Rachel’s Christmas Eve Excursion in the U Street Corridor

Submitted by Rachel Brekhus, Humanities Librarian.

My parents, brother and sister all live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, so when my husband and I visit there for the holidays, there are almost always at least two short trips away from my parents’ park-nestled street in Silver Spring,  one to a museum and one to a beach or wildlife site on the Chesapeake Bay. This year's DC museum excursion was to the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum , followed by lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl in the U Street Corridor, a longtime center of African-American cultural life in the nation’s capital.

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Books I’ve Stumbled Upon, Pt. 2—Great or Near-Great Fiction

     I would bet that very few of the following get taught academically in courses on the novel.  They tend not to fit in.

Gerald Hanley – Noble Descents

Alexander Kielland – Skipper Worse

Rebecca West – The Birds Fall Down

Eden Philpotts – Children of the Mist

Henry Adams – Democracy

Brian Moore – The Emperor of Ice Cream; The Statement; The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (the last of these is tough to read because it is such an unsparing depiction of a very bleak life)

Mario Puzo – The Fortunate Pilgrim

Sue Kaufman – Diary Of a Mad Housewife

Kathryn Hulme – The Nun’s Story

Joseph Hergesheimer – Tampico

Jose Maria Gironella – The Cypresses Believe in God (about the Spanish Civil War; with 3 sequels, the last of which hasn’t, I think, been translated into English)

Uwe Johnson – Speculations About Jakob

John Lanchester – Mr. Phillips

George Borrow – Lavengro (continued by The Romany Rye)

Lew Wallace – Ben Hur

     Some famous writers have less well known works that are outstanding; somehow they get overlooked:

Dostoyevsky – The Insulted And Injured

Henry Fielding – Amelia

Henry James – The Tragic Muse

Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Marble Faun

     There are also some very good unfinished works of fiction by famous writers:

Jane Austen – Sanditon

Alexander Pushkin – DUBROVSKY

Dickens – The Mystery Of Edwin Drood

Albert Camus – The First Man

     In concluding, let me purloin some books from the category of popular or genre fiction.  You probably wouldn’t want to call them “great,” but I’m very glad that I didn’t miss them:

Eugene Manlove Rhodes – Paso Por Aqui

Robert Cormier – The Chocolate War

Edith Pargeter – Reluctant Odyssey (What am I doing recommending this on its own, when it’s the second of a trilogy?  Because I read it on its own.)

Mary Pat Kelly – Special Intentions

John Meade Falkner – The Nebuly Coat

Books I’ve Stumbled Upn, Pt. I—Mysteries

All good mysteries are works that non-mystery lovers can enjoy.  They are good works of fiction, by good writers, that happen to be mysteries.  They deal with an event that arouses our vicarious adrenalin—the perpetration of evil.  Yet they are “entertainments,” as Graham Greene would say.  At least the ones I like are.

To me there are three basic kinds of mysteries:  romance, naturalistic, and puzzle.  In “romance” (in the literary use of the term), you have heroes and heroines outwitting and overcoming villains—and often something romantic does develop, as a bonus to the crime-solving.  And it’s always romantic to have a personality of high quality, that people admire, to identify with.  In naturalistic works (hard-boiled, police procedural, noir), the emphasis is on bleakness and toughness.  Puzzle mysteries are like written-out crossword puzzles; locked-room mysteries are classic examples.

For a mystery to be an entertainment, it pretty much has to have interesting characters and situations and an enjoyable atmosphere.  So most good mysteries, in my view, are what I have called “romances.”

Here is a list (incomplete) of mysteries I have liked:

Some comments: 

Raymond Postgate – Verdict Of Twelve

Ellis Peters – Fallen Into the Pit

Patricia Wentworth – Rolling Stone (a great villainess)

Michael Gilbert – The Doors Open; Game Without Rules

Josephine Tey – The Franchise Affair

Nicholas Blake (pen-name of the father of Daniel Day-Lewis) – The Smiler with the Knife

Margery Allingham – Dancers in Mourning; The Fear Sign; The Mind Readers

Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh – Thrones, Dominations

Andrew Taylor – An Old School Tie

Ngaio Marsh – Night at the Vulcan

Patricia Moyes – Falling Star

Rex Stout – Too Many Cooks

Peter Lovesey – The House Sitter

Dick Francis – Banker; Reflex

Simon Brett – Dead Giveaway (alcoholic actor as blundering amateur detective)

Emma Lathen – Banking on  Murder

P. D. James – Unsuitable Job for a Woman

I think Allingham’s Albert Campion is easily better than Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.  The only Sayers work that I like very much was finished by another writer years after Sayers was dead.

