Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Back to School with Arthur Conan Doyle

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

It’s September, which means those of us who are students or teachers are back at school. So we’re writing this month about teachers and those influenced by them.

You may know that Arthur Conan Doyle was a medical student before he became a writer. But did you know that he credited two of his professors as the inspiration for his greatest creation?

Young Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh under Doctor Joseph Bell, a surgeon famed for his remarkable diagnosis skills. These skills made Bell an early practitioner of forensic science. He was brought in as an expert by the police for several investigations, including the Jack the Ripper murders.

In addition to his professional work, Bell was an outstanding lecturer, and made a lasting impression on Doyle. “The student must be taught to observe,” Bell implored his not-so-observant students. The young Doyle assisted Bell for a while, playing Watson to the great medical detective.

Here’s what Doyle said about his professor:

[Bell] was extraordinarily quick at deductive work. He would look at the patient, he would hardly allow the patient to open his mouth, but he would make his diagnosis of the disease, and also very often of the patient’s nationality and occupation and other points, entirely by his power of observation. So naturally, I thought to myself, “well, if a scientific man like Bell was to come into the detective business, he wouldn’t do these things by chance, he’d get the thing by building it up scientifically.”

Holmes even looked like Bell, with his twinkling eyes, aquiline nose and forceful, expressive energy.

Doyle also acknowledged Henry Littlejohn as an inspiration for Holmes. As Edinburgh’s Surgeon of Police, Littlejohn was a pioneer in forensic science, and as Edinburgh’s first Medical Officer of Health, he made significant contributions to the field of public health. Like Bell, Littlejohn was involved in police investigations, appeared as an expert witness in murder trials and oversaw postmortems. He also he happened to be Doyle’s forensic medicine teacher in medical school.

So those of you who teach, watch out – you may end up inspiring a classic literary character!

Pleb Summer: Summer Reading

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! At the Guild, we’ve got plenty of PlebSummer plans:

  • Raising tiny humans in order to have an alibi for spending the summer at public pools and water parks
  • Writing an exhibition catalogue for an art show
  • Visiting our nearest U.S. National Parks (for instance, The People’s Beach, Teddy Roosevelt’s House, and Stonewall Park )
  • Coney Island. Brighton Beach.
  • Design and crochet a baby blanket – in time for friend’s baby!
  • Teaching typography and graphic design
  • Crafts
  • Presentations and reading series attended by other PlebSummer-ers
  • Rooftop barbeques
  • books, Books, BOOKS

Reading is one of the great joys of summer. (It’s one of the great joys of the rest of the year too, of course.) And you don’t have to be at the beach, by a pool, or at a hut in the mountains to enjoy proper summer reading.

Here’s what some of the employees at the Guild are reading this summer.



I’m finally reading a book that’s been on my list for years: Moss Hart’s Act One, a classic memoir of a life in the New York theater by one of the most famous writers and directors on Broadway of the mid-20th century.

I’m also working my way through Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science – stories of the adventurers and scientists at the end of the 18th century who built the Romantic era. It’s an eclectic book, mixing scientists and poets in a particular Romantic way. The book wonderfully captures a sense of enthusiasm and wonder of these insatiably curious people and how their adventures helped shape our world.



Currently reading:

-Gelett Burgess’ Are You a Bromide?  fyi free at

-Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

-George Saunders’ Pastoralia 

-lashings of P.G. Wodehouse and Moby Dick (always)

-collections of local and regional ghost stories from all over the USA (as acquired)

-Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century 

…you know: ideas and art and what haunts us.



I’m reading Kristen Ashley’s Dream Man series.

Why? Excellent beach read romance novels that feature hot guys who ride motorcycles.

The plots include a souped-up version of the classic damsel in distress who gets rescued by a bad ass alpha hero. The twist: these damsels are very self sufficient and sassy. They give the heroes lots of attitude (along with big hair, high heels and cosmos galore)!



I’m continuing my reading of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series – I’ve already read volumes 1 & 2.  I like graphic novels, but this sort of thing is not my usual speed. I’ve come to Gaiman late; somehow I just completely missed him.

