Tag Archives: carole reedy

Five Women: Mexico City’s Star Chefs

By Carole Reedy

The streets of Mexico City overflow not just with people and cars but also with culture, art, science, and nature. There seem to be no limits. Growth is a near-constant, but the citizenry knows how to adapt to the colorful chaos, making this one of the most beloved cites in the world.

In this megalopolis, the choices for food, drink, restaurants, markets, street snacks, taco stands, and cafes, as well as their diversity of style, are staggering. And amidst this richness, numerous women chefs have made their mark, creating cuisines and venues worthy of their big-city status.

The food scene here supports so many women who shine brightly that it’s impossible to name them all. The choices here are subjective, based purely on my experiences and those of my visitors.

One positive result of the Covid pandemic is the presence of more street dining in our cities. The Mexican government has allowed restaurants to build fashionable wooden structures on streets, sidewalks, curbs, and parking areas, making dining a more social experience, and certainly a better ventilated one. Add the near-perfect climate of Mexico City and you can dine al fresco most days and evenings.

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of our top women chefs:

ELENA REYGADAS is the award-winning chef (Veuve Clicquot named her the Best Latin American Female Chef in 2014) at Rosetta, a delectable eatery on Colima street in the heart of trendy Roma Norte. New and repeat customers appreciate not only the high quality of the food and Mexican ingredients, but also her innovative presentation, which sidesteps unnecessary cleverness. This is the first stop for many of my visitors, a favorite dish being the sea bass, though any selection is delicately prepared with just the perfect balance of flavors.

Rosetta is open Monday-Saturday, 1 to 5:30 pm and 6:30 to 11:15pm. Reservations strongly suggested, especially in the evening hours.

Just across the street is Reygadas’ casual Panadería Rosetta, known for its exceptional bread and pastries, as well as sandwiches. The traditional pan de muerto and rosca de reyes are to die for, although only offered during their respective Mexican holiday celebrations. You can eat on site or take out. The outdoor area is perfect for people watching.
Panadería Rosetta is open Monday-Saturday 7 am to 8 pm, Sunday 7:30 am to 6 pm.

Ten years after the she opened Rosetta in 2010, Reygadas opened yet another successful eatery in neighboring Condesa, this time with a new European /Mexican/ Mediterranean concept. Lardo is a bit more casual than Rosetta, with a bar encircling the room, but the food still has the finest of flavors. Lardo’s excellent breakfast is a good choice.

An interesting note about Reygadas for readers of The Eye’s regular book review column: she studied English literature at UNAM, where she wrote her thesis on Virgina Woolf’s experimental novel The Waves.

MÓNICA PATIÑO is a recognizable name among all foodies in the city. She’s won numerous awards and, like Reygadas, two of her most famous and best restaurants are the formal Casa Virginia in Roma Norte and a more casual place next door, Delirio.

Casa Virginia has a fine dining atmosphere, with prices to reflect it. With an ample variety of choices, the French cuisine is delicately prepared and deliciously presented. From figs and Gorgonzola cheese to clams, fish, short ribs, and the classic French onion soup, the food encourages repeat visits.

Casa Virginia is open 1:30 to 11 pm Tuesday-Saturday, and only until 6 pm Sundays. Closed Mondays.

Delirio is a delicatessen with a few outdoor tables on busy Calle Alvaro Obregon (indoor seating is also available). Patiño also sells many of her delicacies at this location, both grocery items and freshly prepared foods. Chilaquiles are a particular favorite, as are the juices. I often stop in just for takeout.

Delirio is open Monday-Saturday 8 am to 10 pm, Sunday 9 am to 7pm.

Early in her life Patiño wanted to learn English and French and moved to Europe to do just that. She studied cooking in France, with an emphasis on pastries, ice creams, and pates.

MARTHA ORTIZ. Let’s travel from Condesa and Roma to Polanco, another upscale neighborhood, close to Chapultepec Park. Here Martha Ortiz Chapa runs her famous restaurant Dulce Patria (Sweet Homeland).

When asked what she recommends to tourists who come to her restaurant looking for Mexican flavors, Ortiz replies:

“Everything we have on the menu. Our menu is small but articulates Mexican stories through marinades, moles, corn and beans. I feel proud of everything we have from a nationalist guacamole to María goes to the flower shop, the place’s flagship dessert, and whatever you experience. What they ask for the most is the duck with mole and the coconut flan with pineapple a la vainilla for dessert.”

CARMEN RAMÍREZ DEGOLLADO created El Bajio restaurant with her husband in 1972, and has carried on the tradition since his death in 1988, expanding from one to 19 locations in the city.

This is one of my favorite places to entertain guests, and I usually do so in the venue at 222 Reforma. The restaurant is colorfully decorated in the purest Mexican style, and the food reflects the vast traditions of Mexico.

My favorite and probably the most popular dish is the carnitas, delicate pieces of pork butt served on fresh hot tortillas. You can ask for it maciza, which means with less fat, just solid meat. Mexican breakfasts, such as huevos rancheros, are also a treat. Please don’t miss the hot chocolate!

GABRIELA CÁMERA. In 1988, this restaurant owner and author opened a seafood restaurant called Contramar that has generated buzz on the streets of Roma Norte ever since. This is one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Try the soft-shell crabs or spicy fish tacos in the airy dining room and plant-filled patio.

Cámera published My Mexico City Kitchen in 2019, the same year she and her staff were the subject of the Netflix documentary A Tale of Two Kitchens and Time Magazine listed her as one of its most influential people.

This modest list of women-led restaurants represents just the tip of the iceberg, but a good place to start your Mexico City food frenzy.

A Twist of Time

By Carole Reedy

Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this.
— Dave Eggers, prolific writer and editor

Science fiction writers aren’t the only storytellers who work with the themes of time and space. Novelists, too, are beholden to time to create the masterpieces of literature we so deeply enjoy. In fact, writers of all genres magically engage readers through their philosophical treatment of the phenomenon of time. The authors here hail from one of three centuries and from five different cultures: French, British, American, German, and Polish. Their works, at the time they were written, were all revolutionary in style and structure, opening the door for future generations to understand and explore the context in which we live, evolve, feel, and observe.

We can never say enough about the mysterious ascendancy of time.

MARCEL PROUST
Topping the list of writers with a penchant for time and memory is the quirky, charming bon vivant Marcel Proust. Best known for recollecting his past after tasting a delectable madeleine, his seven-volume novel (more than a million words) still fascinates readers throughout the world and challenges and mystifies academics.

À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu (1913-27), Proust’s masterpiece, translates to English literally as In Search of Lost Time. However, the popular and dominant translation of Scottish Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff titles it Remembrance of Things Past, a subtle but significant difference.

