You know you live on an island when, with a fast approaching holiday dedicated to eating, you have to drive to four different stores just to find the fresh herbs and whipping cream that your recipes call for. Does no one around here use fresh ingredients until Thanksgiving? Why the run on whipping cream and thyme? (Sage I can understand.) Mounds of basil are still available. Piles of oregano beckon. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are off to Scarborough Fair or something. I’ll be glad when normal returns next week.
For holiday gift ideas, the New York Times has just updated their 100 Notable Books of the Year. Here’s a taste:
Fiction & Poetry
BEYOND BLACK. By Hilary Mantel. (John Macrae/Holt, $26.) Neurotic, demanding ghosts haunt a British clairvoyant in this darkly comic novel.
A CHANGED MAN. By Francine Prose. (HarperCollins, $24.95.) A neo-Nazi engages a Jewish human rights leader in this morally concerned novel, asking for help in his effort to repent.
COLLECTED POEMS, 1943-2004. By Richard Wilbur. (Harcourt, $35.) This urbane poetry survived the age of Ginsberg, Lowell and Plath.
EMPIRE RISING. By Thomas Kelly. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) A muscular historical novel in which the Irish erect the Empire State Building in a cheerfully corrupt New York.
By Kathryn Harrison. (Random House, $24.95.) A psychoanalyst is unhappy but distant until Greek-tragedy things start happening in this novel by an ace student of sexual violation.
EUROPE CENTRAL. By William T. Vollmann. (Viking, $39.95.) A novel, mostly in stories, of Middle European fanaticism and resistance to it in the World War II period.
FOLLIES: New Stories. By Ann Beattie. (Scribner, $25.) This keen observer of the surface of life now slows down for an occasional epiphany.