PREVIEW - Fall 2012
Arpad Haraszthy and the Sparkling Wine of Old San Francisco
By Brian McGinty
University of Oklahoma Press, 244 pages, $29.95
In this, the 200th anniversary of his birth, the legend of Agostan Haraszthy—father of the California wine industry—has become something of a cottage industry. But lost somewhere below the surface of the wine-soaked Haraszthy accolades now pouring forth, is the story of the good count’s son, Arpad, who founded Eclipse, the first commercially successful sparkling wine label in California.
Brian McGinty—lawyer, author and able historian—also brought us Strong Wine, the 1998 biography of Arpad’s father, and the Eclipse story emerges from the same well-researched mold.
Arpad’s life demonstrated that the zinfandel grape does not fall far from the vine. Like his father, he saw his future in wine, studied for two years in the Champagne region of France and brought that European knowledge to California where he became a respected authority on winemaking and the proprietor of Eclipse sparkling wine.
And like his father, he wrote extensively about winemaking, but also addressed the practice of drinking it, in a widely circulated and lengthy essay entitled, “How to Drink Wine,” in which he protested that people who drink red wine with ice, or add sugar to it “do not deserve the name of wine drinkers.”
There are other similarities, including a penchant for adventure that led him to a gold claim in Alaska, and the fact that he, like his father and his closest brother, died young
A Toast to Eclipse is not a breathless page-turner, but it is solid history professionally reconstructed and credibly told.
~ David Bolling
Stories of Love and Healing from a Farm Animal Sanctuary
By Stephanie Marohn
Hampton Roads, 184 pages, $16.95
This is a promise: Read this book and you’ll never ride a horse the same way again.
Read this book and you’ll fall fast in love with a miniature horse named Pegasus, a donkey named Gabriel, a sheep named Charlotte and a sundry assortment of ordinary farm animals that, you will discover, are anything but ordinary.
Raising, working, husbanding and eating farm animals from the early annals of human history has carved a communication chasm between them and us, at once both understandable and deeply unfortunate, for us and for them.
Stephanie Marohn, who runs a farm animal sanctuary in western Sonoma County, has crossed the chasm. Describing her as a farm animal whisperer is too simple and reduces her to the level of an overused cliché.
But whispering, listening, watching, gently cajoling and patiently loving the animals that somehow find themselves in the orbit of her attention has given Marohn an unusual and profoundly appealing understanding of what governs the behavior of animals too many of us have no interest in ever knowing, perhaps because that might require confronting the dilemma of also eating them.
To which Marohn might well say, eat them if you must, but first know them if you can, because they will teach you things you don’t know about love, things you don’t know about yourself.
But this is not a vegetarian’s polemic. Marohn makes no such judgments, she simply explains, through a heart-melting series of animal-encounter stories, the rich relationships she has forged by extending the same love and respect to “dumb” animals that we seek from each other.
You can enjoy this book in little dips or in one long swim, but if you open the cover you won’t come back dry.
~ David Bolling
Reflections of a Nicotine Addict
An illustrated memoir
by John Aaron
102 pages, available from Amazon.com. $16.99 paperback or $6.99 on the Kindle Fire.
If you’ve never smoked, you won’t need this book — unless you’re moved to give it to someone who does.
But if you are or were a smoker, John Aaron will speak to you like a brother, a lover, a friend. He knows the lore and he’s lived the love affair.
There’s a lot of weight in this light, little book, much of it personal. Writing and illustrating it took Aaron two years and got him off a 40-year habit and out of his tobacco romance for good.
But romancing the smoke for so long came with a heavy price. He figures it cost him at least $50,000, who knows how many friends and how much health. It may also have cost his sister her life.
Chambier Bechtel was a Sonoma resident, an impassioned activist who battled toxic contamination and, irony of ironies, smoked. She got the PCBs out of PG&E’s transformers, but she couldn’t get the tobacco smoke out of her lungs until it was too late. She died five years and a month ago. Lung cancer and its companion complications. The story of her last day is a chapter in the book, along with a lot of black humor, nicotine-stained statistics, clever art and compelling logic.
Aaron, a multidiscipline artist and musician, quit smoking cold turkey—despite agonizing withdrawal symptoms—with the help of meditation and some hypnotherapy. He says it was day-by-day for two years, and worth every minute.
“Once I quit…I got my life back (along with) my health, my senses, my finances…my stamina, confidence, physical capabilities and love life…an endless column of rewarding reasons to break the addiction to tobacco…It sure did free up my hands. It gave me time to paint these pictures and tell this story.”
~ David Bolling
By Anne Argula
Caravel Books, 202 pages, $16
It starts with a body on the Seattle waterfront with no ID other than a matchbook cover with Quinn’s phone number written on it.
Quinn is a middle-aged, menopausal private detective in Seattle, and so far she has investigated a murder with its reincarnated victim (Homicide My Own), a serial rapist and killer (Walla Walla Suite), the location of a teenaged author and abuse victim who may not be real (Krapp’s Last Cassette), and now this.
Quinn is also the protagonist of Anne Argula’s fourth detective novel, the first having been nominated for an Edgar Award (sort of the Oscar of mystery writing), and she has evolved into an enormously appealing character, contrary to all expectations you might have about a sarcastic, divorced, 50-ish, female PI.
The body that opens The Other Romanian leads in a feedback loop to Argula’s previous book, involving a disillusioned but highly successful screenwriter and the question of whether he has just dropped out or is dead.
As usual, there are deeper themes running through Quinn’s cases, but revealing them might be too much of a spoiler.
It’s enough to know that if you like mysteries you’ll like the Quinn books, and if you like the Quinn books, you’ll want to read this one.
A couple of things you should know: The real author isn’t Anne Argula, which is a pen name. The real author is a highly successful former screenwriter and author named Darryl Ponicsan, who happens to live in Sonoma.
The second thing you need to know is that Ponicsan seems to think there is no need for another Quinn book. He’s probably done enough in that genre, he says. He’s wrong.
We need another Quinn book. We actually need several more Quinn books. They’re clever, intelligent, thoughtful, funny, gripping, and short. You can read them in one long sitting, if you have to, like SFO to Kennedy. Too bad they can’t be written as quickly. Then he might do more.
Or maybe, if those of us who love the Quinn books, wrote to the publisher and begged and pleaded, maybe they’d lean on Darryl Ponicsan and convince him, or entice him, to do another. We can only try.
~ David Bolling
From the 2012 Fall issue of SONOMA