Proust’s memories are involuntary, sparked by a smell or taste. They do not come bidden by a conscious search. Moncrieff’s title is inspired by and taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, I summon up remembrance of things past.”

Proust’s tome has mesmerized readers for more than a century. And even though it is set in early 20th-century France, the behaviors, emotions, and habits of the characters remain recognizable today. Proust’s mastery of language and nuance is unmatched. The prose is among the most beautiful ever written.

From an early age Proust suffered from asthma, which remained with him into adulthood. He spent the last three years of his life in bed, writing all night and sleeping all day. He died at age 51 in 1922 from pneumonia.

VIRGINIA WOOLF
The highly acclaimed British writer Virginia Woolf has been the focus of literary roundtables, college theses, and book club discussions for nearly a century. She was the forerunner of the stream-of-consciousness genre in which her characters observe their everyday surroundings in search of an understanding of life. The style is evident for creating an almost dreamy, trancelike state that welcomes the reader into new worlds.

Recently the Met Opera from New York presented a new production called The Hours. The drama is based on the 1998 novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham, which itself is based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) as well as Woolf’s life. Both books are among my favorites. The novel The Hours is a literary masterpiece in its juxtaposition of time and place.

Mrs. Dalloway is one of Woolf’s most enchanting works, and I believe it to be a perfect novel. The action is reduced to the course of one day in Mrs. Dalloway’s life, but it tells the story of a lifetime of experiences and emotions. The enigma of time.

Another of Woolf’s popular novels is To the Lighthouse (1927). Here the reader accompanies the Ramsey family to Scotland, a place they vacation regularly in the summer. But once again, with the twists of time, the story of a woman is told through the eyes of others as well as her own. The Scottish landscape functions as a significant character in this novel, which scrutinizes a woman’s life and relationships.

Sadly, as is the case with many persons of genius, Wolff suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. At age 59, she walked into the River Ouse in Northern England with a pocketful of rocks and drowned.

OTTESA MOSHFEGH
This 40-year-old American novelist has recently captured the attention of readers of all ages. Ruthless and bold in her craft, she painstakingly takes us on her characters’ searches for resolution and peace. The emotional development, upheaval, and final settlement of her main characters is only hesitantly revealed through the author’s singular unfolding.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation appeared on many best-seller lists in 2022. The sleep-induced self-cure of the protagonist develops slowly, making for a fascinating journey. Since I was completely satisfied with the novel, I then searched for this young innovative writer’s previous work.

Death in Her Hands (2020) caught my attention as it was tagged as a mystery, a genre among my personal favorites. Yet here is a completely different take. The action is disclosed to the reader exclusively from the point of view of the main character. All is auspiciously resolved in the end despite, perhaps, the reader’s doubt!

Fortunately, Moshfegh is young and undoubtedly is churning many ideas that will make their way into new novels for her demanding fans.

THOMAS MANN
Thomas Mann suggested to his readers that once they finished his novel The Magic Mountain (1924), they read it again. Those who have done so claim it is the most magnificent novel ever written, and many more agree.

Although he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929, principally for Buddenbrooks (1901), a novel based on his own family, it is The Magic Mountain that brought Mann continued fame over the years. It continues to be named one of the best novels of all time.

Apart from the themes of life and death, Mann returns often to the subjective nature of time and our own perspective. In The Magic Mountain, the main character, Hans Castrop, comes to visit his cousin in a sanatorium, falls ill, and spends seven years there himself. The two engage in philosophical arguments about time: does “interest and novelty dispel or shorten the content of time, while monotony and emptiness hinder its passage”? The relationship of time and space is a continuing debate.

Mann lived a long interesting life, in both Germany (his home), Switzerland, and the US. Wartime conditions in Europe, especially in Germany, were the impetus for his relocations.

To know more about this highly regarded writer, I recommend a 2021 novel written by famed Irish author Colm Tóibin called The Magician, which is based on the life of Thomas Mann.

OLGA TOKARCZUK
Take the opportunity to watch interviews with this surprisingly bubbly personality. Despite the serious nature of her subjects and writing, Tokarczuk has a contagious sense of humor. The obvious mutually respectful relationship with her English translator, Jennifer Croft, manifests itself in the superb results of this successful team.

Tokarczuk, a clinical psychologist, is a serious writer, evident in the recognition of her work by the Nobel committee in 2018, when she was awarded that coveted prize for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Her book Flights (2007) is a favorite. She won and shared with her translator the Man Booker International Prize for it in 2018. Judges for the National Book Award, for which the novel was short-listed, offer this description: “Brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.”

Tokarczuk’s epic novel, The Books of Jacob (2014) transports the reader over seven borders and five languages, starting in 1752 with the 18th century Polish-Jewish religious leader Jacob Frank, then evolving to the persecution of the Jews in the 20th century. It is her revelations of the past that prophesize and thus advance the pursuit of solutions to present-day problems.

At 61, this politically and socially aware author is active in rights of equality and respect for minorities.

Coincidentally, just before submitting this article I began reading Out Stealing Horses (2003) by Per Petterson. On page 6, I ran across this poignant note: “Time is important to me now, I tell myself. Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking.”

The Unfinished List of 2022

By Carole Reedy

“Can anything be sadder than a work left unfinished? Yes, a work undone.”
— Poet Christina Rossetti

Upon finishing my top-ten list of best books of 2022, a nagging sense of incompleteness remained with me. Happily, I’m remedying it this month by augmenting my Top Ten Reads of 2022 (published in the December 2022 issue of The Eye) to include the following six unforgettable novels.

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
Unlike many readers, I’m not an automatic fan of Kingsolver’s books, but this treasure from 2022 – a modern version of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield – has been given the praise it richly deserves by a majority of critics and reviewers. Yes, it is as good as her novel The Poisonwood Bible (1998), to answer the frequently asked question.

Here, however, the venue is changed from Dickens’ dark, sooty, deprived 19th-century England to the heart of Appalachia in southwest Virginia. We follow a young boy through an adventurous though drudging life, without the guidance of responsible adults, in a depressed land and state of hopelessness.

The opioid crisis features prominently in this tale set in the late 20th century. Kingsolver keeps us on our toes until the very satisfying end.

Two by Ottessa Mosfegh: Death in Her Hands, Eileen
After reading the popular My Year of Rest and Relaxation, I craved more of the same descriptive writing that allows us to enter the interior world of Moshfegh’s women characters.

Death in Her Hands (2020) could be described as a mystery, though the plot and solution come more directly from the mind of the elderly main character than the action. This character, in the manner we’ve come to expect from Moshfegh, drifts from thought to thought until a solution is revealed.

