Reading log: March 2011

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Books acquired: “The Red and the Black,” Stendhal; “Swann’s Way,” Marcel Proust; “Tales From the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 1″ and “The Shuttered Room,” H.P. Lovecraft; “John Carter, Warlord of Mars vols. 1-3, 5-7, 9,” Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Books read: “The Turn of the Screw,” Henry James; “They Live,” Jonathan Lethem; “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” Philip K. Dick; “Blade Runner, A Story of the Future,” Les Martin; “Web of the City,” Harlan Ellison.

March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, in the sense that all five books last month were read in the first 15 days.

“Turn of the Screw” was chosen because I was seeing the LA Opera production later in March. “They Live” is the analysis by the Pomona College prof of an obscure John Carpenter movie, the subject of a column a few weeks ago. “Do Androids Dream” was the basis for the movie “Blade Runner,” the four-disc DVD version of which I’d been watching (the Pomona College prof, a Philip K. Dick expert, was interviewed in the bonus features). “Blade Runner” is a sort of photo-novel of the movie. And “Web” is another of the early social-realist books by Ellison, who is better known for his fantasy work.

I enjoyed them all in different ways, “Androids” and “Screw” being the masterpieces of the bunch. You’ll notice from the photos that “Screw” was read on my e-reader, a first for the ol’ Reading Log; the short novel was one of the 100 free classics that came loaded on it. (Most of the Sherlock Holmes book from February was read on the e-reader too but as I owned a paperback I used that in the photo.)

As for where the other books came from, “They Live” and “Blade” were bought in February, “Web” was found used (and collectable) five or 10 years ago and “Androids” has been on my shelves unread for probably 30 years. Gulp.

What did I do the rest of March? Started in on books for April, which for no special reason will all have not one but two C’s in their title. By April 2 I’d finished two long books. Guess I’m coming in like a lion again.

One more note: I read a lot of graphic novels, comic strip reprints and the like but never include those on these lists, which are about prose. But I’d like to mention an exceptional graphic novel that I read in March, Guy Delisle’s “Burma Chronicles.”

It’s a memoir by the French illustrator of several months he and his family spent in Burma, where his wife was stationed as part of Doctors Without Borders. Delisle has also done a similar book about North Korea titled “Pyongyang,” which I’ve read, and “Shenzhen,” which I haven’t. “Burma” and “Pyongyang” are highly recommended for the window they provide on closed cultures and their gentle sense of humor. Here’s the Amazon page for “Burma Chronicles,” which allows you to look inside the book.

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The food of Mexico City

Tying in with Sunday’s column about some of the food eaten in my Mexico City vacation, here are a few representative photos.

Below is my first meal in Mexico City: a tlacoyo, cooked on a grill at an open-air bazaar, or tianguis.

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Below are al pastor (marinated pork) tacos with thin slices of pineapple. Mmmm.

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This is the quesadilla, very different from the flat, cheesy American ones, that I got from a streetcorner stand.

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Elote (or corn on the cob) with mayo, chili powder and grated cheese, eaten in Parque Mexico, a lovely park that dates to the 1920s.

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Maguey worms, a quarter-inch long and cooked in onions and cilantro, were surprisingly tasty. A little guacamole smeared on a tortilla, some worms and you’ve got yourself a taco you probably won’t find at Taco Bell.

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Here’s the root beer float I got at a ’50s-style diner. Mmmm, foamy.

At bottom, an order of empanadas, an Argentinian dish, hit the spot one afternoon at an open-air cafe as I read from Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” on my e-reader.

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Restaurant of the Week: Fu-Lin

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Fu-Lin, 9645 Central Ave. (at San Bernardino Road), Montclair

The sign near the sidewalk for Fu-Lin always makes me chuckle, but I’d never gone in until this week. In honor of April Fool’s Day, it was time. (The sign reads “Fulin,” but all the references online are to “Fu-Lin,” the spelling I’ll go with here.)

From the outside Fu-Lin looks like a big box. In back there’s a large parking lot and an entrance. The interior, while dated, is nicer than I’d expected with Chinese prints, a relief mural and windows letting in a lot of natural light.

Fu-Lin, which opened in 1990, has the usual Mandarin and Szechuan dishes, as well as Chinese American standbys like chop suey and egg foo young. But according to a Korean American friend whose family loves the place, there’s a subtle Korean tinge to the menu. You can get a cold combination, ja jiang myun or ya kki mandoo. It was only after leaving that I noticed at least some of the lettering on the exterior is in Korean.

The lunch specials, available every day but Sunday, are all priced between $4.25 and $5.50. I had garlic chicken ($4.65), which turned out to be steaming hot and fairly spicy. This came with a dollop of rice, two wontons, an eggroll and a cup of hot and sour soup. For $6 with tax and tip, this was a filling lunch, and better than expected.

Yelp reviewers seem of two minds about the place, unable to agree on whether it’s great or terrible. Quality-wise I’d compare Fu-Lin to Rancho Cucamonga’s China Point or Upland’s China Gate, two other old-school Chinese American restaurants.

Fu-Lin was busy; even at 1:30 on a weekday, 12 tables or booths were occupied with some 30 diners, many Latino and some Asian. Fu-Lin must be doing something right. No foolin’.

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