I’m thinking about getting Gaiman’s latest – Norse Mythology – which sounds excellent.
Finally I picked up at stoop sale a copy of Barry Unsworth’s Ruby in her Navel. 12th Century Sicily, Muslim financiers, Norman Kings, Crusades – how can one resist?



Around this time of year, I like to read the sorts of novels where you get to know the characters and live their day-to-day lives alongside them, and I especially like to read them in parks and on roofs. Two years ago I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which follows a striving immigrant family in Williamsburg through more than a decade at the turn of the century. As a Brooklyner I particularly enjoyed my familiarity with the book’s geography — it was like putting myself in a time machine and transporting back to when my great-grandparents were raising a family here. It’s one of my favorite novels. Right now I’m reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, which follows two middle-aged couples and their kids in Ditmas Park, my old neighborhood. I like walking around with the characters in familiar locales — I just read a love scene that takes place at the playground next to my old apartment — but you don’t need to know the neighborhood to enjoy the book; it’s a great story both of young people falling in love and of married people confronting complacency and malaise. I enjoy reading books that expand my perspective with foreign places and experiences, but every now and then it’s nice to read something closer to home.



In anticipation of Blade Runner 2049 and because of a recent re-watch of Total Recall, I’ll be dedicating most of my summer reading to Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi catalog. To date, I have Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? under my belt. I happily discovered that, for me, it’s one of those rare instances where the film is just as an enjoyable as the book it was based on. (Dare I say that I liked Blade Runner more?) Next up in the queue is We Can Remember It for You WholesaleA Scanner Darkly, and The Man in the High Castle. Although I don’t consider myself to be a big sci-fi buff, it seemed preposterous that I’d gone this long without reading the source material for some of my favorite genre films.



This summer I will be reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. UPG designer Eric recommended it to me a while back in part because of the role typography plays in the narrative, but ultimately I have a serious weakness for books about reading books. Throw in a bit of wit and fantasy, some stuff about print vs digital media and the future of reading (hi there, undergraduate thesis), and I’m essentially required to read it. “Mr. Penumbra” looks to be on the lighter side, which I’m told is what people prefer to read during the summer months while they’re “at the beach,” whatever that means. At least the cover is a sunny yellow. And if for any reason Mr. Penumbra comes up short, I will happily reread If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino and be contented.



I am going to finish Crime and Punishment before I do anything…..

Murakami’s new book of short stories: Men Without Women: Stories
David Sedaris: Theft by Finding
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
Sherlock Holmes!!



What I am currently reading:

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

My mother gave me this book maybe 5 years ago and urged me to read it, but like most of the books my mom gives me I put it on a shelf to read later, thinking I wouldn’t like it all that much. And just like every single book she’s ever given me, I find myself loving it more and more. Why do I never remember that my mother has excellent taste? This book feels like listening to a family member tell an anecdote you’ve heard over and over again. The characters feel familiar, but distant – archetypes you know but have never met. Which is especially impressive given the narrative style of the book. This book pairs great with peanuts and beer.

Night Shift by Stephen King (a collection of short stories).

I’m picking my way through this collection, reading a story here or there. There is something about horror in a small dose that works perfectly – you are given just enough to be thoroughly spooked, but not enough that you start picking away at the facade. I am reading this mostly before bed. This book pairs well with waking your partner up every night at 2 A.M. because you “heard something in the living room – for real this time.”

What I plan on reading:

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris

Errol Morris’ take on the Jeffrey MacDonald case. Pairs well with a continuing sense of misanthropy and confusion over our legal system. And maybe whiskey?

What I will read again for the 15th time:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is like candy to me. I can’t stop reading her and I don’t care to. And especially with the movie coming soon (don’t get me started on the abomination that is Kenneth Branagh’s mustache) I think it is worth reading this classic again. Pairs well with literally everything because this book is perfect.

Women Authors of the Heian Period

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

March is Women’s History Month, and today we’re going to revel in the writing of Japanese women from the Heian period.

Women have been writers as long as writing has existed, but their work often has been lost or neglected. However, while the literary professions were generally dominated by men, it was women who were the driving force behind the Golden Age of Japanese literature, and their work has come down to us through the centuries.

The Heian period (794-1185) is known for its memoirs, autobiographical narratives, and love poems. The masters of Heian literature were women of the Imperial Court and members of the aristocracy who offer intimate glimpses into the lives of the powerful and the passionate.

The writer known to us as the “Mother of Michitsuna” wrote the Kagerō Diary, the first of the long tradition of diary texts written by women.

Lady Murasaki (the pseudonym of Murasaki Shikibu) wrote The Tale of Genji, often referred to as the first novel. It is remarkable for its philosophical insight into the world of the Japanese court.

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book fascinated her readers with its behind-the-scenes account of court life. It is noteworthy for its gossipy observations and its exhaustive, eclectic lists.

Izumi Shikibu was one of the greatest Japanese poets, and one of only five women included Fujiwara no Kintō’s anthology, Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. Her love poetry was so passionate, rumors flew about her robust love life, some of which were true.

Akazome Emon, a contemporary of all three writers above, was a poet and historian much admired by Murasaki Shikibu.

There are several theories about why were women so prominent in Heian literature. In this era of great respect for literature and the arts, families who educated their daughters were more likely to marry them off to men with access to power. While educated men wrote in Classical Chinese, their counterparts were free to write in their own language – the Japanese vernacular that was becoming more and more popular.

Professor Lynne Miyake goes into more detail in this interesting interview.

So let’s remember these remarkable women, whose own talents and industry fitted them for a place and time that recognized their merits and gave beauty and brilliance to their own time and ours.

Why is that so hard again?

Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

It’s winter here at The Unemployed Philosophers Guild in Brooklyn, New York. Though we have the companionship of puppets and the days grow imperceptibly longer, we find ourselves in need of reprieve from the grey and gritty season to keep us from climbing the walls of our Ivory Tower.

Turn your gaze with us westward…

The marvel that rescues us from our wintry doldrums today is the West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden.

West Bloomfield High School (go, Lakers!) in West Bloomfield, Michigan, is home base for English teacher Jennifer McQuillan, whose windowless classroom challenged her to devise ingenious ways to teach Emerson and Thoreau and Dickinson and all they had to communicate about Nature and the great outdoors.

After visiting authors’ homes and graves on the East Coast, Ms. McQuillan struck on the idea that flourishes today as the West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden.

Two years later, Ms. McQuillan’s garden honors nearly 40 writers, many with a plant grown from a clipping from their home, grave, or museum.

There are lilacs from the birthplace of Walt Whitman (“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”), and bloody butcher corn from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home.

The garden features a pear tree in honor of Zora Neale Huston (and her most famous work,Their Eyes Were Watching God), cones from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own Southern Magnolia, hydrangeas from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cape Cod home, and more and more…

All of the clippings and seedlings arrive with the blessing of the estates or associations connected to the authors – or the authors, themselves. For instance, Joyce Carol Oates recently noted that shasta daisies are her favorite, and Rita Dove has asked McQuillan to plant evening primroses.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library has funded the Literary Garden, and there have been donations and prizes from the West Bloomfield Educational Foundation and Carton2Garden, as well as donations from garden and lit fans.

Of course, Ms. McQuillan and her students aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. All the planting and pruning, composting and seeding help students to appreciate the context of the authors’ lives. Students can touch and smell and gaze on the same plants these writers wrote about and lived among as they first encounter these authors’ works. The students also help reach out to writers to procure more specimens for the garden.

(Of course, the Guild was honored to find out Ms. McQuillan posts our Magnetic Personalities in the Literary Garden among her plants! How cool is that?)

You can read and see more about the inspiring work of Jennifer McQuillan and her students on her blog, Walden at West Bloomfield – Creating a Literary Garden and you can contribute to their work by purchasing a tax-free tile here or donating supplies they need: hand tools, a lawnmower, garden gloves, rakes and shovels, and an automatic sprinkler system.

Well, looks as if it’s time we all got back to work. It’s all first drafts today. To paraphrase the great Ernest Hemingway, the first draft of anything is… compost – and what better way to celebrate gardens, unless…

Why not start your own Literary Garden today?

Zora Neale Hurston and her pear blossom.

Emily Dickinson and daylilies.

Sylvia Plath and red tulips.

