Tasting Life Twice
Author Crystal King muses on life, history, writing and food.
I posted last month about my goal of reading at least 52 books this year. The good thing is that I'm well on my way! Here are the books I read in June.
Back in 1987, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove in a floor drain of the Roman Forum. This "treasure" was 86 loose teeth, all intact but with cavities in various stages. Three decades later, they've finally determined that they were all extracted by a highly skilled dentist of the time. Also of interest, up in England, researchers have pinpointed the advanced stages of dental decay in a young Roman toddler, to excessive consumption of honey.
Medicine was quite advanced in Ancient Greece and Rome. Surgeons regularly practiced lobotomies, Caesarean sections (didn't you ever wonder where that name came from?) and amputations, and were the inventors of tools such as forceps, catheters, scalpels and bone drills. Along with all of this fancy "technology" the Romans also relied heavily on herbs and the beneficial properties of food. Pliny writes (in addition to telling us how bees manage their colonies) that honey is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.
One of my goals this year is to read, on average, a book a week, or at least 52 books this year. I'm right on track...even a little ahead!
I'm not entirely sure what I think about drone technology. It has incredible possibilities and on the flip side, terrifying possibilities. On the incredible side of things, I love that you can be an armchair traveler and have a birdseye view of beautiful places in the world. One of my favorite videos of this sort is this wonderful view of Rome by drone. It makes me feel desperate to be there again, walking the streets where my novel's characters once walked. httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTw-kvXS9Sk
It seems like the last retreat has just come and gone and here we are again, leaving husbands and children behind, off to Maine and a kickass writing schedule with good good friends and inspiring fellow writers.
Many people I talk to think my retreat is a boondoggle of sorts, as though I'm only saying that I'm going to Maine to write but I'll really just be sitting on the beach getting tan. So to prove that idea wrong, here's our schedule.
Awhile back I mused on the myriad of writing rules that are out there to help any aspiring writer. Part of what was most amusing for me was that there were so damn many. We writers are wordy, opinionated sorts and it seems that everyone who is successful at their writing has a word of advice for other writers. I came across dozens upon dozens of long winded lists of what to do, or what not to do (all seen at the link above). And then I came across this bit of brilliance from Anne Rice, which I think mostly says it all:
On Friday night my husband and I had the immense pleasure of checking out a new restaurant in Boston, M.C. Spiedo, located in the Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront. The chefs are from Maine's famous Arrows and MC Perkins Cove, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier (they're also Top Chef:Masters as well!). We're fairly big food nerds and love trying out new places, but when I heard about M.C. Spiedo's focus on Italian Renaissance inspired food, the excitement went to a new level. Here? In Boston? Someone creating the dishes from the era of Bartolomeo Scappi, the central character in my second book? How incredible is that?
Pretty damn incredible, let me tell you. The restaurant is modern, but everywhere you look there is a reminder of the past, from the big red bordello-style booths, to the large portraits hanging, to the fantastic bookplates from Scappi's L'Opera on the walls in the bathroom.
The movie Pompeii, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, is coming out in February and I have to say I've not really been this excited about a movie in a long time. The film has the eye candy of incredible special effects and also Jon Snow himself (Kit Harrington) but what has me most intrigued is that Anderson apparently cares a lot about authenticity when it comes to the story and the era. The film comes out on February 28. I can't wait to find out for myself if that's true!
I love the Ringing of the Bells very much, but it's all the more magical when done by Muppets!
In early 2013 a Latin manuscript was discovered that contains some fascinating early medieval recipes. The manuscript dates from 1140 from the Durham Cathedral monastery in the UK. The recipes are primarily medicinal in their variety, with the intent to heal the sick and infirm. These recipes are nearly 150 years older than other known medieval era recipes.
I wish I could find a bit more information but it doesn't seem that any individual recipe translations have yet been published. The researchers are apparently working on a book that will be titled "Zinzibar" which is the Latin word for ginger.
