Month: January, 2008

Von Rezzori reading

Friday, January 18th, 2008 | All Things, Books

At McNally Robinson bookstore in NoLIta for a reading and discussion of Romanian–born writer Gregor von Rezzori‘s recently reissued novel, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite — five connected stories, taking place over several decades, exploring the European aristocrat protagonist’s relationship with and ambivalent attitudes toward Jews.

Von Rezorri’s seminal work was first published in 1969 when he was 65 years old; the English version of the German original was released in the United States in 1981. Before becoming known as a novelist and memoirist, von Rezorri, himself born an Austro-Hungarian aristocrat, was a soldier in the Romanian army and later went on to find stints throughout Europe as a radio broadcaster, writer, filmmaker and artist.

Zadie Smith reading

Erica Jong, who had been scheduled to give the introductions tonight, was called away by the birth of her daughter’s twins. The host of the evening was Edwin Frank, editor of the NY Review of Books Classics series, whose mission is to reintroduce great books, like von Rezzori’s, that have fallen out of print or out of sight in recent years.

Authors Zadie Smith and Gary Shteyngart read excerpts from the novel and took questions from the packed audience.

McNally Robinson

Soviet émigré and Stuy alum Shteyngart’s debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, earned him wide praise and numerous awards – including the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His follow-up 2006 novel, Absurdistan, garnered near-unanimous positive reviews, prompting Walter Kirn to declare on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, “Like a victorious wrestler, this novel is so immodestly vigorous, so burstingly sure of its barbaric excellence, that simply by breathing, sweating and standing upright it exalts itself.”

But it seemed that what drew crowds to the independent bookstore on Prince tonight was Smith. In 2006, the English novelist was listed among the Time 100 – the magazine’s annual wrap-up of the “100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming our world.” Smith completed her debut novel, White Teeth, during her final year at Cambridge, and was dubbed by The Guardian as “the first publishing sensation of the millennium.” White Teeth went on to win the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2000, among many other honors. Her third novel, On Beauty, was published in September 2005 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. The book won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

I arrived shortly after the author introductions, and this was the closest I could manage to the stage, and green sweater-clad Smith. Well, it’s a reading, not a sighting.

Zadie Smith reading

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Music for mating

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 | Events, Music

At Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater for “A Modern Person’s Guide to Hooking Up and Breaking Up,” a vocal concert, presented as part of the 20th Anniversary season of the New York Festival of Song.

Steven Blier, NYFOS’s artistic director, and Michael Barrett, associate artistic director, in collaboration with the students of The Juilliard School’s Vocal Arts Department, and artists from the Juilliard Opera Center, put together this evening of song, which culminates the third annual installment of NYFOS@Juillard.

Peter Jay Sharp Theater

New York Festival of Song

For this year’s program, Blier and Barrett decided upon a theme that their cast of singers knew about firsthand: “mating, dating, betrayal, sexual urges of many stripes, and true love,” somewhat lighter fare than last year’s theme: “Songs of Peace and War.” The song selections were culled from sources ranging from musical theater, to German cabaret, to pop and rock.

The performance opened with a reading of “may i feel said he” by e e cummings. The ensemble (tenor Paul Appleby, baritone Paul LaRosa, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb, soprano Meredith Lustig, tenor Alex Mansoori, baritone David McFerrin, mezzo Renée L. Tatum, bass Marc Webster and soprano Jennifer Zetlan) alternated delivering lines on a darkened stage, which served as an apt introduction to the sometimes quite literal battle between the sexes. (“let’s go said he / not too far said she / what’s too far said he / where you are said she”)

The night’s sung selections were divided into themed segments: Drawing the Lines, Desire, Mars. vs. Venus, Variations and Working it Out, and ranged from the innocently flirty (Frank Loesser’s “Standing on the Corner” from The Most Happy Fella) to the somewhat less so (Kurt Weill’s “Ballad of Sexual Slavery” from Die Dreigroschenoper and songwriter-satirist Tom Lehrer’s “The Masochism Tango.”) There was a highbrow piece with the poetry of W.B. Yeats set to music by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Moravec, a not-so-cryptic — and hilarious — ode to self love (A Chorus Line lyricist Ed Kleban’s “Do It Yourself“) and a rousing rendition of The Boss’s “Ain’t Got You” by ensemble member Appleby who, before marketing himself as a Rossini and Mozart tenor, sang lead in a Springsteen cover band. One of the quirkiest and most recent selections of the night was the 2006 piece “Neurotic and Lonely,” from the eight-song cycle Craigslistlieder, in which McFerrin sang words lifted directly from a Craigslist personal ad, set to music by none other than Brooklyn composer and performer Gabriel KahaneMP‘s talented young cousin, whom I met over one of our dinners at Public. “Must enjoy video games, must own a video game system: my parents refuse to buy one for me!!!! NO UGG BOOTS, NO LONG ISLAND!

The program was punctuated with interstitial quotations by a variety of “love experts,” ranging from Lord Byron to Miss Piggy, Oscar Wilde to St. Augustine (“Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.“)

For the finale, the entire group joined in a song and dance production of The Beatles’ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” with a saucy encore by Lehrer whose tune “I Got It From Agnes” ended things on a humorous note with the joys and pitfalls of spreading the … er, love.

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An amazing preview

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

This morning I received an invitation to attend a Chinese New Year feast in about three weeks. New dishes, new friends… how could I say no?

Our group will be gathering at Amazing 66 – the warmly received venture by the chef of the former Danny Ng Restaurant (now ABC Chinese Restaurant). Chowhounds have been raving about this place since it opened a little over a year ago, but I’ve yet to make my way there. SL’s email put the restaurant back on my radar, so when it came time to pick a place for lunch, there we were.

The full dinner menu features some impressive items, which — dare I hope? — may be on the slate next month: an outrageous sounding pumpkin stuffed with short ribs, a house special crispy chicken stuffed with sticky rice… Midday, though, is a more scaled down affair.

The large dining room was packed this afternoon – always a good sign — so we were seated at a large communal table, which we shared with two other couples. Amidst the din of the lunch hour, we considered our options. Amazing 66’s single-sheet two-sided lunch menu is available Monday through Saturday from 11:00AM until 3:30PM; 70 items under headings of beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and bean curd & vegetable, served with white rice and choice of hot & sour or egg drop soup. For $4.95! The reverse side of the menu lists dozens of soups, congees, fried noodle and fried rice dishes.

Amazing 66

Deciding from among the extensive list was not easy. Something about the chill of winter puts me in mind of my ongoing quest for the perfect roast chicken. Amazing 66 offers a Chinese version with preserved vegetable. Simple and comforting, I thought. What was placed before me minutes later far exceeded my expectations.

Roast chicken and preserved vegetable

Wildly delicious!  Thin, crispy skin with juicy, tender meat, heaped with sweet and tangy shreds of vegetable… With the juices poured over a steaming bowl of white rice – just about as perfect a roast chicken as I’ve ever had, at any price.

If this is just a preview of the good eats to come, I wonder: how long will it take me to eat my way down Amazing 66’s lunch menu?

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