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VINE VOICEon May 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A couple of chapters into this book, I was asking myself, "How have I never heard of this writer before?" And before even finishing the book, I was ordering is previous work (Driving Mr. Albert) simply because I didn't want this book to end. This is a masterpiece, on a level with Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air or Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, in which it doesn't matter that you had no previous interest in Mount Everest or biological warfare, or in this case, Spanish cheese.

Paterniti takes a more or less simple story of a farmer in Spain who creates a fantastic cheese and then, through mismanagement, loses the company he has built, and turns it into a reflection on how life is to be lived, how it feels to be a young father, what is worth living for, how time changes, and yet doesn't change, everything. He has a huge man-crush on this guy whose language he doesn't even speak at first, and he manages to spend so much time with him that he falls completely under his spell, bringing his wife and kids not once but twice, to spend weeks in a dessicated village in Spain.

Life in the village of Guzman is everything that life in modern America is not. People spend their time in rooms that Paterniti calls Telling Rooms, caves, actually out on the hillside, where wine flows freely (wine they themselves have made) and food is shared lovingly with friend and stranger alike. No "stranger danger" here, no hours spent before screens "chatting" electronically with disembodied strangers. This is life as it has been for centuries. And yet, it is also real, not a stage-setting put on for the benefit of lost americanos who always go home to their clothes driers and air conditioners and ipads. And yet, beneath this hypnotic surface, there are also ancient (or not so ancient) hatreds that can never be explained, much less resolved. It is village life at its most comforting and also its most claustrophobic. And somehow, Paterniti allows us to experience it.

It took him over a decade to write the book, and a fair amount of the story is about writing the book, or more accurately, being unable to write the book. Although a journalist, and a very successful one, writing long-form journalism for magazines, Paterniti can't find an ending, can't bring himself to commit the story to paper in only one way. In the end, there are ironic footnotes at length and much self-referential spinning of wheels. And yet, it is a book of great sincerity and honesty.

I loved it. Your book club will love it. I hope it will be a best-seller. Both author and publisher deserve it, as do the people of Guzman.
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VINE VOICEon May 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first 40 pages of this book did me in. I almost just tossed it. But it finally started picking up and getting to the actual story.

There are two things I don't like about this book. The first is, the author uses way too many adjectives and similes, etc., for my taste. The unusual part though, is that sometimes he uses them, and other times he doesn't have any at all. (Once he gets into the actual story, there aren't nearly as many.)

The second is, he has far too much information that doesn't apply to the story. He includes things about his personal life and family, and lots of other side items that aren't pertinent to the story. I WILL say though that many of the things he does puts in footnotes, so it's easy to skip over them. Some of them are actually good stories and worth the read. But I really think this book could have been shorter and more on point, and I would have enjoyed it more (I would have given it a 5 then.)

Now for the story. The story was WONDERFUL. It pulled me right in (when he got to it) and kept me going. Ambrosio was larger than life, and the small Castilian town he lived in sounded like a really nice, old-world place. The story of the cheese was just spectacular. The author was really drawn into this, and I can understand why.

Ambrosio was definitely bigger than life (I picture him as looking just like Eli Wallach) and he didn't do anything by halves. I want to say more about him, but I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't read it yet.

This book is definitely worth a read, and seems very heartfelt by both the author and the participants in the story.

[For those who have already read the book---I LOVED the author's story of his special trip to Mon Virgo. But I couldn't figure out if he actually finished his business there or not. I also wondered if he told Ambrosio what happened there. I laughed really hard, mainly because that's what would have happened to me! I don't think us city dwellers are cut out for that kind of thing!]
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on July 30, 2013
I am a 14 year old girl, and I am writing this review to say that even teenagers can love and treasure this book the way I have. Normally avoiding nonfiction of any kind I was apprehensive to say the least. But as I started this heartfelt story I was pleasantly surprised to find that in fact it rated just as well as the beloved fantasy I avidly read. The writing is optimistic and endearing and I was thoroughly enraptured in this fabulous tale of cheese (who knew cheese could be exciting!?) I loved the shifting narrative between Paterniti's life and his hero's, Ambrosio. A strong ending, interesting footnotes, and Paterniti's voice make this truly a wonderful read for all ages.
44 comments46 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book is described as part travel narrative, part food essay, part family drama. So far, so good. Then there's the "magical cheese." A little odd, but there are definite possibilities, story-wise. Once I started reading the book, I found it was also the author's story, the tale of a young MFA student struggling to be the best darned Writer ever.

