A Cook’s Tour

by Anthony Bourdain

This is my first Bourdain book and I enjoyed it tremedously.  (I gave him lots of bonus points for professing his love for durian, but had them all deducted for his rabbit killing spree and vegetarian bashing…) 

Like an excellent dish, the book is craftily prepared: colorful, flavorful, authentic, with complex layers of tastes, slightly exotic, teasing you to indulge in forkful after forkful. I wonder if Bourdain has a ghost writer.  Otherwise, his talent with pen certainly matches the one with pan!

Bourdain is not shy about exposing his intimate thoughts and feelings, which makes this travelogue and food guide that much more entertaining.  Very often, he would start talking about a dish, a cuisine, and then it will delve deeper.  Like when he visited France, in the end he realized that he didn’t go there to look for the perfect meal.  He didn’t go there to look for his childhood home. He went to look for his father, who was no longer there, or anywhere.   Similarly, his visit to Cambodia unleashed some very strong comments about US foreign policy.

Something I find weird about the book though – it looks like the editor hit a shuffle play button on his computer.  The chapters hop around, from Portugal to Vietnam to Spain to Japan then to Vietnam and Japan again… Not that it matters much as each chapter pretty much stands along, just kind of weird.

Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

White Ghost Girls

by Alice Greenway

I was originally interested in the title because it tells of two young girls in Hong Kong.

The author herself grew up in Hong Kong, and this beautiful fiction likely has some autobiographic elements in it.  The story is told through the eyes of Kate, an innocent American girl, younger sister to the more rebellious Frankie.  While their father photographs the Vietnam war for Time magazine, the girls live with their mother in Hong Kong, a safer haven to shield them from the horrors of war.  However, there is no escape from the turbulent political situation, which posts a omnimous fascination for the girls. 

While the war is in the backdrop, this certainly is no epic tale.  It is a touching, intimate story about two sisters close to each other in an unfamiliar world and fearful time, and growing apart as they enter adolescent and test their individuality.

Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  


by Alice Sebold

I listened to this as an audio book.  Ten minutes into the book, I felt like hitting the eject button.  It was not easy to hear someone retelling her rape in such detail: the violation, the assault, the humiliation.  But then I thought, if the author has the courage to tell it, the least I can do is to have the courage to hear it.  So I did. (Also attribute it to the fact that I don’t have another audio book in my car to switch to.)

I am glad I did.  It certainly wasn’t a pleasant summer read, but I learned a lot from her story.  It both angered and saddened me that, after the rape, she had to be the strong one to keep her mother from having a panic attacker, to comfort her sister, to try to make her father understand how she could let it happen if the rapist did not have the knife during the rape.  You will think, wow, I couldn’t believe her family couldn’t be more supportive.  Then you realize that there are many rape victims who have it worse.  If her family, an educated, loving one, reacted like this, how it may be like for some less fortunate victims. 

Published in: on February 3, 2007 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment