Thursday, February 24, 2011

Literary Bite: Let the Great World Spin

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishesIf my first day is any indication, the rest of my 24th year is going to be awesome! My co-workers surprised me with afternoon cupcakes from Hello Cupcake – the strawberry one was deeeelish

And Zengo for dinner was absolutely amazing. I’ve heard of Asian-Latin fusion food, and always been a bit confused…I like Asian food, I love Mexican food, but together? Yes. You must try this! It’s a bit pricey, but they have good happy hour deals (until 7:30), and it’s totally worth it!

Four of us split a bunch of small plates and it was just the right amount.

We got an appetizer:
Camaron Ceviche shrimp, aji panca, hearts of palm, orange, serrano, bonito flake 
Unlike in Costa Rica, the ceviche comes in big chunks of shrimp and is only lightly acidic. And is served with tortilla chips.

Two small plates (small plates come in servings of 3: you get 3 empanadas, 3 tacos):
Thai Chicken Empanadas chile poblano, oaxaca cheese, mango-curry salsa
Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos sushi rice, mango salsa, guacamole
The Empanadas were good, but the star of the night (in my opinion) was the sushi tacos. Get them, you won’t regret it!

Two sushi rolls: 
Angry Zengo yellowfin tuna, wasabi tobiko, avocado, sesame-chipotle rouille
Volcano salmon, blue crab, chipotle aioli
The sushi was very good, but not as stand-out-beyond-amazing as the other dishes. I still prefer Hiro’s in Petaluma.

And one side:
Fingerling Potatoes & Cotija Cheese 
The serving was huge and the potatoes were really flavorful
Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming. I wish I could come up with a good transition here…Asian/Latin food, a book centered around New York City in the 70s and a tightrope walker…nope even I can’t do it.

Ah well, last week I finished Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and I owe you a Literary Bite!

In 1974 Philippe Petit strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers and walked through the air 110 stories up for 45 minutes. Let the Great World Spin is not actually about the walk - McCann expertly uses the walk as the unifying factor for several other narratives.

“It had never occurred to me before,” one character says, “but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected.”

And it’s really really good! McCann attempts to capture the soul of NYC through the stories of New Yorkers on that day. This book is about brothers from Ireland, prostitution in the Bronx, the Vietnam war, women’s and civil rights. But it's not preachy - the NYT describes it as similar to the movie Crash (all different types of people somehow slightly connected), but "without the reductive moralizing." McCann changes his writing tone and pace and voice with each different character – it’s really impressive how the author, a self-described middle-aged white man, can become a 70s prostitute, an artist, a monk.

McCann started writing shortly after 9/11/01, and says that the falling Towers were the catalyst for the book.
Then came the moment when I thought that I could go backwards in time to talk about the present: that’s when the tightrope walk came in. And the deeper I got into the novel the more I began to see that it was, hopefully, about an act of recovery. Because the book comes down to a very anonymous moment in the Bronx when two little kids are coming out of a very rough housing project, about to be taken away by the state, and they get rescued by an act of grace. That’s it, not much maybe, but everything to me. And there’s hardly a line in the novel about 9/11, but it’s everywhere if the reader wants it to be. I trust my readers. They will get from a book what they want. It can be read in many different ways. In this sense I hope it works on an open poetic level: make of this child what you will.