Hemingway with mint from Horton Bay, MI, which Hemingway mentions in his Nick Adams stories.

Vonnegut with hydrangeas from his Cape Cod home.

How Did We Lose Zora Neale Hurston?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Today, Zora Neale Hurston has a grave marker. But it wasn’t always so.

Hurston is best known as one of the pantheon of the Harlem Renaissance. But though she was born in Alabama, schooled in Jacksonville and Baltimore, attended Howard and Barnard and Columbia, lived – really lived – in New York City, she was at heart a Florida girl.

Hurston grew up in Florida and she died there, and in between, she worked for the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

During the Great Depression, Hurston was a WPA anthropologist and field researcher. She documented turpentine camps. She collected Florida’s African-American cultures, traditions, and folklore in the publication The Florida Negro. Hurston was a contributor to Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, one of the WPA’s acclaimed American Guide series, writing about Eatonville, one of the first all-black towns in the US, and the place where she was raised.

Zora Neale Hurston was an accomplished and inveterate traveler, increasingly by necessity. When it became difficult to publish her work, when her patrons died and her health began to fail, she wound up back in Florida, eventually without means, and lived her last days in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. When she died, her papers were saved (fortunately) from being destroyed by fire, and she ended up in an unmarked grave at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida. Her work suffered similar obscurity.

We have Alice Walker to thank for Hurston’s restoration to our recognition, as well as for Hurston’s grave marker and its inscription “A Genius of the South” (from Jean Toomer’s poem, Georgia Dusk). Walker sought out Zora Neale Hurston and, when she discovered that her literary hero had no gravestone, she made it right.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda reminds us in Hamilton – a work that is quite well-known at the moment – our cultural mothers and fathers are powerless to determine
Who lives
Who dies
Who tells your story?

We are not.


Zora and Langston and the Mule-Bone

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Politics can ruin everything. By the time a shining ideal make it way through the process to make them reality, it’s impossible to recognize the practitioner or the brainchild or both.

Zora Neale Hurston decided to join Langston Hughes on an artistically audacious project. They set out to write a play in African American vernacular, featuring characters instead of caricatures, and a plot derived from black folk tradition without stereotypes. Hurston and Hughes summed up their play: “the first real Negro folk comedy.”

Then came the sleights and jealousy, letters and telegrams, accusations and those last avid visitors to the spoiled banquet – lawyers.

But what caused the breach?

It wasn’t the idea of writing entirely in black vernacular – that concept sparked controversy only when the show was produced decades after the authors were dead.

It wasn’t the egotistic inability of the artists to collaborate. Both writers had other partnerships. Langston wrote operas with Jan Meyerowitz and the formidable Kurt Weill. Zora wrote a play (another comedy, this one with music) with Dorothy Waring.

No one is entirely sure what did happen. Hughes was in the process of severing ties with a rather calculating patron of the arts he shared with Hurston, whereas she was content to retain the patronage. The play originated in a folk tale Hurston documented during her anthropological work (“The Bone of Contention”) and there was the matter of who contributed more, who deserved credit for shaping the work.

Politics… well, it’s like I said.

Hurston, citing herself as sole author, submitted the play for copyright and sent it to a black theater company in Cleveland. Though later they both were credited in the Library of Congress, it was too late. On his copy, Hughes scrawled a brief of explanation: “This play was never done because the authors fell out.”

Kindnesses and unkindnesses followed – from both Huston and Hughes.

As for The Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts by Zora Hurston [sic] and Langston Hughes, his copy is with his papers at Yale and their copy is at the Library of Congress and you can read it here or, courtesy of the mighty Project Gutenberg, you can also read it here.

Here’s wishing us all many more kindnesses than unkindnesses in this most political season.

Summer Beaches: Sylvia Beach

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Sylvia Beach (1887-1962).


Beach’s legendary English-language Parisian bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a home away from home for the great American and English expat writers during the era of the great American and English expat writer.

From 1919 to 1941, Beach offered support, encouragement, and even lodging and money to Parisian-based English-language writers in need of those things. Acclaimed French authors André Gide and Paul Valéry also spent time at the store.

