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The Goodreads Interview: Stephen King

Goodreads_icon_1000x1000Thanks to our friends at Goodreads for this excerpt from their recent interview with Stephen King, whose new novel, Revival, was selected as one of Amazon's Best Books of 2014.


KINGJust when you think Stephen King's well of pitch-black, sleep-with-the-lights-on horror must surely be running dry, he finds new and possibly even darker ways to terrify us. His latest novel, Revival, sees the author of more than 50 global bestsellers—including The Shining, Pet Sematary, and It—return to the "balls to the wall" (King's words) supernatural horror with which he made his name.

In a recent Twitter post about the book, King told readers, "If you're going to buy it, better tone up your nerves." His publisher, Nan Graham, said that upon reading it, "I asked Steve whether it really had to be this dark, knowing before he answered that, yes, it does.

Indeed King dedicates Revival, out this month, to "some of the people who built my house," including Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and H.P. Lovecraft. A story of fate, rock and roll, religion, obsession, and addiction, it follows Jamie Morton, a boy from Maine whose life becomes inextricably bound to his onetime childhood pastor, an increasingly sinister figure who performs mysterious electrical "healing" sessions.

Despite a near-fatal accident 15 years ago, after which he considered retiring, King remains prolific. Revival marks the author's fourth novel in two years: In June he released Mr. Mercedes, billed (on his website) as his "first hard-boiled detective tale"), and last year the 67-year-old published Joyland and Doctor Sleep, his gripping sequel to The Shining.

King tells Goodreads what inspired Revival, how tea by the gallon rather than drugs and alcohol now fuel his craft, and why he loves collaborating with his novelist sons, Joe Hill and Owen King.

Goodreads: Congratulations on the un-put-down-able Revival; my children almost went hungry. What was your inspiration for this book? And is it really "the most terrifying conclusion" you've ever written?

Stephen King: The inspiration was Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, which is a terrifying story about the world that might exist beyond this one. Other influences were Lovecraft, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and my own religious upbringing. And I've been wanting to write about tent show healings for a long time!

I wanted to write a balls-to-the-wall supernatural horror story, something I haven't done in a long time. I also wanted to use Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, but in a new fashion, if I could, stripping away Lovecraft's high-flown language.

GR: The book is concerned with what you call the "fifth business," "change agent," or "nemesis"—the person who pops up at regular intervals throughout life with a purpose yet to be revealed. Who is this person in your life, if there is one?

SK: I think we rarely recognize the fifth business in our lives at the time those people are changing us. As a writer, I'd have to say it was Philip Roth, who first spoke to me in college when I read [Roth's 1967 novel] When She Was Good. Since then, he's shown up again and again, at 10- or 20-year intervals, always saying—through his work—"Come a little farther. Do a little better."

GR: How did your experience of addiction and playing in a rock band (the Rock Bottom Remainders) inform your portrayal of the hero Jamie Morton?

SK: There's a saying—"Write what you know." It's bad advice if you take it as an unbreakable rule, but good advice if you use it as a foundation. I did spend years as an addict, so I know that world, although I wish I didn't. When it comes to rock music, I'm not much of a player, but I do have entry-level chops. I'm more knowledgeable as a listener, and Revival gave me a way to write about rock and roll without being preachy or boring. Through Jamie I had a chance to talk about how important rock is to me and how it lifted my life.

GR: Revival seems as much a meditation on family and aging, love and loss, as it is a mystery/horror story. Was this your intention from the outset?

SK: I never have a thematic intention at the outset. The story informs the theme for me rather than the other way around. But as it happens, you're right—this is, at least to a degree, about getting old and the rapid passage of our lives. "It's a damn short movie," James McMurtry says, "how'd we ever end up here?"

GR: There's a line on page 25 that says, "Writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped." How true is this for you in your fiction?

SK: Writing is like being in a dream state or under self-directed hypnosis. It induces a state of recall that—while not perfect—is pretty spooky.

GR: Which of your books/stories are you most attached to and why?



About the interviewer:

Catherine Elsworth is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She previously worked as a reporter and editor for the UK's Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for 13 years and was the Daily Telegraph's Los Angeles correspondent from 2004 to 2009. She has also contributed to Tatler, Stella, and Cond&eacute Nast Traveller. In 2012, she was a semifinalist for the 21st annual James Kirkwood Literary Prize for fiction.

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ree Drummond's Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman we've come to know and love on television and in print, hosts our Day 4 cookie from her latest book: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.  I believe it when she says these are habit-forming--makes sure you set aside a little stack for yourself if you are taking these to friends.  See why these are Drummond's favorites and get the recipe below.  You can also find links to the last three days of cookie recipes at the bottom of the post.

A lot of times, cookies that are beautiful aren’t always tasty. But these are as delicious as they are gorgeous: deep chocolate cookies adorned with white chocolate and crushed peppermints. They always dress up any Christmas cookie platter, and they’re definitely habit-forming!--Ree Drummond

When I make these delicious delights at Christmastime, I commit the cardinal sin of gluttony. Repeatedly. Until they’re all gone and I’m staring at an empty platter.

