Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gourmet Rhapsody - Muriel Barbery

Like vampires, food seems to have taken the literary world by storm, and while I am bit burned out on books about critics and chefs, I find that I keep reading them. But, the truth is, I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it. I didn't care because I found Barbery's second novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog so beautifully written that I wanted to see what her debut novel was all about. Gourmet Rhapsody is the story of the life of Pierre Arthens, world renowned and nearly universally despied, food critic. On his deathbed, Arthens becomes consumed with finding that one flavor that will satiate him before he dies. It is something he can just barely remember from his past, but can't quite grasp on to - and so the chapters walk through his memories of fine meals and perfectly executed dishes in an effort to remember. In between Arthen's memories are the memories of his children, his wife, his mistress, his cat, the homeless guy he passed everyday on the way to work...and their recollections and feelings of the selfish man who never looked at them as anything more than a hinderance or a means for obtaining what he himself wanted in life. Monsieur Arthens is a horribly ugly man, but his appreciation for food is truly delightful. I lost myself in Barbary's descriptions of Arthen's favorite flavors, in particular those of his favorite ice cream and sorbets. Gourmet Rhapsody is like a fine meal - enjoyed in one sitting, but appreciated slowly and with great attention to detail.

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