Archive for April, 2006
Right after we finished taping my interview with "Lemony Snicket" creator Daniel Handler (tonight at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30), my makeup artist, Kadidja Sallak, said to me in her charming, complex accent (she was born in Morocco and grew up in France): "It was like two of you talking to yourself!" Which was a nice compliment -- but really, it was more like one of me having a great time trying to corral a compulsively discursive writer; in the chaotic swirl of events, we must have seemed to blend together sometimes. (He was the one who maintained control of the accordion.) It felt like being a rodeo performer, but without the bruises.
This episode is a miraculous reanimation of a show that has aired before -- meaning that now, unlike when it first ran, you can go the bookstore and find Handler's new novel for adults, Adverbs. Or you can just go to the book's link at the online store of Cody's Books -- a visit that will yield at least two delights. One: In a wonderfully Handlerian mix-up, on their website the novel's cover (at the time of this writing, at least) has accidentally been replaced by the one for Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression. Two: You get to read the dust-jacket copy, which runs as follows:
I am Daniel Handler, the author of this book. Did you know that authors often write the summaries that appear on their book's dust jacket? You might want to think about that the next time you read something like, "A dazzling page-turner, this novel shows an internationally acclaimed storyteller at the height of his astonishing powers."
"Adverbs" is a novel about love -- a bunch of different people, in and out of different kinds of love. At the start of the novel, Andrea is in love with David -- or maybe it's Joe -- who instead falls in love with Peter in a taxi. At the end of the novel, it's Joe who's in the taxi, falling in love with Andrea, although it might not be Andrea, or in any case it might not be the same Andrea, as Andrea is a very common name. So is Allison, who is married to Adrian in the middle of the novel, although in the middle of the ocean she considers a fling with Keith and also with Steve, whom she meets in an automobile, unless it's not the same Allison who meets the Snow Queen in a casino, or the same Steve who meets Eddie in the middle of the forest. . . .
It might sound confusing, but that's love, and as the author -- me -- says, "It is not the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done." This novel is about people trying to find love in the ways it is done before the volcano erupts and the miracle ends. Yes, there's a volcano in the novel. In my opinion a volcano automatically makes a story more interesting.
(This is just speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that the dust-jacket copy for Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression reads somewhat differently.)
April 24th, 2006
I'm about to run off to S.F. to have an onstage conversation with the great autobiographical comic-book writer Harvey Pekar -- but I just wanted to mention that tonight's TV program (at 7:30; repeated on Friday at 10:30 p.m.) features an interview with another fine writer: the charming British polymath Simon Winchester, whose latest book is A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906.
This is a deluxe re-airing of a previously broadcast episode, and I hope and trust that it has aged gracefully -- like a fine wine, perhaps, only faster and with less cork.
April 17th, 2006
I'm writing to you from an "Internet Point" in lovely Florence, where our delightful family vacation is entering its last few days. And I don't think there could be any more appropriate interview to blog about from this city of heavenly eateries than the one on tonight's show, with former New York Times restaurant critic (and current Gourmet editor) Ruth Reichl. Reichl on restaurants was like Michael Jordan on the hardcourt -- a genius of the form. And also like Jordan, who could fake a defender out of his shoes, Reichl had to employ a certain amount of graceful trickery to attain her goals: famously, she used various disguises so she wouldn't be "made" by the restaurateurs. As she writes in her latest memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, she was shocked to find herself becoming the characters she was creating (including, hilariously, her mom).
Being more of an eater than a cook, I had some trepidations about talking food with this formidable former critic, but I found her -- in the character of herself -- to be wonderfully warm and accessible (oh, that smile!). So when we got to the point in the show where I actually did some cooking with her (sort of: our set's "kitchen" lacks certain amenities -- like a stove, for instance), I didn't even worry about violating any health codes. ... As a guest, I give her four stars. ...
And speaking of restaurants, if you ever go to Florence (and who can afford not to, at today's BART rates?), check out Trattoria Anita, on the Via del Parlascio. Tell them the bald American with the beautiful wife and son sent you. ...
Here's the recipe for the cake Ruth bakes on the show:
Ruth Reichl’s Last-Minute Chocolate Cake
This cake calls for a scoop of vanilla ice cream on each slice.
4 ounces fine-quality unsweetened chocolate
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brewed strong black coffee
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Combine the chocolate, butter, and coffee in the top of a double boiler or in a very heavy pot, and stir constantly over low heat until melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Then add the Grand Marnier, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir well.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add this to the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
April 10th, 2006
Greetings from Rome, Italy, where wife Sara, son Guthrie, and I are on a family vacation! I have to be quick because we've still got many miles of ruins to go before we sleep, but I just wanted to mention that tonight's show (at 7:30; repeated Friday night at 10:30 -- all times nine hours earlier in Italy) features my conversation with the delightful Jean-Michel Cousteau -- son of Jacques and, like his father, a passionate friend and documentarian of the sea. Also, there's a "Wandering Josh" segment in which I hand-feed a ravenous penguin named "Homie," who needs to go on a low-carb diet in the very near future (as will I, after all the gelati we've been consuming here).
More on Italy when I return (we just arrived last night, and saw the Pope in a window), but let me just mention one thing: it's not easy to use a moneybelt! For each Euro, I have to reach into my pants -- prompting Sara to crack wise about me needing to visit a Eurologist.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy tonight's program -- and Cousteau's marvelous new series (co-produced by KQED), Ocean Adventures.
April 3rd, 2006