Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal


I know this world, I know these people, I could be related to some of them. I love books about places that seem real, and this was incredible in that regard. I can get very picky about how the Midwest, and the Twin Cities in particular, are represented, and this rang true for me.

It’s a sprawling story, taking place over thirty years, including a ton of different characters. Every chapter has a different point of view character, and picks up in a different place. The structure reminds me of A Visit From The Goon Squad, but less experimental. (Everything happens in order in this book, no power points.) All of the point of view characters are very distinct, and you really get a feel for them. It’s interesting to see how different narrators view recurring characters differently.

The big thing that keeps on coming back is food, and comfort food in particular. Reading this book made me hungry, and inspired me to eat better and cook more than I had been. A really fascinating thing to look at would be how the different characters relate to food, and what that says about them. Stradal is saying something about how being able to enjoy food corespends with being able to enjoy life. Food is about pleasure, and nourishment, and family. What we eat, and how we eat, is central to who we are.
It was a really captivating novel that drew me in. I loved the familiarity of the world, the fullness of the characters, and the way everything looped around and tied together. Very satisfying read.


Andy Warhol: Making Money


My mother got this out of the library to read — I’m not sure why. She knows I like Warhol, but I don’t know what specifically about this book seemed like something thing I needed to read. More generally, I don’t know why she checks out books from the library for me. She knows I have enough things to read, and generally her presents just wind up lying around and racking up late fees. I read all of this though. It’s easy enough to get through a book when the only writing is the introductions.

The bulk of this book is Andy Warhol drawing the $ money sign again and again. It starts off very blobby and loose, then gets more and more refined over the pages. It could almost be a flip book animation, but it isn’t quite that neat.

There’s some point to be found about how money is symbolic, how it’s an invention not reality, and how drawing it over and over draws attention to how ridiculous this is. It would be a really interesting metaphor to work with if you felt like digging into that.

The introductions are interesting on their own. This book was written as a gift for a preteen girl whose parents were friends of Warhol.

That’s so strange — Andy Warhol was people’s parents friend. That’s just like, next level. That’s unreal. But at the same time I know that to a lot of people find my childhood, where my parents were constantly making art and music, really strange too. It isn’t the same scale at all, but not having creative parents and growing up around artists and musicians seems just as impossible as having your parents be friends with Andy Warhol. I always have to pause and remember that for most people being a creative type isn’t shown as a viable plan, or at least not as something ordinary. Sure my folks are weird, but I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

One of my favorite things about Warhol is that he makes art a part of the everyday/the everyday into art. Soup cans, commercials, and celebrities are all art. Library books are art. Money is art. Most things are art, or at least they can be.

Making art everywhere makes the idea of making art much less intimidating. If your parents are friends with artists, if your mother is an artist, then maybe you’re an artist, or at least maybe you could be.