Customer Review

87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing at its Finest, May 27, 2013
This review is from: The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese (Hardcover)
Vine 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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 17, 2013 3:51:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2013 3:50:48 AM PDT
The subject of this book, besides the author, Michael Paterniti, is Ambrosio Molinos, an incredible personaje, who is a bigger-than-life representative of rural Castilian Spain. This is a remarkable true story about a remarkable man whom I have known since 1984. Paterniti was kind enough to use a couple of footnotes from my story about Ambrosio, Heavenly Nights in Old Castile: Adventures with Ambrosio Molinos (http://spainroads.blogspot.com/2012/07/heavenly-nights-in-old-castile.html). Knowing Ambrosio and much of his story, I can tell you that Paterniti has captured his subject like few could have.

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 8:21:38 AM PDT
AC says:
What a wonderfully informative, interesting, and insightful review -- thank you so very much... I look forward to reading this book (the title alone is what intrigued me at first, but your review 'sealed the deal'... :) ).
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Evelyn Uyemura
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Torrance, CA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,652