Review: The Raw and the Cooked


The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand

It was a bad week for meat.

The World Health Organization, as NPR relates, “deemed that processed meats — such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs — can cause cancer.”

The story continues:

In addition, the WHO says red meats including beef, pork, veal and lamb are “probably carcinogenic” to people.

A group of 22 scientists reviewed the evidence linking red meat and processed meat consumption to cancer, and concluded that eating processed meats regularly increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Their evidence review is explained in an article published in The Lancet.

The conclusion puts processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos. This does not mean that they are equally dangerous, says theInternational Agency for Research on Cancer — the agency within the WHO that sets the classifications. And it’s important to note that even things such as aloe vera are on the list of possible carcinogens.

Jim Harrison would likely shrug the WHO’s research off, probably by snarkily calling them nutritional ninnies. At least I believe he would from his essay collection The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, which I re-read this past week, mostly taking a break from fiction, and because I was craving nonfiction to fuel my journalist’s brain.  Plus, it never hurts to get a shot of Harrison in your veins.

As with his fiction, Harrison is a robust stylist in his essays, worth studying for his original metaphors alone, as he demonstrates here: “Of course, an older fool should be able to counter the emotional claymores brought about by the change of seasons and the pummeling of fortune’s spiky wheel.” A lesser writer might have opted for the cliched “emotional landmines,” but Harrison gets specific and chooses the concrete image. Claymore mines are particularly destructive, flinging steel balls into an unwitting enemy to shred them to bits.

But, Harrison is more than just a writer to study, he’s a fun, witty read, an abundant mind to explore. These essays, many of which were columns written for Esquire in the ’90s, are true essays — attempts at writing down what’s in the mind and tying it to a idea or theme. These essays rove from food and friendships to politics and poetry, all neatly of one piece.

They are also essays rich with a mind that sees abundance. Some are tongue-in-cheek about Harrison’s quest for great meals. Almost all are fun to read. And make you hungry for life in the same way Henry Miller makes you hungry for life. And hungry for good food and drink. They have made me hungry for hot dogs, which I want to cook up in the next hour or so and gobble down with a glass or two of wine. The WHO be damned.

— Todd

___

Cookbooks and chefs mentioned in the book (click thumbnail to purchase):

All Stories End: Links to an Obit and Narrative in Video Games

Both of these links are articles from Tor.com about endings, one an obit of writer A.C. Crispin, who died today, and the other about the ending of a video game that wonders about how video games are changing narratives. Do gamers want endings?

The first bit I posted earlier on Facebook, but thought I share it here as well:

I read this obit out of curiosity because I had seen her fans and colleagues share her post about her illness three days ago. I admit I haven’t read her fiction, but the obit writer’s second graf is as powerful of a tribute to the power and wonder of reading as any I’ve read in a while. Such a fine tribute. What a much better world it would be if more of us were stirred by the wonder and insight a storyteller can bring to us, rather than getting bent out of shape over a petulant twenty-somethings’ bare butt cheeks.

The article:

A.C. Crispin, 1950-2013

The other article Does the End of Red Redemption Underscore How Fractured Game Narratives Are? posits this question:

To see others protesting this ending left me wondering—very much in a thinking-out-loud way—if the very concept of narrative, or cause and effect, is simply broken in maturing gamers who have spent their lives absorbing narrative as it is constructed through games. Stories are typically elusive in video games, and even games that attempt it (like RPGs or similar adventure stories) usually have to ignore their own world and their own rules from time to time just so the characters live to see the next scene. If you grow up with that and only that, does this kind of jagged, cheat-able style of narrative become your baseline for how you judge all stories? John Marston’s death violates a core expectation of video game narratives; that there’s always a way to win.

 

My literary life: A photo essay

After completing a commercial project today, I drove across town to Avoca Coffee Roasters for a cappuccino or two. Delicious coffee and they dress them up with artful milk flowers, like this:

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Avoca is a nice little hipster coffee shop, a nice place to sip your drink, read, scribble in your notebook, and listen to an ambient selection of hip-hop and techno dance pop, and maybe a little Eminem. Or I guess that’s what the kids call it these days.

