn't even necessary for this experiment with electrical conductivity and to this day I bark at the sound of approaching galoshes).
Try as I might, I have never been able to grow more than a wisp of sideburns and even less of a mustache or beard. I made this fact known to the good Professor, which began our dialectical discussion on mutton chops versus chopped mutton, the details of which I will not bore you with because we both soon fell asleep and never finished the talk. Nevertheless, we awoke refreshed, he hanging inexplicably from a hook on the back of my door (sleepwalking I believe) and me, curled up in the pantry, my head nestled on crushed soda crackers (not sleepwalking but one of my napping spots). Brainstorming, we developed the theory that if one were to chop up mutton and apply the meat paste to the sides of the face, the desired mutton chop effect could be attained. We wasted no time in putting this theory to the test by first procuring some chopped mutton from my landlady, Mrs. Grabowsky. Actually, she was out of mutton, chopped or otherwise, but after some deliberation the Professor and I came to the conclusion that sardines might also work. After some coaxing on my part, Mrs. Grabowsky reluctantly parted with a tin of these tiny fish, and the Professor and I made haste back to my rooms to begin the experiment. With mortar and pestle, well, really a potato masher and an old Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, I ground the sardines into an oily ungent which I then applied like a poultice from my temples to my lower cheeks. "What do you think?" I asked the Professor and with a flash of inspiration for which he is known, the Professor got down on his hands and knees and gathered up lint, stray hair and dust bunnies from beneath my chesterfield. "The shape is right," he said, "but it lacks that certain veracity one expects to see in facial hair." With those words he began adhering the hair, lint and dust to the sardine paste upon my face and I'll be damned, upon further examination in the mirror, if my chopped sardine mutton chops didn't look like the real thing. Even the Professor was impressed and he's a hard man to impress because he doesn't impress easily. "Splendid," the Professor said as he took his leave. "I do believe we're on to something here. Let me know how they hold up after a bath and during shaving." So it remains to be seen how successful this experiment will be. Further empirical research still needs to be done and once I can afford actual mutton, I think the results will be even more exciting. In the interim though, I'm having a struggle keeping Mrs. Grabowsky's cat off my face and a walk outdoors had a seagull almost biting off my ears and nose. Chopped mutton or mutton chops? The answer still remains a mystery.

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
As described in my previous book review post, I've been waiting in my dimly lit bathroom wearing my specially devised camouflage underpants, a copy of Thomas Pynchon's Against The Day held firmly in one hand and raised just slightly above my head, in order to kill silverfish that dare to creep from beneath my bathroom sink. A more vile creature has never lived unless you count my smelly and excessively hairy barber, Yargo Varnish, the Devil of Dorsterbrow. My results with Mr. Pynchon's opus (I have thought of switching to Gravity's Rainbow because of the force of the down-stroke illustrating the power of gravity and the rainbow being the feeling that washes over me when I see that silverfish body smashed to smithereens), but Against The Day holds so much promise for me and its glossy cover stands up well to repeated strikes, squashed silverfish innards and the odd urine droplet. But may I say, there is a new book in the running in the form of Mr. Wallace's magnificent work that broke the boundaries of post-modern literature and promises to also break my floor tiling. Let me clearly state it's not only the killing of silverfish that makes this book great. I don't want to mislead people into thinking it is a single purpose book. Additionally, this is one of the finest pieces of literature that I have never read, it's ideas and concepts so startling and forward thinking as to make me veritably dizzy, causing me to collapse upon my sofa bed. Not even a protruding coil spring could rouse me from my thoughtful stupor. There is one particular scene on page 982, so emotive and yet so cutting and indicative of the irony of its age, involving a tennis pro, a grenade and a Scandinavian buffet well-laden with rotting herring, that I wept tears of sadness, laughter, righteous indignation and gastrointestinal pain. This guy doesn't just blow literary convention out of the water, he shoots it out of a cannon at a Civil War re-enactment in Mobile, Alabama. And the vigorous use of footnotes, although a bit perplexing because I have still not trained my eyes to be in two different places at the same time without becoming wall-eyed, only sheds additional light on themes and issues that one might take issue with if one had enough time between swatting silverfish. So, to sum things up, Infinite Jest-it's for me, it's for you, maybe not your mother-in-law though, hey, I'm not joking about this.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Food For Thought And Possibly Digestion