The novel Eileen (2016) involves yet another anomalous character. Moshfegh can be tedious, but in the end, this is what gives life and meaning to her characters.

The Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
This book from 2005 is one you’ll want to take your time with. Read a chapter a day and then re-read the supple passages.

The location is Europe, and the time is the 1930s. Follow the author over mountains and through valleys from Holland to Constantinople. Let your mind roam as you savor each word. Although this book is described as a travel memoir, it’s also an interior life explored as we observe an 18-year-old developing into a man.

The title comes from “Twelfth Night,” a poem by Louis MacNeice.

Mouth to Mouth, by Antoine Wilson
Words that came to me upon finishing this delightful read: sharp, clever, winding, hip. The mystery overtones give the novel a compelling, often surprising, story and plot.

I won’t spoil a word of it by attempting a summary, but know that the book has been compared to works by Patricia Highsmith and that it was one of Barack Obama’s favorites of 2022.

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
You might wonder why this 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel appears on my list 25 years after publication. In 1998, I had just moved to Mexico and everything was fresh, foreign, and invigorating, so much so that my reading habits shifted from novels based on the English/Anglo experience to those exploring Hispanic/Indio culture. As a result, I never read The Hours.

Recently the Met opera debuted a new work based on this 1998 bestseller. Before attending the event, I felt compelled to read the book and also see the 2002 movie, starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianna Moore.

The story of three women revolves around the life of writer Virginia Woolf, who lived from 1882 until her death from suicide in 1941. Streep in the film depicts another of the women who is referred to as Mrs. Dalloway by her friend Richard, who is dying of AIDS. Kidman won an Oscar for her role as Virginia Wolff and Julianna Moore also has a significant role in this marvelous intertwining of lives.

Both the novel and film are complete in plot and character development and satisfying throughout, evoking strong emotions.

Sadly, the opera version didn’t capture the jarring passion of the novel or the film. The music seemed unable to convey and sustain the life frustrations of the characters, although the three sopranos – Renee Fleming, Joyce Di Donato, and Kelli O’Hara – are among the best of our time. In addition, my friends and I found it difficult to listen for more than three hours to an opera sung mostly in the soprano range. We were actually thrilled when the tenor entered the scenario.

The opera itself was the idea of Renee Fleming, who brought it to the composer Kevin Puts. The production itself was brilliant in its juxtaposition of the three women’s stories as they alternated and shared the stage.

I do think this is the first time I have read a book, seen the movie, and experienced the opera all in the space of one week!

Next month: Onward to reading selections for 2023.

It Was A Very Good Year: Best Reads of 2022

By Carole Reedy

The incomparable Maria Callas said once of an opera, “An opera … becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I have left the opera house.”

I would use the same words to describe the way I feel about the books I read this year – each is unique in style, structure, and content. All of them enrapture and engage, while giving us food for thought long after we’ve finished reading. They are lush and contain all we hope for in a reading experience.

To Paradise, by Hanya Yanagihara
After turning the last page of this book in March, I knew it would be my top read of 2022. As with her earlier masterpiece, A Little Life (2015), Yanagihara dissects and analyzes while elaborating on the world she creates for the reader.

Yanagihara’s newest story is divided into three parts set a century apart. The first part starts in 19th century New York City, but not the New York we think we know. Yanagihara has designed a new entity out of the territories of the US following the Civil War. As a result, life is very different.

A century later, we are taken to Hawaii, and then a century after that to a new dimension. Although this is a lengthy book, you won’t need a list of characters or a family tree before you begin. As the flow and tension of the writing consumes you, the characters become evident in their placement in history.

Great Circle: A Novel, by Maggie Shipstead
I heard about this book through my book grapevine, which includes readers of all ages and backgrounds. Published in 2021, here’s a book that is widely admired and loved. And little wonder. The two stories at the center, one present day and the other 50 years earlier, are centered around strong women characters.

The current-day heroine is an actress, the counter heroine an airplane pilot. Their lives parallel in many ways, and the juxtaposition makes for a compelling, enjoyable, and even educational read.

The Marriage Portrait: A Novel, by Maggie O’Farrell
This historical novel arrives with great anticipation on the coattails of O’Farrell’s beautifully rendered Hamnet (2020) and it is a worthy successor. In The Marriage Portrait we live and empathize with the 16-year-old Lucrezia de Medici who lives her life in the lush Italian Renaissance world with all its conventions and excesses.

O’Farrell’s novel is said to have been inspired by the Robert Browning poem “My Last Duchess,” just as the author’s previous novel was based on the life of Shakespeare and his play Hamlet. O’Farrell relies on poetic justice to weave the intricacies of this story and period with a flair and sensitivity rarely found in historical novels.

Lessons: A Novel, by Ian McEwan
For me, this is McEwen’s magnum opus. In his lifetime’s worth of novels he has blessed us with a constellation of style, length, and personages. This surprisingly lengthy (449 pages) novel simply follows the story of a man across all the upheavals of time and history.

Through the characters we experience decades of disruption and tragedies brought about by war and man’s flaws. It is beautifully rendered and said to be quasi-autobiographic.

Young Mungo, by Douglas Stuart
Shuggie Bain, the young boy in the novel of the same name (2020), was the creation of Douglas Stuart based on his own life. There are few writers who can so adeptly transport us to an alien world and also break our hearts. In this book, Stuart generates an empathy rarely experienced by readers. I felt it a privilege to be taken into Shuggie’s sphere and life in 20th century Scotland.

This second novel is equally worthy. Here the teenage Mungo suffers the trials of poverty and being different in a society struggling with religious conflict. Once again, Stuart’s lyricism captures the essence of this world and brings it clearly into our hearts and minds.

Hell of a Book, by Jason Mott
While awaiting the world to return to normal as the calendar changed from 2021 to 2022, I read this novel by an author I didn’t know, but I knew immediately it would be on this list at the end of the year.

We book enthusiasts love to read about books, publishing, and even the whirlwind author tours. While telling this story, the author takes us on a double journey, with the writer/protagonist performing the tasks expected of his publisher, but also tackling the ghosts of his past.

Watt deservingly won the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction for this most engaging novel.

Babysitter: A Novel, by Joyce Carol Oates
This is the Joyce Carol Oates I love, a novel reminiscent of her 70s masterpieces. It is frightening in its spot-on depiction of a rich suburban housewife and her emotionally charged, rash decisions. Every fiber in your body wants to shout “Don’t do that!”

A supporting sub story tells of another suburban nightmare: the threat of a serial killer in the midst of a closed, pristine community. As always, Oates tightly knits the daily chaos of our modern world into a compelling story, a talent she’s mastered over the years.

