Monday, October 8, 2012

An Apple a Day

This is the season that I most look forward to every year. While I have pleasant associations with each of the seasons, I love that the Fall brings fresh, crisp, and wonderful apples. I know you can get apples all year round but nothing beats taking a drive through the Valley and picking (and of course eating) an apple straight off the tree! 

The most famous and probably the first apple story that anyone hears is the Garden of Eden. International bestselling author and poet Gioconda Belli has a beautifully written rendition of the story in Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand: a novel of Adam and Eve. (M) Belli is a Nicaraguan poet, writer and political activist. She has won the Casa de las Americas Prize in 1978 and the Best Political Novel of the year in Germany in 1989 and many other awards. In February 2008 this novel won the prestigious Spanish prize, Biblioteca Breve. Most of us are taught an abridged version of the story. Belli expands on the story in a beautiful somber and thoughtful treatment. Even the serpent is given a more in-depth treatment. No matter what your beliefs are, this book will make you think and would be great choice for a book club.

The next most famous apple is the one that bonked Sir Isaac Newton on the head! While this event is not the focus, Philip Kerr has written a wonderful historical thriller in Dark Matter, the Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton. (M) I love historical fiction that features real people that have you puzzling on whether or not the story could possibly have happened. Fact is that Newton was the Warden of the Royal Mint and Christopher Ellis was his assistant. The novel reads like a Sherlock Holmes novel, with Newton as the cold puzzle solving Homes and Ellis as action seeking Watson. While investigating a series of counterfeiting, the men discover a series of murders in the Tower of London. The clues are esoteric and include alchemical references, which are right up Newton's alley. This novel has a mix of everything, including politics, science and history.

Professional apple growing always brings to mind the novel, Cider House Rules (M) by John Irving. Irving writes very “real” characters and pulls no punches. This novel is no exception, getting into subjects of race, abortion, class divide, orphans, incest, adultery, drug abuse just to name a few. Taking place in the first half of the 20th century, Homer Wells is raised from birth at the orphanage in St. Cloud's, Maine. He becomes a student of Dr. Wilbur Larch, Director and physician to the orphanage. Larch is a compassionate man who cares for troubled mothers with respect and care. He lets the mothers choose whether to deliver the baby, putting the child up for adoption, or performing illegal abortions. Homer helps with the deliveries but refuses to help with the illegal abortions. You may be wondering what all this has to do with apples but the novel's other “story within a story” involves the workers of cider press. Frankly I found this story more intriguing than the main plot line. But I will leave that up to you, dear reader, to decide for yourselves.

To end off this blog I am going to include a couple of “light weight” novels that are quick and easy. The first is Belle in the Big Apple (M) by Brooke Parkhurst. In her chick lit debut, author Parkhurst  brings in her own life experiences. She has hosted ABC and the James Beard Foundation's television and online cooking series, Eat & Greet. She and her husband Jamie have published the cookbook Just Married and Cooking. This novel is pretty autobiographical as it tells the story of a southern belle who makes her way in the Big Apple as a journalist. Along with her story, she presents 30 recipes which have names like “Bribe your Coworker Pound Cake”.

Mom, Apple Pie and Murder (M) edited by Nancy Pickard, is a perfect introduction to sample a “bite” of some familiar, or maybe not so familiar authors. While the stories can be diverse, the one thing they hold in common is they all feature a good (or bad) ole' mom as the main character and a number of them feature apple recipes. I could not help but be reminded of Snow White and her “mom” while reading these stories. I hope your apples are nothing but healthy!

I don't know if an apple a day keeps the doctor away but I do know that I need to read a page (or more) a day to keep my mind healthy and entertained. Enjoy.

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