Monday, May 18, 2009

British cozies, recipes, weightloss and a dictionary reader

I'm reading Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliett, winner of the Agatha Award for a first novel and a nominee for the McCavity and IPPY awards--all big deals among mystery writers. Amazon sales rank it as #6 in British detective mysteries and somewhere around 5,500 in overall sales listing--which is really high. Plus it's gotten great reviews from the major review sources plus a lot of mysteries writers. Praise includes such ideas as it is perfectly written in the Agatha Christie style and the British cozy is alive and well in this one, which is the traditional house party, mostly of unpleasant family members; someone is murdered and a Chief Detective Inspector or whatever the British term is comes riding in. Having heard this much hype about it, I ordered it for my Kindle and started it yesterday--only to be struck by the reason I really don't like British cozies. The language in this one is beautifully used, the wrting wry and full of wit, the characters almost unpleasant enough to be caricatures, and though I'm barely into it I can see the plot will develop well, with several suspects (we all know from the beginning who the victim is). So yes, I'm hooked enough that I'll continue reading. But the truth is I much prefer Cynthia Riggs' Martha's Vineyard series, with its 92-year-old protagonist, or J. A. Jance's two series, one with an Arizona lady sheriff and the other with a world-weary Seattle detective. Why? Because I don't identify with the stereotypical, upper class characters in the British mysteries. I don't understand their bizarre ways--from the daughter who is described as a stupid fat cow to the youngest son who is a failed actor and rapidly deteriorating sot to the oldest son who is cool, calculating and married to a lady with great societal pretensions. It's not my world, and I can't get into that kind of a story. That's why I'm trying to write mysteries about ordinary people in ordinary American cities (and incidentally wrote a difficult scene I'd been dreading last night). Note to self: stop buying British cozies. I have friends who love them, but I don't.
Last night, bored a bit with my reading and having written a thousand words and given out in imagintion, I went through the most recent issue of Bon Appetit, tearing out recipes I'd checked on my first quick run-through and giving others much more careful consideration before I threw the magazine away. I used to save stacks and stacks of them and finally had to bite the bullet and admit that I would never go back to old ones. But now I have this appalling collection of recipes that I've cut out, and I can tell my budget will go all to pot (no pun intended) because there are so many I want to cook and mostly they aren't the kind of thing one cooks for one, though I did find one I may try for myself. Steak with a blue cheese/horseradish sauce--think I could try that on a lamb chop and it would be delicious--and I often cook one loin lamb chop for myself for dinner. But tomato-cucumer gazpacho or creme fraiche (sorry I can't do the accent marks on this program) roasted salmon or asparagus vichyssoise with mint require an audience.
And speaking of food: the good news today is that I've lost 2.1 lbs. in the last week and 5 lbs. overall since I started Weight Watchers--lost for two weeks, gained one, and then lost this week. The hoot is I got an automatic message that I was losing weight too fast which could have disastrous results for my heart rate and all numbers of other things. All I can figure is they recommend you lose 2 lbs. a week, and I went over that and triggered the message. Doesn't seem to me 5 lbs. in four weeks is too fast. I know all too well weight lost quickly is soon regained. But I am laughing. I had lunch today with a friend who asked how you know how to assign points to a food, and I said you have to sort of eyeball how many cups, Tbsp., oz, whatever it is. "Well, what if I have a pastrami and cheese sandwich and assign it three points?" I explained you have to be honest or you're defeating yourself and wasting your money. I'm really trying on that score.
Finally, a tidbit I heard on the news today as I was pulling in the driveway. I have always been fascinated by the book Julie and Julia (of course now I can't find it in its usual place on one of my shelves to give the correct subtitle). It's about a young disenchanted, bored married girl in a tiny apt. with a tiny kitchen in New York who decides to give meaning to her life she'll cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering French Cooking in one year. It's funny and interesting--some of the recipes call for pretty bizarre ingredients--and I enjoyed it thoroughly except that Julie has a potty mouth. Now it's being made into a movie with some popular young actress playing Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia--one of the few movies (along with Marley and Me) that I want to see. But I digress: what I heard on NPR today is that they were about to interview a man who had in one year read through the entire Oxford English Dictionary--some 21,000 pages and I forget how many entries. An astounding feat--but to what purpose? Will he write a book about it? I'm still puzzled.

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