The year’s best books, movies, tv, art, food, travel

I have no books to recommend. I’ve been reading, of course. I admired but didn’t love Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, which I thought would be about women’s friendships (if so, we’re doomed as a gender), but was really about neglect. Before that, I read What Maisie Knew, by Henry James, the mother of all reads about parents behaving badly. 

Enough of that sort! 

I loved two books published in the past year: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (fiction) and Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill (nonfiction. Each broke my heart. I’m savoring the reissued poetry of Douglas Crase, The Revisionist and The Astropastorals. (Thank you, Evan Dent.)

These are my must-see movies, every one a gem: Parasite, Pain & Glory, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…, Booksmart. You can skip Hustlers. Jennifer Lopez is fabulous but the story is muddled: too much apologizing for bad-ass thinking and doing. The Souvenir was pretty but disturbing, Rocketman was thrilling and tiresome. The Joker is visually interesting but extremely violent. 

TV. Fleabag, seasons one and two. The Crown, season three. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, all seasons. Jane the Virgin, which I somehow missed and just starting.

Art. I’ve been twice to Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again. (I’d go again!) This is the most thoughtful, extensive exhibit of Warhol’s work I’ve ever experienced. I’d always been a fan; now I’m a disciple. At The Art Institute of Chicago, through January 26. In Paris, we caught a Francis Bacon period (1971 to 1992) show that focused on literature as a source for his work. Again, a deep, well curated show led me to a new appreciation of an artist. At Centre Pompidou, through January 20. Also in Paris, we visited the Musée Nissim de Camondo, an early 20th century mansion and its 18th century furnishings, on Parc Monceau. The house, its furnishings and the fate of its owners moved me to tears.

Cheering me: the reconstruction of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. 

Meals. In Paris we adored the cozy, authentic Le Bon Georges. We’re still talking about the brie and lardons at Restaurant Paul, on lovely Place Dauphine. We happily lunched at Le Cambodge. As always, we had dinner at Le Bistrot Paul Bert, breakfast or lunch at Comptoir Poilane. In London, we had an elegant Indian lunch at The Cinnamon Club, housed in the former Westminster Library. In New York, I’m a fan of Faro, in Bushwick, for their inventive pastas and excellent service. In Chicago, I’m in heaven with the reopening of Bad Hunter, where I can eat well without eating meat. Funkenhousen is another treat: beer is served in glass boots, German fare is light and inventive. (Surely an oxymoron.) Fat Rice, if you can score a reservation, is divine. I’m a regular for lunch or cocktails at Three Arts Club of Chicago, now taking reservations.

Dance. The Joffrey Ballet’s Jane Eyre was the most thrilling ballet I’ve seen in years. I’ve read the book, seen the movies: surely this is the sexiest, scariest version. Rochester is fully alive; his insane wife is wildly present.

Travel: Paris, yes yes yes and a delightful day trip to London. (Do able for now — post Brexit?) See my earlier post on Morocco. Then, go!

Also in the blog

To and from Montreal last weekend I carried Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, a 771 page hardback. No regrets. I had a wonderful time in Montreal, visiting my sweet son Evan, who’s a student at McGill University. I was smiling ear to ear at the prospect of spending a weekend with him in a world city,


More book grief! Paul Auster’s “Sunset Park” grabbed me from its first sentence. “For almost a year now, he has been taking photographs of abandoned things.” He is Miles Heller, an Ivy League drop-out working foreclosures in Florida, inspecting abandoned homes for banks. He finds himself cataloguing, via photographs, the things people have left behind:


The New York Times Book Review last Sunday ran a q & a with the editors of the Norton Anthology, that brick of a book we all lugged around during high school and college. This was the last question: Why study literature? M.H. Abrams: Ha — Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced


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