Oates has been writing for more than 50 years and has produced more than 100 written works, from short stories and essays to many of our favorite novels. Her early novels – Them (1969), A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), Expensive People (1968) – and a couple of decades later, We Were the Mulvaneys (1996) and Blonde (2000) have assured her a prominent place in the history of American literature.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Alan Hochschild
Published in 1998, this is the sole nonfiction book to make my list. To me, it reads like a novel in its detailed plot and character development.

The story is told through main characters who are involved in the corruption and dismantling of the Congo by imperialist Europeans in the late 19th century. It is probably one of the most disturbing books I have read, depicting the greed and divisiveness of white men in their attempts to protect the status quo and their white empires. King Leopold II of Belgium desired exceedingly to head an empire, and the jealousy he feels toward his counterparts and cousins in other European countries who had their own empires leads him to take over the Congo, depleting the area of its valued ivory and rubber, making the rich even richer and the poor dead.

Alan Hochschild also has described the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War in his recent well-regarded book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (2017). He depicts the Americans who traveled to Spain to participate as freedom fighters against the dictator Franco. Both books are fine examples of how fact and history can entertain as well as educate.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh
This author’s name seemed to come out of nowhere, and now you see it everywhere. Justifiably, the waitlist is lengthy at the Chicago Public Library to obtain any of her novels, including her book of short stories, Homesick for Another World (2017). Moshfegh’s attraction is her style, which I would describe as “patient.” In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, published in 2018, as in her novels Death in Her Hands (2020) and Eileen: A Novel (2015), the protagonist’s dilemma is resolved only after a careful and thorough rendering of the situation.

This book isn’t quite as easy-going as the title suggests, and the approach is even more complicated. What appears simple is complex, as the writer takes us slowly through each step of the protagonist’s recovery.

Ottessa Moshfegh is a name to remember. She’s an American of Croatian and Persian descent. I am sure we will see more of her work in the future.

Trust, by Hernan Diaz
As I wrote this entry, I coincidentally received the news that Trust had won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction for 2022 (Kirkus is a commercial book review service that covers an enormous range and number of books).

Trust comprises four manuscripts, in varying states of completion, that explore the capacity of money “to bend and align reality.” There is a novel-within-a-novel about a Wall Street tycoon who benefited from the 1929 stock market crash and his wife, who ended up mentally ill in a Swiss sanitarium; the partial memoir of a second Wall Street tycoon; scraps of some diaries by the wife of this second tycoon; and a long memoir by the ostensible ghost writer of the second tycoon’s memoir. Kirkus recognition is often heavy on plot, short on praise, and never gushes. Here’s what they say about Trust:

“The novel overall feels complex but never convoluted, focused throughout on the dissatisfactions of wealth and the suppression of information for the sake of keeping up appearances. No one document tells the whole story, but the collection of palimpsests makes for a thrilling experience and a testament to the power and danger of the truth—or a version of it—when it’s set down in print. A clever and affecting high-concept novel of high finance.”

The four-part novel is clever but not manipulative. And it is thoroughly enjoyable.

Now, on to another year and the anticipation of new books. What joy!

ELENA AND LEONORA:
Two Mexican Writers with European Roots

By Carole Reedy

Both Elena Poniatowska and Leonora Carrington planted roots in Mexico in 1942, Elena as young girl of ten and Leonora as a well-traveled and rebellious woman of 25. Despite the differences in their ages, both emigrated for reasons sparked by World War II in Europe. In addition, both became Mexican citizens and, ultimately, two of the most influential, powerful, and famous women of Mexico.

Their lives
Young Elena arrived in Mexico from France with her sister and her Mexican mother, whose porfiriana family fled Mexico during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Elena’s father, of Polish royalty descent, remained in France to fight in the war before joining them.

Being well educated and bien educado led Elena to a career in journalism, writing, and involvement with politics. Her writing often tackles Mexico’s difficult moments in history, such as the 1968 slaughter of protesting students in Tlatelolco and the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. In both cases, she interviewed extensively the people and victims who lived through these tragedies. Biographical sketches, novels, and short story collections are also found among her vast trove of publications.

Poniatowska is one of the founding writers of La Jornada (The Work Day), a major Mexico City newspaper since 1984. Despite not explicitly espousing feminist beliefs, in 1976 she co-founded Fem, the first feminist magazine in Latin America; she was a founding member of Siglo XXI, a prestigious Mexican publishing house, and Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional, the national film archive.

In contrast, Leonora Carrington’s childhood leading to her emigration to Mexico was adventurous, troublesome, and daring. Before she reached the age of 20, she had escaped her prestigious English aristocratic home and her domineering father to be with artist Max Ernst. She and Ernst lived in various parts of France in the early 1940s, but Ernst, being a Jew, was soon detained by the authorities.
Leonora left France for Spain, where she escaped from a mental hospital (an internment that had been orchestrated by her distant father) and fled to Portugal. As an exile, she eventually met and married Renato Leduc, a Mexican poet and writer. The couple, like many others wanting to escape the war, traveled to New York and then Mexico, where Leonora lived for the next 70 years, until her death at 94 in 2011.

The surrealist paintings of Leonora Carrington are found in museums and art exhibits around the world. When she moved to Mexico, knowing no one and not speaking Spanish, she was fortunate to make friends with photographer Kati Horna and painter Remedios Varo, originally from Hungary and Spain respectively. At last, with fellow women artists at her side, she was able to pursue the talent she had demonstrated since a young girl in Great Britain. She rubbed elbows with the likes of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Joan Miró, and Peggy Guggenheim.

Many people are unaware that Carrington was also an accomplished writer. Like those surreal masterpieces hanging in the world’s museums, her books take on the surreal panache of the author. Drawings, stories, and fantasies all inhabit the long-lived career and life of Leonora Carrington.

Both women led full lives, which they shared with husbands and children.

Their books
The first novel I read cover-to-cover in Spanish was Poniatowska’s Leonora, the fictionalized biography of the famous artist/writer (2011). It’s very accessible, even for those for whom Spanish is a second language, and it is of course a compelling story.

In another fictionalized biography, Tinisima (2006), she tells the story of the short (just 46 years), fascinating, and daring life of Tina Modotti, the famed photographer who kept company with the likes of Edward Weston and Diego Rivera and traveled the world studying spiritual and sexual liberation, militant communism, rigid Stalinism, workers’ revolution in Germany, and the Spanish Civil War, among other causes. A story and life, a book not to be missed.
Poniatowska’s first book, written in 1954, is a collection of short stories called Lilus Kikus. It marks the beginning of her illustrious career.