Sylvia Beach was an expat herself. Born Nancy Woodbridge Beach in Baltimore, she moved to France as a child when her father was appointed an assistant minister at the American Church in Paris. Years later, Beach fell in love with Adrienne Monnier, the owner of a Parisian bookstore and lending library that promoted the avant-garde writing of the day. Inspired by this achievement – Monnier was among the first French women to open a bookstore – Beach founded Shakespeare and Company, which quickly flourished.

Beach appears in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. He wrote: “no one that I ever knew was nicer to me.” He also said that she had great legs. Writers.

Besides providing encouragement and friendship, Beach went to great lengths to support a few choice authors. When James Joyce couldn’t get Ulysses published due to its “obscene” content, Beach undertook the publication of the first English-language edition. She continued to stand by Joyce through this difficult time, though she nearly went bankrupt and ended up losing a fortune on Ulysses.

Times got even harder when the Second World War broke out. When Beach refused to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer, she was forced to hide her collection and close her store. Later she was arrested by the Nazis and spent six months in an internment camp. Although Hemingway personally “liberated” the shop in 1944, Beach was never able to get the money together to reopen.

The current Shakespeare and Company is actually Le Mistral, the bookstore George Whitman opened in 1951. With Sylvia Beach’s blessing, Whitman remained his shop in tribute after she died. To this day, Whitman’s Shakespeare and Company provides a home away from home, support, and even a place to sleep, for ex-pat writers.

Joyce, by the way, did fine. Random House eventually paid him a $45,000 advance for Ulysses. He made a fortune, not a dime of which he shared with Sylvia Beach. Writers.

The Most Famous Person You’ve Never Heard Of

Thursday, May 12th, 2016


Sholem (aka “Sholom”) Aleichem died on May 13, 1916.

Sholem Aleichem was the Mark Twain of Yiddish. In fact, the story of their first meeting goes something like this: in 1906, someone introduced Sholem Aleichem as “the Yiddish Mark Twain” and Mark Twain said, QUOTE: “Please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem.”

Nobody hasn’t heard of Fiddler on the Roof, which was taken from Aleichem’s stories – although the musical takes liberties (by adding a fiddler, for instance).

Here are some facts and exhortations:

  • If you like Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, you should read Aleichem’s The Bloody Hoax
  • Like Mark Twain, Aleichem wrote under a pseudonym. “Sholem Aleichem” is Yiddish (שלום־עליכם, sholem aleykhem) for “peace be upon you.”
  • He was the first person to write for children in Yiddish
  • His ethical will was printed in its entirety on the front page of the New York Times.
  • There is an impact crater on Mars named after him
  • When he died in 1916, his was the among the largest public funerals in New York City history, attended by some 200,000 people

Want to find out more?

In Queens? You can visit him here.

In NYC, YIVO will present this tribute on May 22nd commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death..

And as specified in his remarkable will, readings of his stories take place on the occasion of his yahrzeit. You can attend an official reading at the Brotherhood Synagogue.

Speaking of that will, here it is, as it appeared in the New York Times. Click on the image to see it large enough to read.


Winter Wonderland: The Art of John Tenniel

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

We’re posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books this winter, and today’s post is about the artist who gave the books their iconic illustrations.

It’s nearly impossible to think about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland without immediately visualizing the classic illustrations of Carroll’s preferred artist, John Tenniel. They’re essential to the experiencing of the story. How else are you going to imagine what a Cheshire Cat looks like?

But it didn’t start out that way. Carroll did the original illustrations himself, but an engraver friend wisely suggested that he scrap those images and find a professional to do the job instead. Carroll then wisely reached out to John Tenneil.

John Tenneil was an artist and illustrator and at one point, a member of Charles Dickens’ amateur theatrical troupe. As a young man he lost sight in his right eye due to a fencing accident with his father. In stoic British Victorian fashion, Tenniel never told his father how serious the wound was so not to upset him.

Tenniel studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. By the the time Carroll approached him about illustrating his book, he was an acclaimed illustrator and political cartoonist. And not just any cartoonist — Tenniel was the chief cartoonist for Punch, which was pretty much the highest rank a Victorian cartoonist could hope to achieve.

