Saturday, October 29, 2011

Like No Other Market?

The upscale Fairway supermarket chain (which has several New York area locations) bills itself as being "Like No Other Market." (Its trucks have an additional slogan: "The World's Greatest Food Store.") In some ways it's precisely like other markets: Checkout scanners that charge the wrong price, food on shelves past the expiration date, and cashiers who don't pack groceries properly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learning History Via Fiction

One goal of mine is to read all 21 volumes in the Cadfael mystery series. I've learned a lot about life inside and outside an 11th-century English monastery from reading these books. The series was written by Ellis Peters, a medieval scholar. The hero of the series is Cadfael, a soldier-turned-monk who is also a herbalist and an amateur sleuth.

Sometimes the best way to learn about history is through a work of fiction which can give you a you-are-there feeling.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Rose Called Nigger Boy

There is a collection of correspondence between author Eudora Welty and New Yorker editor William Maxwell called What There Is to Say We Have Said (Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, 2011). In it I read a letter he wrote to her in 1953 in which he mentioned several rose varieties. (They were avid rose growers.) One of them was called Nigger Boy. I was amazed that his use of the name did not bring any expression of embarrassment. If Welty had been a black woman would that have been the case? I think not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Cynic's View

"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."--H. L. Mencken, epigraph in Slugfest: A Dirty Business Mystery by Rosemary Harris (Minotaur Books/St. Martin's Press, 2011)