WORD on the street (NYC: on the W between Queensboro Plaza and Lexington Ave.)

Joanna, reading A Spot of Bother

1. Why did you choose this book?

I really liked Mark Haddon’s other book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Then a friend recommended this one to me when we were discussing books with gay characters.

2. Do you like it?

I like it. In the first 40 pages or so, I wasn’t sure that it was going to catch my interest, but then it picked up and I suddenly felt invested in the story. It sometimes makes me cringe, kind of like a TV drama, when the characters aren’t understanding each other and conflicts are piling up. But the relationships are more realistic than in a TV drama, so that’s a relief!

3. What are your favorite books?

Life of Pi (Yann Martel), Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri), Zeitoun (Dave Eggers), Native Speaker (Chang-rae Lee), The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)….

4. Do you judge books by their covers?

Not usually, because I find out about them online, and can only see a little thumbnail image of the cover anyway.

5. What did you have for breakfast?

Cereal—three types mixed together. I still haven’t found one cereal that I like on its own.

 

 

WORD on the street, Monday 4/12 (NYC: on the W between Broadway and 39th Ave.)

 Randy, reading The Age of Wonder

1. Why did you choose this book?

I read a review somewhere, maybe Salon.

2. Do you like it?

Very much.

3. What are your favorite books?

Do you want types of books or titles? That would take a long time.

Either is great.

Mostly straight literature. But lately I’ve been getting into nonfiction, like this one, historical science. But Russian lit was always my biggest thing.

Ok now a title.

Since I read it when I was 16, and I read it again all the time, Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky).

4. Do you judge books by their covers?

I try not to but I definitely do, even it’s subconsciously. Especially if I know nothing about it, then the cover can make a big difference.

5. What did you have for breakfast?

Pop-tarts. Why, are you finding a correlation between breakfast and reading habits?

Not really. What kind of pop-tarts?

Brown sugar cinnamon. Pop-tarts and coffee.


WORD on the Street, Thursday (NYC: on the W between 5th Ave. and 57th St.)

Mavis, reading Never Let Me Go

1. Why did you choose this book? 

I chose it because I’ve heard a lot about the author, and wanted to read something he’d written. I also wanted to read a book with a setting outside of the US, and thought the UK would be a good place to start.

2. Do you like it?

I do like it. It started off a little bit slow (first 30 pages), and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading, but I gave it a chance and now I’m really into it. It’s definitely an interesting book with some very thought-provoking concepts. I also really like the sci-fi aspect of it, which is surprising because I generally don’t like sci-fi novels. 

3. What are your favorite books?

My favorite books are Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres, In the Name of Salome by Julia Alvarez and The Local News by Miriam Gershow.

4. Do you judge books by their covers?

Generally, I don’t. I look at the title first, and then read the blurb.

5. What did you have for breakfast?

Today I had a slice of whole wheat toast and some juice. I’m not really that hungry in the mornings.

WORD on the street, Tuesday 3/23 (NYC : on the N between 39th Ave. and Queensboro Plaza)

Heather, also reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

1. Why did you chose this book?

My roommate gave it to me.

2. Do you like it?

Yes.

3. What are your favorite books?

Currently The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

4. Do you judge books by their covers?

Yes.

5. What did you have for breakfast?

I haven’t had breakfast.

Ask a Vintage Expert: Editor Zack Wagman talks editing

Introducing a new, semi-regular series in which we interview writers and editors about what goes on behind the scenes.

First up, Vintage Editor Zack Wagman.

How long have you been an editor? What made you want to become an editor?
I’ve been an editor for 6 years now, though some of that was as an assistant.  Actually, I originally wanted to work in the film business (I’m a huge movie nerd), in “development,” though I don’t think I really understood what that meant.  All I knew was that I was an avid reader and preferred working behind the scenes.  The summer I graduated from college, I was working as a freelancer for a professor of mine who was publishing a book with Random House.  As I got to know more about the editorial process and the publishing world, I realized that in publishing, I’d be able to work in pop culture and help develop projects that I believed in.  Eventually, I got hired at Knopf and I’ve been here ever since.

What are the most important qualities in an editor as you see it?
Patience is a virtue!  You’ll need patience to read through the countless bad manuscripts to find that hidden gem; to problem-solve with an author to get the manuscript to where it needs to be; and to be an enthusiastic cheerleader for the book at the company.    I would also say an open mind, courage to take a risk, and a sense of fun.

What was the best advice you got at the beginning of your career?

My first boss in publishing, Vicky Wilson, told me to always trust my instincts.  I would have put that in my answer above, but I didn’t want to steal her line.  But it’s true!  I’ve read manuscripts that aren’t necessarily a natural fit for the Knopf Group, but I made a stink about anyway because either I couldn’t stop turning pages or it stuck with me well after I finished reading.

What’s the biggest cringe-worthy moment you’ve had in your career so far?
A few years ago, after corresponding with an LA-based author for months, I finally met her in person.  She made a strange comment when she first saw me: “Huh.  I always pictured you as a blonde.”  I was sort of caught off-guard and tried to recover with a joke: “Oh, because of Zack Morris?”  She just stared at me in total confusion for what felt like five full minutes and then walked away.  It was a meaningless moment and didn’t affect our working relationship at all, but it was damn awkward.

What advice would you give the Future Publishers of America?
Read what’s on the New York Times bestseller lists!  I’ve interviewed job applicants before—many of them right out of college.  And here’s a piece of advice: as much as we all love and respect Tolstoy, Dickens, and James Joyce, citing them as what you’ve read recently doesn’t do much for me.  I’d much rather hear your opinions on Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, or Malcolm Gladwell.

Who are your greatest influences?
Pixar, comic books, my parents, Michael Chabon, Billy Wilder.  Not necessarily in that order.

Complete this sentence: if it weren’t for _____ I never would have gotten my foot in the door.
If it weren’t for persistence, I never would have gotten my foot in the door.  I sent my resume to Random House for about 6 months before anyone called me back!

How much do you read?
I typically read about 2-3 books a week.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  I’m always reading on the train—usually work stuff in the morning and something lighter in the evening.  I read at my desk when I can, but I’m usually dealing with emails, factsheets, catalog and cover copy, reader reports, etc. so it’s not that often.  I read a lot of newsy/politics/pop culture blogs in the morning and at night.  And I try and read for pleasure so I can remember why I got into this business in the first place!

What surprised you most about the getting published process?
How hard it is!  Even if you know tons of people in the industry and have written a great book, there’s no guarantee.  It’s so subjective that you really need to get the book into the hands of the right reader, otherwise you’ll be told “It’s not right for me.”  That’s why I always tell aspiring writers to get an agent!  They know the landscape and will get the book into the right hands.

What is paperback editorial like? How does it differ from hard cover editorial?
The cool thing about paperbacks is that we have a precedent to work from.  At Vintage, when we prepare to publish a paperback, we look at how the hardcover did.  Sometimes it was such a success that we just keep the cover, plaster the back with tons of great quotes, and publish as is.  But a lot of times, something didn’t quite click in hardcover – timing, package, etc. and we need to rethink it.  And that’s the fun part.  We get a new cover, find some positive quotes, get a new afterword if appropriate, put it out in the summer instead of the fall, and try something new.  It doesn’t always work, but the new energy and creativity is invigorating.

Think the Super Bowl is just about football? Think again.

Allen St. John reveals how America’s biggest sporting event is more than just a couple hours on a Sunday: it’s a high stakes, real-life dramatic story, with millions of participants all hoping for the same thing—the greatest game ever.

Did you know…

  • More Americans watch the Super Bowl than vote in presidential elections.
  • The week before the Super Bowl, Americans purchase 1.5 million large-screen TVs.
  • Each year there are upwards of 7.5 million parties to celebrate the event.
  • The amount of food consumed in the USA on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to the amount eaten on Thanksgiving  (and according to the California Avocado Commission, Americans consume more than eight million pounds of guacamole on this single day).
  • Super Bowl host cities win the privilege four years in advance, after an elaborate competitive bidding process and a secret vote by the other NFL team owners.
  • For more, read his recent column in The Wall Street Journal, “A Cold Spell for the Big Game” 

What’s your favorite Super Bowl trivia? Tell us all about it and the top three comments will get a *free* copy.

Monitor Books podcast featuring National Book Award Finalist Jayne Anne Phillips

The Christian Science Monitor‘s most recent weekly books podcast features one of our own, author of National Book Award Finalist LARK & TERMITE, Jayne Anne Phillips.

Here’s a small preview, where Phillips discusses the origins of LARK & TERMITE:

“This book actually began over thirty years ago, when I was visiting my hometown and was standing at the window of a girlfriend’s apartment, and looked out over a kind of grass alley, which fronted several small houses. Sitting directly across from us was a boy of about eight or nine.  He was clearly disabled in some way, and he was holding up to his forehead a kind of long strip of blue plastic—like a dry cleaning bag.  He was blowing on it, and looking through it, in a way that was so… it kind of made an indelible image, I think, in my mind…”

Click here to check out the whole podcast.

Judge these books by their covers: Nabokov Giveaway!

Perhaps the most creative and ambitious backlist promotion in the history of Vintage International, John Gall’s individually commissioned Nabokov backlist covers have become collector’s items in themselves. As an homage to the author’s love for collecting butterflies, each cover was created using pins, paper, and butterfly boxes.

Below, see them in all their glory. Click through for larger images. And just for fun, tell us which is your favorite! Then leave a comment with your reasons why– the most original argument will win a copy of the book they’ve chosen.

*Bend Sinister, The Enchanter, The Gift, Look at the Harlequins and The Luzhin Defense won’t be available until early next year, but don’t let that sway your vote! We’ll get it to you as soon as possible if one is your favorite. The rest are currently available.

Holiday Recipes from Legendary Editor Judith Jones

Judith Jones, author of THE TENTH MUSE, as well as the recently-published THE PLEASURES OF COOKING FOR ONE, has offered to share two of her favorite recipes this holiday season. Whether you take a breather and indulge yourself in the midst of the holiday rush, or save these gems for when things quiet down, enjoy!

Fillet of Fish in Parchment
Making a parchment envelope in which to steam a fillet of fish surrounded by aromatic vegetables may sound a bit fancy for just one, but cooking in parchment is actually one of the simplest and most effective ways of steaming, because it seals in the flavors. What a treat it is to have that golden- tinged, puffed- up half- moon of parchment on your plate, and then to tear it open and breathe in all the heady aromas. Moreover, you’ll have no cleanup afterward; just wipe off the Silpat mat and throw away the parchment after you’ve scraped and scooped up every last delicious morsel and its jus.

If you want just one meal out of this, get about a 6- ounce fillet of flounder, halibut, salmon, red snapper—whatever looks good. Or, as I did recently, try tilapia, which is quite readily available these days and at a reasonable price. But I bought almost twice the amount I needed, so I could play with the other half of the cooked fillet a couple of days later.

I learned from Katy Sparks, whose book, Sparks in the Kitchen, is full of great cooking tips from a chef to the home cook, the trick of pre- roasting several slices of new potato so they can go in the parchment package. This way you have a complete, balanced meal- in- one cooked all together.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Olive oil
  • 2 or 3 smallish new potatoes, cut into 1⁄2- inch slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6- ounce fillet of flounder, halibut, tilapia, salmon, or red snapper, or more if you want leftovers
  • About 1⁄3 medium zucchini, cut into julienne strips
  • 1⁄2 medium carrot, peeled and cut into very thin julienne strips
  • 1 scallion, white and tender green, cut into lengthwise strips
  • 3 slices fresh ginger approximately the size of 25- cent pieces, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • A splash of white wine
  • A sprinkling of fresh herbs, if available (such as parsley, chives, tarragon, or summer savory)

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Oil lightly the center of your Silpat mat set on a baking sheet, or, if you don’t have the mat, oil a piece of foil. Scatter the potato slices over the oiled area, then turn them. Salt and pepper lightly. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, cut off an 18- inch piece of parchment paper, and fold it in half. Open it up, and on one half place the fish alongside the folded edge, after salting and peppering it on both sides (see illustrations on preceding page and opposite). Pile the zucchini, carrot, scallion, and ginger on top of the fish, salt again lightly, and splash on enough wine to bathe the fillet(s) lightly. After the potato slices have had their 10- minute pre- roasting, arrange them on top or around the edge of the fish and sprinkle the herbs over all.

