From Publishers Weekly
Writer M.F.K. Fisher, born in 1908 to an upper-middle-class American family, dabbled in various schools and made her society debut before marrying and heading to France to set up housekeeping. That she eventually abandoned her husband for her friend's husband, began writing about the art of eating and went on to become a distinctive literary and gastronomic stylist has created her image as a sensualist, but culinary historian Reardon finds that Fisher was actually "self-absorbed," and "at times a destructive woman." As if to demystify Fisher's sensualist image, Reardon details her life in workmanlike, almost sterile prose. Who stopped by for tea and who picked up the newspapers is followed by a sentence recording the suicide of Fisher's brother or a lover's death. On rare occasions when Reardon's opinion surfaces, it's usually negative: she disapproves of Fisher's child-rearing skills, of Fisher's affair with an older woman, of Fisher's open-door availability in the years before she died in 1992. Scholars may find this volume useful, but devotees of Fisher's writing will find that one big question still remains: how did a woman with such straightlaced roots become one of the world's most delightfully irreverent bon vivantes? Photos.
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America's most lauded food writer, M. F. K. Fisher, has left so exhaustive a record of her life in her many treatises that a biography may seem superfluous. Yet, upon burrowing into Fisher's oeuvre, Reardon discovered that Fisher not only had no qualms about embellishing details of her remarkable career but also was not above outright fabrication. Working from the sources, Reardon reconstructs what she can of the truth of Fisher's life. She does not repeat details, for those can be found in Fisher's books, but Reardon fleshes out her subject's significant others. Reardon's ample gifts become especially apparent in her perceptive portrait of the shadowy Al Fisher, Mary Frances' poet husband. Al's enthusiastic aestheticism and his inherited repressive tendencies seemed to preclude his ever achieving the recognition he deserved. Mary Frances's quasi-libidinous libertinism and her determination to experience life in all its permutations made the initially promising marriage's dissolution inevitable. For all the love expressed in Fisher's prose, she could be brittle and cruel, as even her children discovered. Reardon's exceptional prose puts a human face on this icon. Mark KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved