Satisfying, but for dedicated Fisherphiles only.

POET OF THE APPETITES

THE LIVES AND LOVES OF M.F.K. FISHER

Exhaustive biography gets behind the myths the acclaimed food writer herself perpetuated about her life, loves, and travels.

Fisher practically invented her own literary genre, argues Reardon (M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters, 1994, etc.), by writing about our hungers, what satisfies them, and how food relates to the larger human experience. More than a dozen books showcased her gifts as a master storyteller, from Serve It Forth (1937), which the Chicago Daily Tribune hailed as “a delicate emulsion” of culinary history and personal anecdotes, to her magnum opus, The Art of Eating, a collection “on the verge of being a novel,” in the opinion of critic Alan Brien. But Fisher’s life was marked by more upheaval than her public persona suggested, and she tended to embellish her past. (The writer enjoyed it, claims daughter Kennedy, when “people thought of her as someone she wasn’t.”) As a teenager in California, she subbed for vacationing reporters at her dad’s newspaper and viewed cooking as a way to get attention from her otherwise self-absorbed family members. (“It made me feel creative and powerful.”) Her first marriage to a Presbyterian minister’s son fell apart, despite her claims to the contrary, thanks to her romance with next-door neighbor Dillwyn Parrish. After Parrish developed Buerger’s disease, lost a leg, and shot himself to death, Fisher embarked on a series of affairs, culminating in the birth of daughter Anna and marriage to New York City socialite Donald Friede, which also ended in divorce. Her chilly relations with her children and subsequent personal problems—she was by turns isolated, needy, and cruel—contrasted with her growing status as an American culinary icon on par with her close friends Julia Child and James Beard. Reardon’s account of Fisher’s life makes for a rewarding but dense read: casual foodies, especially those more interested in her writing accomplishments than her family life, may not find the 544-page slog worth the trouble.

Satisfying, but for dedicated Fisherphiles only.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2004

ISBN: 0-86547-562-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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