Friday, June 6, 2008
This is a book of 64 vignettes about food. But it's not simply about food, it's about the emotions that go along with the food and the complex issues surrounding the food. The style is lyrical and poetic, and subtle themes of all flavors are infused throughout it's pages. Jim Crace has done a fantastic job of making these short essays, more often then not, foreboding and dark. There are stories dealing with death and love, indifference and hate, and just about any human emotion that can be played out. There is more than one story about poisoning, accidental or otherwise. Some of the stories are only a few sentences long, but in those sentences he has packed an emotional range and vivacity that some authors can't seem to find even after hundreds of pages. Some of the stories are subtle and refined, others vulgar and coarse. The one thing that these stories all have in common is some relationship to food either direct or tangential.
There are stories of a magic soup stone, it's granite flavoring hundreds of pots of stew and soup. Of cans missing labels that defy explanation of their contents. Tales of room service meals, and treachery played out in the form of sustenance. Stories of supernatural influences regarding food, and hungry nights out in the woods searching for anything that could be a meal. These stories have a rich feel, and many exotic ingredients pepper the pages: aubergines, morels and manac beans, razor clams, macaroons and a feast made of ingredients all of white. There are stories of fondue parties gone wrong, and stews made hearty with boiled leather. These stories are not for the touchy of stomach; they are a mash of devilish potency, spilling from the pages like verse.
This is the perfect book to dip into and out of noncommittally. The stories are perfect for when you can only do a little reading at a time, or between chapters of another book. I read the book in its entirety, and it did not suffer for having not been digested in small bits. The book was enticing, while at the same time being slightly repulsing. There is so much inside this book alongside of food, mostly our complex relationships to the food and the feelings that food inspires in us.
Though this was a strange book, and I have never read anything like it, it was pleasing and satisfying in it's own weird way. I had heard many things about it, and was eager to read it. Though it was short, it was unusually gratifying. I would recommend this book to those who are tired of the ordinary, and long for something that bites back.