Fold the other half of the parchment over, then fold in the open edge twice, and pleat it all around to make a semicircular airtight package.

If it tends to open up where the folded edges meet, secure that place with a binder clip or a large paper clip. Place on the sheet pan, and bake for 12 minutes. If you have a fairly thick fillet, you may need to bake it 1 or 2 minutes more. Test with a skewer; if it goes in easily, the fish is done.

Plunk the whole parchment package on a big dinner plate, and enjoy.

NOTE: If you deliberately cooked more fish than you need, remove what you won’t want the first time around, and save it for a second round.

SECOND ROUND
You can make a delicious salad with the remaining fish. Arrange a bed of watercress or young arugula leaves on a salad plate, and set the fish on top. Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of Sauce Gribiche over it (see page 160), or, if you don’t have that handy, use about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise thinned and tarted up with a little plain yogurt or lemon juice and seasoned with a small, finely chopped cornichon (or part of a dill pickle) and ½ teaspoon capers. Garnish with some strips of roasted red pepper—your own (see page 242) or from a jar—a few black olives, and some cherry tomatoes. Or try the Fish Salad recipe on page 157. These are just suggestions. Use your imagination, based on what you may have on hand.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Make this rich stew on a leisurely weekend. You’ll probably get a good three meals out of it, if you follow some of the suggestions below. When buying stew meat at a supermarket, you don’t always know what you are getting, so ask the butcher. If it’s a lean meat, it will need less time cooking (in fact, it will be ruined if you cook it too long), but the fattier cuts can benefit from at least another half hour.

 

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 2 ounces bacon, cut into small pieces, preferably a chunk cut into little dice
  • About 11⁄4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1- to 11⁄2- inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1⁄3 carrot, thick end, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons all- purpose flour
  • Salt
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Herb packet of 1⁄2 bay leaf; a fat garlic clove, smashed; a small handful of parsley stems; 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme; 4 or 5 peppercorns

Vegetable Garnish:

  • 3 or 4 baby onions, or four 1- inch pieces of leek
  • 3 or 4 baby carrots, or the thin ends of larger ones, peeled
  • 2 or 3 small new potatoes

Brown the bacon in a heavy pot, fairly deep but not too large. When it has released its fat and is lightly browned, remove it to a dish, leaving the fat in the pan.

Pat the pieces of beef dry with a paper towel. Pour the oil into the pot, and when it is hot, brown half the pieces of beef on all sides. Remove to the plate with the bacon, and brown the remaining pieces.

Now sauté the onion and the carrot until they are lightly browned.

Return the meats to the pot, sprinkle on the flour and some salt, and pour the wine and beef stock in. Tuck the herb packet into the pot, and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover, and cook at a lively simmer for about 1 hour or more, depending on the cut of the meat. Bite into a piece to determine if it is almost done (it will get another 20 minutes or so of cooking with the vegetables).

When the time is right, add all the vegetables, cover, and cook at a lively simmer again for 20–25 minutes—pierce the veggies to see if they are tender. Serve yourself four or five chunks of meat, with all the vegetables, and a good French bread to mop up the sauce.

SECOND ROUND
Use three or four pieces and some of the remaining sauce to make a quick Beef and Kidney Pie (page 34) later in the week. The recipe follows Veal Kidneys in Mustard Sauce because you want to use the leftover kidneys to put this dish together.

THIRD ROUND
Use what remains to make a meaty pasta sauce for one, breaking up the meat and adding three or four squeezed San Marzano plum tomatoes. Simmer the sauce as the pasta cooks.