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Eats and Reads 

Oysters and pork baked in black bean sauce with ginger and scallions in a clay pot bubbling hot over white rice. Sauteed prawns with three kinds of mushrooms and bamboo shoots. An after-dinner walk, aus spazieren, with arms crossed philosophically behind backs, discussing the peculiar genius of the combination and pondering "the duck next time." Tall ships in the harbor. A German artist in Argentina in the 19th century, following Humboldt's prescription for "landscape physiognomy" appears in a lovely novella, drawing incessantly. There is a storm, and both he and his horse are hit by lightning repeatedly. He's dragged by the horse for several miles with his foot in the stirrup. His face is unrecognizable. He covers it with the lace mantilla of the lady of the house. But he keeps drawing. He draws Indians raiding the gentry's cattle. The gentry shoot guns in the air; the Indians make mocking acrobatic pirouettes on top of their horses. The artist scares the Indians when he enters their camp after dusk. They are eating a rustled cow. Steaks, chops, fire-roasted sweet meats. Guzzling raided booze. Still, an artist with a mantilla over his face, drawing as fast as he can, is scary to all people. Back in Germany the artist's sister cooks schnitzel. Also sliced blood sausage on a bed of red cabbage and fresh apple strudel. Her husband, the burg's clock mechanic, has dismantled the town clock. He takes absent-minded bites of cold schnitzel and blood sausage. Inside the vast mechanism there are several delicate mechanisms so intricate only a genius could have perversely assembled them to confuse his son-in-law. The genius is the father of the disfigured artist in Argentina. At a candle-lit dinner after the Indian raid, very large peppered steaks and homegrown red wine are served at a long table. It is dusk. The lady has replaced her best lace mantilla with another, not so fine. Her best mantilla greased and stained covers the monstrously twitching face of the artist. He raises it only to let a piece of burnt meat and a sip of wine disappear into the hole underneath. A well-read rat who lives in an abandoned library has read all the great works of literature. His name is Firmin. He knows who the German artist is, he even knows about recently translated poets gathered in a large New York salon to eat. Stuffed cabbage. Smoked eggplant. Caviar spread thickly on black bread. Carpathian Pinot Noir. Vertical blinds rattle like stiff bandages in a battlefield. The electric ping of rails when a car crosses them. A battle is raging between men with a method and those who can say nothing better than, "I like it." The glass noodles swirl in the elegant glass bowl under the black mushrooms in a cozy diner near the library. The mushrooms are alive. They have names. Minor 19th century writers bulldoze their way into print in the 21st, all closely read by the rat, Firmin. The "sushi-quality tuna" blinks red on a bed of risotto. Grilled scallops with andouille sausage in a tomato sauce arrive over boursin cheese grits. The Hungarian is horrible. He kills people for 500 pages and brings the seed of yellow fever from the Red River. Clicking dominoes. Birds smothered in a pot with brown gravy. It is all just starting.

Andrei Codrescu's new book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years Of Writing From the City.

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