Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturnine Meander

I jettisoned Ulysses. Too much work, no sense that I would ever get any kind of payoff.
I will stick with Finnegan's wake or Steven Hero if I feel the need to get joyced. Great writer, amazing sense of rhythm, I am just too old and lazy to finish.


It is hard for me to read many of the vaunted literary titans, an indication of my inferior intellectual powers and general ill breeding.

Oates, Bellow, Roth, all very difficult for me to plow through. Updike is cool, storyline usually runs along the lines of some neurotic east coast literary professor who cheats on his wife. I jumped off the english lit thing somewhere after Salinger.

Also gave up on the Bradbury compilation, too dark, although he is an amazing writer when you are in the mood. Loved the short story Somewhere a band is playing that I read last year.

I got two books from the library this week, a Nero Wolfe book that I don't think that I have ever read before, Too Many Cooks, and Jon Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion. The Nero Wolfe mystery, written by the best writer to ever hail from Indiana, Rex Stout, was written early, I believe in 1938. A bunch of famous chefs get set to prepare a grand dinner together and wouldn't you know it, one of them gets a squab knife in the back and falls straight into the shad roe mousse. Stout is one of the great gourmet mystery writers and Archie one of the best wisecrackers of all time.

What bothered me about the book was the liberal usage of the word nigger. It is sprinkled throughout the book, set in Virginia. Stout tackles the notion of racism head on in the book, which was and is commendable but you don't know at first why he is using this type of jargon and it is discomforting.

One of my other favorite mystery writers in Arthur Upfield, an englishman who wrote the mysteries of Inspector Boney, the half aborigine detective of the outback. These were written in the twenties and have a crude racist caste at times as well. Guess it is a good things that times have changed.

Marlo at the Bottom Shelf, the book selling arm at the Fallbrook Library, used to sell me mysteries when I was a kid at the late and great Esmerelda Bookstore in Del Mar. She came over last month and brought me some Inspector Otani mysteries, written by a man who used the pseudonym James Melville. These were superb, with great character development and I wished that he would have continued the stories about the head of the Hyogo prefecture. Anyway Marlo remembered that I loved them and that was nice.

My favorite books as a kid were the great tales, the potboilers, the homeric tales, the ring trilogy, anything by Stevenson, Twain or Dumas. Sprinkle in a little Hesse, Lord Dunsany and Burroughs and I was good to go.

I watched the 3-D movie John Carter of Mars last month, to my horror, the acting was even worse than the abominable Lord of the Rings. How dare they! The original, with the quixotic locales like barzoom and helium, were a bit camp but riveting. This one really doesn't click.


My mom called the other day and I answered. She is reading the blog again and I guess that I better watch it. No more complaining about my shitty childhood.  Actually the Jackson book, which is quite good and chronicles one of my favorite and our most interesting presidents, along with his sucessor Van Buren, looks like it will be on par with McCullough's John Adams book. And reminds me of my mother. She taught history amongst a million other things and our home library had over 10,000 books. Lots of Bruce Catton civil war stuff, just a great library. No television for many years, you can read a book, damnit and we did. Buzz and I memorized the World Book one summer.


The book starts off with Jackson (1767-1845), our seventh president, contemplating taking up arms as President and leading the charge against his wayward native state South Carolina. He was born in the remote Scotch Irish, Appalachian town of Waxhaws. Jackson was a most incredible figure and in 1835 paid off the entire federal debt, the only time such a deed has been accomplished in our nation's history.


South Carolina, of course continues to vie for Virginia and Arizona for the stupidest state honor. Spoleto Festival aside, the place is pretty wacky, archly conservative and the politicians fairly deranged. I shan't bore you with the details. Look it up. Anyway it always somehow comes back to food with me and the Carolinas are no different. North Carolina has the worst barbecue I have ever tasted or agonizingly endured, I should say, the vinegar chopped pork not a suitable dish for even, well pigs.

As a self professed connoisseur of all things barbecue I did a little research on Carolina and its particular style of barbecue. And here is the skinny; western North Carolina is tomato based, eastern North Carolina is that dreadful vinegar base and South Carolina is mustard based. Interestingly to me is that one of the meccas of barbecue, where I have dined, Kansas City's renowned Arthur Bryant's, also includes vinegar in their sauce, but in an utterly palatable and delicious way.

I still think that the best barbecue I have ever tasted I bought by the pound and was beef brisket in Texas hill country near Round Top. Served on a sheet of paper. The ultimate. But I confess to never having eaten dry rub in Memphis, something on the to do list someday.

A friend of mine is thinking about moving back east, near Raleigh. I wish he wouldn't, I find the place pretty flat, muggy and miserable and the people even more so. Lost one friend to the evangelicals back there already. Asheville would be okay I suppose. Maybe Greenville. If he does do it, he has to stay out of the way of the book, cross and bible burners. Volatile times, somebody could catch on fire. To even think of moving to a place with such wretched barbecue, even Nero would be repulsed.


MC. said...

"Look it up?!" C'mon ... why the hell do we read blogs?! "Shan't?" I love it!

grumpy said...

so where can a soul find good bbq in these parts? i really wanna know.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

I heard that an ex-fireman is opening up a barbecue place in Bonsall. He has some flyers in the Myrtle Creek nursery. It'll be worth a shot as firemen are presumed to be good cooks:) and expert managers of things on fire including the barbecue. The two most difficult flavor profiles I worked with are chile and barbecue. You simply cannot please most of the people with a single product...preferences are all over the place, ethnically, regionally, family to family. Feelings run strong and deep about these things.

grumpy said...

thanks for the tip, FS-would this perhaps be where the old Valley Fort used to be?

Blue Heron said...

That's not bonsall. The Valley Fort revival is the Hornsvelt's gig.