Rolling the Bones

bonescover.jpgPublishers Weekly wrote about Rolling the Bones: A con man befriends a Texas couple and sends their life spinning out of control in Jarrard’s second novel (after Over There), a lyrical, mystical suspense tale that begins when Carl Blalock meets a drifter named Carl Stein and ends up hiring him to work in his hardware and lumber store. The friendship between the two men is paralleled by a deeper bond between their attractive wives, and when Stein’s spouse, May, drowns during a swimming outing, Blalock’s wife, Venus, leaves him, realizing that she was really in love with May. That decision, along with Stein’s move to rob his erstwhile friend of $7,000, sets off a chain of events in which Venus and Stein hit the road separately and inadvertently end up meeting in a Louisiana casino, while Blalock takes off for Mexico and begins a passionate, dreamy affair of his own. The motives of the various characters often seem dubious as the plot unfolds, but the quality of Jarrard’s prose is high, and he depicts in convincing detail the complex interactions between characters, throwing in some occasional observations from those they encounter on the road. He also integrates the more surreal aspects of casino life into the passages in which Stein and Venus test one another, and he captures the hazy, disembodied feel of Carl Blalock’s interlude in Mexico. The ending features a casino jackpot as well as an intriguing fate for the shifty yet strangely appealing Stein, but it is the beauty of the writing that carries the day and proves this a promising sophomore effort.

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Over There

over-there-coverPublishers Weekly wrote of Over There “A let-out-the-stops effort at serious metaphysical comedy in the manner of Beckett or Burroughs, Jarrard’s first novel takes readers on a wild ride not just through time and space but through loopholes in language and meaning. Traveling from France to Texas to Mexico to Italy and back to France, this avant-garde tale traces the exploits of three generations of a family trying to reconcile their past, present and future. Taking a summer vacation to write a book about his grandfather Ansel’s mysterious disappearance, young Marc Du conjures up the old man and a cast of derisive and mocking characters. As part of his literary search, Marc Du recreates his father’s own search through Mexico for Ansel. Funny bits come from a speaking monkey, a surfing Nazi and the immense Sarah, who lives on an island in the Yucatan with her pet pig. Jarrard has an exuberant imagination and a facility with language.

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Cognac, la saga d’un esprit

Cognac, la saga d’un esprit raconte l’histoire d’un des alcools les plus connus au monde et donne une vision originale de la profession du cognac d’aujourd’hui, vue de l’intérieur grâce à de nombreux entretiens. Ce livre est la traduction en français de Cognac, the Seductive Saga of the World’s Most Coveted Spirit, ouvrage paru en 2005 chez John Wiley (New York). Kyle Jarrard y retrace le développement de la viticulture dans la région depuis le temps des Romains, puis l’avènement de l’eau-de-vie au XVIe siècle, l’expansion de la distillation au cours des années 1600, ainsi que l’âge d’or du cognac au milieu du XIXe siècle. Tout au long du chemin, il révèle comment les distillateurs charentais ont surmonté l’agonie du vignoble après la crise du phylloxéra, il dévoile les facettes parfois curieuses de l’occupation allemande et parcourt tous les défis qui ont secoué la région de production, en particulier celui de l’excellente forme de l’après-guerre quand le marché s’est étendu aux quatre coins du monde. Le livre offre aussi un regard unique sur l’état de l’art actuel de l’industrie du cognac, vécu dans les coulisses des plus petits producteurs jusqu’aux plus renommés, les Hennessy, Courvoisier, Martell, Rémy Martin, Delamain et autres marques légendaires. Sa rencontre avec tous les métiers connexes, qu’ils soient fabricants de barriques de chêne, de bouchons ou d’étiquettes, ouvre en grand les portes sur cette eau-de-vie universellement appréciée et pourtant souvent repliée sur elle-même. Un regard aigu sur une histoire turbulente, parvenue aujourd’hui à un marché mondial, ainsi apparaît Cognac, la saga d’un esprit …

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Cognac: The Seductive Saga of the World’s Most Coveted Spirit

I wrote Cognac: The Seductive Saga of the World’s Most Coveted Spirit because no one had ever put together a readable, independent history of this marvelous spirit. My connections to Cognac country inspired me to dig deep into an incredible story that ranges from an exploration of the ancient bedrock, to the long and tortured development of wine growing in this region of southwest France, to the phylloxera epidemic that nearly wiped out the industry, to the machinery of modern, foreign-owned Cognac giants spreading their eau-de-vie all around the world. Frank Prial, former wine critic for The New York Times, called “Cognac” an “enthralling volume … a compelling story, not just about the world’s best known eau-de-vie, but about the people who make it and the often violent history of the remarkable but little-known region of France from which it comes.”

Publishers Weekly wrote: “It’s fitting that a Paris-based novelist and International Herald Tribune editor should chronicle the history of the famously refined French brandy. And Jarrard does a nice job of it, offering a thorough, well-researched and objective history of Cognac. He begins with a geological history of the French province of Charente, on the Atlantic coast, where the town of Cognac is located. The Romans brought the first grapes to the region, but it would be centuries before viniculture really took root there. The earliest attempts to make what we now call Cognac began during the Middle Ages, as alchemists and apothecaries experimented with putting local grape pressings through their distillation apparatuses. While France evolved from a feudal kingdom into an imperial, colonial power, the cognac-making process developed, although factors like weather and warfare often prevented distilleries from obtaining the necessary raw materials. By the Napoleonic era, however, cognac began appearing on the world market, and its makers worked at refining their product and their methods as demand for the elegant, amber, aromatic brandy increased. Jarrard brings the story to the present, examining the various brands dominating the market today, including Hennessy, Rémy-Martin and Courvoisier. It’s a must for aficionados.

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