Jan 16, 2008

Tom's Tortillas and More

Last night Tom fed us well and single handedly too. Okay, aided briefly by his sous-chef (John prepared the guacamole), and closely observed by a hungry Robin and Casey, Tom turned out a meal worthy of a Mexican Tenksgeevee. His enchiladas, chopped anchovies on Caesar, and Spanish rice were complemented by an exquisite homemade Mud Pie. The frozen hand emerging from the dessert was a delicious bit of culinary symbolism.

(Peter/Dean, since you didn’t finish the book, we’ll let you in on a secret: Garth’s high-concept dessert suggestion, which Tom executed so well, is explained in the last two pages of the novel. While you're at it, try to figure out why John arrived wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and Stan was sporting huaraches.)

Tom, thank you for hosting us with such grace and generosity. Fifteen bookmen arrived hungry and went home satisfied.

We welcomed Glenn to our group last night. He was an inaugural MBC member, but his yearlong stint in Colorado has prevented him from joining us until now. Now that he's back in Marin (and cycling with Terry), we know all's well in his and our world.

The Book
Our run around the table produced a surprising verdict on Tortilla Curtain: we all seemed to like the book enormously, but there was no scarcity of criticism. I put the book in my Top Ten, but learned that most of you quarreled with the novel’s accelerated ending (glad you read it this time, Roy), the implausible attitudes of the principal characters (including Delaney’s rapid conversion to the dark side), Boyle’s failure to capture more of the complexity of the migrant worker experience, and an alleged lack of originality (Larry, I'm putting words in your mouth). To all of your criticisms, I say rubbish! I’m still taking T.C. Boyle to the proverbial desert island (but maybe I’ll take Stan’s suggestion and bring along Water Music instead).

Despite the quibbles over tone and style and substance, the book pulled a 7.5 rating, our highest to date. Even Jack, voting absentee, gave it a 7. (Note to Dan: Jack missed because of a conflict NOT involving his wife or mother-in-law!)

In the Painful Parallels department, we have in our midst a self-described Mexican naturalist (Armando); two former SoCal denizens, one raised outside the proliferating gated communities (Glenn) and one inside (John); our carpetbagger from Rolling Hills Estates who declined to state on the gate issue (Terry); an Australian whose convict roots and dubious morals make him our poster child for immigration control (Peter); and the usual polyglot assortment from the Emerald Isle, eastern Europe, and Asia, whose ancestors were despised by the immigrants who preceded them. As Terry asked us, who will the Mexicans despise 50 years from now?

Next Up
In a serious breach of protocol, Roy proffered only one book for our consideration. But since our straw vote revealed that most were satisfied with the choice, we all agreed to read Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for next month. For later consideration, George recommended Updike’s Rabbit series and others mentioned a desire for non-fiction (including Glenn, who touted The Last Place on Earth; Armando, who liked America in 1492; and George, who proposed a title (name?) about a 19th century US expedition around the world). Keep bringing your recommendations to future meetings.


  1. [Comment from Armando]
    Gentlemen, that was a fun evening. A couple of books that I mentioned follow.

    A great book about the history of Mexican Americans is "Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds - Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America" by Gregory Rodriguez.

    "1491" by Charles Mann. A very readable (and enjoyable) description of the Western Hemisphere as it may have looked prior to European contact based on the most recent science. The author turns what we learned in school on it's head.


  2. My apologies to Armando for botching his book suggestions. Also, I failed to mention that Ian McEwan and Truman Capote were also among the future authors proposed by the group.