Sunday, September 23, 2007

Paul Levy

Paul Levy is a former academic who evolved into a broadcaster and expert writer on food & wine and the arts. His most recent book is The Letters of Lytton Strachey, which he edited for Farrar Straus Giroux and Penguin.

According to one capsule biography: "With Ann Barr (and synchronically Gael Greene), [Levy] coined the word 'foodie' (and some say, exemplified the concept). He has won many British and American food writing and journalism prizes, including two commendations in the national British Press Awards, in 1985 and 1987."

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm currently reading Taste by Kate Colquhoun, and the baroquely erudite A Canon of Vegetables:101 Classic Recipes by Raymond Sokolov, and I re-read Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka, just for the pleasure of comparing their sharp wit. I particularly relished Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760 by Joan Thirsk. I commend to readers Frances Bissell, The Scented Kitchen: Cooking with Flowers, especially as her definition of "flower" is attractively catholic and therefore surprising.

Having just finished Winnie and Wolf by A.N. Wilson, I think it is his best novel for some time, and am disappointed that it wasn't included in the Man Booker prize shortlist. I also recently read (and reviewed) The Wagner Clan by Jonathan Carr. Both Wilson and Carr find themselves sympathetic to Winifred Wagner, the composer's alarming, English-born, unrepentant Nazi daughter-in-law; and I love Andrew Wilson's conceit that she and Hitler were lovers and had a child.

I also admired Delizia: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food by John Dickie. Ditto, Joan Smith, What Will Survive, a very topical thriller. I'm now trying to read the Man Booker shortlist, and paced myself slowly through On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, which is short and perfectly formed -- and I think probably his best-ever book.

Also finished Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I found contrived; and I did not enjoy being conscious of being manipulated by the author, clever though he is.
Visit Paul Levy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue