Into it: Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson, Food Network host, author, and columnist, what are you ...
Just occasionally you come across a writer whose sentences are so perfect, you want to swill them around in your mouth as you read, just to savor their deliciousness. Elinor Lipman is just such a writer. I'm reading My Latest Grievance and, in fact, have almost finished it. And I say that slightly forlornly – when you read a book you love, you both want to gallop through it and yet never finish it. This is anyway a fairly trim book, and I hesitate to give away the plot as the sort of books I like never seem at their best when reduced to plot outlines. What she's about is voice and character. Nominally, the book is about the daughter of a couple who work as houseparents in a girls' college, their personal dramas and the interplay of people in a particular community – love affairs, miseries, and power struggles. Early novels in European literature often had a construct whereby there was a master and servant, and the novel showed that the servant always had the upper hand. In many respects this is a contemporary rewriting, only the servant role is played by the child, the narrator, who is the lynchpin and the central, knowing voice. In many ways, she educates the parents, and the various adults she comes into contact with her. And for a small book, it is bulging with characters: it is something of a comic epic despite its scale. Lipman has been described as a latterday Jane Austen – I'd go along with that.
This is a terrible thing to confess, but I think I'm beginning to turn into someone who regards music as noise. I'm married to someone who plays videos on all the music channels a lot and have three children in the house between ages 10 and 13, and there is a strange cacophony of heavy metal, indie rock, and bubblegum pop swirling around the house all the time. No wonder what I value ... is the rare, rare sound of silence! But I have weaknesses: I'm never averse to a Blondie track and actually feel instantly uplifted by just about any '80s disco track. If I want something sobbingly soulful and twanging with the melancholy of being, I'll go for a Bach cello sonata, any day.
The amount of time I spend in front of the TV is fairly shameful: I can gulp my favorite shows down by the hourful, and often do, in the form of DVD box sets. I've gone through every episode of Alias and have only recovered from my obsession with Jennifer Garner by replacing it with an addiction to Keifer Sutherland in 24. The fact that I now have the CTU phone as my cellphone ring shows that it truly has gone too far. I resisted at first, and didn't get what everyone was enthusing about when the first series came out. In fact, I still think that series 1 is by far the weakest, but I have just watched series 2 and 3 for the second time, and am a quarter of the way through a home-showing repeat of Series 4. Of course, Jack Bauer is an almost periodically impossible hero-figure, but I can suspend my disbelief all too willingly. And although I realize that I make myself sound like a preposterous geek, I have to say that one of the things I admire about this program is the sound. When I film [my TV show], I am always teased about being an honorary soundman and I do listen out for the quality of sound in a program – normally the element that's only noticed when it's bad – and I revel in the depth and crispness of the sound in "24."
• "Nigella's Feasts" premières on the Food Network, Sunday, Oct. 1 at 1.p.m ET/PT.