"The Black-and-White Knight", caricature of Tenneil by Linley Sambourne, Punch, June 24, 1893

“The Black-and-White Knight”, caricature of Tenneil by Linley Sambourne, Punch, June 24, 1893

Carroll was a bit of a micromanager when it came to the illustrations, going as far as to describe everything in detail and may even have given Tenniel specific people to model his drawings after. But they had a fruitful collaboration, and Tenniel was given quite a bit of freedom in the end. One little Easter egg: in an homage to his father, a dancing-master, Tenniel worked all 5 positions of classical ballet into the illustrations.

The work Carroll and Tenniel did together was unique. The layout of the text and images was innovative and unusual for the time. Images were inserted into the text or were of atypical dimensions, so the text appears to dance around them.

For a political cartoonist with a relish for the anarchic that lends itself so well to his Wonderland illustrations, it is a little surprising what an establishment figure Tenniel became. He was knighted in 1893 (something Carroll wasn’t) and was had several distinguished commissions, including one to paint a mural in the House of Lords.

Winter Wonderland: A Signature Drink

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

This Winter, we’re posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books, and this theme lends itself wonderfullymiriam to a signature drink. So the call went out across New York City to every borough and burrow and we assembled our team of mixologists once more to create another UPG signature cocktail.

Our friend and bon-vivant Miriam was again our hostess, joined by her trusty Dormouse Mark. For the occasion, Miriam donned a top hat (and she is a woman who really knows how to wear a hat).

“No Room! No Room!”

There was plenty of room.

Our drinking committee consisted of some new faces and old: UPGers Jay and Meg were joined by UPG’s Customer Service Guru Amber (who was accompanied by her boyfriend Victor), and another first-timer, expert imbibee Peter.

We arrived at Miriam’s at 6 o’clock sharp (the time of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and in case anyone was late, Miriam had stopped her clocks at 6.

Because it’s always 6 o’clock at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.


“I’ve Had Nothing Yet!”

Miriam got us started with a pre-cocktail glass of absinthe, pretty much to assure that we’d be in a Mad Hatter mood before beginning. It worked.


For an accompaniment to the absinthe, Miriam provided treacle pudding (from Tea & Sympathy), in homage to the Dormouse’s story about the little girl who lives in a treacle well. Because why not? (Pretty much the answer to any suggestion when you’re drinking absinthe.)


The Pool of Tears

Our first drink was a bust.

Miriam wanted something deep and green, and began with a green chartreuse base. Unfortunately, everything we added either radically changed the color or was decidedly un-tasty. Amber wanted a clean cup, so we all moved one place on.


Chartreuse FAIL

Fortunately, the second drink was much more successful. So we are happy to present to you:

The Man-Hatter


3 parts rye, preferably a bourbon-y rye such as Bulleit
2 parts hibiscus tea (brewed very strong)
a generous dash of Angostura bitters
a twist of lemon


This take on the Manhattan replaces the vermouth with hibiscus tea, which enforces the rich red color and keeps the flavor a bit less sweet than a standard Manhattan.

It’s a simple drink to prepare. Pour three parts rye over ice (preferably a rye with bourbon notes). Add two parts hibiscus tea. Make sure to brew the tea stronger than for normal use so it’s not too watery.

Add a healthy dose of bitters, shake over ice and strain into tea cups or serve from a teapot.

Stir with a flamingo stirrer, of course.


A variant of this drink is the “Mad-Hattan,” served without the stirrer.

This drink could be made hot as well, but the idea of something cold in a tea cup felt a little more Mad Hatter-ish to us.


“Who Stole the Tarts?”

Mark took care of cooking duties for the evening. We were plied with finger sandwiches of all kinds: cucumber and cream cheese, smoked turkey and arugula, and goat cheese and watercress. Plus there were lemony deviled eggs (a la Humpty Dumpty *spoiler*), sautéed mushrooms (in honor of the caterpillar), and plenty of bread and butter, just like the Mad Hatter likes. Mark had considered rabbit as an appropriate dish — White Rabbit? March Hare? — but ultimately decided not to pursue it. But he did make homemade pigs in blankets as a tribute to the Pig Baby from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The food was served on fan dishes, in honor of the White Rabbit, who drops his fan when Alice surprises him in the hallway.