The overwrought prose kept getting in the way of the story. A few times, the author even mocked himself about this -- "...put the finishing touches on another one of my overheated homing pigeons of prose..." Page after page went by and still, there was no story. I skipped ahead. Now it was about the author's contract with his publisher and his failure to meet deadlines. Year after year passed. I skipped ahead. He finally made it to the tiny village in Spain, home of the possibly mythical magical cheese. No detail was too small to include in this slowly evolving story. Often, Paterniti recognized that the details were slowing the story to a crawl, and relegated them to footnotes. There are many footnotes.

A book ten years in the making, The Telling Room is a letdown, and I could not find the patience to keep at it. It was so many things that in the end, it was none of them. Instead of chipping away at the block of marble cheese to find the perfect form hiding inside, Paterniti slapped more and more plaster, paint, and spare parts onto it until it became a hideous hybrid. Now how's THAT for overheated prose?
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on July 30, 2013
I read this book having neither been to Spain nor claimed the title of gourmand, but I am a greedy reader, and the immersive, joyful spirit of The Telling Room won me. What I loved was Paterniti's ability to expose all the overt and covert pleasures of storytelling with nuance and humor. I also loved the chance to see what it might be like to follow a passionate interest from the easy, early love to a hard-won, deeper affinity and understanding. Take a chance to discover many things "ribald and holy" in The Telling Room.
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on October 19, 2013
The story of Ambrosio and his cheese, is intriguing and worth finding out about. Unfortunately, instead of writing a lengthy magazine article, which is all the story logically deserves, Paterniti has padded out this minor story to epic length, diluting its impact and frustrating the reader. Worse, he somehow thinks he is David Foster Wallace, and has inundated the book with umpteen dozen footnotes, often several per page - reaching the height of absurdity on page 180 when he - Russian nesting doll-like- puts footnotes to footnotes to footnotes to footnotes (about Pringle potato chips, of all things!) to the 9th degree! The story rambles, loses its thread, digresses, and the reader gets impatient for him to find his way again. Admittedly, Paterniti CLAIMS to be emulating the discursive effect of an old Castillian spinning stories... but it just doesn't work. Towards the end of the book, when he spends a couple chapters on NOT being able to write the book and missing his publisher's deadlines (by about 10 YEARS!), you can tell he is basically admitting defeat in telling his story.
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on May 17, 2014
A megalomaniac meets another megalomaniac and decides to write a story about him/them/himself. I don't understand why Paterniti has allowed himself to write so many atrocious sentences, one after another full of terrible metaphors, misused words, and verbs and adjectives that call so much attention to themselves that a reader constantly loses the thread of the story. And after 10 years he's still a mess at Spanish. And after 10 years there's really not a satisfying story anywhere in here. What a disappointment.
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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm a sucker for stories about storytelling. And I love me a good tale and storyteller--and I was indeed intrigued and seduced by the title: "The Telling Room". I'm not sure the author is necessarily the most interesting storyteller I've read and that this tale is one that will appeal to everyone. But, it struck a chord with me as I made my way (slowly, very slowly) through this tale.

If you're a foodie, if you love Spain and Spanish-related themes, if you are not put off by details, including footnotes...and you have patience, this book might be worth a read. You will know soon enough if you are engaged enough to want to read on. Cheese plays a part in this, but this is not really a story about a piece of cheese.

This is what I call one of those pick-it-up, put-it-down stories. Engrossing enough to read and finish (over a longer period than it takes me to read books of a similar size) but not necessarily one of those you cannot put it down ones that keep you up at night. This isn't Peter Mayle on Provence or Frances Mayes on Italy.

But the author reveals a very interesting slice of life in the Spanish town of Guzman and I really was intrigued by Ambrosio, the real-life Spanish cheesemaker who is at the center of the story. It was a welcome respite to slip away as it were, to the time and place of this tale. Some might categorize it as summer/warm-weather read in that it doesn't require a lot from you but patience for the unfolding of the story. (And it might make a good read for a long airplane flight.)
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on August 28, 2013
I was enchanted at the start, but started losing interest before page 100. Skimmed the rest to see if the story went anywhere, which it didn't. A chunk of this shaggy dog story concerns the author's difficulty in fulfilling his contract to write this book and that difficulty shows in the padding, digressions, repetition and many lengthy footnotes, which are amusing at first, but soon grow tiresome.
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on March 5, 2014
in fact I didn`t finish it. And the reason I didn`t finish it was because the author kept getting in the way--he was too cute, too enamored of himself, and I couldn`t get to the story beyond him. There is a really good story in here--I liked the main character, but I just could not get by the author. Maybe he should read Paul Yoon!
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