Hello and welcome to the new (and possibly improved?) Blurbed. Each month, columns editor Adin Dobkin gives recommendations from his reading list, as well as listening to Columbia Journal editors’ thoughts on reading, writing, or whatever happens to be on their minds.
From the Reading List
“Joe Beef and the Excesses of Restaurant Culture,” Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker
Many—most—of my favorite food stories surround gluttony. 30-plus-course meals with Jim Harrison; William Langewiesche’s profile of the wine critic Robert Parker and how he changed the landscape of drinking. The latter is not necessarily a glutton, but the story is one of unrestricted consumption, of describing old French family wineries and the products they make. There’s a cost to it, though: in the monotone, macho landscape it draws and in hiding the unhealthy source of that gluttony for some. This story by Hannah Goldfield sheds light on some of that.
“Ghazal,” Edil Hassan, Poetry
I’m always amazed by what poets who take on the ghazal can accomplish. It’s such an intricate form in content and structure; I love seeing how people bend it to their will. Edil Hassan does this in such an interesting and lovely way here, joining images of what it means to have the speaker’s body today with an old earth that saw the foundation of this poetic form.
“Vessel of Antiquity,” Megan Pugh, Oxford American
As readers, I think we hope profiles will put their finger on the essence of someone in a way we haven’t been able to ourselves in engaging with their work. The creator Leon Redbone resists that at every turn. I say creator because even listing every form he played with would still reduce it. What’s more, as a character he deliberately made such efforts to pin him down nearly impossible. Megan Pugh does a great job here describing the composite photograph we’re left with.
“Lost Girls,” Nicole Simonsen, Penn Review
The fantasy worlds of our imagination are almost always maximalist and complete. We think about what it would be like to have a world filled with magic, from the corner shop to the sporting stadium. There’s arguably no more confined possible magical world—which may not even exist!—than in the space between two walls, but the result in Nicole Simonsen’s story shows how just how powerful it can be.
From the Archives
A little over a year ago, we lost Anthony Bourdain. I remember hearing the news in San Francisco and the lingering daze that followed as I set aside my work for the day, as I watched old episodes of the shows and read his old essays, as I visited to a Northern Thai restaurant with a friend that night down in the Tenderloin, where a green papaya salad obliterated taste buds with chili heat and drew the remaining ones out of hiding with tangy fish sauce.
Here’s a couple pieces I’m turning back to:
“Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” Anthony Bourdain, The New Yorker
“The Last Curious Man,” Drew Magary, GQ
This Twitter thread includes seemingly everything: dead cows, the history of Spanish and Portuguese borders, epidemics, lots of vulture talk, of course, and much more. Hat tip to @_emcosta for the rec.