Even the food writing in 2019 was a bit bruised. In Peter Orner’s new collection of stories, “Maggie Brown & Others,” he wrote: “Only human beings could make a party out of boiling a few fellow creatures alive and then cracking their backs open.”
In Smith’s “Spring,” we read about one woman: “Her favorite food is anything burnt.” In Nell Zink’s novel “Doxology,” a piece of chicken tasted, in words you are unlike to see on a handwritten menu card, like “distributive injustice personified.”
A case could be made that it was a bad year to stop sniffing glue, and a good year to start smoking again. A new collection of Gabriel García Márquez’s journalism, “The Scandal of the Century and Other Writings,” was published. He remarked that smoking is good for writers, if bad for their bottom line.
“The best writers are the ones who tend to write less and smoke more,” Márquez wrote, “and so it’s normal that they need at least two years and 29,000 cigarettes to write a book of 200 pages. What that means in good arithmetic is that just on what they smoke they spend more than what they’ll earn from the book.”
In her book “Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties,” Lizzie Post wrote about vape pens at weed-centric dinners: “They may be placed to the right of the setting or across the top of the setting either between the place card and dessertware or behind the place card.” End of days?
I spent too many years of my life afraid to fly, and am attuned to the writing of others thus afflicted. I was glad to read, in Márquez’s journalism, how “all my energy goes into gripping my seat with my hands to hold it up in order to help the plane stay up in the air, or trying to keep children from running in the aisles for fear they’ll break through the floor.”
If you had a difficult year romantically, be relieved that you are not trying to date in parts of Saudi Arabia. In an anthology titled “Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World,” Donna Abu-Nasr, Bloomberg’s Saudi Arabia bureau chief, wrote:
“Often, while I was stuck in traffic, young men would slam Post-its or papers with their mobile phone numbers scribbled on them on the window of my car. That was one way to pick up women. Another was to go to the mall and throw the little slips of paper at the feet of women covered head to toe in black.”