Most helpful critical review
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
You're better off reading Fisher's work
on April 20, 2011
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I am a huge fan of MFK Fisher and have sought out books about her life over the years because I was curoius about some things that she didn't say in her own works. However, for me, this current brief biography, An Extravagant Hunger, didn't cut the mustard, so to speak.
As I was reading this book I was trying to figure out why it wasn't working, and after I finished I realized it's because it reads like someone's college term paper. There are a ton of quotes from Fisher's works, to the point where I felt the author might as well have just lifted the relevant paragraphs directly out of her books, rather than trying to constantly paraphrase her. I am sorry to seem harsh, but it reminded me of the way I was taught to write term papers in high school - "packed with facts" (thanks, Mr. Doucette!). There's little insight by the author. It's more just a narrative, and an occasionally repetitive one, and this surprises me since the author states she had access to a lot of papers and letters of Fisher's which provided new information. It seemed to me that most of what was said in this book can be gleaned from reading Fisher's own works.
Also, in covering only "the passionate years", the book feels like it rushes at the beginning and rushes again towards to end, to sort-of cover Fisher's entire life in 236 short pages. This technique did not work well for me. Although I'm fairly familiar with her life story, I felt like the author was being lazy in only covering part of her subject's life, and that not too thoroughly.
Although well-intentioned, this one is not a keeper for me, and I recommend that readers who are interested in Fisher's work actually read her books. The Art of Eating is a wonderful book and if you're still wanting more information about Fisher's life after finishing it, try Joan Reardon's Poet of the Appetites, a better-written biography of Fisher.
Edited to add: One small fact from this book that I had not previously been aware of: MFK Fisher's first husband, Al, was a university professor at Smith College; one of his students was doomed poet Sylvia Plath. Fisher was known for having affairs with his students, but according to the author he refrained from doing so with Plath. (I think he dodged a bullet there.)