Man. This is one dorky post.
I just finished it, read back through it, and carefully considered whether or not to hit "publish." This post has little (i.e., nothing) to do with Austin.
It has everything to do with being a book nerd.
But -- publish we shall, comrades. Because this is an earnest appeal. Hopefully I won't bore you to tears here, and hopefully, you are an unapologetic book lover like me. So I ask you, readers of Austin, readers of the world: To help me.
See, I am in a dysfunctional relationship with my current book stack. I read every night before I go to bed, and just feel like something is missing from my evening ritual. The contenders:
Kitchen Confidential -- FINISHED. Bourdain's brash behind-the-scenes look at culinary culture. The book that made him famous. He wrote it 10 years ago, and with each shocking revelation he shares (like the fact that brunch, our most fetishized meal, is made out of a kitchen's old, old leftovers), you can tell he wants the reader to think, "why, that's just appalling! I just -- just -- had no idea!" And I didn't. But the point is, I don't like feeling manipulated while I'm reading a memoir. I just want you to be smart, and relateable, and funny without trying too hard (... and, wow. This sounds like I'm talking to a boyfriend, rather than a book, non?).
An older, wiser Bourdain admits in the second edition preface that the text may be just a bit too macho, so ok, he gets it.
The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry -- 3/4 FINISHED. Oh, how I want to love this one. Listen to the set-up, ladies: Girl gets sacked from Microsoft, girl has lifelong dream of going to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, but girl is practical, girl throws caution to the wind anyway and cashes out her life savings to attend Le Cordon Bleu, IN PARIS. Everything estrogeny in me says, goodie! for a book like that. And yet ...
Kathleen Flinn, the author, is the type of woman I could see myself being friends with in real life. She's professionally driven, but has a romantic heart. The only thing is, her storytelling feels too much like the former quality. By which I mean, professional. It's very thorough reporting, her description of each Le Cordon Bleu class. But you and me, we're not going to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris anytime soon, are we? No. Likely not. We want life lessons. Humor. Subtleties of wit and observation. At least, I do.
When it comes right down to it, I think I just want this book to be funnier. I want Kathleen to be a little more bumbling in the kitchen, when in fact, she's very good. I want her to cry big, snotty tears when she fails her Le Cordon Bleu dishes, but she has a supportive boyfriend the entire time! Le sigh.
To be fair, I also didn't finish Eat, Pray, Love, a similar sort of tale, and whose writing style I loved. I tend to not give these books -- meaning, unlucky-woman-takes-off-on-travel-fantasy books -- a fair shake. I don't know why. Probably because I am bitter and jealous, at the outset, of their adventure.
Fever Pitch -- JUST STARTED. This one I'll probably stick with. Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down, High Fidelity, How to be Good) never lets me down. This is his memoir about being an obsessive soccer (or his British "football") fan, and while the tears of laughter aren't exactly rolling down my face, as they do early and often in Hornby's novels, I have faith. I suspect Fever Pitch is especially appealing to the reader who can relate to the culture of spectator sports, and who really understands what it means to be a sports fan, the type who tailgates and takes team losses personally and shares this emotional swell of pride when his or her team does well, as if they themselves were personally responsible for the UT Longhorns (or New Orleans Saints, or Texas Rangers, or whatever your team)' success on the field.
Which is not, admittedly, me.
Still: It's Hornby's sense of humor that gets me. In the chapter I read last night, he described being a boy from the suburbs, and going through a stage where he adopted a working class cockney accent. This, while his sister suddenly started speaking as if she were Princess-In-Waiting to the English throne. When friends of the family met the two together, no could figure out which one had been adopted? Giggle. Thank you, Nick Hornby.
* * *
As you can see, I love my memoirs.
But I want to know, what was the last book that made you positively sad when you came to the end, because you wanted to go on reading? Memoir, fiction, non-fiction, etcetera?
I tend to buy all of my books at Half-Price Books on North Lamar, and perhaps that is the problem. I'm not giving new literary talent a chance. Like the freaking girl who wears hornet tattoos and kicked the dragon's nest and blabity-blah -- I feel like I should read those. Because there has been so much hype. Have any of you gotten into the series? Is it good?
I read about this freaky, awesome sounding book in O, The Oprah Magazine (another dorky obsession of mine: O), called Room, by Emma Donoghue. Listen to the description:
In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue's Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances.
HOLY SHIT. Right?
This one might have to be the next on my reading list.
The last ones that made me clap my hands in delight were Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, Born Round, by Frank Bruni, and Spoon Fed, by Kim Severson. All food memoirs. All by New York Times food critics. I know. I think there may be an unhealthy obsession at work here, one that runs far deeper than memoirs.