One of Poniatowska’s most-read and poignant books, La Noche de Tlatelolco: Testiomonios de historia oral (1971), was born out of the police slaughter of university students on October 2, 1968. For this book, she interviewed dozens of observers, parents, and others to give the world an accurate and objective report of the events that left Mexico and the world in shock.

If you’re curious about the details of the 1985 earthquake and its effects on the population, be sure to pick up Nada, nadie: Las voces del temblor (1988) to read first-hand accounts of the tragedy. You will understand the fear earthquakes generate here in the city, especially for those who experienced this tragic event.

Poniatowska’s writing is clear, precise, accurate, and full of poignant imagery. Read one of her books and you will be hooked!

Leonora Carrington’s books will not surprise lovers of her surrealist paintings, as they fall right in step with the style of her art. The Hearing Trumpet (1974) is her most famous work. Read and translated worldwide, it has been called a companion to the beloved Alice in Wonderland.

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington issued in 2017 to mark the centennial of Carrington’s birth, is a compilation of her surreal short stories and is filled with magic!

Joanna Moorhead, a cousin of Carrington, recently wrote a very personal biography of the famous artist/writer: The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington (2017). Having befriended Carrington as an adult, she visited her in Mexico, coming from England several times before Leonora’s death. It’s a good read that admirers of Carrington will enjoy.

Down Below is Leonora’s personal memoir, written in 1988, of her descent into madness as a young woman. A short book, not to be missed – republished in 2017 in the Classics series of the New York Review of Books.

Both Leonora Carrington and Elena Poniatowska, each in her own way, have had a tremendous influence on the cultural and political life in Mexico. Tell your sons and daughters about them, read their books, celebrate their lives!

Storytelling: From Fairy Tales to Magical Realism

By Carole Reedy

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.
— Albert Einstein

STORIES
“Man is the storytelling animal,” says the master storyteller himself, Sir Salman Rushdie. During a prestigious, nearly half-century career, he has published 12 novels, among which the most famous are Midnight’s Children (1981) and The Satanic Verses (1988). Two children’s books and 13 nonfiction and essay collections complete his writing career thus far. His next innovative storytelling will be Victory City: A Novel, to be published February 9, 2023. It is described as an Indian novel styled as a translation of an ancient epic.

The oral history of storytelling most likely goes back to the Bronze Age, but written stories are the focus of modern man. Writing down stories allows them to become static so that they can be read again and again, and thus relegated to history.

Stories help us to remember, imagine, and solve problems. In addition, they evoke empathy and provide us with many hours of thoughtful enjoyment. All these advantages apply to fairy tales as well as to fine literature.

FAIRY TALES AND MAGICAL REALISM
Fairy tales derive from the folklore of a culture, the first iteration of an oral tradition in the form of a short story. As populations became more literate, however, fairy tales appeared in written form intended for an adult audience. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the enjoyment of fairy tales extended to children.

The first formally published fairy tales were those of Charles Perrault, written in 1697, for an aristocratic French adult readership. Among Perrault’s most famous are “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” Perrault is often recognized as the creator of the modern fairy tale.

Fairy tales throughout the world vary. Those from Europe have become staples in literature in most countries, especially for children. Besides those of Perrault, you will find the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, from what is now Germany, and the stories set down by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson.

MEXICAN FAIRY TALES
Mexico’s culture is filled with folklore that translates into colorful fairy tales for children and adults. Here are a few recent ones that will engage children of all ages.

Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales (2018): A New York Times bestseller, also named a Best Book by Kirkus Reviews, this richly illustrated and relevant story is based on Yuyi’s own experience of bringing her son and the gifts of their culture to a new place.

The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes, by Duncan Tonatiuh (2016): Tonatiuh is an award-winning author and illustrator. Here he reinvents one of Mexico’s most cherished tales, that of the two majestic volcanos overlooking Mexico City and Puebla, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The love between the princess Izta and the warrior Popoca creates the setting for this famous retold legend.

Also by Sr. Tonatiuh is a migrant’s tale, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale (2013). This illustrated story tells of Pancho, a rabbit who travels with a coyote in search of his father who has crossed the border for work up north. It is an excellent way of increasing children’s understanding of the struggles and hardships of the people who need to cross borders.

Worth mentioning here as an aside is the marvelous children’s book, Danza, also by Duncan Tonatiuh (2017), which relates the story of Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet and its incomparable founder Amalia Hernández.

The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez (2000): I must mention this tale even though its origin is Dominican, not Mexican, because Alvarez is a well-known novelist of adult books, most notably How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (2010). In the Time of the Butterflies: A Novel (1994) is a fictionalized account of the four Mirabal sisters (the butterflies), who sought to overthrow El Jefe, the repressive dictator General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo.

The children’s book, The Secret Footprints, is a reinvented legend from Dominican folklore of the ciguapas, creatures who live in the sea with feet that are on backwards so humans cannot follow them. It tells of an encounter between one ciguapa named Guapa and a human boy.

Present Day Fairy Tales
Fairy tales continue to be written for adults today. Edited by Kate Bernheimer and Carmen Giménez Smith, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (2010) includes work by some of our most distinguished and beloved authors: Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Cunningham, and Neil Gaiman, among others. I keep it available on my Kindle to entertain while on trains, planes, and automobiles!

MAGICAL REALISM
Magical realism reminds us of fairy tales with its mixture of dreams, imagination, and perceived reality. Here are some notable authors writing in this style:

Gabriel García Márquez has mastered the art, most notably in his best-selling One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967, English 1970), in which the ghosts and spirits of Colombia’s history abound.

Yann Martel in The Life of Pi (2003) gives us a book about inner strength and creativity seen through animals on a raft in the ocean with the protagonist.

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Present Day Fairy Tales
Fairy tales continue to be written for adults today. Edited by Kate Bernheimer and Carmen Giménez Smith, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (2010) includes work by some of our most distinguished and beloved authors: Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Cunningham, and Neil Gaiman, among others. I keep it available on my Kindle to entertain while on trains, planes, and automobiles!

MAGICAL REALISM
Magical realism reminds us of fairy tales with its mixture of dreams, imagination, and perceived reality. Here are some notable authors writing in this style:

Gabriel García Márquez has mastered the art, most notably in his best-selling One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967, English 1970), in which the ghosts and spirits of Colombia’s history abound.

Yann Martel in The Life of Pi (2003) gives us a book about inner strength and creativity seen through animals on a raft in the ocean with the protagonist.

In his Kafka on the Shore (2002), famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami combines dreams and pop culture.

Chilean Isabel Allende has become one of the most famous Latin American writers. Her most popular work is The House of the Spirits (1986), which follows three generations of a family in which Chilean political history and dictatorship play important roles.