But wait! Before you condemn me to whatever wretched place people who commit one of the deadly sins at Christmastime go (that made no grammatical sense), please hear me out. I have a really good excuse!
They are really, really yummy.
I mean it. There’s something about the slightly soft chocolate cookie, coated with white chocolate and dipped in crushed mints. One is never enough. Ten is never enough. How many does this recipe make again? Thirty‑two? Well okay, then. Thirty‑two isn’t enough either!
But then again, I might have issues.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Large handfuls of both red and green peppermints
  • 4 ounces (4 squares) almond bark or white baking chocolate

1. Add the butter and powdered sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat them together until the mixture is nice and smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla.

2. Add the cocoa powder, flour, and salt and mix just until the dough comes together. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the dough and refrigerate it for a couple of hours.

3. While the dough is chilling away, unwrap the candies and place them in separate plastic bags. Grab a rolling pin and release your rage upon the mints. You want to crush them! You want to obliterate them! Just think of all the ways they’ve wronged you! Place the crushed mints in separate bowls and set them aside.

4. When the dough is finished chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough into balls, place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or baking mats, and flatten them slightly with the bottom of a coffee mug or glass. Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until just set. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.

5. While the cookies cool, melt the almond bark in a double boiler or a microwave‑safe bowl. Stir until smooth.

6. One at a time, dip the cookies halfway into the melted almond bark and sprinkle the top side generously with crushed mints, holding the cookies over the bowls to catch the excess. You can mix red and green on the same cookie, or you can do some cookies with just red and some with just green. No one can make that decision but you.

7. Lay the cookies, sprinkled side up, on parchment paper or a baking mat and allow them to set completely. Serve them with a few whole mints on the side. You’ll absolutely love these.

NOTE: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days before delivering, or in the freezer in storage bags for up to 3 months.

• Dip in Christmas-colored sprinkles instead of peppermints.
• Use different colors of candy melts (red, green, etc.) instead of white.
• Roll out the cookies and cut candy cane-shaped cookies. Dip half the cookies and coat in candy.

Ree Drummond is the author of several Pioneer Woman cookbooks including her latest, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations as well as a series of children's books featuring a ranch dog named Charlie.

Here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:

Post-Photography: Re-Imagining Reality

ALTTEXTFrom Stalin's vanishing commisars to airbrushed supermodels, photographers have been manipulating our perception of of reality--and even our ability to discern the actual from the virtual--as long as they've been taking pictures. The internet and rapidly evolving digital tools have blown the game wide open, offering techniques to anyone with a few bucks and a wild imagination, i.e. artists. With Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera, Robert Shore has collected dozens of examples of photographs that  challenge our notions of what photography is, and what it can be. As it turns out, not everything has already been done.

Enjoy these images and descriptions from the book.





Post-Photography (image 1)

p. 27 Joachim Schmid
There’s an argument that there are already quite enough images in the world – why create more? Joachim Schmid quickly gave up using a camera in his art practice and instead took to adopting photographic ‘orphans’ found on market stalls or simply discarded in the street. The red of the actress’s lips and nails was added by the previous owner of the magazine containing these Hollywood stills.

Post-Photography (image 2)

p. 70 (top) Clement Valla
The highways and bridges appear to be melting in Clement Valla’s internet-sourced images. Valla doesn’t manipulate his material: a glitch in combining different information models results in these uncanny effects. The web is full of such eerie, unintentional distortions – you just have to know where to look.

Post-Photography (image 3)

p. 127 Christy Lee Rogers
Hawaiian photographer Christy Lee Rogers takes her camera under water to create beautifully lit and richly sensual tableaux that are reminiscent of the greatest canvases of the Baroque era.

Post-Photography (image 4)

p. 139 (top) Scarlett Hooft Graafland
There’s almost nothing you can’t do, no image you can’t conjure, with a little help from Photoshop nowadays. But you can’t fake the kind of surreal shots that Dutch artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland travels the globe to secure.

Post-Photography (image 5)

p. 176 Jorma Puranen
It’s one of the basic tenets of ‘good’ photography that you must at all costs avoid surface glare. However, Finnish master Jorma Puranen expertly exploits the emotional and temporal resonance of reflected light by creating a kind of veil between the historical painted portrait and the viewer in this hauting image.

Post-Photography (image 6)

p. 251 Richard Mosse
Traditional photojournalism is reinventing itself in the work of the likes of Richard Mosse, who used an infrared Kodak film stock to create an unforgettable portrait of war-torn Congo.

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Ischler Cookie

Day 2 of our 12 Days of Cookie Recipes is from a maven of baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum, a woman who wrote the book on Christmas cookies--literally.   

At the end of October, Beranbaum released her latest cookbook, The Baking Bible and it's in those pages that her favorite cookie can be found.  Below is a note from Rose Levy Beranbaum about what makes this the cookie above all others for her, followed by the recipe.   Come see us tomorrow for the next cookie to try. 

IschlerCookies_RoseLevyBeranbaumI first heard of the Ischler when I learned to make strudel at the Zauner bakery in the town of Bad Ischle where the cookie originated. I also learned of the story of emperor Franz Joseph and how he claimed to be visiting this bakery while instead clandestinely rendezvousing with his mistress nearby.

I researched different versions of the cookie in cookbooks and on line and came up with my own version. Rather than dipping the apricot-sandwiched cookies in chocolate the way all the other versions do, I spread a thin layer of it over the apricot filling so that one would have the crisp fragile almond cookie, the tang of apricot, and the bittersweet chocolate with every bite.  I also love that the Ischler speaks to my Austro-Hungarian heritage. My great great grandfather, Adolf Lansman, fought in Franz Joseph's army. He later came to America and brought the now ubiquitous Heckel's and Wusthof knives to this country. He taught my father the art of knife sharpening and my father passed this valuable skill onto me. -- Rose Levy Beranbaum


The Ischler
Makes Forty 2. inch sandwich cookies
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 6 to 10 minutes for each of four batches

This Austrian cookie ranks as one of the finest of all time. It was created in the wonderful Zauner Bakery in the spa town of Bad Ischl, which was said to be the favorite vacation spot for Emperor Franz Joseph. The classic method is to sandwich the fragile, thin almond cookies with apricot lekvar or preserves and then to dip the cookies halfway into melted chocolate.

Because I am one-quarter Austro-Hungarian (my great grandfather fought in Franz Joseph’s army), I feel I am qualified to adapt the recipe slightly by spreading the melted chocolate onto the entire inside of the cookies so that I have the glorious taste of apricot and chocolate with every bite.

Special Equipment:
Two 15 by 12 inch cookie sheets, nonstick or lined with parchment
A 2 ½  inch scalloped or plain round or heart-shape cookie cutter

Cookie Dough

  • unsalted butter, cold 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) /  8 ounces  / 227 grams
  • powdered sugar 1 cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 2 tablespoons /4.7 ounces / 132 grams
  • sliced almonds, preferably unblanched / 2 cups/  7 ounces /  200 grams
  • about ½ large egg, lightly beaten / 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) /0.7 ounce / 21 grams
  • pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) / . .
  • bleached all-purpose flour 1 ¾ cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 1 tablespoon /7.8 ounces / 220 grams
  • fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams

Make the Dough
Food Processor Method:
Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and let the cubes soften slightly while measuring out the remaining ingredients. The butter should be cool but soft enough to press flat (60° to 70°F/15°to 21°C).

Process the powdered sugar and almonds until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter and process until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add it to the processor and pulse just until incorporated. The mixture will be in moist and crumbly particles and hold together if pinched.

Stand Mixer Method:
Soften the butter to 65° to 75°F/19° to 23°C.

Using a nut grater, grate the almonds until very fine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream the almonds, powdered sugar, and butter, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed to medium, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated and the dough just begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Chill the Dough: Scrape the mixture into a plastic bag and, using your knuckles and the heels of your hands, press it together. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press down on the dough, kneading it until it is smooth.

Divide the dough into quarters, about 6.9 ounces/195 grams each. Wrap each piece loosely with plastic wrap and press to flatten into discs. Rewrap tightly and place in a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 2 days to firm and give the dough a chance to absorb the moisture evenly, which will make rolling easier.

Preheat the Oven: Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Roll and Cut the Cookies: Remove a dough disc from the refrigerator and set it on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 10 minutes, or until it is malleable enough to roll. Roll the dough ⅛ inch thick, moving it from time to time and adding more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.

Cut out twenty 2 ¼ inch cookies. Set them a minimum of ½ inch apart on a cookie sheet.
Set aside any scraps, covered with plastic wrap, to knead together with the scraps from the next three batches.

Bake the Cookies: Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 2 to 6 minutes, or just until they begin to brown at the edges.

Cool the Cookies: Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for about
1 minute so that they will be firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Use
a pancake turner to lift the cookies onto another wire rack. Cool completely.
While each batch of cookies is baking, remove the next dough disc to soften before rolling
and then roll the dough for the next batch. After the last batch is cut, if desired, knead
together all of the scraps and repeat chilling, rerolling, and cutting.

Super Firm Chocolate Ganache Filling:
Makes 1⅓ cups/10 ounces/285 grams

  • bittersweet chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped / . /  8 ounces /  227 grams
  • heavy cream, hot /  ¼ cup (59 ml) / 2 ounces / 58 grams

Make the Ganache Filling In a microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), heat the chocolate until almost completely melted.

Remove the chocolate from the heat source and stir until fully melted.

Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth. The mixture should drop thickly from the spatula. Set it aside in a warm place. If the ganache thickens before all of it is used, it can be restored in the microwave with 3 second bursts or in a double boiler set over hot or simmering water.

Apricot Lekvar Filling:
Makes 2. cups/651 ml/29.6 ounces/840 grams
volume / WEIGHT

  • dried apricots / 2⅔ cups / 1 pound / 454 grams
  • water / 2 cups (473 ml) / 16.7 ounces / 473 grams
  • granulated sugar / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons /  8 ounces / 225 grams
  • lemon zest, finely grated / 2 teaspoons, loosely packed/  ./  4 grams
  • apricot or peach brandy / 1 teaspoon (5 ml)/ . .

Make the Lekvar Filling In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dried apricots and water and let them sit for 2 hours to soften.

Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan tightly, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on the lowest possible heat until the apricots are very soft when pierced with a skewer. If the water evaporates, add a little extra.

