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St. Burl's Obituary Paperback – February 15, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

PW gave a starred review to this comic story of an erudite epicure on a desperate diet.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Burl Bennett is an overweight obituary writer for a New York paper who stumbles into the aftermath of a mob killing in the restaurant he co-owns with an uncle. Eventually, intimidated by threats against his life, Burl leaves New York and heads out West on a bizarre odyssey. He winds up in Salt Lake City, where his weight continues to increase, until he literally gets stuck in the door of his hotel room. Burl has various adventures as his girth expands and contracts along with his economic status, and he explores every nuance of his own identity and what it means to be fat in contemporary America. The story comes full circle when Burl, having assumed someone else's identity, returns to New York, where he finally faces the issue of who he really is. Akst (Wonder Boy: Barry Minkow?the Kid Who Swindeled Wall Street, Scribner, 1990. o.p.) offers an amusing story; he writes lovingly about food, but Burl is by turns an engaging and repulsive hero. It's hard to predict what kind of audience this quirky novel will attract. Recommended for large fiction collections.?Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Med. Ctr. Lib.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest American Writing
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (February 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015600514X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005142
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this on a Daily Meal website of the top 10 food books of all time. It is really wonderful and if you're into food, you'll enjoy it totally. Is also a good history of the times and area. Quirky doesn't come close to describing this one! haha, read it to see.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Burl is a richly drawn, unforgettable character. At once petty, superficial and yet deeply integrated, suffering from life's basic problems, of course, a need for love - and to find his purpose in life.

When the woman of his dreams makes a half-joking proposal, he struggles to respond, and then is kicked into further action by an accidental involvement with the mob. This sets off his cross country journey, which he frames as a duplicate of Joseph Smith's, and the growth of the Mormon church of all things. This interest of his is only a side subject in the novel, but is a brilliant setting for the middle part, his adventures in Salt Lake City.

I gave four stars because it begins to drag a bit from middle toward the end, but it really picks up at the climax and there is great payoff as Burl finds and loses and finds yet again his love, and ultimately the answers to his life's biggest (pun intended) mystery.

The best thing about this book is the refreshing brilliance of the language. The author does not talk down to the reader, and you may require a dictionary a time or two, and Google translate if you have no acquaintance with the French language.

New York City is richly presented, and is stark contrast to Utah. The story is packed with various peoples, personalities, orientations, and even a cult experience. The culinary dimension alone is magnificent and a central fixture to the story. If you have no interest in that subject, I do not recommend this book, because you will find the detailed descriptions of food and drink tedious. But if you enjoy that subject at all, the focus on food is endlessly amusing. It is of course, because that is Burl's great focus.
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Format: Paperback
I've read this book several times and with each rereading find more to admire. It's rare to find a work that is at once original, erudite and unceasingly entertaining. It succeeds on several levels -- as a contemporary allegory, as a character study of the intelligent, funny and tormented-by-his-bulk Burl, and as a rollicking great yarn. Burl's enormous appetite is a terrific metaphor of our consumer society; his journeys through a hilariously gothic America and his virtual death and resurrection are the stuff of great literature.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My first reading of this book was in the late 90s. Rereading books can be a disappointment and it is with great joy to discover that Burl's odyssey is as compelling, thought provoking and funny the second time around. The writing is a delight. As for Burl, one wishes to reach through the pages, pull him out, hug him and cook him a lovely meal. I hope that others will discover this little gem and enjoy it as much as I.
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Format: Paperback
This novel entertained me for as long as I could make the reading last. Please call Joel & Ethan Cohen and have them make a moovie of Burl.
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Format: Paperback
Dan Akst sure is one of the brightest authors I've ever come across. Just to start with that statement. I guess one would have to read that marvel of a novel over and over again, just to discover all the literary cross-references he has embedded with such great subtlety. I've read it twice, and I'm sure that there's still loads of hidden treasures. An excessive, a disturbing and a brilliantly talented book. Phew. If we only had writers like that over here.
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Format: Paperback
I selected this book from the library shelf based on its intriguing cover. I read the first couple of pages right there, and was hooked. This is one of those rare books I shall remember all my life, as Burl was so real, quirky, and loveable, and his life and views so fascinating that I was sorry to finish and say goodbye to a new-found friend. Daniel Akst's language is a joy to read, his erudition impressive, and his wit absolutely beguiling.
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Format: Paperback
This was a great book. The reviewer 'Gluttony and Tedium' must have read a different book from what i read. I'd love to have dinner with Burl(before his obese-demise), just to share the joy of taste. This book is as good as the movie "The Big Night"--the transforming power of food, both good and bad is profound.
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