Dinner at Teatro.

I hadn’t been to Teatro in at least three years; the last time had been with my friend Sarah, who hasn’t lived in Boston for at least that long. When Amanda and I were devising a list of places in the Theater District to stop by for a quick bite before going to an event at Grub Street, Teatro immediately came to mind. I didn’t remember much about the Italian restaurant next to the Boston Common movie theater; I just had a strong recollection of the dramatic ceiling arching over the dining room.

Well, the ceiling is still there, and is as dramatic as ever. So, as a matter of fact, is the food.

Amanda and I were both hungry, so we chose to split a starter of a Caesar salad ($12.00). It was one of the few we could agree on, as Amanda is a vegetarian and I am not. I was surprised and pleased that the restaurant divided the salad amongst two plates for us, as opposed to presenting us with one unruly pile of Romaine leaves to fight over. The salad, while not particularly noteworthy, was light and crisp — very refreshing on a humid evening.

For my entrée, I selected a spinach and mascarpone ravioli ($19.00). Served with crème frâiche and minced parsley, it was surprisingly delicious. I never would have imagined that such luscious flavor could have been teased from such ingredients. The spinach was amazingly rich, and the dish’s sauce was citrusy and decadent. In spite of all of this, none of it felt the least bit heavy. In fact, it turned out to be the perfect amount of food, though I’ve got to say that if it were acceptable to lick a plate clean in public, I would have loved to have gotten every drop of that sauce.

The next time I go to Teatro, you can bet I’m ordering that ravioli again. In fact, I might even see if I can tease a few tidbits about its ingredients out of the members of the waitstaff. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new.

(Now, I have to acknowledge these pictures. I know they are terrible, and for that I apologize. I had forgotten to charge my camera’s battery, and was not going to take any photographs at all until Amanda reminded me that I could use my cell. It’s something I always forget about since I rarely, if ever, use that feature on my already too-complicated phone.)

177 Tremont Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111

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The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

I mentioned the other day that I like to wait for the buzz around restaurants to quiet before going in and sampling the menu. The same applies to how I feel about books; if everyone is talking about a certain book, I can’t read it. Too much market saturation, I suppose. I’ll happily wait a few months or even years to go to the bookstore.

(Strangely enough, this isn’t how I feel about films. I have to see them before the hype builds, otherwise I end up terribly disappointed.)

Jonathan Franzen‘s third novel, The Corrections, is precisely one of those books. It was absolutely impossible for me to read it during the frenzy of The Oprah Incident, let alone the novel’s winning of the National Book Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. There were just too many people talking about this book, and I didn’t want my opinions to get colored by the reviews, by the prizes or by Oprah.  So I went on my merry little way, and read everything I could get my hands on that wasn’t written by Franzen.  It wasn’t until I saw Franzen speak at Grub Street‘s Muse and the Marketplace writers’ conference last month that I realized it was more than time for me to hunker down with The Corrections.

And hunker down I did. At 576 pages, The Corrections is by no means a light read. This is the kind of reading that, should you read while riding public transit, causes you to almost miss your subway stop and makes you bolt madly for the doors before they zip firmly shut on your foot.  This is the kind of reading that compels you to put off cooking dinner, feign a headache and not feel guilty about ordering in some greasy pizza, as a slice is easily eaten one-handedly as the other turns pages. This is the kind of reading that, at the risk of sounding altogether cheesy, leaves you breathless.

Franzen’s writing is funny; it is clever; it is charming; it is painful.  With almost maddening ease, he tells the story of the five Lamberts: father Albert, mother Enid, older brother Gary, middle child Chip, and little sister Denise.  Each Lambert’s past and present swirl around them like so much mist, but Franzen carefully directs us through their chaotic lives with an assurance that is truly enviable.  Each character, for all their faults and deep flaws, is allowed moments of true likability.  It would have been so easy to turn sensible Gary into a cold-hearted brute and yearning Chip into a pervy academic, but instead, Franzen gives his cast something truly special: humanity.

It’s Coming…

I received my itinerary for Grub Street‘s Muse and the Marketplace conference the other day; I’ve been getting more and more worked up about it ever since. Don’t misunderstand — I’m very excited about attending this weekend, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s stressing me out.

Here’s my itinerary below; more details once I’ve attended…

Saturday, April 26th
8.00 am – 9.45 am: Registration, breakfast, meet and greet
9.45 am – 11.00 am: “Breaking Into Writing” with Paul Yoon, Bret Anthony Johnston, Susan Richards Shreve, Michelle Hoover and Ethan Gilsdorf.
11.15 am – 12.30 pm: “The Phases of a Story” with Kate Wheeler
12.45 pm – 2.00 pm: Lunch.
2.00 pm – 3.15 pm: “Get Your Novel Started: The Commando Plan to Get the *#%! Thing Off the Ground” with Jennifer Haigh
3.30 pm – 4.30 pm: Hour of Power Seminars, meet and greet, book signings and my Manuscript Mart session

Sunday, April 27th
8.00 am – 9.45 am: Registration, breakfast, meet and greet
9.45 am – 11.00 am: “Bring on the Rhino!” with Lois Lowry
11.15 am – 12.30 pm: “The Writing Life” with Chuck Hogan
12.45 pm – 2.30 pm: Keynote Lunch with Jonathan Franzen
2.30 pm – 3.45 pm: “Take Self, Add Facts, Make Story: The Art of the “Blended” Memoir” with John Sedgwick
4.00 pm – 5.00 pm: Hour of Power Seminars

There’s a Small Chance That I’ve Lost My Mind.

muse.jpg I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to recapture my writerly spirit; apparently, to do so I’ve also got to spend a boatload of money… which seems to be how end up doing a lot of things, I should confess. Regardless, the facts are as follows:

  1. I have registered for Grub Street‘s Muse + the Marketplace conference.
  2. I have also signed up to participate in the event’s Manuscript Mart, which means I will be meeting with an editor to discuss twenty pages of my work, which he or she will have read prior to our meeting.
  3. I have lost my mind.

After registering, I spent a majority of Monday flapping my hands about like a chicken and all but clawing at my face, because I am so stressed out by this whole situation. All I could think about was scene towards the end of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides when a Lisbon sister dies from an overdose. I just had the image in my head:

She had on so much makeup that the paramedics had the odd feeling she had already been prepared for viewing by an undertaker, and this impression lasted until they saw that her lipstick and eyeshadow was smudged. She had clawed herself a little, at the end.

If I’m not careful, I feel as though that could easily be my fate — though you should know that I don’t have any sisters. Still, I can see it: slapping on the face powder and exuberantly outlining my eyes, pouring a river of pills down my throat and, at the very last minute, sluggishly scraping at my neck with my nails… This is another sign that I am freaking out — I get overly dramatic.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on how everything unfolds…