The following notes represent commentary and criticism by prominent experts from a diverse set of fields. (One hundred twenty-five submissions at last count.)
[Editor’s note: Some believe the author wrote the notes himself as a parody of such commentary and criticism. Readers can make their own determination.]
CHAPTER 1: WEST 43rd
1. Bistro A
Carlson is convinced that the restaurant name is an anagram for the phrase ‘oat ribs,’ a reference to spareribs made from cereal grain, which must have been a specialty of the proprietor’s mother.
2. (Jean-Claude) … an unassuming man, of slight build, seemingly fragile
Based on this description, Simpson suggests that Jean-Claude was 5′, 5″ tall and 137 lbs at the time of the meeting and would thus fall into the 28th – 30th height/weight percentile of French chefs working in midtown Manhattan.
3. cover the table with pages of the French daily, Le Monde
Cutter regrets the author doesn’t describe the newspaper ‘tablecloth’ in more detail. As the acknowledged world authority on protecting French restaurant dining room tabletops, had he known the number of pages used, angle of overlap, etc., he insists he could have calculated the degree to which the wood would be protected from betanin dye following an accidental spill of the concentrated juices from pickled garden beets.
4. (stack of plates) topped by two green checkered linen napkins
It is unclear how H was able to count the number of napkins since there is no evidence that they were placed one on top of the other, rendering visible each napkin edge (Ford). Simons concurs, citing the Bavarian custom of nesting table napkins rather than stacking them.
5. four for lunch at 1:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. in New York is 7:00 p.m. in France, which would be quite late for lunch, even by French standards.
6. The world turns clockwise
Emerson predicted that the word ‘clockwise’ in this sentence would also appear in the very next sentence.
7. The chef’s empty chair sat on a mosaic of large red tiles … The illusion there was lack of support … I knew there was no chance of him falling through the floor … but what if …?
Fitch termed this chair leg passage unintelligible. The author’s response: “That’s only because he didn’t understand it.”
8. (The cabinet had forty-eight) napkin drawers with highly polished brass drawer-pulls
Shulberger seriously doubts that each and every drawer-pull could have been as ‘highly polished’ as H reports, citing numerous studies showing a marked reduction of effort expended from the beginning to the end of a repetitive cleaning task involving caustic compounds.
9. (The terrine was allowed to rest.) With the skill of a surgeon, Jean-Claude removed some thin strips of bacon
Some editions of Bistro A have ‘sturgeon’ here, rather than ‘surgeon.’ Either word would be correct in the given context.
CHAPTER 2: PERSIMMONS
10. Paul was waiting for me in front of the restaurant
An implicit sign for Hudson that H and Paul’s Bistro A dinner was fast approaching.
11. We have four tables tonight
For Emreich, Racine’s remark is illustrative of glaring ambiguities found throughout the novel. “Are these ping-pong tables? Water tables? Mathematical tables? Just how is the reader to know for sure?”
12. (Jean-Luc began to examine one of the persimmons.) Racine came by and took away the rest
Huntington-Parker sees an admittedly weak Biblical parallel here to the saga of the little maid from Samaria (2 Kings 5:2) in that slave girls sometimes carried fruit from one room to another.
13. (H and Paul) had met … during the first of many summers spent in upstate New York
In Paul’s explosive autobiographical novel, Many Summers Spent in Upstate New York, Preston Press, 1999, pp. 486-87, he denies having spent any summers at all in upstate New York.
14. flooded mine pit (supposedly several hundred feet deep)… with the bodies of countless miners still trapped below
A thorough dredging and excavation of the site in 1967 found the following: Eighty-six pairs of empty heavy rubber miners’ boots, twenty-seven pairs of miners’ boots with feet still in them, and sixteen pairs with a foot in one, the other empty. Source: Dutchess Co. Public Works, Rpt. DRG-67-3B, p. iii.
15. (the first menu item was) Olives de Nyons
Nyonsoliven in the German edition.
16. there were some muffled words on the other side (of the door), then the door opened again
Restaurateur Karson Mayberry recommends a Soundz-Away™ fiber core door with Whisper-Cloze™ hinge dampers to minimize such intrameal disturbances.
17. (Madame W said) that was my husband’s drawer … although … I can’t be sure what it now contains
Rumor has it there’s a French ivory celluloid comb missing one of its wider teeth (third from the end) and a well-stained meerschaum pipe with removable bowl and a repaired split in the Bakelite mouthpiece.
