Laurie R. King
I am always happy to learn that Laurie R. King has published another novel, and it was a delight to pick up this supremely skilled conclusion to the plot which she initiated in "The Language of Bees." I had been anticipating the publication of this concluding sequence since I read the earlier book, a little over a year ago.
This novel continues the frenetic journeys of Sherlock Holmes and his wife/partner Mary Russell as they cross the British Isles over and over in their desperate search to find Holmes’ infant granddaughter Estelle and pluck her from the clutches of the madman who killed her mother.
It would be crass to enumerate them for someone who has not yet read the book, but there are tales within tales here, subplots and themes enough to satisfy any reader, and they are all wonderfully rendered. One should probably read "The Language of Bees" before reading this gorgeous book, but it stands squarely on its own. Laurie King's deft hand and sure pen manage to trace the threads of the previous novel in a wonderfully subtle way, acquainting the reader with its key elements without either boring or irritating. That is a rare gift in a writer, and Laurie King has it.
I was particularly happy to see the re-emergence of a mythic theme (or archetype) from another of King’s novels, that of "the holy fool" ("To Play the Fool"), or in this rendering, Robin Goodfellow or "the Green Man". The theme is powerfully portrayed in the character of Robert Goodman, a fey and "not quite of this world" guardian spirit or forest hermit met by Mary Russell when her airplane crash lands in a northern British forest on her way to the Orkneys. Although something of a peripheral character, Goodman shines with a strong, steady and radiant light, and I would be happy to see him turn up in future novels.
Sigh, it will be another whole year before I can sit down with the next Laurie King book....
Edward Espe Brown
This remarkable cookbook is an updated compilation of Zen priest and chef extraordinaire Edward Espe Brown's three previous works: Tassajara Cooking, The Tassajara Recipe Book, and Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings. The three earlier books were gems published years ago, long before the present campaign for real food was launched. I have worn out several copies since they came out, and I was delighted to learn a while ago that a new Tassajara volume comprising Brown's earlier works was being published by Shambhala.
Ed Brown was head chef at Tassajara in the sixties, and he was (along with Deborah Madison), a founder and chef of the legendary vegetarian restaurant "Greens" in Fort Mason, across the bay from San Francisco. He and Madison collaborated on another of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, The Greens Cookbook.
The recipes and techniques in The Complete Tassajara Cookbook are culinary wonders, and Ed Brown's approach to doings in the kitchen shines all the way through. He extols the use of fresh local seasonal ingredients and whole foods, but more than that, he inspires the reader to prepare food creatively, with joyful intent and careful loving attention to the task at hand. In his view, to work in the kitchen is to "awaken one's innate capacity for living in the fullness and vitality of the present, touching and being touched by life itself".
This book is not just a collection of delicious vegetarian recipes, but a celebration of life, community and timeless human rites of sharing and breaking bread together. It belongs in every kitchen and on every chef's shelf, and it is meant to be used - often. I sometimes find myself reading it, not because I need a recipe, but for the pure pleasure of the experience.