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October 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Remember When the Government Wasn’t Shut Down?

Posted by emily

The government might be shut down, but Throwback Thursday most certainly isn't! Unlike the American Battle Monuments Commission, or the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, we're up and running over here at 20SomethingReads, and throwing back despite losing some of our most precious civil liberties --- like visiting Yellowstone Park, or accessing the National Zoo's panda cam. I know. We're heroes. So go ahead and indulge in your weekly nostalgia --- it's your right as an American, nay, as a human. 

Nicole: KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
No shock here, I'm a foodie. Not even just an NYC foodie. I'm a global foodie. Every vacation is about relaxing...and food. It's also no shock that I'm in love with Anthony Bourdain, as any proper foodie would be. It's his tall, erect stance. His wavy gray hair. His pierced ear and casual, IDGAF style. His dream job. The commitment to his family. His rebel-without-a-cause attitude. He's the salaciously irresistible James Dean of food. And, of travel television. His first gritty memoir KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly tells the story of his rising fame, from stoner cool kid to iconic silver fox for the masses. He tells us what tastes good and how our taste buds react --- and does so with pinch of kickass and a sprinkle of spite. He knows all kinds of meat, in and out, up and down. He taught everyone to not eat sushi on Mondays in NYC, or anywhere, for that matter. Hell, in one episode of "No Reservations," he even steps foot on the grounds of Chernobyl...because Bourdain is too cool for catastrophic nuclear explosions. He is that much of an untouchable (zing!). KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL is brutally honest and one of the most accurate accounts of what it's like to navigate the food industry (completely neglecting the fact that I have zero experience to base any judgment off of...just take my word for it).

Before it was a Broadway show, before it was a pretty, if a little sleepy, Alt-J song and before Mara Wilson --- who starred in the amazing 1996 film adaptation --- sat next to me in an NYU sociology class, Roald Dahl’s MATILDA was just a book about a super smart girl who fights back against all the brutish adults in her life and wins her own version of happily ever after. Wait. Just a book? MATILDA was the answer! It didn’t matter if your parents weren’t shallow and crooked like the Wormwoods, or if your middle school principal wasn’t an overtly abusive and bullishly bitter ex-athlete, MATILDA still resonated to the very core of your eight-year-old being. Precocious kid vs. boorish adult is an age-old battle, one that is timeless because it’s the fantasy of every kid ever. I mean, let’s face it: When our plucky heroine exacts revenge through the sheer power of her brain (cerebral and magical), overcoming undeserved adversity so she can read all the books she wants in Miss Honey’s adorable cottage, it’s hard not to feel like that’s the exact definition of justice.

I put a lot of thought into choosing this book. Not because I didn’t like it as a kid. I did. I liked it a whole lot. Unfortunately, I reread the trilogy in high school and realized that there was an entire level of meaning that I’d missed, at which point the whole thing was irrevocably ruined. The Christian allegories and uncomfortably militant Catholic Church stuff that I missed the first time around make it hard to remember quite as fondly. I understand why some might have completely legitimate reasons not to like this book. But this isn’t “Reasonably Reminiscing Thursday” (although that’s not bad --- dibs!), this is Throwback Thursday. So, with nostalgia glasses firmly in place, let’s remember THE GOLDEN COMPASS for the exciting, creative adventure story that it was. Before THE SUBTLE KNIFE brought in the dimension-hopping and the love interest (with all the lovely Original Sin metaphors that stirred up), and before THE AMBER SPYGLASS where God died and things got really really weird with the multiple universes, we had a story about a girl named Lyra and the adventure she goes on. Lyra was tough and smart and had a shapeshifting animal spirit and a cool uncle and basically did all of the things I wished I could do, but was too busy with homework and soccer practice to ever get around to. Most importantly, this was the book that contained a duel to the death between two armored polar bears. That was the most badass literary moment I had ever experienced in my young life, and it held the first place spot for years until recently getting dethroned by Harry Dresden riding a zombie T-Rex (alas, a story for another blog post). Unlike most literature, I’d say THE GOLDEN COMPASS actually gets less enjoyable when you start picking it apart. The metaphors and symbolism start popping up like demented Whac-A-Moles and they really get in the way of the fun. So don’t think too hard. Just enjoy the armored bears.

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about traveling --- both mentally planning future trips and reminiscing about ones I’ve taken. As a result, THE FOREIGNERS by Maxine Swann has been on my mind. The story takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina and follows three women: Isolde, a gorgeous Austrian who finds herself catapulted into Argentine high society, Daisy, an American fresh from a divorce who moves to the city to study water and Leonarda, a local with a remarkable lack of inhibitions. Buenos Aires seems like a city of endless possibility at first, but things quickly take a dark turn. Isolde climbs higher into the rings of the elite, but soon finds herself bracing for a fall. Meanwhile, Daisy and Leonarda have teamed up and gotten into all sorts of mischief --- think sex, parties, outrageous clothing and people being tied up…I’m just going to leave that there; you’ll have to read to see how far we get into 50 SHADES territory. I read the book when I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires myself so it was especially fitting (don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those people who won’t shut up about her semester abroad), but anyone who has found themselves away from home --- especially in their 20s --- can relate. The book is essentially about that feeling you get when you’re in a strange place or out of your routine, the feeling that rules don’t apply and you can do whatever you want (see: Spring Breakers). In the book, that feeling gets these women into a lot of trouble, and there’s all sorts of sexy city grittiness for you to enjoy along the way. After THE FOREIGNERS you’ll either want to pack your bags for your own trip full of strangers, danger and trysts, or never want to leave your house again. If you read, let me know which you're feeling because I'm still sort of conflicted. 

For my throwback, I am going to write about SINBAD THE SAILOR by Marcia Williams. It is a really fun book. I got the book for my birthday. My mom sent it to me. She always gets me nice presents. She doesn’t live with us. Ever since the fire she has lived far away. Anyway, my teacher said I couldn’t write about a comic for my report, but my Mom said I could. She said my teacher was a “philistine who would not know a scarf from a narf.” I don’t know what that means, but it is probably right. Anyway, Sinbad is a really silly story. The main character, Sinbad, goes on many adventures. He always finds treasure, but then he spends it all and has to make more. My Mom says he has “a severe narcotics problem.” I don’t know what that means, but it is probably right. Anyway, Sinbad spends all his money on houses, and clothes, and jewels, and toys, and goats, and parties and women. He also seems to spend a lot of money on wine. I have never had wine. My Mom says it is like Juicy-Juice for grownups. She used to drink it, but they won’t give it to her where she lives now. Sinbad also kills a lot of people, and has special grownup time with all the princesses he meets. Even though he says he loves the princesses, he always runs away when they want to marry him. My Mom says that’s what Dad did, and why I have to live in an orphanage. Anyway, this is a really good book. My Mom says it is a “prime example of getting stuff past the censors.” I don’t know what that means, but it is probably right.