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From the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man, a scintillating novel of love, loss, and literary rivalry set in rapidly changing Brooklyn. The Astral is a huge rose-colored old pile of an apartment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it was the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, a nurse, and of their two children: Karina, now a fervent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But Luz has found (and destroyed) some poems of Harry's that ignite her long-simmering suspicions of infidelity, and he's been summarily kicked out. He now has to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, financial, and parental failures (and perhaps others) and find his way forward--and back into Luz's good graces. Harry Quirk is, in short, a loser, living small and low in the water. But touched by Kate Christensen's novelistic grace and acute perception, his floundering attempts to reach higher ground and forge a new life for himself become funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving. She knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men--and she turns them into literary art of the highest order.From the Hardcover edition.
From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness."To taste fully is to live fully." For Kate Christensen, food and eating have always been powerful connectors to self and world--"a subterranean conduit to sensuality, memory, desire." Her appetites run deep; in her own words, she spent much of her life as "a hungry, lonely, wild animal looking for happiness and stability." Now, having found them at last, in this passionate feast of a memoir she reflects upon her journey of innocence lost and wisdom gained, mistakes made and lessons learned, and hearts broken and mended. In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and Ruth Reichl, Blue Plate Special is a narrative in which food--eating it, cooking it, reflecting on it--becomes the vehicle for unpacking a life. Christensen explores her history of hunger--not just for food but for love and confidence and a sense of belonging--with a profound honesty, starting with her unorthodox childhood in 1960s Berkeley as the daughter of a mercurial legal activist who ruled the house with his fists. After a whirlwind adolescent awakening, Christensen strikes out to chart her own destiny within the literary world and the world of men, both equally alluring and dangerous. Food of all kinds, from Ho Hos to haute cuisine, remains an evocative constant throughout, not just as sustenance but as a realm of experience unto itself, always reflective of what is going on in her life. She unearths memories--sometimes joyful, sometimes painful--of the love between mother and daughter, sister and sister, and husband and wife, and of the times when the bonds of love were broken. Food sustains her as she endures the pain of these ruptures and fuels her determination not to settle for anything less than the love and contentment for which she's always yearned. The physical and emotional sensuality that defines Christensen's fiction resonates throughout the pages of Blue Plate Special. A vibrant celebration of life in all its truth and complexity, this book is about embracing the world through the transformative power of food: it's about listening to your appetites, about having faith, and about learning what is worth holding on to and what is not.
For ten years, Hugo Whittier, upper-class scion, former gigolo, failed belle-lettrist has been living a hermit's existence at Waverly, his family's crumbling mansion overlooking the Hudson. He passes the time reading Montaigne and M. F. K. Fisher, cooking himself delicious meals, smoking an endless number of cigarettes, and nursing a grudge against the world. But his older brother, Dennis, has returned, in retreat from an unhappy marriage, and so has his estranged wife, Sonia, and their (she claims) daughter, Bellatrix, shattering Hugo's cherished solitude. He's also been told by a doctor that he has the rare Buerger's disease, which means that unless he stops smoking he will die--all the more reason for Hugo to light up, because his quarrel with life is bitter and an early death is a most attractive prospect. As Hugo smokes and cooks and sexually schemes and pokes his perverse nose into other people's marriages and business, he records these events as well as his mordant, funny, gorgeously articulated personal history and his thoughts on life and mortality in a series of notebooks. His is one of the most perversely compelling literary personalities to inhabit a novel since John Lanchester'sThe Debt to Pleasure, and his ancestors include the divinely cracked and eloquent narrators of the works of Nabokov. As snobbish and dislikable as Hugo is, his worldview is so enticingly conveyed that even the most resistant reader will be put under his spell. His insinuating voice gets into your head and under your skin in the most seductive way. And as he prepares what may be his final Christmas feast for family and friends, readers will have to ask, "Is this the end of Hugo?" The Epicure's Lamentis a wry and witty novel about love and death and family, a major contribution to a vein of literature that the author Kate Christensen has dubbed "loser lit. " It more than fulfills the bright promise of her lavishly praised previous two novels, and gives us an antihero for our time--hard to like, impossible to resist.
From the acclaimed author ofThe Epicure's Lament, a novel of literary rivalry in which two competing biographers collide in their quest for the truth about a great artist. Oscar Feldman, the "Great Man," was a New York city painter of the heroic generation of the forties and fifties. But instead of the abstract canvases of the Pollocks and Rothkos, he stubbornly hewed to painting one subject--the female nude. When he died in 2001, he left behind a wife, Abigail, an autistic son, and a sister, Maxine, herself a notable abstract painter--all duly noted in theNew York Timesobituary. What no one knows is that Oscar Feldman led an entirely separate life in Brooklyn with his longtime mistress, Teddy St. Cloud, and their twin daughters. As the incorrigibly bohemian Teddy puts it, "He couldn't live without a woman around. It was like water to a plant for him. " Now two rival biographers, book contracts in hand, are circling around Feldman's life story, and each of these three women--Abigail, Maxine, and Teddy--will have a chance to tell the truth as they experienced it. The Great Manis a scintillating comedy of life among the avant-garde--of the untidy truths, needy egos, and jostlings for position behind the glossy facade of artistic greatness. Not a pretty picture--but a provocative and entertaining one that incarnates the take-no-prisoners satirical spirit of Dawn Powell and Mary McCarthy.