CHAPTER 3: TICKLE ME
18. The (Apple Cromwell) cake … was served warm with three pastry-bag-squeezed dollops of yellow clotted cream
Assuming the portion was square, Henderson presumes one dollop was entrusted to each of the three sides more readily visible to H, with the far side daringly dollop-less.
19. Our attention was drawn to a woman sitting near us. She had the grace of an experienced tea drinker
In the original manuscript, the first sentence ended with scratching her underarm.
20.wooden stocks and merciless … torture with a goose feather
In a darker moment, Lamprey joked that given an intense summer heat, woolen socks trump wooden stocks and a feather any day.
CHAPTER 4: CHEESE PLEASE
21. wild mushrooms, with the richest cinnamon-brown caps imaginable and pure white stubby stems
Barnes argues that no such mushrooms exist and dares any mycologist to prove him wrong. Deliveries accepted at the service entrance of his Nantucket home.
22. (A farmer’s wife delivered duck breasts and mushrooms.) That woman looked familiar (said H.)
Prentice cautions readers not to infer from H’s initial recognition of face/body type that he indeed will recall circumstances of an actual encounter. [See also U.S. Supreme Court, Simmons et al v. United States, 1968.]
23. The cherries (in the cherry tart) were not pitted — we had to be careful eating it
The World Association for Dentistry vigorously applauded this respect for tradition. Source: TOOTHnews, 32 (7):23-25 (1986).
24. Racine … asked us to take our half-filled wine glasses
In a survey conducted by the Craigston Group soon after publication, 57% of readers felt the glasses were actually half-empty.
25. Three breeds of cows — Abondance, Tarentaise, and Montbéliarde — graze on the herb-rich pastures of the French Haute-Savoie.
In a remote valley in the French Alps in 1989, installation artist Gerhard Plink organized a large mixed herd of all three breeds, seeking to take creative advantage of their disparate markings:
Abondance – reddish-brown, white crown, prominent brown spot around the eyes;
Tarentaise – golden-brown all around;
Montbéliarde – brownish-red, white head.
The event began with all cows lying in the field and was controlled by Plink swiftly raising and lowering signboards using the following two-letter commands to the herd:
AU (Abondance stand up)
AD (Abondance lie down)
TU (Tarentaise stand up)
TD (Tarentaise lie down)
MU (Montbéliarde stand up)
MD (Montbéliarde lie down)
HU (Entire herd stand up)
HD (Entire herd lie down)
Most of the documentation has been lost, but a surviving note fragment by Plink revealed a piece of the bovine choreographic notation:
AU, TU, MU, MD, TD, AD (wave effect)
AU, TU, AD, MU, TD, AU, MD, TU, AD, MU, TD
(Three second pause)
HU, HD, HU, AD, HU, TD, HU, MD
The event was witnessed by a sixty-seven year old shepherd and his two dogs and was deemed a visual marvel.
26. I grabbed a copy of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London
A priceless first London edition, first impression, Victor Gollancz Ltd., publisher, GB, 1933. Original black cloth. Green spine text slightly faded. In retrospect, H regretted ‘grabbing’ such a valuable copy. Source: WFCD Fern Creek Evening News interview, date unknown.
CHAPTER 5: SUBWAY BLUES
27. (Jean-Luc handed H a decorated) cardboard box. Beige and black crayons had been skillfully used to simulate delicate lace
It seems a Mrs. Tommy Watson found the box several days later in a trash bin outside H’s apartment building. It is now proudly displayed on her living room mantel, next to two of her prize pieces of antique Flanders lace: a Lierre child’s parasol, cream on a blue ground, and an oval Pearled Rosaline doily, also cream-colored. How do I know? She’s my next-door neighbor. (Editor)
28. (Paul and H had entered the alleyway.) We were making little or no progress, and … had to shuffle in place … before moving forward again
The first of two passages revealing H’s subconscious struggle to resolve deep-seated issues he has been known to repress, possibly having to do with his relationship with V’s mother or his former employer. (Parsons) [See also note 115.]
29. At the end of the alleyway, however, the crowd thinned for no apparent reason
[Unidentified theatergoer overheard at the premier of Bistro A: The Movie.] “A similar thing happened to me on the Garden State Parkway. There I was suffering in bumper-to-bumper traffic for almost two hours, moving at a snail’s pace, late for my racquetball appointment—No, I told you, I don’t want more buttered popcorn!—then the traffic jam suddenly, and I mean suddenly, disappeared. Poof! And cars started zooming ahead again at breakneck speed. No explanation. Go figure.”
30. (H’s apartment.)… huge rooms in pre-war buildings … high ceilings
Variable, but 9′, 8″ on average. Source: S. Block, housepainter, on his afternoon break.
31. (H’s apartment.) ... tall windows
Too many. Source: A. Humboldt, high-rise window washer, swaying on a swing-stage scaffold.
32. Is that all you see? (H asked Paul about H’s painting on the easel.) … You missed this subtle but critical diagonal
Kinberg, known for coining the expression,
Past Pictorialization Portends Present Pictorialization
maintains that H fell short here as well, for H should have acknowledged how the underlying structure of his painting derives directly from the celebrated Louvre sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace. The following comparison, which uses an artificial distillation of the painting into lights and darks, makes the relationship readily apparent:
Field counters with “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
33. At one point I realized … that was the question
A more compelling question, but this time directed to readers, is the following: The author has made a very serious error in this paragraph. What is it?
CHAPTER 6: THE DREAM
34. the main room … appeared distorted, reminding me of looking through my father’s wide-angle camera lens
Davidson presumes an ocular aberration causing an overestimated stimulus of perceptual hemispace and urges the author to script a visit to an ophthalmologist for the boy in the next edition.
35. I had a vague feeling I had many meals in this restaurant, although I couldn’t remember details of a single one
This prompted a session some years later with renowned clairvoyant Magda Montague, who was able to conjure up a fuzzy recollection of a plate piled high with tiny fried whole fish, heads and tails alternating, opaque eyes glancing soulfully in all directions. For $5.00 more, she would have added a vision of a small cup of garlicky dipping sauce and lemon wedges, but that offer was declined.
36. After several minutes (the boy) became aware of someone else’s presence behind (him)
Judd is quick to scold Albertson for propagating a rumor that the boy heard the thumping of size 12 rubber clogs.
37. a sensory and mathematical ideal for a thoroughly memorable baguette: Crust the bright rust-brown color of … a mature Mongolian Plover … width the height of … coins struck by Louis-Philippe … length matches the blade … carried by Napoleon’s Light Cavalry (etc.)
Crimson Bakery sells baguettes custom-baked to these exact specifications for $259.25 per loaf.
38. (An old woman) was speaking French but (the boy) was hearing English
White recalls a trip to Paris where her spoken English morphed into French.
39. As (the chef) turned completely around … (the boy) counted one hundred vertical pleats in his starched cloth hat
Davidson retracts his previous admonition that the boy needs to see an ophthalmologist. (See note 34.)
CHAPTER 7: FROGS, FROGS
40. (Hiking on China’s Yellow Mountains.) Some 60,000 steps … Each step has hand chiseled surfaces which are decorative and provide sure footing
H remembers one step in particular. Though rather plain, of average length and width, with random gouge (or was it just weather) marks of no apparent significance, he’ll talk about it in great detail to anyone willing to listen.
41. V and (H) also came knowing that (H) had a major fear of heights and was unsure how (he) would be able to cope
Prior to the trip, Plungers Anonymous counselor Simpson Karlsberg tried to assure H that this fear was merely ‘all in the mind,’ and not in the mist-obscured, slippery, unprotected 3,000 – 5,000 foot drops onto jagged granite cliffs he’s sure to encounter time after time if he dares to go.
42. stone stairs … carved directly out of the rock face at a sixty-five degree incline! … Leg muscles began to ache
Gabinski estimates a combined expenditure of 1,080 calories per hour by H and V over eight hours, allowing them to consume a guiltless forty-two cups of steamed white rice that evening if they so desired.
43. V and (H) had trained for six months climbing flights of stairs at the New York Public Library
A herculean regimen requiring not only strength, but agility, given chance encounters with pink glops of Double Bubble chewing gum on some of the steps (Romero).
44. (Fried Hare on Iron Plate.) … the spectacular dish, the buttery meat accompanied by a gentle touch of ginger
“Butter, oh, ginger, oh, rabbit, oh, oh.” 13th century Chinese proverb attributed to Lin Yüan.
