Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Review - Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Hello all,

What a rainy Saturday we're having here! I have to confess, though, that I love the rain. To me, there are so many endless possibilities for fun on a rainy day. I know all of you with kids must be groaning and wanting to click that back button on the browser, and I have to agree, as a child I probably did not feel this way, but as an adult? - oh my, give me a good rainy day anytime! It's just so much easier for me to excuse doing what I want on a rainy day, which is mostly to curl up with a good book. Or curl up to watch a movie. Or curl up to take a nap. Basically anything that involves some sort of curling. There's also cooking and baking to be done, unpacking my new apartment, writing letters to various friends and relatives, etc. etc
., all of which you'll notice I am not doing at the moment, but am instead at work, and writing this book review to all of you. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing on this gray Saturday, I hope you're taking a small moment to appreciate, rather than complain about, this rain. Just remember - as much as we affect it, the daily weather is one of the few things humans have not found a way to absolutely control (yet), and I thank goodness for that every day.

So, about this book I'm supposed to be telling you about. It's great. I say that knowing full well I picked it up expecting it to be good, and being thrilled that I wasn't disappointed. Do you ever have those hunches? When you look at a book, totally judging it by its cover, and think, yeah, I bet I'm really going to enjoy reading you. This was one of those books for me. Let me also tell you that I'm a rather recent, but assuredly passionate, short story/essay lover. Who knew? Seriously, this is an adult-life discovery. I think we should start encouraging more children/teens/young adults to read short stories because (though I wasn't this way as a child), so many children get really overwhelmed by the size of a large book, tiny words, pages and pages of text. If they knew they only had to sit down and read one little story, and then maybe turn the page a day later and read another little, and then they may sit and read two in one sitting - perhaps soon they would be reading a whole book, just for that sense of accomplishment that comes when you've turned the final page, and as much as you've enjoyed the tale, boy are you glad you now have permission to be done and get up and go back to the rest of your life.

Clearly I digress. Lara Vapnyar writes about food as if it's there on the page in front of you for you to taste. She writes about love the same way. The fact that she is able to combine the mostly inner monologue of people's musings on life and love (she could be writing about a day in your own life, really), while simultaneously making your stomach growl for the hot borscht with sour cream someone in the story has just made, is an absolutely brilliant way of inviting other senses to partake in this primarily visual experience (that of reading the actual words on the actual page). Her stories reflect the food in them in the sense that if the food is unsatisfying in the tale, you may be left with a brief lingering and longing sensation for something just a little better or a little more of the tale to come along. If the food has been completely filling and satisfying, the story wraps up with a warm, contented closure. At the end, just as with a fabulous meal, I was sad it was over, and simultaneously relieved the self control was taken out of my hands or else I would have gorged myself a little too much.

If you like her writing, or short stories/essays in general, you should also check out her other works, Memoirs of a Muse and There Are Jews in My House.

Go poke your head out in the rain a minute. It's fun, I promise.


Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara
Hardcover: $20.00 9780375424878

There Are Jews in My Houseby Lara Vapnyar
Hardcover: $17.95 9780375422508
Paperback: $12.00 9781400033898

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar
Hardcover: $22.95 9780375422966
Paperback: $13.95 9781400077007

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