Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sneaky, Snaky Behavior

"I can see you want everything, . . . [k]ids, husband, career. The whole superwoman thing."

So says one character to another in Rachel Pastan's Lady of the Snakes.

Pastan's novel begins when Jane, the aspiring superwoman, gives birth to a daughter. She loves the little tyke, of course. But after a couple weeks of the foreignness of motherhood, Jane longs to get back to her dissertation. That is when she discovers that it isn't easy to get much done with an infant around. As for Billy, Jane's husband, his life doesn't change much.

Jane writes her dissertation on the wife of a second-string Russian novelist. While he went about philandering, his wife bore him seven or so children. The more Jane reads the woman's letters and diaries, the mores she sees how all the heroines in the husband's novels looked and sounded a lot like the wife. And on her worst days, mind you.

What a cad.

And maybe a plagiarist, too, for by the time Jane snags a prestigious professor job, her close reading of Mrs. Russian-Novelist's letters turn up passages that Jane feels she has read before. Say, in the husband's novels.

If she thinks she's going to expose all this cribbing, she will have to get past an aging colleague who built his reputation on showcasing the Russian novelist's "brilliance." The intrigue between Jane and her nemesis resembles the race between Channel 5 and Channel 8, each trying to scoop the other.  And Jane fights with a handicap: when things fall apart at home, who has to drop the meetings and the research trips?  Billy?  Or Jane?

Lady of the Snakes can be a challenging read. Pastan weaves in long quotes from the fictional novelist and his wife. Eventually, this device kills the pace of the story. Still, Pastan tackles the differences between men and women, what they can accomplish, who gets credit and who bears the burden of distraction.

The only thing getting scooped around here today was cookie dough. I worry that I should be sharing recipe adventures, some creation for which I ground the vanilla beans myself. But really, have you ever seen anybody turn down a chocolate chip cookie?


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup peanut butter 
2 eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 package (11.5 oz.) milk chocolate chips 

Heat oven to 350'. 

Beat butter, sugars and peanut butter in large bowl with mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chips. 

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. 

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets onto wire racks. 

This recipe comes from a Parkay box, long long ago.

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