Inspired by her move from Brooklyn to Maine and New Hampshire, as well as the slow-food, buy local movement that has re-energized sustainable farming, bestselling author Kate Christensen turns her blockbuster talent to telling the story of the hardship and happiness that has sustained her adopted home through thick and thin, as demonstrated through the staple foods of the region. Using her candid blend of humor, insight, culinary knowledge, and taste for rugged adventure, Christensen takes the reader on a journey into the lives and landscapes of the farmers, fishermen, hunters, and families that are trying to make do with what they have and still produce delicious, healthful food. She also details the history of food in the region and the secrets to cultivating her own sources of joy. A mouthwatering stew that combines the magic ingredients of love, personal appetites, hard labor, history, and original recipes based on foods featured in the book.
Combining sly humor with an urban edge, Kate Christensen's In the Drink tells the story of a resolutely clear-eyed young woman who makes a complete mess of her life, and lives to tell the tale.The novel's heroine is the smart, pretty, underemployed, and single Claudia Steiner, personal secretary to Genevieve del Castellano, a terrifying, glamorous semi-lunatic who has it in for her for reasons she can't even begin to fathom. William, her best friend, considers Claudia his pal, his confidante, his sidekick in matters amatory, which would be fine if she weren't desperately in love with him herself. Further complicating matters is Claudia's old lover John Threadgill, an unpublished epic poet whose marriage to a Romanian stripper named Rima hasn't kept him from trying to seduce Claudia at every opportunity.Claudia came to New York City fresh out of college, buoyed along by her dream of becoming a journalist. But her starry-eyed notion of Claudia Steiner, Reporter on the Beat, quickly vanished into the ozone when she couldn't muster the requisite hard-bitten, white-hot urgency, the chain-smoking, the yelling, and the cutthroat story-mongering. Now, at the age of twenty-nine, she finds herself adrift in the city, careening dangerously from catastrophe to catastrophe. Desperately trying to keep her head above water, Claudia has little to rely on but a wry sense of humor, a keen appreciation of the medicinal properties of whiskey, and something more subtle--a persistent little flame of belief in herself, which makes a happy ending seem possible even in this most unforgiving of cities.Hilarious, compassionate, and keenly observed, In the Drink is the enormously entertaining debut of a startlingly talented young writer.From the Hardcover edition.
From the author of the highly acclaimed In the Drink, a smart and sexy exploration of New York and its customs through the eyes of a disillusioned, yet secretly hopeful, gay man. Jeremy Thrane is a thirty-five-year-old writer in love with a married man. For years, Jeremy has posed as "archivist" to Ted Masterson, a Hollywood action star. Jeremy maintains Ted's New York brownstone and guards the secret that could destroy his career. But when Ted and his movie-star wife, Giselle, adopt a child and become America's most-photographed family, Jeremy finds himself without a job and, more importantly, bereft of the love of his life.With the same wit and authenticity that have made her a critical and popular favorite, Kate Christensen chronicles Jeremy's search for a new start as he ventures to every corner of the New York landscape, from watering holes where gossip columnists await an "item" to dives where waiters and busboys are eager to please patrons-especially after their shifts are over. In his spare time, he struggles to finish a novel based on his father's peripatetic life as a fanatical Marxist and turns out sizzling pornography for a one-man enterprise run by an old high school acquaintance. His sister, an up-and-coming rock musician, and his thrice-married, former flower-child mother, who found her true calling as a poet late in life, provide the mixture of criticism and compassion Jeremy has known all his life and now, for the most unexpected reasons, finally learns to appreciate. A fast-paced and funny social satire, Jeremy Thrane deftly captures the slippery chameleon quality of American identity, the power of youth and beauty, and the complexity of love.From the Hardcover edition.
A vibrant story of female friendship and midlife sexual awakening from the acclaimed author of The Great Man. Josie is a Manhattan psychotherapist living a comfortable life with her husband and daughter - until, while suddenly flirting with a man at a party, she is struck with the sudden realization that she must leave her passionless marriage. A thrillingly sordid encounter with a stranger she meets at a bar immediately follows. At the same time, her college friend Raquel, a Los Angeles rock star, is being pilloried in the press for sleeping with a much younger man who happens to have a pregnant girlfriend. This proves to be red meat to the gossip hounds of the Internet. The two friends escape to Mexico City for a Christmas holiday of retreat and rediscovery of their essential selves. Sex has gotten these two bright, complicated women into interesting trouble, and the story of their struggles to get out of that trouble is totally gripping at every turn. A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship, Trouble is a funny, piercing, and moving examination of the battle between the need for connection and the quest for freedom that every modern woman must fight.
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