To end – as this article began – with a quote from Sir Salman Rushdie from Midnight’s Children, a novel filled with magically realistic moments:

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible.

Better Than Ever: Mexico City Restaurant Revival in Full Swing

By Carole Reedy

Mexico City restaurants are ready for your visit! As everywhere, the economy suffered terribly during the pandemic, but tourism recovery is looking up. Our huge advantage, of course, is the weather, which is ideal year-round. Sure, there are some hot spring days and cooler temps in December and January, but outdoor dining is a possibility here in any season.

The government has supported restaurants by allowing owners to block off one street lane next to the curbs for tables, as well as giving permission to use considerably more sidewalk for tables. Attractive wood and glass structures protect customers from traffic and wind, giving customers the feel of dining in a European café.

The city is sparkling!

First thing on my agenda post-pandemic was to re-discover my favorite eateries to see how they survived. Here, a variety of my favorite places to enjoy good food in the Roma, Condesa, and Cuauhtémoc neighborhoods. All provide outdoor and indoor dining, but the outdoor dining provides the safest and most pleasurable social experience.

MEZZO MEZZO, Cuauhtémoc, Río Neva 30
To me, Mezzo Mezzo is synonymous with “Gypsy Pizza.” At first the combination of flavors did not attract me, but a friend convinced me to try it. Now I’m a fan and never order anything else at this cozy bistro. The pizza has a subtle, or rather not so subtle, melange of figs and Brie on a crisp light pizza crust. Give it a try!

The locale is a small venue with tables on the street. The wine selection has improved, and the service is as attentive as ever. Busy hours are between 2 and 4 pm. Happily, the restaurant is open from 1 pm to midnight every day of the week, as are most of the restaurants on this list, an important feature for visitors to the city.

EL AUTÉNTICO MANILA PATO, Locations in Polanco (Virgilio 25), Condesa (Culiacan 91), and Roma Norte (Colima 159)
This highly popular eatery specializes in Pekín duck tacos, served with corn or flour tortillas or as a torta, with won tons and spring rolls as side dishes. And that is the entire menu!

Healer, historian, and taco-maker Edgardo Ganada Kim and Adrian Segura founded the venue in 2014. They combined the Mexican taco and Chinese side dishes to create textures and flavors to which you’ll return frequently. Plum and oyster sauces enhance the flavors of both the rolls and tacos. None of my visitors has ever been disappointed, and those of us who live nearby are on regular repeat.

Beer, water and soft drinks are the only beverages served.
Hours are daily noon until 10 pm.

SAN GIORGIO, Roma Sur, Anahuac 38
Italian natives give this pizzería five stars as the most authentic Italian Napolitana pizza in the city. The ingredients are fresh, and the variety of pizza choices ample. The tomato sauce has that special flavor that only the Italians deliver, and the mozzarella cheese is created for the venue. There are also big, fresh salads, as well as traditional lasagna al ragú. Spinach and ricotta cannelloni completes the pasta menu. Chicken, pork, and salmon entrees are also available.

The street corner ambiance on Anahuac and Tehuantepec in Roma Sur is exhilarating. The waitstaff especially gives warm Italian greetings and service.

The restaurant provides takeout and delivery, their life-saver during the two years of lockdown. Now, they are open every day 1 pm to 11 pm, except Sundays, when they open at 2 pm.

MALLORCA, Paseo de Reforma 365, at the corner of Río Guadalquivir
This Spanish restaurant will satisfy your need for flavors from the Iberian peninsula. Serrano ham in abundance, as well as Spanish omelets and tapas-type breads adorn the breakfast menu. The chocolate croissant is a must! Comida selections include paella, risotto, salads, and meats and cheeses. There is a large wine selection.

The real emphasis here, however, is on the pastries. Inside there’s a separate pastelería with enough chocolate and cream-filled treats to satisfy any sweet-lover. Cakes, tarts, and candies of the highest quality fill the space.

Hours vary day to day, but basically, they are open 8 am to 9 pm.

LARDO, Condesa, Agustín Melgar 6
This is a favorite breakfast place, very busy from 9:30 am till 11 am. Once I take my guests there, they have a tendency to return for all their breakfasts!

Each dish has a special presentation. The combination of flavors, spices, and ingredients used for standard dishes is unique. The entire menu is also eclectic. For your comida, try the octopus with red curry or the squid, black rice, and ginger. There are fish items, such as huachinango (red snapper) and couscous, as well as lamb kabobs and risotto croquettes.

An outdoor area has been added to two sides of the restaurant, enlarging by half the number of clients the restaurant can accommodate. It is a spacious area that is as charming as any Parisian street.

Open daily 8 am to 10 pm.

TAAK-CAL, Roma Sur, Anahuac 36
This new-to-the-neighborhood “kitchen bar,” as it is called, opened right at the beginning of the pandemic. They managed to hang on and now are in full swing. From land to sea, the menu varies from tacos and salmon filet to shrimp, fish, soups, and vegetarian choices. My favorites are the arrachera (marinated skirt steak) tacos and the salmon pistache.

It’s a charming setting, often with a guitarist or other music, and its ambiance certainly brightens the street, with San Giorgio right next door.
Open daily 1 pm to 11pm.

Wherever you dine you’ll see smiles on the faces around you, elated to return to this most desirable existence.

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Carole Reedy

Carole, one of the founding writers of The Eye, may be best known for her many Eye articles providing reviews of books. Born, raised and educated through high school in the south side of Chicago, Carole attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo for two years, majoring in English Literature and Education with a minor in Music. She completed her B.A. degree and certification for teaching at DePaul University in Chicago and then taught high school for three years in Maywood, Illinois. She realized that her true career path was in publications and first became a proof-reader of teaching manuals at the Bell and Howell manufacturing company, then a copy editor at the American Medical Association where she ultimately became the Senior Editor of an AMA publication focused on health for consumers.

While still teaching, Carole met her first long-term partner. They made the mutual decision to move to the Phoenix area of Arizona, where Carole developed a love of the desert, met her husband-to-be and switched careers to the travel industry. She first worked for a friend’s travel agency and then for many years for American Express advising platinum cardholders on their travel plans. Since Carole is passionate about travel and has visited every continent except Antarctica by herself or with small groups of friends, the new career was a perfect match – until she and her husband decided that they wanted to adopt a completely different, less complicated, life style and in 1997, moved to San Miguel Allende and in 1999, to San Augustinillo, a small village on the Oaxaca coast. Unfortunately, her husband died the following year, but Carole remained in the village for nine years and, even after having moved to Mexico City about 15 years ago, still has close friends there and is esteemed by many for having established the San Agustinillo Library.