CHAPTER 8: PASS THE SYRUP
45. (V, looking through her apartment door peephole sees) a circle of brilliant yellow within an irregular milky white form
On a third reading, Ryan caught the author’s ‘sunny-side up’ egg reference.
46. microscopic traces of white flour particles … remain undetected on (V’s) garment
For Chang, an example of the need for a personal, cost-effective, hand-held spectrometer in each household to carefully examine one’s soiled clothing at day’s end.
47. (V’s sweater sleeve brushes against H’s newly painted canvas.) … fabric marks could readily be seen across a section of fresh red paint — nothing too serious and easily corrected
While it is assumed that the artist simply smoothed away such marks once his guest had left the premises, a noted group of forensic scientists led by Francesco Franchetto are hopeful they might be able to uncover some evidence, however microscopic, of the sweater fiasco, even though it would likely be hidden under layers of subsequent modifications to the painting by the artist. That analysis, which would include radiography, infrared and ultraviolet imaging, and 3-D scanning, is slated to begin immediately following the group’s current project at the Louvre, a virtual deconstruction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. Source: Art Analytics 11.4 (2005): 41-54.
48. (H tried to recall) the orientation of (V’s) sleeves in relation to true north
As determined by a straight line from V’s entrance foyer to Cathode Ray’s TV Restorium diagonally across West 86th street.
49. (H and V) set out again for Camden Hampton-upon-Plympton
CHuP, as some town elders like to call it.
50. when (V) sensed that the little bull was taking far too much notice of her red sweater
Lagueux doubts that a young bull would really have such an intense ‘thing’ for cashmere. One or more of the cows, perhaps, but not the bull.
51. Stop me, I digress (says the author)
Aronson deems any such effort futile, given the author’s penchant for blathering.
52. (The eggs were extremely fresh) with bright yolks the exact same hue as a squeeze of (H’s) oil paint tube of Cadmium Yellow Dark
Equivalent to # 13 on the E. G. Gander and Co. Yolk Color Chart, but so what? According to Polk, even hens know that yolk color depends mostly on coloring agents in the diet (more yellow-orange plant xanthophylls anyone?) and has little to do with taste. Yet Polk recalls that the most flavorful fried eggs ‘up’ he has had have had deep yellow yolks.
53. circles of butter were softening over two hot golden-brown stacks [of pancakes] ready to be consumed … the beauty shot
Not surprising that this image made the 2008 annual breakfast issue cover of Syrup & You, setting all records for single copy sales—110,000 in the first fifteen minutes after hitting the newsstands.
CHAPTER 9: YOUR SERVE
54. an olive wood spreader
Elongated oval stainless steel blade, approximately 9 inches wide, 18 inches long, excluding handle, with serrated edge. Source: Madame W’s nephew, Eric. Questionable description blurted out under extreme duress while shouting, “I have better things to do with my time than deal with such trivia!”
55. Shafts of sunlight streamed through a lone window in random patterns and an aroma of fresh-cut flowers permeated the landing
One of Hildenbrand’s favorite passages. He returns to it time after time just to cherish what he imagines to be H’s enchanting first impressions of the landing.
56. Madame W in her bed clothes and robe … (seemed) much less imposing than the commanding figure (H) had encountered in the restaurant several weeks before
Despite her informal appearance, the woman still cut an impressive figure, exhibiting an exceptionally elevated degree of excellence, elegance, and energy. Source: Unsolicited letter to the editor from a Madame Jane Doe received just moments before the manuscript deadline.
57. the bells began to ring out a gentle melody that was as soft as it was haunting. Canon in D major … by Johann Pachelbel.
Potter insists that it is impossible to play this piece properly with just five bells.
58. (H) kept a freshly cut sprig of rowan wood (Sorbus aucuparia) … after learning about its protective powers
Rowan is also called Witch wood, Witchen, Wicken, and Wiggin. One camp claims the red berries carry the sign of the pentagram; another camp disagrees. Happily, however, both sides have agreed to disagree. (Winston)
59. (V) … was afraid she’d ruin her expensive watch if the boat happened to hit a barge
Not an unreasonable fear. There are six such incidences on record, the last being when the MS Österreich Prinz collided with barge SA-127. Three hundred sixteen miniature Sacher-Tortes set up on deck and slated for the captain’s farewell dinner slid into the river. No reports of any timepiece tragedies, however.
CHAPTER 10: AT TABLE
60. several slash marks (across the newspaper) turned the lead story to confetti
Crow reports the following front page headline for that day’s edition: TICKER TAPE TURMOIL!
