‘Born Round’ LAT review debuts

L.A. Times

bornround1Am back from muggyville, Virginia, where I caught a pesky summer cold while visiting my mother, who is recovering quite nicely from surgery on her ticker. Happily, the weather is much nicer here near the beach. And my review of “Born Round” popped up in today’s LA Times.

Fun factoid: Frank Bruni’s family summered in the same Connecticut town I lived in during the 1970s. But I never met him, or his brother, who went to Amherst a few years after me. You can read my review here.

There’s more showbiz news over at Consumed by Media, my new blog. Please stop by if you have a sec.

'Born Round': the guy always loved to eat

book reviews

bornround1Many a foodie would kill for the job that Frank Bruni is leaving voluntarily. But how many of them have as complicated a relationship with eating as the outgoing NYT restaurant critic? In “Born Round,” Bruni chronicles his love for food, and battle to control his appetite, which he had finally gotten under control by the time he took the job. Few writers would be able to pull off these stories the way Bruni did. Read my review in today’s LA Times.

‘Julie & Julia’: The perils of cooking up TOO much publicity

blogging, box office, L.A. Times, N.Y. Times


Leave it to Nikki Finke to find the most corrosive way to spin a rash of foodie stories. Proving she has lost none of her bile under new ownership, Finke flamed the NYT for excessive coverage of “Julie & Julia,” snarking about director Nora Ephron’s movies and cozy relationship with the paper in the process.

The Times has indeed gone to town on the movie – it’s been hard to miss the multiple tie-ins – but the paper hasn’t been the only one to use “Julie & Julia” as an excuse to whip up food features. The L.A. Times ran a similar story about cooking in Ephron’s kitchen while the New Yorker ran a feature about the director, a convivial hostess in her own right.

Writer’s divorce stings LAT media critic

journalism, L.A. Times, mags

Some gall of Sandra Tsing Loh to turn her back on marriage! All those zany tales about parenting and she has the nerve to question the notion of wedded bliss? Why, her Atlantic story doesn’t even serve up juicy details about her affair! 

LAT media columnist James Rainey takes her defection VERY personally, writing in Wednesday’s paper that Loh’s case against nuptials left him dismayed and “oddly defensive on behalf of her husband.” He claims that her essay goes too far and doesn’t reveal enough, calling it “thoroughly provocative and strangely bloodless.” His issue: that she uses her experiences and that of a few friends to make a sweeping case against marriage without outlining the specifics of her marital breakdown.

Rainey really wants it both ways. He questions whether “the personal necessarily must become political,” yet clamors for more details so that — what? — he can better assess her argument? Make sense of  her marital breakdown?  He seems appalled Loh would mine her private life for public consumption, but that’s what she does. It’s just that usually she does so for comic effect.

I actually found her Atlantic essay bracing. Her radio bits and prose have always seemed self-satisfied; she’s very intent on conveying how wacky and boho her life is.  “Mother on Fire,” as her last book is prophetically titled, chronicles one comic adventure after another as she tries to get her children into good schools, often circumventing her kind, but relaxed, musician husband. Oh, and she also writes about her chronic insomnia, another tell-tale sign of her unhappiness in retrospect, but as per usual she makes a joke of it. 

The jokes are gone in the Atlantic essay. Sure she serves up telling, if disguised, details about her pals in “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” but the self-satisfied tone is absent. Loh honestly seems to be grappling with the issue of modern-day marriage in the wake of her own failed 20-year partnership, melding  her personal views with readings from marriage books. I don’t share her bleak conclusion, but I don’t begrudge her attempt to make sense of it all.

Then again, my manhood isn’t being called into the question, so maybe it’s easier for me to be sanguine about her sour take. Rainey admits he “couldn’t help but feel the pain the latest production must have provoked” for Loh’s long-suffering mate. “How many times can you be labeled a ‘great artist and loving father’ and a ‘worthy man’ before you feel like an emasculated chump?” He further bristles at the way she depicts friends’ mates as “domesticated sexless drones.”

Strangely, he suggests that her marriage would have been better off if she had only moved to South Pasadena, as she once wished. “The little city where I live might not be perfect, but it seems to me that most of the couples we know enjoy much better than the joyless ‘companionate marriages’ Loh dreads,” he writes. Now, I’ve lived in South Pas, and I like it there, but the city has no greater guarantee of happy marriage than other Los Angeles suburbs. Suggesting it, Rainey’s guilty of the same sort of sweeping generalization he criticizes Loh for making.