Living in Mexico City allows Carole to indulge her deep interest in opera and bull-fighting. She also enjoys playing social bridge and, recently, mahjong. She maintains close connections with her three step-children, seven grandkids, and many friends in Mexico and the U.S. But although she encourages visits to see her in Mexico, she is now a Mexican citizen and has no interest in returning to the U.S.

Carole met Jane Bauer many years ago while still living in San Augustinillo. Since Jane knew about Carole’s background, when she decided to publish the Eye, Jane called Carole and asked for her participation. More than ten years later she is still writing. Her favorite Eye contributions are her end-of-the-year book reviews.

Anticipation: Fall 2022 Fiction

By Carole Reedy

Tis the season for anticipation, which according to Balzac is the most reliable form of pleasure. The creative efforts of our favorite writers will fill bookstore shelves and Kindle apps starting this September – here they are!

Shrines of Gaiety: A Novel, by Kate Atkinson (September 27)
Devoted readers of Atkinson have followed the adventures of Jackson Brody with each selection in this series, but Atkinson has given us so much more. Her best-selling and highly acclaimed novel of 2013, Life After Life, followed the various alternate lives of protagonist Ursula Todd throughout the 20th century. A God in Ruins came in 2016 as a kind of sequel that brings to life Todd’s deceased brother.

This time the year is 1926, the place London and its Soho jazz clubs. We’re taken into both the world of the glitterati and the contrasting underworld of the era. This book is unlike anything Atkinson has done before, which is what keeps us coming back.

I Walk Between the Raindrops, by TC Boyle (September 13)
Short stories are TC Boyle’s niche, although over the past 25 years I’ve found his novels to be among the best I have read. In fact, The Tortilla Curtain (1995) remains among my top 10 novels.

I Walk Between the Raindrops is the name of a short story as well as the title of this new collection. You can get a sneak preview of his writing by reading the story version, which appears in The New Yorker magazine July 30, 2018, fiction issue.

Each one of the engaging stories in this collection is filled with Boyle’s usual satire and wit.

Lucy by the Sea: A Novel, by Elizabeth Strout (September 20)
Strout set a high bar for herself and her readers with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge (actually 13 short stories, 2008) about the life of a retired schoolteacher. Olive Kitteridge (the protagonist) hails from the fictional, apparently nowhere, town of Crosby, Maine, and her ruthless honesty permeates each chapter. The book captivated readers worldwide.

A miniseries starring the versatile Frances McDormand received mixed reviews, with accusations that the character was portrayed as one-dimensional, though I thought it quite satisfying.

Strout also has been lauded, although with less enthusiasm, for her series of books based on her other protagonist, Lucy Barton. Strout’s latest takes place during the recent pandemic lockdown, Lucy quarantined with her ex-husband in a small house by the sea. It has been described as “poignant and pitch-perfect,” with human connection at the heart of the story.

Best of Friends: A Novel, by Kamila Shamsie (September 27)
Shamsie’s newest novel examines the different worlds and friendship of two women raised in Karachi in the first years of Benazir Bhutto’s reign and continues over three decades, when they both live in London. Loyalty and principle are guideposts woven into their lives, causing conflict and reconciliation.

Best of Friends is probably Shamsie’s most intriguing novel to date, even though Burnt Shadows (2009) and Home Fire (2017) are major achievements. In Best of Friends, we travel with her characters across the globe and live through significant world events. These provide vehicles for the actions of her complex characters. You’ll find it hard to put down.

Bad Angel Brothers, by Paul Theroux (September 6)
Over the years we’ve been the fortunate recipients of Theroux’s adventure tales via his fiction and nonfiction writing, all based on the many miles he’s traversed on our planet. From The Old Patagonian Express, The Mosquito Coast, and The Great Railway Bazaar of the 1970s to his recent Mother Land (2017) and On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey (2019), Theroux has dedicated his life to observing, experiencing, and writing.

Now in his 81st year, he brings us yet another psychological thriller involving two brothers at odds and the prospecting of gold and precious metals in the mines of Mexico, Alaska, Africa, and Colombia. Another feather in Theroux’s cap. Although his early books are my favorites, I’m eager to read his latest.

The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell (September 6)
After transporting us to Shakespeare’s world in her previous novel, Hamnet (the story of The Bard’s young son, 2020), versatile wordsmith O’Farrell now takes us to the 1550s and the royalty of Renaissance Italy, exploring the life of a young woman forced into an unwanted royal marriage. Loyal followers of O’Farrell are accustomed to her ability to envelop us in different worlds and centuries. This is my most anticipated book of the season, along with the Barbara Kingsolver novel next on the list.

One reason the novels of O’Farrell are favorites among avid readers is her versatility. The places, themes, and characters vary book to book, as does her style and tempo. My personal favorite is This Must Be the Place (2016).

Demon Copperhead: A Novel, by Barbara Kingsolver (October 18)
Move over Charles Dickens! Popular 21st century author Kingsolver has created a modern David Copperfield, called Damon Fields, whose life parallels our favorite Victorian boy. He is mockingly called Demon and Copperhead for the golden locks inherited from his father.

When I first saw the title of Kingsolver’s new novel, I thought she had returned to the theme of biodiversity so popular in some of her previous works. But I was pleasantly surprised to see it’s actually a retelling of perhaps the most loved work in English literature. Yes, it’s a tome, 560 pages to match Charles Dickens’ creation, whose first edition counted out at 624 pages. Some of our favorite delightful Dickens’ characters are also reimagined for a savory touch.

Kingsolver has taken on the challenge of showing us how little progress has been made in addressing socioeconomic poverty over the past 172 years (the autobiographical David Copperfield was published in book form in 1850, a year after the magazine serialization).

Kingsolver’s version also explores the dark world of poverty, this time in rural Appalachia where Damon grows up in an atmosphere of abuse, addiction, child labor, and foster care, though eventually he finds the kinder side of humanity.

A sense of humor and a talent for artistic expression, with the mandatory bit o’ luck, seem to save both David and Damon. True heroes both, as also could be said of their creators.

Nights of Plague, by Orhan Pamuk (October 5)
The Nobel Prize winner of 2006 is publishing his latest novel this October after controversy in Turkey upon its publication there in 2021. Pamuk was accused of “insulting Turkishness.” But, he says, “In Nights of Plague, which I worked on for five years, there is no disrespect for the heroic founders of the nation states founded from the ashes of empires or for Atatürk. On the contrary, the novel was written with respect and admiration for these libertarian and heroic leaders.”

According to The Guardian, PEN America has reported that at least 25 writers were jailed last year by the Turkish government, the third-highest number globally.