Dick Francis’s heroes tend to be unbearable—self-pitying and self-absorbed and yet altruistic and ultra-courageous, and obviously made of bones and ligaments of steel, since they survive brutal punishment that would pulverize most people—even Tiger Woods.  Yet, at his best he rises above this handicap.

I’ve read several of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels.  They seem so much alike that I don’t see much point in reading more than one.  I’d be glad to know if there are any others of his that stand out from the crowd.

I have tried several P.D. James novels, but have really liked only the one I listed.

John Wesselmann

Manhattan KS restaurant reviews

I checked the health reports for various famous restaurants in and around Manhattan, KS. The Hayes House (1854 building in Council Grove, KS), and Kirby House (Abilene, KS) were scratched off the list because of their bad heath inspection reports. We did not want to take a chance on getting food poisoning while on our trip. There were a few places in and around KC, but they were too far away from I-70.

On our recent trip to Manhattan, we ended up eating:

To Manhattan:
Lunch: Red Robin Restaurant (Independence, MO)
This is one place we like to eat at a lot. They offer good deals if you are a member of their birthday club. They send coupons to their email list subscribers.

Dinner: Brookville Hotel (excellent Fried chicken, cole slaw, mash potatoes, cream-style family recipe corn, baking powder biscuits, home style ice cream). It was way too much chicken but it was really good – not too heavy on the spices and yet it had flavor to it)

They received the James Beard Foundation American Classic Award and it is located right on highway I-70 at exit 275.

It is best to make a reservation and the above items are served with every meal for $13.95 (children ages 3-11 eat for $7.95 and children under 3 eat for $3)

We had a 7:30 pm reservation that we made on the same day because we were not sure when we would be getting there. We got there at 7 pm and they had our table ready by 7 pm (When we were leaving at about 8:15, there were still 92 people in the restaurant). When you get the chance, look at the web site and see the nice paintings they have in various rooms.

We also went upstairs to see the replicated hotel rooms from the original Brookville Hotel – that was interesting. This hotel was originally located in Brookville, KS (Near Salina, KS) and the owners closed that restaurant (in about 1999 or 2000) and relocated to Abilene, KS . The hotel has served friend chicken since 1915. The hotel was originally known as Cowtown Cafe and it traces its roots to the 1870s.

www.brookvillehotel.com (closed Mondays)
I thought this was worth the 1 hour drive west from Manhattan, KS. It is located at 105 E Lafayette, Abilene, KS 785-263-2244

Summer hours:
Tue-Friday dinner 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Saturday lunch 11:30-2 pm
Dinner: 4:30 to 7:30 pm
Sunday lunch 11:30-2 pm
Dinner 5:00-7 pm
Winter hours will be from November to April

Sunday Breakfast:
I ate at the Hampton Inn

Lunch: We ate at a good place (nothing fancy) called Little Apple Brewery. It was way on the other side of town, but I think it was worth the extra drive.

Dinner: We at our friend’s house for carry-in Famous Dave’s BQ.

Das stein Haus (Jefferson City, MO) – Just off of highway 54 west

We ate at Das stein Haus on Sept. 7 2009 (Monday):
This restaurant won the Golden Fork award in 2006.

We were the only customers there the entire time. The service was fast and we got our food quickly. The food was very German and we forgot (at least I did) how unhealthy German food can be with all that fat and salt. The potatoes were good, but they were salty. My chicken Kiev was good and the veggies that came with it were good. Mom had a combination plate and Mary had bratwurst. I guess we like the American version of German food. I am sure anyone who likes “real” German food would enjoy this place.

The servings were big and the people were very nice. There were two restaurant staff sitting in the bar smoking and the smoke from the bar came into the restaurant area. The owner was not in the restaurant that day and his wife is the general manager of the Truman Hotel next door. They owned the restaurant since 1981. They have another smaller version of their restaurant downtown Jefferson City that has been open and closed over the years. The owner once again hopes to open that restaurant soon. They are having trouble finding a good manager to run that place.