61. … hare with shallots flamed in the Queen’s favorite apple brandy
Lord Armscroft fondly calls to mind a small snifter of velvety Queen Claude greengage plum brandy, served by Her Majesty’s footman just after a warm soufflé of wild raspberries poached in sugar syrup.
62. … and Bob’s your uncle!” (H) said, using one of (his) best British expressions to make them feel at home
H took a real chance. He could have ‘dropped a clanger,’ in which case he’d have to ‘go for a Burton.’ (Ryder)
63. With only twelve minutes to clear Madame W’s dishes
Friedlich explains that since Madame W’s wall clock is running slow, it would actually take a fraction more than twelve minutes for the hands to move from 9:18 to 9:30.
Langdon, however, points out that the clock was known to run erratically, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Therefore, H would have been wrong to assume that he definitely had more than twelve minutes, although Langdon concedes that since the clock had been in slow mode recently, there was a 72% probability that it was still in slow mode and that H might indeed have had a bit more than twelve minutes at that point to clear Madame W’s dishes. In addition, if the minute hand jumped in full minute increments rather than moving in a continuous manner, theoretically, there could have been up to an additional 59 seconds added to the remaining time. He therefore was willing to add an average of 29.5 seconds to the calculation of remaining time.
64. (English bulldog) Buster slowly shuffled toward a warm corner … collapsed onto a braided oval throw rug, fell into a deep sleep and … drown(ed) out most of the street noises with his snoring
Such noble bearing causes Davies to suspect ‘Buster’ is none other than retired Kennel Club Utility Group Champion My Fitz Pitz Pomeroy.
65. (the) linen tablecloth proudly displayed … stubborn wine and food stains from countless banquets past
Jean-Claude’s favorite is the perfectly preserved image of a graceful, swept-back wishbone (pheasant? partridge?) found stuck by sauce to the linen under a dinner plate at a morning cleanup. Initially showing as a dark carmine pinot noir stain, subsequent washings have rendered it a faded rosy gray.
66. (Jean-Claude) offered (H) the last open seat
Accepted with relish.
CHAPTER 11: MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
67. on a table by the window … was our place card
Sokol surmises that their place card read ‘H & V,’ while Lokos takes a converse view, i.e., ‘V & H.’
68. (A Blackston School rule: Upper Class boys may have a birthday meal in town provided) no more than seventeen Upper Class boys are invited
Morgan figures if seventeen are invited and only eleven appear, that represents an attendance rate of approximately 64.7058823529412%.
69. (Against the rules, Blackston School boys sneak into the restaurant’s upstairs room to smoke.) An obscure sign-in board (nicknames only) is sometimes used downstairs
A ‘Dudley’ had signed in every day during the 1993-1994 academic year though no one ever knew who he (or she) was.
70. All (bakery shops) were out of the famous Dorset Knobs, sometimes also called Hobbs or Cobbs
West of North Eastlake, Knobs are spelled Nobbs, Hobbs-Hobs, and Cobbs-Kobbs.
71. the chef (at the Doleville Arms) might come out to see (H) at any moment (to check how H liked the deviled kidneys)
Was H already hearing footsteps from the kitchen?
72. (attracted by the odor of discarded kidneys,) the largest pack of stray dogs (since) the Dagby Conflagration of 1681
Sixteen mongrels, thirteen curs, eight mutts, a pooch, a puppy, a pup, and a raccoon. Source: Letters Patent of Richard, Son of Robert, recorded at Blackston in the year 1682. (Farmer)
73. Mys … tery Play … house. House. House. Don’t miss our next exciting episode, The Kipper Caper
Radio voiceover by Sir Maurice Wolkes, LCP, SAP, TNT.
CHAPTER 12: MAKIN’ COPIES
74. (At Mabel’s Muffins, V ordered a maple-pecan oatmeal muffin by saying,) “Mabel Pecan it is.”
During a lively panel session at Bistro A’09, Lawson described V’s continuing efforts to entertain herself later in life as “symptomatic of a separation anxiety disorder resulting from tragic loss of a childhood pet, most probably a hamster or gerbil.” Cross disagreed: “Oh, c’mon, she’s just a fun person.”
75. (In her office, V told the muffin, “While I get coffee,) I’ll leave you here on this very nice clear vinyl desk protector.”
