"I think that food is more than just a plate at the table," says Joyce White, the author of "Soul Food: Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches" (HarperCollins). "It involves history and relationships and having a good time." White should know; after writing "Soul Food" in 1998, she embarked on a new culinary project: "Brown Sugar: Soul Food Desserts from Family and Friends," scheduled to be published by HarperCollins in January. Her new book features more than 100 desserts, many from her own family, including grandma Addie, great-aunt Agnes and Aunt Mary. One's waistline expands just thinking about the desserts from the American South: everything from molasses cookies to coconut cake, banana pudding and homemade candy.
White points out that some of the cooking expertise in the African-American community was not happily obtained. "We cooked so much on the plantation and the big house," she says. "We cooked so much in our early days we cooked for Thomas Jefferson at those wonderful, lavish feasts that he had; we cooked on the Pullman railroad trains. I think we did pretty much the majority of the cooking in this country until the early '50s. Because we do have such a long history of cooking, with the rise of the black bourgeoisie, one of the things that we didn't want to do anymore was cook." But, says White, "I think we're moving away from that. Increasingly, African Americans are entering cooking schools and becoming interested in food from a creative point of view, rather than food simply as toil. The pendulum is swinging back."
FROM RUSSO WITH LOVE:
On July 16, Knopf will publish "The Whore's Child: and Other Stories" by Richard Russo, who won a Pulitzer Prize last year for "Empire Falls." Kirkus and PW swoon, giving the book starred reviews. Says Kirkus, "Readers who loved such a roomy, generously plotted, and detailed novel as the Pulitzer-winning 'Empire Falls' won't be able to resist this first collection of seven stories by the Maine novelist...a wonderful distillation of Russo's gifts for crystal-clear narration, subtle character portrayal, and irrepressible humor... There may be more important writers around, but none is more likable, or more dependably entertaining and rewarding, than Russo." PW agrees. "Russo's sterling reputation is largely due to his astounding ability to present the tangled emotions of troubled parent-child and marital relationships with comic verve, bracing clarity and dramatic tension fused with an undercurrent of pathos. These predicaments are well represented in the seven stories of his first collection...Russo's rueful understanding of the twisted skein of human relationships is as sharp as ever, and the dialogue throughout is barbed, pointed and wryly humorous. The collection is a winner."
Penguin Putnam is solidly behind "The Dream of Scipio" by Iain Pears (Riverhead; June 3), the author of the runaway success "An Instance of the Fingerpost." We even received a note from Susan Petersen Kennedy, the president of Penguin Putnam: "I feel compelled to write you about Iain Pears' brilliant new novel. In the midst of everyone in the arts questioning what they're doing, every person questioning the world we live in, this book reminded me of why it all matters." Kirkus agrees, giving the book a starred review. "A brilliantly constructed historical novel...This imposingly intricate novel begins slowly, makes heavy demands on the reader, and rises to a stunningly dramatic crescendo. Pears has leapt to a new level, creating a novel of ideas even more suspenseful and revelatory than his just acclaimed mysteries."
THE WORKING CLASS:
"As we spend more time and energy at work, our jobs invade our dreams and fantasy lives, and define our identities," writes Ilene Philipson, Ph.D., the author of "Married to the Job: Why We Live to Work and What We Can Do About It" (Free Press; September 5). "Paid work is increasingly where we get our emotional needs met and is surpassing neighborhood, community, and even family life, as the source of feeling alive and connected to others." But, says Philipson, this hyper-investment can have disastrous consequences. "When all of one's life revolves around work, an insult or betrayal by a supervisor or coworker can be emotionally searing. If one feels ostracized from a workplace that has been the center of one's life, then friendships, community, personal identity, and even the very meaning of life, may suddenly rupture." Philipson, a clinical psychologist whose practice is devoted to issues of over-involvement in the workplace, has counseled almost 200 patients regarding this issue.
TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE:
"Charles and Me," a cheesy new book by Pat Shannon (Four Courts; 5/15) is a monument to indiscretion. The book chronicles Shannon's "very private and intimate relationship of 30 years" with the late, married CBS news correspondent Charles Kuralt. Who asked?
HOBNOBBING WITH THE SNOBS:
Kirkus is amused by "Snobbery: The American Version" by Joseph Epstein (Houghton Mifflin; July 9). "Clever, prolific Epstein turns his wit to the pernicious, universal failing previously addressed by such worthies as Edith Wharton, Tom Wolfe, Russell Lynes, and even Father Mencken, among countless others. Dissecting snobbery in all its current manifestations, Epstein (English/Northwestern) examines the ways in which people who pursue lives of invidious comparison may judge you (and surely find you wanting) in matters of employment, education, income, affiliations, intellectual interests, spouse(s), ethnicity, favored comestibles, politics, celebrity, dogs and not least progeny. Of course, a snob is Janus-faced. Note the contortions necessary to look up to the paragons who are above contempt while simultaneously looking down on the dopes beneath consideration...By a snob, of snobs, and for snobs; a nice example of the art of the essay."
Toby Young details his belly flop in the New York journalism pool in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" (Da Capo; July 4). Kirkus enjoys the dish. "Kiss-and-tell memoir of Young's ill-fated stint as contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine... This skewering of celebrity worship at the nation's leading 'upscale supermarket tabloid' bears a distinct resemblance to shooting fish in a barrel; nonetheless, Young's language is energetic and engaging, making one wish (along with his father, apparently) that he'd find a worthier subject. Enjoyably bitchy specifics of Condé Nast culture, buried beneath tedious social analysis and self-deprecation."