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review 2016-07-23 01:14
Gourmet Rhapsody
Gourmet Rhapsody - Muriel Barbery

After reading Barbery’s sensational “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, I absolutely had to get my hands on a copy of “Gourmet Rhapsody”. Yet for the longest time, and much to my despair, the only copies I could find were in large bookstores and at a big price. Earlier this week while out with a friend I ended up wandering into a used bookstore and was delighted to find a brand-new copy of the book at a decent price, instantly snatching it and running for the checkout as if I’ve just broken the law. I feel like I was meant to find this book, and if I thought Barbery’s other novel was brilliant then I simply have no words to convey how much I loved “Gourmet Rhapsody”.

 

“Gourmet Rhapsody” is another great example of the differences between European and American literature. Specifically, the latter still tends to focus on the minute, using them to approach bigger topics in ways that American does not, instead choosing the cut path of plot and constant straight-forward action. Barbery’s style instead allows the reader to think, to absorb all of the words she has laid out and connect them back to each other. The novel is not so much about a dying food critic as it is about using that situation to present a case of a dying man who is a rich bourgeois snob with a rather impeccable taste, a case study around which revolves an entire microcosm of people who either blatantly hate him or have a hate-but-still-love kind of relationship to him.

 

The alternating style of the chapters makes every chapter enjoyable for a different reason. In the chapters which focus specifically on Pierre Arthens, the reader is immersed into a tiny fragment of Arthens’ life via a specific food, in a few cases replaced by a beverage – whiskey – or a condiment – mayonnaise. The details are carefully selected to present Arthens’ character without giving the flat-out description of him. Rather, the reader can pick up all of the adjectives from the way he talks about sorbet or is cruel in talking about certain people from his past. In the second style of chapter, the reader is instead confronted with the viewpoint of people, as well as a statue (from how I interpreted it) and a cat, who talk about Arthens’, what they think of him and their relation to him. Needless to say most of them despise him, and for good reason. Some of the speakers one can guess based on the hints given about them in their chapter – a beggar, Arthens’ wife Anna, his children, etc. – while some are foggier. While some will criticize the fact that the characters weren’t developed, I’d say there was absolutely no need for them to be – that is, in the American novel’s understanding of character development, where the entire backstory and description is given. The people are characterized through their thoughts far more than they would be by their backstories, by the reader knowing that they went from stage A to B to C in their life. That would serve of no use in the novel, and Barbery doesn’t bother with such triviality. Instead, she focuses on the harmonious shift from one character to another, always relating them back to Pierre Arthens, who remains the center of the universe in the novel.

 

There is such a delectable, sensual intimacy in the writing that it’s impossible to justly describe in words. Reading it made me feel like I was eating something from my childhood that I loved yet hadn’t had for ages. It was a sense of comfort that one experiences only upon finding a book, and an author, who truly understands. Arthens is a terrible man, there is no doubt of that. But the book is about so much more than that. I’d perhaps parallel it to Proust’s madeleine, which is brought up in the novel at one point. Yet where the madeleine focuses only on the moment of realization that occurs in one split second, “Gourmet Rhapsody” instead is conscious of the beauty in details the entire time, the madeleine moment appearing at the very end in a slightly different kind of burst of realization. It’s a book that some will no doubt call snobby and pretentious, and this is fine and to be expected in fact, for it is written for a rather specific audience. It reminded me of why I love European literature that much more, both classical and contemporary, and gave me comfort in knowing that though I constantly feel like I don’t fit in with the North American mindset due to my European upbringing, there are still little gems throughout literature and other aspects of culture that reassure me that my way of thinking and my aesthetic are shared by someone else out there.

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review 2016-05-11 23:51
Sometimes, I think some men do not understand bras
The Grave Gourmet - Alexander Campion

Thankfully I didn't pay for this.

To Male Mystery Writers in General,

Re: Female Characters and Bras


While some women may chose to go bra-less (and in many cases, this is a choice of lifestyle), those who are well endowed usually need one for comfort reasons. Seriously. Secondly, any woman who uses her bra-less state to get a job promotion is not going to be taken seriously by a large variety of readers. Many readers are going to see as an attack on women (because she doesn't get promoted by skill) or as an nod that women only get promoted because of boobs of considerable size.

Furthermore, to endear your heroine with boobs of considerable size to readers of the female gender, it helps if the other women in the book aren't degraded as jealous old cows or butch lesbians cliches with bad haircuts.

And interesting, how the black guy is the aggressive driver.

And seriously, if a woman is harassed by some complete jacka*** touching her, her first thought is not going to be OMG I'm so turned on, then followed by something that basically translates to "she got her feminist on". But really she thinks it is hot, she just has to be a feminist so the old cows don't yell at her.

Thank you,

From a woman who wears a bra and actually does her job

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review 2015-09-27 00:00
The Gourmet Toaster Oven: Simple and Sophisticated Meals for the Busy Cook
The Gourmet Toaster Oven: Simple and Sophisticated Meals for the Busy Cook - Lynn Alley,Joyce Oudkerk Pool a bit on the pretentious side, though I suppose that is to be expected with the word gourmet in the tittle. still there are a few helpful tips on cooking with a toaster oven here. I'm irritated though that the samosa recipe uses a yeast dough. especially because she could have used the same dough recipe for carribean meat patties. still there are aome things I will be trying out. though for the record making a yeast bread dough in a food processor is a horrible idea. you'll rip right through the gluten connections.
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review 2015-09-05 06:02
Leftovers for Labs by Maggie Scroungehound
Leftovers for Labs: Gourmet Recipes for Dogs & Dog Lovers (Cookbooks from The Canine Cuisine Team) (Volume 7) - Maggie Scroungehound,John Morris,Lisa Honerkamp

HMMMMMM, well this one is different. The other books in this series have food that resembles something edible, but this one just looks like they dumped a bunch of junk on plates. But the dog's POV is fun.

Won through a Booklikes giveaway

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review 2015-09-05 06:01
Seafood for Schnauzers by Barnacle Bill Barker
Seafood for Schnauzers: Gourmet Recipes for Dogs & Dog Lovers (Cookbooks from The Canine Cuisine Team) (Volume 6) - Barnacle Bill Barker,John Morris,Lisa Honerkamp

Yet again another odd little book. But my daughter is rather amused with them. Hopefully, I can keep her out of the kitchen or she will be trying to cook the dog a gourmet seafood dinner.

Won through a Booklikes giveaway

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