cover imageAt page 191, I’m giving up on To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris and letting it go to the next person waiting for it at the library. It’s 337 pages long, so I got over half-way through before deciding it just wasn’t clicking with me. I really liked the author’s first book, Then We Came to the End, which used the unusual narrative device of first person plural voice throughout the whole book, as if everyone who worked or had worked at the ad agency was speaking collectively about how bad things were there, so I was looking forward to reading this one.

Here’s the publisher’s description of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (minus a spoiler-ish line that I deleted from the middle):

A big, brilliant, profoundly observed novel about the mysteries of modern life by National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris, one of the most exciting voices of his generation

Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing.

At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.

Set in New York City, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour sounded like something I thought I was really going to like – especially the “laugh-out-loud funny” and “indelibly profound” parts – but I didn’t get the profundity and Paul struck me as humorless. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for this book, or maybe I just didn’t get the humor of it. Paul comes across as a shallow person, which I realize has got to be intentional, but that made him seem an unlikely person to be delving into mysteries of religious faith and human nature. As a character, Paul seemed too much a collection of characteristics and not as much a fully realized person.

And then there’s some really flaky stuff about religious beliefs and ancestral secrets that I just couldn’t get myself to be interested in. With all the talk of dentistry, however, it did convince me that flossing is a habit I need to keep up!

Does anyone out there want to talk me into giving this book another try? Maybe I would like it better as an audiobook?

Other opinions on this book (good to excellent):
Fashioning Fiction
That’s What She Read
Verbatim

P.S. I see To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is the first on the recently released Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist, so what do I know? [Note added 7/28/14]

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Mini Bloggiesta badgeMini Bloggiesta To-Do List

Delete plug-ins and remove widgets that are no longer in use
This didn’t take that long, but it reminded me to mention the plug-in for WordPress.org blogs for advanced editing of images that you used to be able to do before the last WordPress.org update, called Manage Image Borders. This plug-in lets you add a cushion of space between an image and text.

Delete revisions taking up unnecessary space
I use Better Delete Revisions for this, thanks to this post from April at My Shelf Confessions. Since I started using this plug-in, 5,459 redundant post revisions have been removed that would otherwise have been making my blog take longer to load. I do a lot of revising!

Update blogroll to include only active blogs
I deleted a few blogs that are inactive, on hiatus, or whose authors have gone into temporary or permanent retirement, including, sadly, Raging Bibliomania, Read in a Single Sitting, and Roof Beam Reader.

Add a book list to Book List page

Set up a giveaway for Giveaways page

Write and schedule two reviews and/or reader’s advisory-related posts

Join the Twitter chat on Sunday

Back up blog
I do this pretty regularly, but Judith at Leeswamme’s Blog reminded me that I haven’t done it in a while. I think BlueHost backs up automatically for me, too, in case of emergency, though.

For more on Bloggiesta and Mini Bloggiesta, visit Bloggiesta Headquarters.

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Mini Bloggiesta badgeIt’s Mini Summer Bloggiesta this weekend, July 19–20! I don’t have a lot of time for blogging these days, with other ongoing book-related projects hanging over my head that I really need to work on, but I missed the spring Bloggiesta because of them and didn’t get much done on those other projects, anyway, so I’ll join in and see what I can get done on everything at once.

Bloggiesta started as a twice-yearly event when book bloggers around the world devote even more time than usual to sprucing their blogs, especially to doing the techy things that would never get done otherwise. But two Bloggiestas a year was not enough! So by popular demand, the talented organizers – Suey from It’s All About Books and Danielle from There’s A Book – set up two Mini Bloggiestas, and regular Twitter chats throughout the year. Follow @Bloggiesta on Twitter, and join the Mini Bloggiesta Twitter chat on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST, using hashtag #Bloggiesta.

Are you a book blogger new to Bloggiesta? Check out the About page on the Bloggiesta blog.

