Friday, January 7, 2011

The Thieves of Manhattan

Thanks to Red for hosting our enjoyable and intimate evening last night.  El Jefe was on the verge of threatening to take Red out of the hosting circulation entirely after the hour-long trek out to the Dena (and Red would gladly have accepted!), but the threat was revoked once we started happily slurping down what was easily one of the best BC dinners of all time:  Franco-Vietnamese chicken curry, served not over a traditional bed of rice, but rather with thick slices of crusty baguette for dunking.  It was (literally) a winner, winner chicken dinner.  Created in 1979, it's no wonder this recipe has survived until today.  And for dessert, these incredible congo bars, which were all cookie-ish chocolately goodness.  Only a New Year's resolution kept El Jefe from packing them into a doggie bag to bring home.  And speaking of doggies...  Junior was looking terrific, sporting a snazzy Polo shirt, although clearly still in need of a collar upgrade. 

Pour le pooch avec tout.  Goyard, $500.

Maybe on next year's Christmas list.

This BC was perfect for El Jefe's failing mathematical prowess.  Let's see:  4 in attendance, 75% read the book, each gave it a 6, square that and then take the square root, carry the one....and it scored a 6!  The Thieves of Manhattan received a lukewarm welcome, to say the least. 

El Jefe should be peppering this recap with clever literary code words from the glossary, but alas, the book already has gone back to the library.  (But note that the curry dinner was not "lish" this time;  Red pointed out that in TTOM parlance that would have meant it was deleted.  Deleted out of the pot and into El Jefe's stomach, perhaps!)  The most frequent description of this book was "pretentious."  All three of us who read it were thoroughly annoyed by the author's use of literary references in lieu of words:  an overcoat was a "gogol" (in honor of Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat);  a speeding train was a "highsmith";  and of course, the ubiquitous "franzens."

Jonathan Franzen, sporting his "franzens."

This convention could have been fun and witty if the references weren't so pervasive and obscure as to require flipping back to the glossary every two minutes.  The snarky jabs at the New York publishing industry also somehow missed their mark.  Instead of coming across as a hilarious spoof, the thinly-veiled (or unveiled) references to real-life agents, publishers, and authors were kind of obnoxious and made the author seem alternately jealous and condescending.  However, El Jefe did get quite a bit of enjoyment out of the Blade Markham character;  after all, why let James Frey off the hook now?  Another high point of the story was Anya.  Langer reduced her Romanian accent to writing perfectly.  "Oh, Ee-yen, I luff it when you mekk me dirty chinaski!"  Brilliant.  As for the plot, it was fast-moving and engaging, although ultimately a bit too complicated with several threads that didn't quite tie up, the most glaring one being:  did Jed and Faye really think that in 2010 they would be able to pass off a forgery of the Tale of Genji as the real deal?  Hmmm, thin-tip Pentel markers on recycled printing stock, versus 11th Century Japanese manuscript illustrated in watercolor on rice paper.  Really?  Well, we seem to have officially de-bunked the myth that books that get reviewed on NPR must be quality reading (case in point:  True to Da Game).  Looks like it's time to start getting our recommendations from Julia Lee again!

The Tale of Genji:  the first modern novel.

Our next meeting is on February 2 at Chez Jefe.  We will be reading Nicole Krauss's Great House.  Please volunteer if you can bring apps or dessert.  Until next time.... xoej