*This Too Can Be Yours
Beth Lisick's short stories are guilty pleasures--candid glimpses into flawed and troubled lives that unfurl with confessional honesty, indulging the reader in voyeuristic gratification. If you've lived in the Bay Area long enough, you'll likely recognize some of her characters--the aging hippie still searching for free love and good karma, the cyber freak, the annoying performance artist, the out-of-work poet, the reality TV wannabe, the neurotic media maven, the rock star asshole, the debauched debutante. Lisick manages to nail all of these and several more while generously infusing the stories with pop culture kitsch. A poet and performer, Lisick fronts a band called The Beth Lisick Ordeal, and is a columnist at sfgate.com. She writes with equal ease from the male and female perspective. In "Grit in the Oil," she captures both the blasé ennui of a likable male limo driver and the abrasive egocentricity of the female record exec he's paid to pick up from the airport and spy on: "I see her rolling her eyes in the rearview while she listens (to her cell phone). "Okay, whatever. If she has a leash on you, then fine. I'm free for dinner tonight and if you want to see my new underwear, I suggest you make yourself available. Bye!' " It's this sort of candor, like eavesdropping on a conversation or reading someone's diary, that make this collection a quick and compelling read.
Here's What's Cooking
In a town that elevates food to a fine art form, cookbooks are a popular and welcome gift. British voluptuary Nigella Lawson leads the pack with How to Be a Domestic Goddess, the ultimate in comfort cookery which incidentally commanded her a British Book Award for Author of the Year. In this deliciously reassuring book, eggs, butter, cream, and sugar are no longer dirty words. In contrast to Nigella's permissiveness, Moosewoods Lowfat Faresmight be just the antidote to two months of holiday binging. Foodie celebrity Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill is a good choice for the backyard barbecuer. And locally, Chronicle Books offers Farallon, arrogantly subtitled, "the Very Best of San Francisco Cuisine," and while that's certainly debatable, the book is beautiful, equally at home on the coffee table as the kitchen table.