Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sunday musings

Today's post on Cat Musings is inspired by my reading for the Cornflower Book Group in the last week (discussion here), John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure. Despite its nasty, arrogant narrator, I enjoyed this book and was amused by the conceit that, if people are going to read cookery books like novels, then someone should write a novel that's like a cookery book. I know that others have done this - I'm very sniffy about Chocolat, I'm afraid, and don't have any immediate plans to read it (I always hate books that everyone else raves about), but Cooking with Fernet Branca has just edged its way up the TBR pile. Lanchester (in the person of Tarquin) holds up well as a food writer, with that note of greediness combined with a lofty conviction of his own infallibility in matters of taste that can be characteristic of the genre. The writing is authoritative in another sense too, that of an author manipulating his tools with incisiveness and, to borrow Cornflower's word, brio.

Meanwhile, with deadlines to meet, I'm re-reading my way right through the Mountjoy novels by Elizabeth Pewsey. Most of her characters are enthusiastic about food, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy the series - lots of shopping at Gumbles, the upmarket deli in Eyot (aka Durham) - and many are musicians (one Amazon reviewer grumbled that they are all named like characters from a recherché opera, which is true, but I don't mind it at all - my favourite is Canon Holigost, while a composer should be named Alban Praetorius). Reading them one after another makes me a little more aware of their failings - there's not enough variation in voice, for example, nearly everyone talks in the same way and uses the same rather idiosyncratic set of expressions (for instance, "sharpen your wits", which I've never heard anyone actually say). On the other hand, if you can ignore - or as I do, enjoy, the mannerisms - then it's a rewarding series, full of fun and acerbic wit, with a nice sense of the traditions that matter. I'll write about them some more when I have time - meanwhile, it's back to work.


  1. I love the Mountjoy novels too, but I thought Eyot was York and that Flora's teashop must be Betty's! I wish she would write some more of them, but she seems busy with her Elizabeth Aston novels about the Darcy family, plus her Elizabeth Edmonson ones. Busy lady!

  2. I admit that I am not often drawn to food related books. I think it has something to do with my aversion to cooking. I do like to eat though--probably too much. You've got me curious about Lanchester's novel. I find arrogant narrators quite amusing on occasion, if done right.

    The word verification today is "litineff". Think of all the definitions we can come up with for that! :-)

  3. I enjoyed Tarquin and am glad you've made his acquaintance. Not exactly a likeable fellow, but it sure made for an entertaining read!

  4. Nicola, I thought I'd replied to this! I think Eyot is both York and Durham, bits of both - I'm fairly sure that in one of the early novels, one of the characters changes train at Durham to get to Eyot. But yes, I think Flora's must be Betty's. I haven't read the Darcy novels, might give them a try.

    LiteraryFeline, I'm mostly with you on cooking v. eating! though I quite like the *idea* of cooking (I made a souffle last night, it fits well with my attention span in the kitchen). I think the book is worth a try...litineff, hmm? my mind is running on Jarndyce v. Jarndyce somehow.

    Melwyk, yes, but would have hated to have actually met him, imagine being stuck next to him at dinner!