In a food processor, process the apricots and any remaining liquid, the sugar, lemon zest, and brandy until smooth.

Scrape the apricot mixture back into the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deep orange in color and very thick. When lifted, a tablespoon of the mixture will take about 3 seconds to fall from the spoon.

Transfer the lekvar to a bowl and let it cool completely. You will need only about ⅔ cup/ 158 ml/ 7 ounces/202 grams, but it keeps just about indefinitely refrigerated. Making a smaller amount risks scorching the lekvar. Lekvar made from dried apricots is the most delicious and concentrated, but the apricot glaze that follows makes a viable alternative.

Fill the Cookies:
Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread the bottoms of half of the cookies, up to ⅛ inch from the edge, with a very thin layer of the apricot filling (about ½  tablespoon /3.7 ml). Spread the bottoms of the remaining cookies with a slightly thicker layer of the ganache (about . tablespoon/6 grams). Set the chocolate coated cookies, coated side down, on the apricot coated cookies. Let them sit for a minimum of 30 minutes for the ganache to set completely.

Store Airtight: room temperature, 5 days; frozen, 6 months.

Rose Levy Beranbaum is the author of several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Baking Bible, one of our Best Cookbooks of 2014.

In case you missed it, Day 1 of 12 Days of Cookie Recipes is the  Eggnog Sandwich Cookie from Ovenly bakery

BakingBibleRose Levy Beranbaum

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ovenly's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie

Now that Thanksgiving is over, holiday baking will soon be upon us.  I love the tradition of making cookies, the more the merrier, and sharing them with friends.  With this baking bonanza in mind, we decided to gather 12 days of cookie recipes and today is Day 1.  We're starting off with a cookie that just says "holiday"--Ovenly bakery's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie.  Check back on Omni over the next 12 days for recipes from folks like Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Giada De Laurentiis, Gina Homolka, and more.  Now on to our first cookie: 

Ovenly is an award-winning bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they recently created their first cookbook, Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery.   
















It is in this delicious tome that the Eggnog Sandwich Cookie and I first crossed paths, and Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga were kind enough to share the recipe:



Yield: approximately 30 cookies (depending on cookie cutter size)


This sparkly Christmas cookie has become a holiday standard at Ovenly. The rum cream filling combined with cinnamon and nutmeg in the sugar cookie is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite wintertime cocktail.


  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons rum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
  • Sanding sugar, for decorating the cookies


  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ¼ cup heavy cream + more for thinning


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream together the confectioners’ sugar, butter and corn syrup until very fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, salt and cloves and beat until combined, about 30 seconds more.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and rum, and then stir in the baking powder until it dissolves completely. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture and mix until barely incorporated. Turn the mixer off and add the flour. With the machine on low, mix until the flour is well incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 1 minute.

3. Divide the dough in half, and form it into 2 disks, each 6 inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until the dough is firm.

4. Line 3 rimmed sheet pans (if you do not have 3, you will have to bake these cookies in batches) with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and sprinkle the dough with extra flour to prevent it from sticking.

5. Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting it as you roll and flipping it over a few times to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. With a cookie cutter (we usually use a 1½-inch round cutter or a small glass), cut the dough into the desired shape and transfer the cookies to the prepared sheet pans (these cookies do not expand much, so you can bake 20 per pan). Reroll and cut any leftover dough.

6. Place them in the freezer (you can stack the pans in the freezer by placing parchment in between each. If you do not have 3 pans you can stack cookies in single layers, lining parchment in between each layer) for 15 minutes before baking. This will allow the cookies to retain their shape.

7. Sprinkle each cookie with sanding sugar, and bake the cookies pan by pan for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are slightly golden on the edges. Let the cookies cool completely before assembling.

8. While the cookies cool, prepare the cream filling. In a large bowl, whisk all the filling ingredients together thoroughly until a thick, but spreadable paste forms. Thin the filling with cream if it is too dry.

9. Spoon a dollop of the cream filling on the center of a cookie and top it with another cookie, pressing down lightly to ensure that the filling spreads evenly in between but not beyond the cookie edges. Repeat this process until all the cookies are filled.

EggnoggSandwichI EggnogSandwichIII








See more 12 Days of Cookie Recipes posts:

Author P.D. James Dies at 94

1e44810ae7a09018b64e4210.L._V192596150_SX200_.gifP.D. James died at her home in Oxford, England this week. She was 94 years old.

A consumate stylist, James did not begin writing novels until she was in her late thirties. She went on to write twenty books, notably introducing the fictional Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh to the world.

According to a recent BBC interview she had no plans of stopping:

"With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write," she told the BBC.

"I hope I would know myself whether a book was worth publishing. I think while I am alive, I shall write. There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too."

I had the chance to interview Ms. James for Omnivoracious a couple of years ago, upon the publication of her novel Death Comes to Pemberley, which is set in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The full interview is below:


511EpQoiqiL._BO2,204,203,20035,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Recently, we had the pleasure of posing some questions to the distinguished crime writer P.D. James. James has won numerous awards and has been inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame. At ninety-two years old, she is beloved by so many, having written some twenty novels, many of which have been adapted to television (as well as to movies, including one of my all-time favorites "Children of Men"). Her most recent novel is Death Comes to Pemberley, in which a murder takes place in the world of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.


Omnivoracious:  How long have you been thinking about setting a detective novel in world of Pride & Prejudice?

P.D. James: The idea of combining my two enthusiasms, writing detective stories and Jane Austen, in one book had been at the back of my mind for a few years but I did not seriously start to plot it until some months after the publication of The Private Patient. 

Omni: What pitfalls were there in entering the world of another author? Did you feel you were playing in Austen's sandbox, or did it feel like your own?

P.D. James: As I re-read all Jane Austen’s novels at least once a year her world was not strange to me and I did not feel I was imposing on her creativity.  I enjoyed introducing new characters and I think the magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, made a particularly effective contribution to the plot.

Omni: You seemed to bring more of the real world into Austen's. For instance, there are mentions of women's rights and other modern changes. Was your intention to break the hermetic seal and flesh out Austen's world—or did these added details just follow logically?    

P.D. James: I did not wish to break the hermetic seal of Jane Austen’s world.  The added details were matters of concern to most educated people of Jane Austen’s time and I thought it right to introduce them.

Omni: Who was your favorite character to write in Death Come to Pemberley (and was this your favorite character from Pride & Prejudice)?  

P.D. James: Darcy was my favorite character to write, and Elizabeth my favorite from Pride and Prejudice.   

Omni: You have traced your literary influences to four writers - Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh. Do you enjoy each of these authors for different reasons, or do they share one or two of the same qualities?

P.D. James: I enjoy them for different reasons, but all have a virtue in common: the ability to write brilliant dialogue.

Omni: Do you have favorite books by these authors that you could recommend to our readers?

P.D. James: I would recommend A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, and any book by the other three.

Omni: You began writing in your late thirties. Before you wrote your first novel, Cover Her Face, how much writing were you doing? Did you write short stories, parts of novels? Or just letters and grocery lists?

P.D. James: I was busy earning a living so had little time, but I did write a short play for radio and received an invitation to submit another, but my first novel prevented this.



Dean Koontz Interviews His Dog, Anna, Who Interviews Him

Dean Koontz's latest novel is The City. On December 9 he's publishing a Kindle Single, Odd Thomas.

His dog Anna's, ahem, new book is Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn.


Dean Interviews Anna

AnnaDEAN: Hey, sweetie, how does it feel to see your first book, Ask Anna, in print?

ANNA: Better than a bee stinging me on the nose, maybe not as good as being given a membership in the Sausage-of-the-Month Club. I'm a little worried about the celebrity thing, so I've ordered a custom disguise that makes me look like a poodle.

DEAN: There's an article in your book that reveals how people like Noah and Albert Einstein changed history by listening carefully to their dogs' advice. Are you aware of any more recent famous people who failed to heed the advice of their dogs?

ANNA: Tragically, yes. Mr. Johnny Depp's dog warned him not to play Tonto.

DEAN: Is there any down side to a dog being a successful author?

ANNA: Carpal-tunnel paw. Hollywood wanting to buy the film rights and recast me as a gerbil to be played by Adam Sandler in a furry suit. Perhaps a catty review here and there. Static electricity from the computer screen standing my fur on end, so that for hours at a time I go around looking as if I stuck my tongue in a wall plug.


Anna Interviews Dean

Koontz2ANNA: Hey, Dad, what's it like having to share the limelight with me now that I'm a published author?

DEAN: I have no jealousy whatsoever. I hope you enjoy a career that is bigger than mine. And don't worry: I would never--never!--put one of those annoying post-surgery cones around your head for no reason at all except envy or something. And I would never--never!--change your name to Pussycat and make you answer to it.

ANNA: Good to know. Sometimes we go for a ride in the car and you let me drive, and then you insist on sticking your head out the window. Are you mocking me when you do that?

DEAN: No, short stuff. It's fun! All the great smells!! My ears flapping in the breeze!!! People pointing and laughing!!!!

ANNA: Since my book is about advice, is there any advice I've given you that you're sorry you didn't take?

DEAN: That incident with the angry ferret comes to mind. But they sewed the thumb back on nearly where it was before, and I can still hitchhike with it if I ever need to.

ANNA: Hey, Dad, let me put the loop of my leash around your hand, and I'll take you for a walk.

DEAN: Great! Can we go to the park? Can we? Can we? Will you throw the ball for me? Better yet, the stick! Will you throw the stick?!?


> See all of Dean Koontz's books

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Excerpt: "The Fall: A Father's Memoir in 424 Steps," by Diogo Mainardi

ThefallBrazilian author and journalist Diogo Mainardi's unflinching story about raising a son, Tito, with cerebral palsy, The Fall: A Father's Memoir in 424 Steps is comprised of 424 short passages, each representing Tito's steps walking toward the hospital whose errors caused his disability. 


Just before he was 6 months old, Tito went for another examination at Padua Hospital.

His neurologist lay him face down on the stretcher. At that moment, he should have rolled over onto his back. Instead, he merely waved his little arms about, but -- like a turtle -- he was unable to turn over.

That was the first sign that he had cerebral palsy.


I had found out that my wife was pregnant exactly one year before.

I wrote about it on 23 February 2000 in my column in the magazine Veja.

I started by saying that, up until then, my rejection of fatherhood had been one of the rare, unquestioned certainties of my life. I went on to say that my wish -- and I quote word for word -- was to have "a turtle child, and whenever he became too agitated, I would just have to roll him onto his back and he would lie there, silently waving his little arms."

I got my turtle child.


Some days after the examination at Padua Hospital, we received the results through the post. According to the neurologist, Tito had suffered "damage to the extrapyramidal system."


I know how to read.

Reading is my job. I think by reading. I feel by reading. When we received the result of the examination at Padua Hospital, I read all about the extrapyramidal system. Nothing I read prepared me for what we were about to discover.


Now I know what Tito has.

According to the neurologists who have examined him over the last few years, the damage to his thalamus was caused by his bungled birth. The thalamus is part of the extrapyramidal system. The damage is infinitesimal, so much so that no machine has ever yet managed to detect it. But it's serious enough to affect all his movements.

Tito can't walk, pick things up or talk normally.


After examining Tito, the neurologist at Padua Hospital sent him to a physiotherapist at Venice Hospital.

During the weeks that followed, the physiotherapist put him through a series of tests.

It was only when all the tests were over that -- with a feeling of fear and panic -- I first heard the term which, from that moment on, would come to dominate my life.

Tito had cerebral palsy.


The fear lasted a week.

Then it passed.

The reason why it took only a week for the fear to pass was a fall.

Tito was sitting on my lap. I was sitting on the sofa in the living room reading the newspaper. My wife, who was rushing about, caught her foot on the rug and fell flat on her face in front of us. When Tito saw her fall, he laughed out loud. We both pretended to fall over. And he laughed and laughed and laughed. And we laughed with him.

Tito's cerebral palsy immediately became more familiar. Slapstick was a language we all understood.

Tito falls. My wife falls. I fall.

What unites us -- what will always unite us -- is the fall.



Abbott and Costello Go to Mars: On a voyage into outer space, Lou Costello gets his astronaut's boot caught in a storm drain and falls over when he wrenches it free.


Francesca Martinez is a comedian.

She has cerebral palsy. All her performances revolve around that topic.

According to her, the term cerebral palsy can only have been invented to induce "fear and panic." That is why she likes to be described as a "wobbly" person. She is always wobbly, always about to fall.

Francesca Martinez's humor -- like Lou Costello's -- takes its inspiration from her falls.

Cerebral palsy is her astronaut boot caught in a storm drain.


Francesca Martinez told the Daily Mail what had happened to her.

Her cerebral palsy, like Tito's, was caused by a medical error. Her mother was left unattended for some hours because "being a Sunday there were fewer hospital staff on duty." Francesca remained in the womb and was left without oxygen for seven minutes.

Cerebral palsy, she explains, "occurs when part of the brain fails to work. It affects one child in five hundred. Each case is unique, but usually people's muscle control and mobility are affected."

The best way to describe how cerebral palsy affects her is that she appears to be "slightly drunk." Her speech is slurred and her balance wobbly.


Two weeks after learning that Tito had cerebral palsy, I wrote about it in my column in Veja:

My 7-month-old son has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. From the outside, that piece of news might seem utterly desperate. From the inside, though, it's different. It was as if they had told me my son was Bulgarian. If I discovered that my son was Bulgarian, the first thing I would do would be to consult a book to find out more about Bulgaria: gross national product, principal rivers, mineral wealth, etc. And that is what I did with cerebral palsy.


After saying that cerebral palsy was a term that struck fear into the heart and that, for the first time in my life, I belonged to a minority, I ended the column in this shamelessly sentimental way:

I consider myself to be a humorous writer. For me, there is nothing funnier than frustrated expectations.
Frustrated expectations about social progress.
Frustrated expectations about scientific discoveries.
Frustrated expectations about the power of love.
I have always worked from that anti-enlightenment viewpoint. Now I've changed. I now believe in the power of love. Love for a little Bulgarian.


From that moment on, Tito's cerebral palsy became a recurrent theme in my columns.

Over a period of ten years, I devoted eight columns to him.

If, as Francesca Martinez estimated, cerebral palsy affects, on average, 1 child in 500, I published a column on the subject, on average, every 500 days.

Cerebral palsy affected the lives of my readers as often as it affects life in general.


In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Francesca Martinez stated: "That's the huge secret about disability -- anyone with experience of it knows that a disabled person is just a person they love."

In my first article about Tito, that was the only "huge secret" I had to reveal.

Astonishingly, for me and for Anna, Tito's cerebral palsy was never a cause for sorrow. Astonishingly, for me and for Anna, Tito's cerebral palsy never seemed a burden.

At 7 months, Tito was simply a person we loved.


In mid-2001, we took Tito to see a neurologist in New York.



Tito and me in New York.


In New York, I became Tito's first mode of transport.

He would point left and I would go left. He would point right and I would go right. He would point at his grandmother and I would hand him over to his grandmother.

Tito would choose my fate by sending me off to the right or to the left.


The New York neurologist was very encouraging.

After doing a few tests, he predicted that, in two years' time, Tito would be speaking normally. He also predicted that, in four years' time, Tito would be walking on his own.

Both predictions proved false.

Tito never spoke normally. He never walked on his own.


Christy Brown had cerebral palsy.

During the first few months of his life, his parents took him to various neurologists in Dublin.

They all said that Christy Brown would remain forever in a state of "torpor," because he was an "idiot," "mentally defective," a "hopeless case" and "beyond cure."

In his autobiography, My Left Foot, Christy Brown described how he was able to overcome the worst prognoses, finding a way of typing and painting with the big toe of his left foot.


Like Christy Brown's parents, Anna and I learned to ignore all the doctors' stupid prognoses, whether positive or negative. Like Christy Brown's parents, Anna and I learned to celebrate each step taken by Tito, however wobbly.

After a certain point, we even learned to celebrate his falls. In the early years, Tito would always hurt himself when he fell. Over time, he developed new ways of breaking his falls.

Knowing how to fall is much more valuable than knowing how to walk.

Punk Rock Girl

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A MemoirViv Albertine's new memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a book is divided almost straight down the middle. Side One is the story of her upbringing in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill: It's the mid-seventies, and the Sex Pistols are at the head of a massive, angry (or at least frustrated) cultural insurgence. Her rebellious tendencies have led her into the center of punk culture, and inspired by its outsized personalities and  confrontational style, she picks up a guitar, forsaking traditional training for the DIY ethos of the day. After her band with the pre-Pistols Sid Vicious (The Flowers of Romance--a possibly sardonic suggestion from Johnny Rotten) fails to launch, Albertine joins forces with The Slits, a ska-infused, all-girl outfit that, through the force of its collective will and audacity, elbows its way to the front of a stage filled with sharp, mostly male elbows. Everyone is wearing Vivenne Westwood's provocative clothing purchased from Malcolm McLaren's infamous boutique, SEX--at least as much as they could afford. Mick Jones of The Clash wanders in and out of the story, first as a gangly proto-punk spending all of his time and loose change trying to put together a band, and later as Albertine's on-again, off-again boyfriend (the classic London Calling track "Train in Vain" was inspired by her). It's a story in the best rock & roll tradition: Initiative leads. Ability chases. Success looms. Then someone bumps the turntable.

Side Two. The band has blown apart. Grownup problems ensue: education and career; marriage and kids; serious illness, divorce, and identity. The actor Vincent Gallo. Albertine moves through all of it, drawing from the same well of determination that compelled her to pick up the guitar for the first time. The two sides of the book may tell very different stories, but they share perspective and style that are both straightforward and ultimately uncompromising. If you love this music (and your library contains titles like Please Kill Me and Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp), then this book is fascinating and essential. If not, it's fascinating and inspiring. It's occasionally coarse, and often terribly funny and fun.

In the spirit of the title, we asked Albertine three memorable examples of the three main themes: clothes, music, and boys.


Clothes, Clothes, Clothes
Your three memorable articles of clothing or outfits, where & when you wore them, where you got them, and what made them special.

My first cool outfit was by mail order, all the rage in the 1960s. It was a purple corduroy three piece suit, a fitted jacket, mini-skirt and hipster bell-bottom trousers with big belt loops. It came in pieces, so my mother had to sew it all together. Best of all there was a "Donovan" peaked cap included, like a Dylan cap, which I wore to death.

When I first went to Vivienne Westwood's shop "Sex" in 1975, I couldn’t believe that what I was thinking about and drawing at art college, someone else had thought to put onto clothes. I’d never thought of combining erotica, feminism and insurgency with items of clothing. I wore this look with my own embellishments from that day onwards and I didn’t have one peaceful journey through London for the next six years because of it.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaAs my 18-year marriage started to fall apart, because I’d started to play my Telecaster again (still a powerful weapon in the wrong hands), I began to think about how I was dressing. I had become very conventional, not wanting to be noticed, hiding away in a nice house by the coast away from London, and I had to think again about who I was, who I wanted to project with my clothes. You hear all these phrases like "mutton dressed as lamb," but I think good taste is good taste whatever age you are, and clashing prints with cuban heels now or matted hair and loads of black eye-liner back then are good taste - my version of good taste.

Music, Music, Music
Three inspiring/influential/rewarding musical experiences of your life. Bands that you’ve seen, shows that you’ve played, people you’ve met, or any other musical moment.

The first time a live show transported me was when I saw Fleetwood Mac play at a free night-time outdoor concert on a wild piece of land called Hampstead Heath near my home in North London. Everything about the evening was dark and mysterious and forbidden. Fleetwood Mac came on and played "Albatross," the guitars wailed over the tops of the black silhouetted trees, I felt like I was flying and swooping with them.

The second time has to be when I saw the Sex Pistols live at Chelsea School of Art. I was transfixed by Johnny Rotten, not because he was extraordinary, but because he was as near someone like me that I had ever seen on stage and I found that shocking, inspiring and fascinating. He couldn’t sing or play an instrument (like me), he came from North London, a poor family, below-average schooling, bad housing (all like me) and yet unlike me, he wasn’t ashamed, apologetic or embarrassed about any of this. The next day I went out and bought a Les Paul Junior and started to learn to play guitar.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaI stopped playing music for twenty five years. I felt it wasn’t an interesting medium anymore. By 2008 a couple of things had happened, the internet (making it possible to reach people without the conduit of record company men), I became healthy again and I went back to art school one day a week to explore my thoughts and feelings creatively. All this made me want to pick up the guitar and play and write songs again. Big changes in your life aren’t always about eureka moments, sometimes it’s just painfully slow, hard work and dogged determination.

Boys, Boys, Boys
Three who had a profound effect on her life, good or not so good.

The thing is, in the 1970s, ordinary girls and women were very repressed and oppressed, we had no role models, I never once met an interesting woman, in the arts or music who I could imagine being. They weren’t even in the media. The first woman who resonated with me was Yoko Ono. So I was influenced by boys. I wanted to do things boys did and I dated boys that interested me on that level. That realisation has made boys less interesting to me. What do I want or need from them now? Especially now I have my own home and a child. If it’s just about companionship, for years on end…well, that person is hard to find, male or female.

The three boys I nominate are: my first proper boyfriend, Magnus (who I still know and love, we are neighbours), he was interesting, well-read, an amazing artist, from a poor background, and I followed in his footsteps for a while to gigs and art school. I was thirteen, he was fifteen and we went out together for three years.

Viv Albertine by Carolina AmbidaNumber two has to be Mick Jones (guitarist with the Clash) who I met at art school when I was nineteen. I watched as he tried over and over again to form bands, full of passion, love of music and determination, which was very rare in a young person back then. He was also extremely intelligent, self-taught, interested in politics and all aspects of life. From him I learnt how to run a band. We are still friends and love each other too.

Number three is myself. I am the boy now. I am whole. I don’t look to a man to complete me, to inspire me, to lead me somewhere I haven’t quite got the courage to go to by myself. It’s taken fifty or so years to get here. Love and romance sure do look different from this perspective. Most relationships look a bit pathetic to me to be honest. I am questioning what two people are doing, clinging together for years and years on end, way past the relationship’s sell-by date. I would like a new paradigm to be the norm, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Photos 1 and 2 by Carolina Ambida; photo 3 courtesy the author

Moosewood Cookbook 40 Years Later: A Guest Post by Mollie Katzen

MoosewoodCkbk400It's hard to believe, but the Moosewood Cookbook turns 40 this year with a beautiful commemorative edition that includes a new introduction by author Mollie Katzen.  

According to the New York Times, Moosewood Cookbook is one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time and for many of us it revolutionized the way we think about vegetarian cooking.  First published as a spiral-bound notebook with hand-written recipes and simple illustrations,  this classic cookbook has stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular guides to making delicious home-cooked vegetarian dishes.  Restaurants today pride themselves on menus highlighting seasonal ingredients, but in the pages of this cookbook Mollie Katzen has been showing home cooks how to make the most of in season fruits and vegetables for decades.

We asked Katzen to write a guest post for us, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her first cookbook*, and to share her favorite recipe from the book which turns out to be Califlower-Cheese Pie.

*Since Moosewood Mollie Katzen has written several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.

The original Moosewood Cookbook originated, in part, from random notes used to help keep track of what my friends and I were cooking in the tiny kitchen of our modest 1970s restaurant. “Vegetarian” was in the early stages of becoming a “thing,” but it was highly unofficial. We were greatly inspired by international dishes as remembered from various world travel (actual or via the “ethnic restaurant” route), discovering cuisines from other countries that placed far less emphasis on meat and more on creative preparation of garden- and orchard-sourced ingredients.  (At that time, hardly anyone in the United States had heard of tabouli, pesto, hummus, or many other then-considered-exotic items that are now ubiquitous.)

Our food was largely plant-based, although that term was not yet in anyone’s vocabulary. The notebook was an attempt to more or less standardize our “cuisine,” which was varied and eclectic and often quite spontaneous—determined largely by the produce delivery of the day and the imagination and skill level of the cook. We had a casual approach to everything (including the idea of standardization itself), so this would ideally help us keep things somewhat consistent.  An inveterate journal keeper and art school graduate, I turned these notes into a booklet, speaking with an informal voice through my own hand-lettering (didn’t own a typewriter; computers decades short of existing) and pen-and-ink illustrations.

In 1974, I photocopied the booklet and sold copies through a local bookstore. Over the next couple of years, it ended up selling thousands of copies. In the fall of 1977, the national edition (the one many people have come to know) was first published by Ten Speed Press. It was not an overnight sensation; it actually took a few years to catch on and begin to sell. To this day, amazingly, the Moosewood Cookbook has never been out of print.

For Moosewood Cookbook’s 40th birthday celebration, Ten Speed and I have collaborated on an upgraded package with a fresh new look, built to last. For those of you with old, stained, notated, dog-eared, scotch-taped, rubber-banded (and in some cases, coverless) copies from yesteryear, you might appreciate this newly refreshed edition—whether for yourself or for someone who is new to this tome, inspired more by  curiosity, perhaps, than nostalgia.  In any case, we are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with you.  We hope these recipes—and this style of cooking, in general—will call out to you, giving you a range of ideas to keep your cooking fresh in all ways and helping you make or keep your kitchen a place of creativity and enjoyment.  --Mollie Katzen




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