I recently received this telegraph from my cousin, Lester Ogden Calworth Sprechendedeutsch Blatsworth II although I call him Bob IV for short. He bade me to try this soup from the good folks at Primo called Primo Amore Sicilian Meatball that he found so tantalizing that he almost forgot to strap on his soup bib, such was his haste to get his face into a bowl of this nutrient. "Good for the body, soul and mind," he bespoke, "and good for foot fungus also," he continued. As a man of science I had my doubts knowing that only meatball soup containing hydroxycloxbillfinplostricide is the only compounded formula that can reign in and contain nasty fungal properties. Nevertheless, it was my brain that needed feeding, not my feet and I immediately put on my bathrobe and struck out for the local groceteria to procure a can of said product. The label was captivating and very enticing, portraying numerous tiny meatballs, about the size of rabbit droppings along with an invitingly shaped pasta bobbing in the broth. My hands trembled as I opened the can at home, heated it over a Sterno flame and ladled it into a bowl. Alas, to my consternation, there was nary a meatball to be found. I fished around, plucked three measly meatballs from the mire and that was all that was there to be discovered. Three meatballs the size of microbes! Surely they jest. On that note, check for my upcoming review of another book I haven't read, Infinite Jest, another mighty tome useful for crushing insects. But back to the soup. No self-respecting Sicilian would eat this stuff and I suspect, would probably slit the throat of the person who made it. Or give them a Sicilian necktie, which I believe is like a regular necktie but with a louder pattern and a smaller knot, as opposed to the Windsor Knot that, as we know, was developed by the Duke Of Windsor one morning when he was hungover and couldn't make a proper knot.

Plus it's a known fact that the Duke had fingers like sausages and more nimble knot-tying configurations bewildered him. So who was tying his tie knots all those years? Who knows? One of the great mysteries that follow the Royal Family around like bad gas trapped in underpants. Luckily the Duke had impressive facial hair, which goes well with a Windsor Knot and also ocelots, which the Duke liked to walk on Sundays in Hamstonhead Park, until one of them bit Mrs. Cruspie, the Dowager of Dunleavy, and the Duke was forced to leash them. So, suffice to say, don't buy this soup unless you need three tiny meatballs to stuff in your nostrils to keep the pollen out.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

Against The Day by Thomas Pynchon
Let me preface this review by saying that due to some financial setbacks in my psychiatry practice (meerschaum pipe explosion, medicine ball concussion, liverwurst lawsuit, etc.), I have been forced to procure all my reading material from the free lending shelf at my local community centre. In a way, it has broadened my literary horizons and may I say, with apologies to all the heavy hitters of the writing world, Vanna Speaks, The Biography Of Vanna White, was a moving and thought-provoking expose and behind-the-scenes look at one of North America's most beloved woman in the media arts. If you thought her life was just vowel turning, you've been missing the boat. There was also coleslaw, crochet, shower caps and a dead husband too. But I'm not here to discuss Vanna White. No, I'm here to review Against The Day and as slight as Vanna White's book and her physical stature for that matter appear to be, Against The Day is the polar opposite. I have used this book for killing silverfish, spiders, something that looked like a cross between a centipede and Ernest Borgnine and I'm wont to conjecture, although still untried, could probably send a mouse to its grave with one swat of this hefty and lofty tome.

Now that's not to say I'm advocating only this book for killing vermin and the such, because really, wouldn't a large print copy of say War and Peace or your average dictionary, do the trick. That may be but the sickening thud I'm receiving when I smash this book down on tiny critters has given me a satisfaction that no Russian masterpiece or encyclopedia set has ever delivered before. Now, physicality aside, because my training has taught me to deal with also the mind, I enjoyed the oblique first page of this book immensely. Then I fell asleep. I'm not sure if it was the weight of the book pressing down on my ribcage and thus, deprived me of the proper amount of oxygen to keep me conscious or the deep, ponderous issues brought to light that steered my brain into a somnambulant state. Nevertheless, on a further skimming the next day, against the day you might say because it was pretty cloudy out, once I had my senses around me, the de-inking of the giant squid, the balloon race with Rabbi Mendelbaum and the philosophical treatise on nature and being cleverly disguised in the narrative as a dialogue between the lead character, Borbo or Blimpo, I'm not sure which, my eyes were a little blurry by that point and caked with icing from the streusel cake I'd sneezed into, and a baked potato, was invigorating. All I can say is well done, Mr. Pynchon, well done. Against the Day is right and I thank you for bringing issues such as balloon racing and squid de-inking to light. You might say that the title, Against The Day could be the anthem of silverfish because they only come out at night, which is about the time I wait for them, squatting on the kitchen floor in my camouflage underwear, Against The Day in my hand ready to squash them into oblivion.