Mini Bloggiesta To-Do List
Delete plug-ins and remove widgets that are no longer in use
Delete revisions taking up unnecessary space
Update blogroll to include only active blogs
Add a book list to Book List page
Set up a giveaway for Giveaways page
Write and schedule two reviews and/or reader’s advisory-related posts
Join the Twitter chat on Sunday

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Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other Weekend Cooking posts on Beth Fish Reads and other blogs.

cover image It’s finally salad season, and lately we’ve been having at least a salad a day, sometimes more. We never have just a salad for a meal, though; it’s always a “nice” salad. (At this time of year, though, with good produce coming in from the garden and at the farmer’s market, the salads actually are nice, and don’t require any adjectival propping up.)

You don’t really need recipes to make basic salad meals, of course, but sometimes you want something different. I found the perfect cookbook for experimenting with salads in all seasons — Salad of the Day: 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year by Georgeanne Brennan.

It is laid out by the calendar – starting with Fennel Salad with Blood Oranges & Arugula for January 1st, and ending with Arugula Salad with Quince Paste & Serrano Ham on December 31. These recipes both happen to have arugula in the name, but arugula is not listed in the Salads by Ingredient index at the end, so I can’t tell you what the odds are of that. However, I can tell you that this book doesn’t have a great index. In case any other indexing nerds are reading this, there is also a Salads by Type index (e.g. Seafood Salads, Bean & Grain Salads, etc.) at the very end of the book.

Salad of the Day has a page of two recipes, a full-page color photo of one of the salads, and then a two-page spread of four recipes, so you never go more than six recipes without a gorgeous, mouthwatering photo. It’s easy and pleasant to flip through the book and find recipes suitable to the time of year. (If you share seasons with the U.S., that is.) Some of the recipes are for side dishes, but many are a meal in themselves. The print is small, in order to fit 365 recipes and all those photos into a 304-page book. I kept having to put my reading glasses on to make sure I was reading the fractional measurements correctly and not seeing 2/3 as 1/3, for example, which I usually was. (This may not be an issue for you. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the print was small, myself, a few years ago!)

Each recipe comes with an introductory paragraph, providing serving suggestions or notes on the ingredients. For example, here’s the paragraph introducing July 12th’s recipe for Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad:

Slender, dark green English cucumbers, also called hothouse cucumbers, are a good choice for this classic Asian salad. They have thin peels and fewer and softer seeds than other varieties.

I made the June 29th recipe, Black Bean & White Corn Salad, to take to a Fourth of July cookout. I have made similar salads before, but this was the first one I’ve tried that called for cooking the onions and red pepper, and I liked it.

photo of Black Bean & White Corn Salad prepared and with page of cookbook showing

Black Bean & White Corn Salad
serves 4

2 tsp. canola oil
2/3 cup (4 oz./125 g) chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup (3 oz./90 g) chopped red onion
1/2 can (8 oz./250 g) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (6 oz./185 g) fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 1 ear of corn)
1 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving (optional)
1/3 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and saute until the juices from the bell pepper moisten the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the beans, corn, and chili powder. Cook until the beans and corn are heated through, about 3 minutes. The beans and corn will be just crisp-tender. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Toss well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a platter with lettuce leaves, if using [I didn't], and spoon the beans and corn on top. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Having peaches on hand the same week, I also made the balsamic peaches from the June 18th recipe, Peach, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad. (There’s arugula again!) I didn’t have arugula or goat cheese, so we just had the peaches (sprinkled with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and then grilled and drizzled with the balsamic vinegar reduction) as a side dish. Delicious!

Salad of the Day is published for Williams-Sonoma, so the author’s personality doesn’t really come through here, but as author Georgeanne Brennan divides her time between northern California and Provence, she presumably has access to exceptional produce year-round. She has a sporadically updated blog and is also the author of A Pig in Provence, a memoir about moving to Provence in the 70s.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Salad of the Day
Brennan, Georgeanne
Weldon Owen, 2012
9781616282127
304 pp.
$34.95, US

(Not really a) Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my public library, but I might buy it!

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