Sampson admits she once kept a ‘pet’ muffin for eighty-six days before her mother made her throw it out.
76. (Mr. Silvertung pointed to) a graph of preliminary auction revenue figures for their Luxembourg location
Located in the Kirchberg quarter’s eastern section, the five story building features a common entrance lounge with a mahogany magazine rack and an on-site car park with arbitrary twenty-three hour access.
77. (V) snuck a peek at her watch
The 1940s art deco style, self-wind Orator cocktail watch was recently engraved on the back, From G to U.
78. (Fordyce asked the group) to bear with him for a few moments while he turned to page 27 and found note III.B.2.i.
The correct citation is VI.C.4.iii and it was on page 36 in the handout.
79. V casually stood up and sauntered over to the food service area, presumably to replenish the ice in her water glass
Association of Office Managers President Alicia Smith protested the author’s implication that there would be a lack of sufficiently iced water pitchers on the conference table itself. Source: AOOM Communicator, November 2009, p. 17.
80. (At the lunch buffet,) the red cellophane hindered (V) detecting anything red in the assortment, with the green cellophane having a corresponding effect on any greens
Fifth grade art teacher Alicia Schmidt’s classroom assignment: Given the red-green cellophane canopy, describe V’s dilemma if carrot salad and blueberries were among the selections. Source: Instructor’s Weekly, V. 16, No. 4, pp. 4-6.
CHAPTER 13: NUTTS
81. The author implores the reader to overlook and forgive this chapter. Admittedly, it merely serves as ‘filler’
Fornsby notes that this first paragraph is the only portion of the novel that has any redeeming educational and social value, with all other parts being, at most, unadulterated fluff.
82. (Jean-Luc used) a red, cast-iron nutcracker in the form of an alligator
This is not the nutcracker in question. Or is it?
83. (Prof. Simon) last enjoyed his usual Bistro A lunch: a watercress, beet, and Persian walnut salad, followed by boiled beef shank with cabbage
An error, to be corrected in the next edition. This should read: … boiled beef shank with pickled peppers.
84. Solve it swiftly? Rate yourself. Under two minutes – Genius. Two to four minutes …
During his second interview with the Fern Creek Gazette, the author boasted that it took him only one minute, sixteen seconds to solve the puzzle (Genius level). In his third interview, however, he conceded that that result may have to be invalidated since his stopwatch apparently stopped mid-timing, a frequent occurrence which requires restarting by rapping it on his study tabletop.
85. (Racine) whacked … (the) walnut into a hundred pieces … causing fragments to scatter … onto Jean-Luc
Racine will be happy when she ends up taking someone’s eye out with impulsive, immature, and irresponsible actions like that. (Bridlebane)
86. Anyone passing by (Racine’s dream cottage) would be enticed by the … pies cooling on her windowsill
If asked, Racine would add that her butter and lard, always flaky, golden-brown pie crusts would sometimes be latticed, other times not.
CHAPTER 14: IT’S STILL LIFE
87. (H) jumped on (his) normally useless old copy of Chemical Composition of Oil Paints, 4th Edition
The author will sell his own copy of the 3rd edition, at cost, to the third reader who contacts him by third-class mail.
88. but it became clear (H) needed to activate Plan B
An anonymous caller revealed, after rummaging through H’s household refuse, that ‘Plan B’ was just Tuesday’s already crumpled shopping list containing English muffins, wax paper sandwich bags, and cashew butter (chunky style).
89. a simple sketch using the most basic of tools, i.e., a burnt willow twig (charcoal)
Clark is irked by the author’s failure to note the absorbent and other medicinal properties of a mixture of ground willow charcoal and orange blossom honey. “That’s inexcusable and constitutes the main reason I read Bistro A by library copy, rather than purchase it.”
90. Paint and repaint day after day until … there emerges a vision of the artist’s own private world
The spirit of ‘fine art’ according to Mowbray.
CHAPTER 15: DANCES, DEMONS, DIRTY DOGS
91. (driving in Bali) … Motorbikes, bicycles, women balancing fruit on their heads, noodle vendors
The author left out noodle vendors balancing bicycles on their heads.
92. those skinny, mangy, disease-ridden dogs (were everywhere)
Man’s best friend. (Mulholland)
93. (To coerce difficult grandchildren to sleep at night, a grandparent tells the story of a powerful witch who takes the form of a wild dog.) The frightened child pulls his sarong over his head and in the safety of that new darkness, finally falls asleep
Josephs fell asleep reading this paragraph.
