Our finest literary critics hold no endowed chairs and never win prizes, yet their work has the poetry of truth about it and there’s nobody better at answering the fundamental question about any book, a question always more interesting and always harder to answer than whether it’s any good: what is it really about? I mean, of course, the anonymous librarians who prepare the Cataloging in Publication data for the Library of Congress, the brief descriptive classifications that appear on the copyright page of most books. Is there a more succinct description of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” than “Middle class men — Fiction”? What writer doesn’t envy the economy and force of “Massacres — Fiction” for Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” and “Industrial accidents — Fiction” for Don DeLillo’s “White Noise”? And will there ever be a finer gloss on Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping” than “Eccentrics and eccentricities — Fiction”?
Basic points: High alcohol is the killer, not wormwood. But wormwood is psycho-active — so is sage with the same chemical. Czech absinthe generally sucks. If it’s not green, it’s not the real thing. If it doesn’t cloud well, it’s not the real thing. Champagne has its own secrets; unclean glasses work best for bubbles.
Framed by a Hemmingway story. Male journalists all want to be like Papa. Why?
An alert NYTimes forum member sends us to a Terra online video feature, Forbidden Fruit: The Absinthe Drinker, (about 7 1/2 minutes) in which retired neurosurgeon David Cook (who is wearing Merrell Mocs) talks about absinthe and the myths and bad science associated with it.