Archive for the ‘September, 2010’ Category

Food Memoirs, again

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

So, FD has finished reading both of Julie Powell’s food-life memoirs.  As noted, Cleaving was not well received by most readers.  It reminded FD of an old (well he wasn’t at the time) hippie FD knew back in the 1960s.  This fellow was convinced that anyone/everyone was incredible if you only looked closely enough.  Powell certainly tried to look closely at herself in Cleaving; the problem for reviewers seemed to be that she couldn’t look as closely enough to make herself look quite as incredible as readers wanted her to be after the sweet story she told in Julie and Julia. And maybe no readers really wanted to look even as close as Powell managed.  The patho-biographic memoir (to play off Joyce Carol Oates coinage) has been being decried since at least 1996 (see this essay by James Atlas)  and perhaps it is now actualy in decline.  At any rate, Powell’s blog hasn’t been updated since April 2010, so there’s no recent report on how she’s dealing with a particularly unfortunate case of “second book syndrome.”  SBS can be hard on any author; it seems to be an especially real problem for food writers.  Even Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love (which actually was only partially a food memoir) was less successful.

Speaking of “second book syndrome, here’s a link to an interesting blog post about a different sort of second book syndrome:  how reading the second book by an author’s whose first book you loved can be a, well, why not read the post…

Food Memoirs

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

A friend recently suggested that FD is reading a lot of mysteries and not much else.  So, yesterday FD went to the great public library in our fair city and checked out the two Julie Powell memoirs, Julie and Julia and Cleaving. The first was pretty universally lauded, the second was generally lambasted.  FD expects to enjoy them both.

Other food memoirs FD has read and enjoyed:  anything by MFK Fisher, including the material that’s not much good!  Fisher was a working writer, who needed to keep writing, even when she didn’t have as much to say.  FD can appreciate that.  Much less well known (perhaps almost completely unknown to most foodies?) is poet Martha Ronk’s Displeasures of the Table, published by Green Integer Press.  This collection of short pieces is mysteries, funny, and moving by turns.

Another FD favorite is Richard Klein’s Eat Fat, published back in 1996.  Klein’s book is really fun, as was his earlier Cigarettes are Sublime. Klein has also written a meditation in the form of a novel about  jewelry, called Jewelry Talks. FD hasn’t read that one yet, but plans to.  Klein works at Cornell University as a Professor of French, but his interests are wide and his books are well worth your time.

Labor Day Literature

Monday, September 6th, 2010

On Labor Day, FD does not think anyone should work for pay, so, instead of joining those who went to the mall today, FD stayed home and cleaned the study.  Really, even took the broom to the floor, once the floor could be seen.  Despite what felt like significant work, there are still piles of post cards, yarn, notebooks, and (behind the closet door, but not forgotten) FD’s summer hats.  And yet, some progress was made, a few items discarded, a few papers shredded, and some correspondence attended to.

While working, FD thought about work and fiction.  Was work ever really a literary focus?  Well, there’s Hesiod, Works and Days (available on line, and still in print after centuries…) but FD has not read it, in Ancient Greek or in English.  FD does remember reading George Gissing’s New Grub Street and the (to FD at least) the even more interesting The Odd Women.  (Australian academic Peter Morton maintains a page on Gissing) But like many other writers, Gissing’s insights into work are most keen in terms of the work of writing — and writing is a profession that, while it is well represented in fiction, is probably one of the smallest of all professions.   It seems to FD that another literary fiction also includes professions like soldier, farmer, explorer, and the like [mostly, but not exclusively male] who in are land/hand related professions.  Least represented are the jobs of the majority of workers of this late capitalist era — sure there have been some recent novels of the cubical class (Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End comes to mind but, again it’s set in an advertising agency — more writers!).  But novels are much more likely to focus on love and death (as Yeats and Faulkner both noted) than work.  Where are the novels about secretarial work, or call center workers, or department store clerks?  Not reviewed, perhaps, or perhaps not written…

On A Recent Acquisition and the Peril of Topical Collecting

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Mr. FD had a birthday recently, and since he is a wit and hot stuff, FD bought him a “new” book:  Hot Stuff by Famous Funny Men. This compendium, bound in red and black cloth, was published in Chicago by the Geo. M. Hill Co. around 1901  (A few copies are available on ABE which we recommend as the first search for most books!).  It may not be a book that Mr FD reads cover to cover — and in fact the spine is a bit weak to consider this a reading copy, but it is a nice addition to our collection of humor anthologies.  We did not see any copies on the Americana Exchange sale pages, but that site is one that we often visit.  The on-line magazine usually has one or more articles of interest, and if FolioDeux ever gets really serious about selling our small press collection, we would probably opt to become a selling member of the site.

The book topics FD and Mr. FD collect seem to endlessly expand.  Mr. FD has started reading about, and thus collecting, books about the first and second world wars — an offshoot of an earlier focus on the Civil War, and his collection includes a few books on ancient warfare as well.  FD has started collecting books about choosing pleasure over work — including The Hedonism Handbook and similar titles.  Books about writing and the mail are also of interest; FD is hoping to acquire a copy of Catherine J. Golden’s Posting It:  The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing. Her publisher has a page for the book, and an on-line  search turns up a talk on You Tube by Golden at the National Postal Museum.

FD has a postcard sent from the NPM, which, in the opinion of FD should give postcard collecting a bit more space — at least as much as stamp collecting! As with the topics represented in the FD book collection, the topics in FD’s postcard albums have increased over time, even though FD has been trying to streamline and organize the boxes of postcards accumulated over the years.  But, instead of mailing or trading away more cards, FD seems to be adding cards to the collection.  Recently, FD decided to start actively collecting “Corn Palace” postcards.  So, as of today, FD is collecting not only poetry on postcards (especially small press poetry cards) and cards related to books and writing, but also cards featuring Knitting and other kinds of fabric arts, Sheep, Squirrels, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, older cards with flowers, older cards of birds, anything having to do with Lincoln and the Civil War, and Marshall Fields department store.

And who knows, perhaps tomorrow some other new topic will be added to the book or the postcard lists!