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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lunch Date: In Hoboken

posted by on April 15 at 15:30 PM


(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? In Hoboken, a paperback original novel by Christian Bauman.

Where’d you go? Pizza Brava, up in the U District, on the Ave.

What’d you eat?
A regular piece of cheese pizza ($2, tax included) and a thick slice of meat pizza ($2, tax included).

How was the food? You know, after this morning’s pizza talk, I really wanted a piece of pizza. And Pizza Brava has a lot of the necessities of a New York-style pizza place: grouchy-looking old people behind the counter, a big ugly wall mural of Seattle with a pizza rising instead of the sun over it, and pizza so flat I could practically use it as a bookmark.

The thing is, though I spent a lot of time in New York City, I’m not really crazy about New York-style pizza; I’m more impressed by spicy pizza, or pizza with something special going on in the dough. The cheese slice was good, and the two dollar price tag moves it up to ‘great,’ but I think I could go the rest of my life without ever eating here again and feel okay about it. If you’re one of those “OMG THE ONLY GOOD PIZZA COMES FROM NEW YORK AND YOU WEST COAST HIPPIES WOULDN’T KNOW GOOD PIZZA IF IT FELL INTO YOUR PANTS” types, you should definitely check it out.

The thick-crust pizza was entirely skippable. There was too much of the bland dough.

What does your date say about itself?
In Hoboken is about two lifelong friends trying to make it in the music business. But more than that, it’s about Hoboken, New Jersey, the ‘mile-square city’ and birthplace of Frank Sinatra. Robert Stone says that “Bauman writes with precision, in prose that reverberates…strong, compelling work.”

Is there a representative quote?
“Originally, guitars were strung with gut, which led directly to modern nylon-string guitars. Nylon strings are no good for nobody. In his humblest of opinions, Thatcher held out that anything you could play on a guitar sounded better on anything other than nylon strings. Nolon strings sounded like dull rubber in a strong wind.”

Will you two end up in bed together? Oh, God, yes. Novels about musicians are usually a turn-off for me, but Bauman is an incredible writer, and his writing about Hoboken makes me want to buy a plane ticket out to Jersey as soon as humanly possible—not because it seems like a beautiful place, or even an interesting place, but he’s so artfully passionate about Hoboken that it’s kind of hard to not catch some of that enthusiasm. This is one of those books—like Lethem when he’s cooking, say, or Chabon at his most vibrant, when every line snaps and propels you forward. It’s the best book I’ve taken to lunch yet.

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his writing about Hoboken makes me want to buy a plane ticket out to Jersey as soon as humanly possible--not because it seems like a beautiful place, or even an interesting place, but he's so artfully passionate about Hoboken that it's kind of hard to not catch some of that enthusiasm

Cool. I had a similar experience after watching The Mighty Ducks.

Posted by w7ngman | April 15, 2008 4:04 PM

two boots

Posted by chops | April 15, 2008 4:13 PM

Hoboken is a charming city (except on Friday and Saturday nights on Washington Street). I love the little postage-stamp yards filled with religious statuary.

Modern baseball was first played there, too.

Posted by Fnarf | April 15, 2008 4:33 PM

"Charming" -- as in "pleasing; delightful" or "exercising magic power"?

As in same root as "enchanting" (from indo aryan kan-)?

Am curious. What, if anything, is pleasing, delightful or magical about Hoboken?

IF not "bewitching; captivating; enrapturing; alluring; fascinating; delightful; pleasurable; graceful; lovely; amiable; pleasing; winning" ??

Posted by unPC | April 15, 2008 4:53 PM

Is that pizza in your pants, or are you just glad to see me?

Posted by PopTart | April 15, 2008 5:01 PM

I really like this "Lunch Date" feature. keep it up!

Posted by sean | April 15, 2008 5:08 PM

Youth hostels I lodged
Kept seeing you as a mirage
Flashes of you were everywhere

Posted by I'm in this prison you built for you | April 15, 2008 5:12 PM

Brava is fine if you're stuck in the UW, but it's not a very good example of New York style. Piecora's is much better, but still not the same.

Posted by F | April 15, 2008 5:17 PM

I don't really get what you're driving at, unPC, but if you really want an answer, I'd say yes, it's captivating, pleasing, delightful. Miles of old rowhouses, two, three, and four stories high, with microscopic yards, literally about three to five feet deep, and the width of the house, and almost always paved, or with a small planted area. Almost all of them are surrounded by knee-high chain-link fences. The commercial streets are lined with attractive small independent stores. In the warmer months several of the cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating. The downtown area has a number of hulking old commercial buildings, and a lovely train station. There's a lovely park at the north end where the first modern baseball game was played -- Elysian Field.

So, I think charming is a perfectly good word to describe it. You got a problem with that?

Posted by Fnarf | April 15, 2008 7:10 PM

very nicely done - great concept, great execution.

Guilty pleasure: that teasing line "Will we end up in bed together?"

Viva La Lunch Date!!!!

Posted by jackseattle | April 15, 2008 10:03 PM

Feel free to fly to Belgium. People say Americans don't know were it is, so I'll help you out: it's a small country close to France. The capital is Brussels.

More important: we have a Hoboken to, and as far as I know, your Hoboken is named after ours. Hm, actually, the Belgian Hoboken is a very tiny place and I don't think anything happens there, so if you ever come: try the brilliant city "Gent". ! Great blog, you have!

Posted by Eve | April 16, 2008 12:52 AM

hm "were" should be "where"..sorry, English is not my language!

Posted by Eve | April 16, 2008 12:54 AM

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