Monday News: The Power of Books
Ta-Nehisi Coates: By the Book – A great interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates on a variety of subjects, including his favorite books, writers, the range of genres he reads, and probably my favorite question and answer of all time about what writers he would invite to dinner.
Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
I mean, this is tough, but I do think it’s E. L. Doctorow. Adore “Billy Bathgate,” “World’s Fair” and “Ragtime.” But “The Waterworks” is one of the most thrilling books I’ve ever read. And I still believe in that, you know? That stories should sometimes thrill people. Not all the time. But sometimes. . . .
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
I don’t think I want any of them there. I don’t really have a desire to meet people based on my admiration of their art. I actually don’t understand the concept. You may hate the person you meet. I don’t know if there is any relation, whatsoever, between liking a person and liking what they do. I don’t expect that my admiration for a great lawyer will bleed over into me wanting to have a beer with them.–New York Times
E.L. Doctorow’s Masterful Manipulation of History – Ta-Nehisi Coates’s identification of Doctorow as his favorite writer reminded me of this article on Doctorow’s liberal re-interpretation of history in his own historical fiction. Doctorow clearly saw history as in service to the story, although not because he disrespected history or even “truth.” Rather, Doctorow seemed to view history as a function of the present moment, a moment of interpretation related more to the present than the past.
History is a battlefield. It’s constantly being fought over because the past controls the present. History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth. So to be irreverent to myth, to play with it, let in some light and air, to try to combust it back into history, is to risk being seen as someone who distorts truth. I meant it when I said everything in Ragtime is true. It is as true as I could make it. I think my vision of J. P. Morgan, for instance, is more accurate to the soul of that man than his authorized biography … Actually, if you want a confession, Morgan never existed. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Henry Ford, Evelyn Nesbit: all of them are made up. –The Atlantic
11 Frequently Banned Books By Female Writers That You Absolutely Cannot Miss – Given the recent challenges to books in K-12 schools, this collection of banned books written by women is pretty interesting, especially because the diversity represented in the collection may provide some insight as to the reasons they have been so challenged (aka they challenge the status quo). From Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie to Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the books comprise a great recommended reading list.
But the question remains: Which author to choose? Unfortunately, so many books have been banned, called “vulgar,”“inappropriate,” and “offensive,” that picking a title from the banned-book pile isn’t an easy feat. It even turns out that Maya Angelou, a writer who is beloved by so many, holds the dubious distinction of the most banned author in America. In 1983, Angelou was accused of harboring “a bitterness and hatred toward whites” by members of the Alabama committee that approves schools texts. (Apparently the Pulitzer Prize board missed that when nominating her work. ¯\_(?)_/¯) –Bustle
Marchpane cake: Sex on a plate – So let’s take the power-of-books theme in a different direction. Erica Leahy of Morristown, New Jersey, has created a cake based on the confection that Donna Thorland included in her book Mistress Firebrand. And holy smokes does it look amazing! The recipe is included, and if you have access to a contemporary oven, it should be a breeze to make.
Leahy will tell you that marchpane cake is a confectionary wonder, an astonishment made from humble ingredients. Even more humbling is the skill of the 18th-century baker; these cakes were baked to perfection over burning coals, not in the controlled environment of a stainless steel convection oven. What’s also terrific about the cake is its practicality. It’s gorgeous, but not too fragile. This version is time-consuming, with many steps, but entirely manageable.
The base is a brown butter almond cake, often used in petit fours. It’s a Leahy favorite, for taste and sophistication, but also because it’s not crumbly and is easy to cut. The Italian meringue icing is more involved than a regular buttercream, but the effort is rewarded with icing that’s far more silky and creamy. The decorative scrollwork is
made of royal icing. –NJ.com