The story takes place on the imaginary island of Mingheria (between Crete and Cyprus), the 29th state of the Ottoman Empire, where Muslims and Orthodox Greeks struggle to live together. Conflict, plague, and murder merge to make this century-old story too close for comfort.

The Passenger (October 25); Stella María (November), by Cormac McCarthy (Boxed set of the two novels available December 6)
I admit to not being a fan of McCarthy, but feel it’s my duty to list his new books due to his extreme popularity. He has been named one of the best American writers by reliable critics, in the company of Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, and Thomas Pynchon. McCarthy, however, has stated he prefers the company of scientists to writers.

The books tell the story of siblings Bobby and Alicia Western. Their stories are told eight years apart, first Bobby’s and then Alicia’s.

The publisher says “These extraordinary novels are unlike anything Cormac McCarthy has written before, and while both should be read and experienced separately, they represent two sides of the same narrative coin. We are extremely proud to be publishing the remarkable, inimitable work of Cormac McCarthy.”

Said to be the publishing event of the year – perhaps I will give McCarthy another chance.

Reading: Reminders and Recommendations

By Carole Reedy

Before you look for my list of yet-to-come 2022 books, don’t forget those still on your “to read” list from beginning of the year.

If you’ve not already read these two recently published novels, they stand among the finest literature of the 21st century:

YOUNG MUNGO by Douglas Stuart
I’ve read every review I could find and listened to interviews with Stuart because I am in awe of this 45-year-old Glaswegian, now living in New York City. He brings to us the realism of the 19th century novelists in the style of the master, Charles Dickens, but without the uplifting endings.

If you haven’t read Stuart’s Booker Prize winning novel, Shuggie Bain (2020), stop now and run to your nearest library or bookstore and get it.

These are not happy or cozy books. Rather, they’re the stories of people from the poverty-stricken East End of Glasgow. Shuggie Bain, the protagonist of the first novel, is a young boy growing up with his beloved alcoholic mother. The protagonist of Stuart’s second book, Young Mungo (named after Glasgow’s Saint) is a teenage boy discovering his sexuality and identity among the gangs and joblessness inflicted by the previous Margaret Thatcher administration. Both novels will stir every emotion you have ever had.

Stuart writes stunningly descriptive prose against the backdrop of harsh reality. Mungo’s male role models are severely limited. Tender moments and whispers of caring contrast with poverty and violence. It’s all written in the lilt of the vernacular, making this novel a classic piece of literature.

Los Angeles Times reviewer Hillary Kelly (whose writing is as expressive as the books she reviews) concludes: “Misery is just a necessary ingredient in his novels of sentimental education, the hit of salt that makes the sugar sing.”

TO PARADISE by Hanya Yanagihara
Misery is expressed in a constellation of ways in Yanagihara’s novels. In To Paradise we’re taken to a diverse range of locales, from a townhouse on New York’s Washington Square to the undeveloped shores of Hawaii, over three centuries.

The complex structure and the writing that carries the reader through this novel re-envisions history and tells a past and future created entirely by Yanagihara’s brilliant mind. This is a story you will never forget. Every word resonates, each character is finely drawn, and emotions are stirred to exhaustion.

Now onto the new books to accompany you on your reading trails.

ELIZABETH FINCH by Julian Barnes
Avid fans of this well-established British novelist and Francophile won’t need convincing to read another of Barnes’ 14 novels. This newest work is longer on philosophy and shorter on plot, as is much of his writing.

Elizabeth Finch is a professor of culture and civilization, and her story is told by one of her students, Neal, the narrator. The book is divided into three sections, the second section an essay written by Neal about Julian the Apostate, a pagan. What would the world of ours look like now if Christianity hadn’t caught on? No small consideration.

This exceptional and daring novel should be already on the shelves of your local library and bookstores.

THE LOCKED ROOM by Elly Griffiths
You have until June 28 to get yourself up to date on the lives of Ruth, Kate, Cathbad, Judy, and Nelson before you start this 14th novel in the Dr. Ruth Galloway (everyone’s favorite archeologist) series.

Everything takes place once again in Norwich, England, this time during the Covid lockdown. Driving the story are a discovery at an archeological site, a new neighbor for Ruth and Kate, and a mysterious old photo found among Ruth’s recently dead mother’s belongings.

Fans have been panicked. Will there be a 15th book? Yes! The Last Remains is due out in February 2023.

TRUST by Hernan Diaz
This most-anticipated novel of 2022, according to several literary venues, has been described as “a kaleidoscope of capitalism run amok in the early 20th century.” Naturally, success, power, and wealth dominate.

Grounded in history, four story arcs make up this work and, according to previews, are successfully executed.

Díaz was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his novel In the Distance (2017). Trust is due to be published in December 2022.

THE LAST WHITE MAN by Mohsin Hamid
In his latest book, British-Pakistani author Hamid (of the notable migration novel Exit West [2017] and the thought-provoking The Reluctant Fundamentalist [2007]) presents a conundrum. The premise is this: a man wakes up to a darkening of his skin while simultaneously the population as a whole is experiencing changes of many kinds. This leads Hamid to examine the disruption of the established order that occurs as a result.
A portent of things to come?

The book provides much to ponder and could even be a vehicle for metamorphosis and transcendence that only a writer the likes of Hamid can achieve. Look for the novel in August.

ROGUES: TRUE STORIES OF GRIFTERS, KILLERS, REBELS AND CROOKS by Patrick Radden Keefe
These twelve stories of skullduggery will once again bring Radden Keefe’s name to the forefront this June. You’ll remember his investigative reporting and subsequent tomes about the Troubles in Ireland (Say Nothing, 2020) and the unconscionable role of the Sackler family in the opioid addiction crisis (Empire of Pain, 2021).

Whatever topic Keefe explores is intricately examined, the details written in a style as un-put-downable as a Sherlock Holmes mystery. He does for investigative reporting what Ben McIntyre does for spy tales.

Look for a June 28 publication date.

LESS IS LOST by Andrew Sean Greer
If you were a fan, as I was, of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Less, you will count the days until the September publication of the follow-up, Less Is Lost.

Once again Arthur Less is at sixes and sevens, handling the problems and disruptions of his life as many of us have considered doing: he runs away. Less’s distraction from the day-to-day drudgery is again found in traveling to literary gigs, but this time in the US. You’ll recall he did the same through Europe in his first novel.

Greer is first of all a storyteller. His novels are full of comic moments, he is witty yet wise, and he is a serious thinker.

Christopher Buckley of the New York Times praises Greer’s first novel: “Less is the funniest, smartest and most humane novel I’ve read since Tom Bachman’s 2010 debut, The Imperfectionists … Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies.”

Many months of fine reading ahead!