94. southern tourist areas which feature … street hawkers selling wristwatches and sunglasses
The very reason Hammond travels to Bali four times a year. Sergio Valentino sunglasses knock-offs are only $2.95 a pair U.S. equivalent.
95. (At a Gamelan concert.) Surprising (to H) how, even at the height of that last piece, each instrument could still be distinctly heard
H most probably meant noticing instrumental categories, e.g., woodwinds, percussion, etc., rather than individual instruments. (Robins) Sinclair is not so certain. He questions whether Robins considered the possibility that H merely has super hearing.
96. (A group of woman were harvesting rice.) They were using a small blade … hidden so as not to scare the rice
It is said that any kind of frightened grain takes twice as long to cook. (Franklin)
97. (H and V play a guessing game with unusual fruit. H says,) “Nope, wrong again. It’s a salak.” (V says,) “I always try to keep an open mind.”
Respite from reading: Which one of the following slices is different?
98. (H spots) an unusual mask far off in a lower corner … (He) was able to buy it for a surprisingly low price
A ‘red flag’ in the eyes of Meredith, who once bought a sixteen ounce unlabeled tin can scratch-marked Caspien See Beluka Kavier for only $3.00, tax included, from several street urchins.
99. (A woman was selling durian by the side of the road) … the shocking odor
Sudley showed a scarcity of smarts by placing a large portion of durian in her daughter’s lunchbox. All school buildings were declared off limits for three weeks; when reopened, the stench was worse than ever.
CHAPTER 16: FRICASSÉE FRACAS
100. (A signature recipe, found in an old leather journal.) Translated … without permission. Not for distribution
Publishers take note.
101. Uneven distribution of the melting (butter stamp) image … may not significantly affect the ultimate flavor, texture and appearance … but why take a chance?
Nottingham agrees. He states, “One has only to cite the somewhat cavalier butter stamp practices in the Normandy Guinea Fowl incident at the surprise birthday banquet of Sir Smythe Townsend, Sr., with one hundred people sent to hospital, although some did recover.”
102. Keep the chicken warm, doesn’t matter where
Littlestone suggests using a dozen or so kitchen hearth-heated volcanic rocks in your outdoor clay cooking pit.
CHAPTER 17: ODE TO LA MODE
103. Madame W is protective of the three flavors of … ice cream she requires in her icebox … but in the evening she found only two
Stocky refrigerator repair person Nathan ‘Nobby’ Nobbler came forward to back up Madame W’s story, noting all he saw were pints of dandelion honey and strawberry rose ice cream when he was oiling her gaskets late in the afternoon.
104. (the pre-teen Madame W) would peek out the curtains of her small bedroom window and stare … at the ancient church adjacent to the monastery high up on the opposite slope
The girl’s poured wax doll, with its piercing blue glass eyes and tattered lace nightgown, was inclined to look as well.
105. (Molière’s literary character Célimène was) obsessed with social courtesies and was quick to criticize everyone … An insight into the nature of the future Madame W
Only last week, she chided a companion for walking on her left side, rather than her right, thus hindering use of his sword arm if she needed protection.
106. the warm, alcoholic vapors (of Green Chartreuse liqueur) burning her nostrils as she did so
One self-explanatory reason why (R. Ronbecki, S. Ronbecki and T. Ronbecki, source reference unavailable):
107. a 1975 Citroën DS (in) Scarab Brown
Color match: A Dutch process cocoa hot chocolate from Hogan’s Creamery, Brattleboro VT. Served on their veranda with all-you-can-eat miniature glazed sour cream doughnuts. (Photo no longer available.)
108. (Jean-Claude’s homemade pistachio ice cream laced with) Green Chartreuse liqueur
Sometimes available at Hogan’s Creamery, Brattleboro VT. Call ahead.
CHAPTER 18: HOW MANY ZOLOTNIKS?
109. Russian poplar trees, when propagating, give off great numbers of ПУК
110. A stocky woman was hawking it outside the Преображе́нская пло́щадь Metro station
From Речной вокзал change at Театра́льная/Охотный ряд, direction Красносе́льская (42 minutes).
