Monday, May 31, 2010

Rom-Com in Italy

Letters to Juliet is entirely predictable, but also entirely beguiling.  Sophie, a New Yorker fact checker, goes with her restaurateur fiance Vincent to Verona for a pre-wedding vacation.   Vincent becomes so involved meeting with suppliers and learning new recipes that he neglects Sophie.  She discovers a 50-year-old letter to the fictional Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet) confessing that Claire, the sender had returned home to England rather than meeting her Italian lover, Lorenzo.  When Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) receives Sophie's response to her letter, she immediately goes to Verona to find Lorenzo, accompanied by her grandson, Charlie.  Charlie, Claire, and Sophie set out on a trek to find Lorenzo with predictable results.  Yes, it's sappy and frequently unbelievable, but the Italian countryside is beautiful, and who doesn't want to believe in happy endings?

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jab Chae

My Korean student (I tutor her in English as a second language) gave me the recipe for Jab Chae and I made it today.  The glass noodles are made from sweet potato starch rather than flour.  There are plenty of vegetables and a small amount of beef.  I found lots of versions of this on the Internet, some of them vegetarian.  The glass noodles are very slippery.  Fortunately I was alone when eating it, so I could slurp with abandon.

Like many stir fries, there's a significant amount of preparation time, cutting the vegetables, cooking the noodles, etc.  However, the cooking goes very quickly.  This was delicious, and I expect to make it again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book: "The Lonely Polygamist"

Why is Golden Richards lonely with four wives and 28 children?  He has allowed himself to fall into a life dictated by his father, his church, and his wives.  The crisis in this book comes about when he falls for the common law wife of a very dangerous brothel operator and begins to recognize his dissatisfaction with his current life.   After a tragic incident, Golden does start to become  a better father and husband.  However, the book recognizes the difficulty of actually changing one's life, and the ending is by no means a happy one.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Exit Through the Gift Shop"

Exit Through the Gift Shop may or may not have been directed by the British street artist Banksy.  It explores the questions of what art is and who it belongs to, as well as taking a critical look at the commercialization of art.  It purports to be about Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman transplanted to Los Angeles who becomes interested in and begins filming street artists all over the world, claiming to be making a documentary.  He befriends the elusive Banksy who convinces him that he himself should be making art, so he does, incorporating the techniques of the artists he has been filming.  He has a wildly successful show in Los Angeles.  Since the film Guetta creates is hopelessly bad, Banksy takes the footage and makes his own film about Guetta and Guetta's questionable art.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

And thanks for the image, Banksy

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The God of Love

Amy Bloom's Where the God of Love Hangs Out is a very satisfying short story collection about - what else? - love.  There are 2 sets of connected stories following characters through the years and lots of surprises.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Juliet" Critiqued

What I liked about Juliet Naked:

The main character, a woman, was plausible.
Like life, the conclusion did not tie up all the loose ends in an emotionally satisfying way.

What I didn't like:

The factual errors.  If you're trying to go to North Berkeley via BART and you get on the Pittsburg Bay Point train in error, when you get to Rockridge, you only have to return to MacArthur, not to 19th Street to get on the Richmond train.  Also, although BART maps are color coded, I've never heard the Richmond train called the Red Line.  On the other hand, why am I being so picky about these details?  It is fiction after all.

The book should have been about 200 pages rather than 400 pages.

My rating:  *** (out of 5)

Oddly enough, I'm tempted to give more stars in case the author reads this review.  I guess that shows how much I believed the book while reading it.