In the last few years there have been a bevy of studies, articles and even video games thrown at the masses with the aim to help one's brain age well, to become more intelligent or to stave off dementia. The most common method of giving your brain a boost is to jolt one's self out of your routine. Drive a different way home from work. Sit in a different spot in class. Take the stairs if you commonly use the elevator. Basically, stop the routine and start doing something that makes you have to think a bit more. The trick I always seem to remember is to do something simple, like shower with your eyes closed. Try it--it's hard! And I recommend skipping using a razor if you opt to try. Or try walking through your house with your eyes closed. You'll find that you second guess yourself, and that there is a bit of fear involved as well as some discovery.
Over and over, this seems to help with cognitive processes, especially as you age. Companies have realized that they can monetize the idea of training your brain, leading to the rise of sites and apps like Lumosity, Braingle and FitBrains. Do these types of sites work? I think that the jury is still out on this, but on a minimum level, they do help with creativity.
There is a formula for a perfect writer's retreat: a Maine beach house + two 1/2 days + a schedule + amazing writing partners = success. Actually, success = three chapters + a more fully fleshed out timeline + incredible momentum to keep going.
What it didn't yield for me and my three writing partners was a name. We've been meeting bi-weekly for five years and for those five years my husband says to me every other week, "are you meeting up with the Women?" Which is a fairly terrible name, like a bad film remake or something. We tried. We consulted a worn 1884 copy of Clubs and Club Life of London (this is 1908 version if you are curious) which we found in a bookshelf full of ancient books and photo albums. We learned about the Beef-Steak Society, the Blue Stocking Club and the Boodles, but alas, it didn't give us ideas. We dug through Roget's 1911 Thesaurus, which we all agreed is a writer's best friend (we also shared fond stories of our own dog-eared copies we used as kids before traditional thesaurus' really became popular). Nada. We are still Nameless.
This weekend, at my fave cocktail bar, Clio, while sipping on Manhattans and rummy drinks called The Sanchez, I got into a conversation with some friends about books. I promised some of my all around historical fiction recommends to them, but I realized that I've read a lot of great books this year that I want to tell others about. And I have a book pile a mile long after the recent Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace conference. I'd love opinions on which one to read first!
This list of 2013 is in no particular order...it would be too hard to do!
I've been a bit sparse in my posts lately because my time has not been my own! But it's all good and the world of writing, of ancient Rome, of Renaissance Italy and all that goodness has been swirling around in my head in grand incubation mode. It's the Muse at work, I think.
One of the challenges of learning a language is understanding how to best use all the vocabulary terms that you are learning. It's one thing to learn a word, but quite another to know how to employ that word in a sentence.
I think this is one of the most challenging things for me when I am trying to learn on my own, without my tutors available. Take the word impiegare, for example. It means to employ, to engage or to use. But I'm not entirely sure how it's used in a sentence and when I turn to various resources I get conflicting answers.
We're coming up on the next Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace and I couldn't be more excited! I have a session on social media at the conference, but I will also be there as a writer, participating in the Manuscript Marts (I'm meeting with two agents this year, more on that in a future blog post), and attending classes. This year's keynotes include James Wood and Amanda Palmer. It's the first year that the Muse has had two keynotes (one on the Muse, one on the Marketplace) so that should be interesting!
James and Amanda will have their work cut out for them though, to top this amazing keynote by Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) two years ago. Absolutely brilliant. And while it's long, it's definitely worth watching in its entirety. I still have chills thinking about it. He's an absolutely masterful storyteller.
As someone learning Italian, I feel especially fortunate that I live in a city that lets me pick up at least one Italian channel on cable. In this case it's RAI, but not the channels you would see in Italy. Instead it's a sanitized, washed out version for Italian audiences, mostly consisting of Italian game shows, soap operas, calcio (soccer/football depending on where you live), funny variety music shows and a smattering of news. Every once in awhile there is a gem, though, like the show Il Provo Del Cuoco, which is a cooking/cook-off show.