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I went here for the coffee and the experience. I flipped through the Dallas Observer and read a few pages of Rudy Rucker’s Postsingular, a trippy SF novel about out-of-control nanomachines and out-of-control people and other dimensions inhabited by “angels”.  I would stop to write in my notebook and it occurred to me that this is sort of how I imagined my literary life—sitting into cafes, sipping cappuccinos and writing. It’s a pretentious realization, I know. But, pretentious or not, it was a nice, pleasant diversion after a busy work day. And if having that sort of moment is pretentious, so what?

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Roger Ebert on Death and Dying

Today, journalist and film critic Roger Ebert, 70, died. He, along with the late Gene Siskel, taught us more than we might ever learn ourselves about the movies, more than just their trademark “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. They were guides to that medium. To seeing film as both art and entertainment, as a joyful part of the world.

This essay in Salon by Ebert is, well, an elegy and I hope that when it nears (and who knows when that is?) I could only be so thoughtful about its approach. So understanding that it is just another transition.

Hope you enjoy.

And thumbs up to a life well lived Mr. Ebert.

To an editor, go

“It is better to be good
than to be original.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
(1886-1969)
 

Is it the willingness to improve craft that makes you a professional writer?

By Todd Glasscock

Some years ago, when I first began blogging, I entered into a fierce debate over the quality and value of NanoWriMo, and the debate went something like this: We’re professionals and this contest degrades the profession of writing! No! It encourages people to write and read and love fiction! You’re wrong! No! You are! Pffft!

The argument I threw into that Pandora’s Box was—if I’m recalling correctly—about the nature of what it meant to be a professional writer (I’m pretty sure it has little to do with being paid to write) rather than a beginner or amateur. For the most part, I concluded, its dedication to the craft, the desire to be good, that divides the professionals from the amateurs/beginners.

The professional will work daily to evolve his craft. The professional will write the ending of A Farewell to Arms 29 times to get it right, and then hope his editor Max Perkins or F. Scott Fitzgerald (so I’ve heard) can sort the goddamn thing out. The professional will struggle to write a third sentence to balance a parallel construction, or so he hopes.

The professional will take her NanoWriMo manuscript or any manuscript she’s written, and read it as the first draft it is. She will polish it. She will revise it 29 times, if that’s what it requires.

And she will not zip it to a publisher or even self-publish until she’s let someone read it, preferably a professional editor, or at the very least another writer she trusts, someone who will push her limits. She will have to set aside her ego—this is the writer’s best and worst friend—and make a thousand more decisions before it becomes the novel or story or article it should be.

I have been thinking of the nature of a professional writer, the writer who wants to be good and not merely published to feed her ego, after reading this blog post yesterday in the Huffington Post. Its last two paragraphs really struck me as being the most important in the post.

You have to set your ego aside as a writer. You have to have fresh, well-trained eyes to see the missing parts, to catch the subtle connections or missed connections in your prose. You have to be willing to care about your craft and willing to push yourself. That’s what makes you a professional.

So I leave you with those last two paragraphs to ponder:

Finally, let’s talk about editing. This extremely important step is often overlooked by authors. Why? Because it’s easy to find someone to edit a book, right? Wrong. Editing is a pretty specialized skill set; someone who can find ‘typos’ isn’t a good editor. You want someone to help you raise the bar on your work and create a final product that is something you can really be proud of. An editor will give you critical feedback (especially if you’ve hired a content editor, which I highly recommend), and often improve your work beyond what you might have been able to do on your own.

It’s good to remember that publishing isn’t just about finding the right place to print and publish your book. It’s about a lot more than that. Publishing is a business, if you treat it as a business model you will always succeed.

Books bought, books checked-out, books read: End of Summer, beginning of Fall 2011

An update to my pollysyllabic spree:

Books bought

  • The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
  • Year’s Best SF 14

Books checked out

  • In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  • Healthy Aging by Andrew Weil

Books read

  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke