Valentines and Vindaloo

Monday, March 5th, 2007 | All Things, Books, Eats, Friends

The Atlantic Theater Company was founded in 1985 by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy. Tonight, the theater was staging a reading of excerpts from Olaf Olafsson’s new collection of stories, Valentines.

New Yorker Olafsson is the acclaimed Icelandic émigré author of Absolution  (which was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize in 1991), Walking Into the Night, and The Journey Home  (soon to be filmed starring husband and wife team Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, under the direction of Liv Ullmann). Olafsson is a true renaissance man; he began his training as a physicist, but abandoned a Ph.D. program to eventually found and head the Sony digital entertainment division that was responsible for introducing the PlayStation. A vice-chairmanship at Time Warner Digital Media followed, where he currently serves as an executive vice president… all while the man continues to churn out critically-acclaimed novels and serve as chairman of award-winning Off-Broadway theater companies. Very impressive… though that last explains in part why the Atlantic chose this particular work to spotlight.

Valentines is a perversely titled collection — the name suggests hearts and cupids and happily ever after, but based on the excerpts read this night, it’s doubtful that any of the characters will know such Hallmark endings. The readings offered a grim look at three of the dozen thematically-linked stories — one for each month — casting an unwavering eye on the heartbreak and disappointment lovers and family often dispense. These couples destroy their relationships with a breathtaking minimum of fuss, mired in infidelity, infertility, alcoholism and simmering resentments — and that’s just in the selections featured tonight. The pieces were read brilliantly by Larry Bryggman (Tony-nominated for Proof ), Jonathan Cake (Bridget Moynahan’s weaselly British ex-fiance Roy on Six Degrees ) and Haviland Morris (from Sixteen Candles!)  Emily Mortimer was scheduled to appear originally, but had to drop out at the last minute due to conflicts with her film shooting schedule.

Valentines readers

Listening to these stories, I found Olafsson’s writing reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s in its spareness and understatement. The stories chilled my heart with despair; the biting winds on the streets outside froze everything else. Luckily, I did not have far to walk for dinner.

Bombay Talkie

I’d read about Chelsea’s Bombay Talkie in the Times  a couple of years ago; Bruni’s review began rather memorably with: “I have tasted the bitterness of unrequited love…”

No such bitterness tonight — I had the mango lassi. I arrived at the restaurant just as CS did, and within a few minutes, the rest of our party had found their way.

The loungey, low-lit space was clean and modern, with just a hint of Bollywood kitsch. These murals just beg for a backstory, no?

Bombay Talkie Mural

Bombay Talkie Mural

The menu is a take on Indian street food, divided into three sections: “Street bites” (appetizers); “From the roadside” (entrees); and “Curbside” (sides). We made our selections, and soon enough, our long communal table was covered with small dishes of chicken, lamb, pork, wraps, naan and rice — all prettily presented, and fragrantly (if not aggressively) spiced. What better way to get to know our new friends than over shared plates of tasty food? In the background, a large flatscreen television broadcast an endless procession of real Bombay Talkies as Indian music piped cheerily over the restaurant sound system. It may have been the food, or perhaps it was the company, but over talk of faraway places, I felt the beginnings of a thaw set in.

There's 1 comment so far ... Valentines and Vindaloo

March 22, 2007

Always alliteration always.

Go for it ...