CHAPTER 19: ME COOK
111. once there (H) found lemon verbena leaves, amaranth, and purslane
Band manager Jonas James claims H is sadly mistaken about seeing amaranth. The rock group was touring the Midwest—Aurora to Fargo to Peoria to Fargo to Peoria to Fargo to Aurora to Peoria to Peoria to Fargo to Fargo to Fargo to Aurora to Fargo—when H would have been at Union Square.
112. (the younger daughter) asked me to choose from several different styles of faux-ceramic plastic bowls with trompe-l’oeil chips and scratches
Customized bowls available for purchase from Fool-Your-Friends, Inc. Choose from phony hairline cracks (fifty cents extra per half inch), imitation carelessly reglued rim fragments and mock misfired design smudges.
113. The older daughter took my dollar, but not before screeching open an uncooperative metal drawer
For Watts, a reminder of the chilling sound of fingernails on a blackboard. Reading this passage set his nerves on edge, so much so that he blacked out the offending part of the sentence in his copy of Bistro A.
114. Meanwhile, (H) was off to the butcher shop in Queens (he) had only heard rumors about
Hodson searched high and low for this meat market to no avail. “Don’t try looking for it yourself, especially on Grand Avenue, north side, 100 block,” he advises readers. “Believe me, it doesn’t exist.”
115. Progress down a long corridor was slow as layers of sawdust seemed deeper and deeper the farther (H) went
The second of two passages revealing H’s subconscious struggle to resolve deep-seated issues he’s been known to repress, possibly having to do with his relationship with V’s mother or his former employer (Parsons). [See also note 28.]
116. Progress down a long corridor was slow as layers of sawdust seemed deeper and deeper the farther (H) went
Microscopic sawdust particles found in H’s shoes several years later were admitted as evidence in the civil trial of Mhremiwm Meat Managers v. Wales, Aberystwyth County Court, Circuit Judge Bleddyn Gwyn presiding.
117. plus a few secret spices Paul threw in as (H’s) back was turned. (Paul later confessed.)
Hamley rules out sweet cicely, asafoetida and paracress. Ronson leans toward adding borage to Hamley’s list, a no-brainer given its bright purple color.
CHAPTER 20: ACT FOUR
118. Act Four, Scene Three. Later that same evening. A dimly lit restaurant interior
Hotchkiss finds this surprise switch from novel to stage play format in the final chapter allows a more intimate view of Bistro A’s key players.
All during previews, Jean-Claude’s line was inadvertently printed as ‘Hmmm.’ The correction was handwritten into script copies just before opening night.
120. Jean-Luc chase(d) a butterfly … until it flew a hundred kilometers away
Snodgrass recognizes here a metaphor for out-of-control loss of a loved one. Not only for Jean-Luc (and Racine), whose innocence had no doubt been shattered, but for Jean-Claude. Even his sweet memories of wife Emily have become precariously fragile.
121. (Jean-Claude’s wife) had not seen her dream for us materialize. To move our restaurant to New York City
Racine recalls a heated parental ‘discussion’ in which her father threatened to block any move unless he could bring his prized summer blue La Cornue stove, nicknamed Hermione, along with them.
Emily: “Crazy heavy. Impractical to ship.”
Jean-Claude: “My mother’s Provençal beef ragoût simmered on that stove.”
Photo by Jean-Claude (left to right—Jean-Luc, Hermione, Racine):
122. V seems to flit through life excited and delighted by each and every passing moment
Just then, V was sitting 7th row orchestra left of center with some chocolate covered bonbons, waiting with glee for the nice things H was sure to say about her.
123. (H said he) plod(s) through life crafting moments to enjoy
“However, this was certainly not one of them,” a stage-frightened H confessed after the performance.
124. Patchwork fields dotted with sheep
Hedgerows … Section a Provence hill.
… Gliding over hillocks and furrows
… Giving life to the earthwork
Montclair believes this poem may have been written in England, not France, and by the author, not Racine. Was the use (or substitution) of ‘Provence’ as the locale instead of, say, ‘Shropshire’ a devious publication expediency, showing blatant lack of principles? Do they even use the terms ‘hedgerows,’ ‘hillocks,’ and ‘furrows’ in France? And if Racine is French and was in France at the time, why didn’t she write the poem in French? Something’s fishy.
Humphreys vows to personally thank the author for an utterly unique and meaningful Bistro A journey, something he’ll be sure to do if they happen to accidently bump into one another at some point.
Artwork copyrighted by Fred Aronson. All rights reserved.