Samuel Beckett is a young writer living in Paris--intoxicated by new friendships with James Joyce and the other writers and artists making the vibrant city their creative home--when war breaks out in 1939. He determines to stay and is swiftly drawn into the maelstrom, joining the Resistance. With him we experience the terrifying excitement yet stubborn vibrancy and camaraderie as the Parisians flee the Nazis and the Resistance goes underground; his friendships with the astonishing group of men and women who find themselves caught up in the Occupation; his quiet, committed love for Suzanne, the Frenchwoman who will become his lifelong companion; and his dangerous work encoding critical messages in translations and narrow escapes from the Gestapo. Here is a remarkable story of survival and determination, and a portrait of a uniquely brilliant mind.
On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber’s tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all—even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory “advice” from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others’ well-intentioned prescriptions.
Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two—or in her case, three: to a longhaired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s late forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.
Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.
In the tradition of Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music and Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, Bad Singer follows the delightful journey of Tim Falconer as he tries to overcome tone deafness — and along the way discovers what we’re really hearing when we listen to music.
Tim Falconer, a self-confessed “bad singer,” always wanted to make music, but soon after he starts singing lessons, he discovers that he’s part of only 2.5 percent of the population afflicted with amusia — in other words, he is scientifically tone-deaf.
Bad Singer chronicles his quest to understand human evolution and music, the brain science behind tone-deafness, his search for ways to retrain the adult brain, and his investigation into what we really hear when we listen to music. In an effort to learn more about his brain disorder, he goes to a series of labs where the scientists who test him are as fascinated with him as he is with them. He also sets out to understand why we love music and deconstructs what we really hear when we listen to it. And he unlocks the secret that helps explain why music has such emotional power over us.
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