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Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts Paperback – November 2, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kurlansky (Salt) moves from his acclaimed nonfiction to a linked collection of spotty-quality fiction. Food is the unifying theme, but in the least successful efforts--"Crème Brulee," "Espresso," "Boudin," and "Hot Pot"--the foodstuffs are smothered by weak characters that are conveyed with less skill than the often lyrical passages devoted to the victuals. In the better pieces, the sensory and cultural anchors that food provide are gorgeously explored, as in "Osetra," which charts the gustatory awakening of a Puerto Rican shoplifter, and "Menudo" in which a stolid and driven U.S. senator bridges a cultural divide with unexpected tenderness. In a contrarian vein, the sludgy salmon brew of "The Soup" reinforces the gap between the last speaker of an Alaskan native language and the inept but earnest anthropologist trying to prevent the language from dying out. "Red Sea Salt," "Orangina," and "Cholent," meanwhile, introduce equal measures of comic ridiculousness and sly wit to varying degrees of satisfaction. While certainly lighter than Kurlansky's engrossing nonfiction, this remains a mostly successful consideration of the role food plays in life. (Nov.) (c)
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From Booklist

This collection of short stories records vignettes from a disparate cast of characters from diverse settings. Each of these stories might stand alone, but Kurlansky has in fact woven them into broader, sustained tales. Readers meet Robert Eggle just as he has gotten stuck in a hole in a sidewalk. Extricating himself, he realizes that he has no memory, no sense of smell or taste. He makes his way back to an office, where everyone seems to know him, but he has no recall of his professional life. Worse still, he can’t even summon up the name of a woman who is apparently his wife. Other characters have more precise food memories, and their tales revolve around specifics such as Bordeaux wines, blood sausages, and Orangina. Those familiar only with Kurlansky’s singular achievements in the world of nonfiction may be surprised at his adroitness in the realm of pure literature. --Mark Knoblauch
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594484880
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594484889
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,465,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Smith-Peter on February 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
This collection of intertwined stories is engaging and full of some keenly observed tidbits. The characters in one story sometimes show up in later ones. The first story is quite brilliant - a man with amnesia who comes to himself after he's partly fallen into a hole in the side - and the red sea salt that is the title of the story is exchanged through many characters until the end. The stories set among WASPs or Jews are well written, but those in other settings are not as believable. The last story is the weakest and it has the widest streak of meanness in the collection. The author has a hatred for things he considers inauthentic, which here includes vegan food (especially Tofurky) and the character Margaret. This isn't completely explained by the narration, and it leaves a somewhat bitter aftertaste. Still, the idea of food as the core element in different cultures and the central point of social life makes sense and the stories read easily. I just wish he was a bit more flexible in his views of what is authentic and what isn't.
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Format: Paperback
Each of the sixteen loosely related stories in this collection features food as a common thread. Some, foods such as creme brûlée, muffins, and espresso would seem to be familiar and comforting. Others, such as menudo and cholent are less familiar. But these are not familiar and comforting stories. Each has an unexpected and sometimes unsettling twist. In one story a man suddenly loses his memory, between one step and the next. In another a dysfunctional family faces a deflating tofurkey at a dismal Thanksgiving dinner. A petty shoplifter gets hooked on caviar. An orange drink becomes key in a political contest. Food is iconic and intimate. In these stories we get a glimpse of how it links people to their roots, whether Jewish or cajun. We also see how food can mark the outsider such as the anthropologist who wants to make inroads with the last speaker of a dying language but can't stomach The Soup which includes fish eyes. Those in these stories who cannot decipher the message and meaning embodied in the food they encounter are also not able to decipher the meaning and message in the life in which they are adrift.
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Format: Paperback
Scents and food, for some people, trigger memories, both good and bad. Here are 16 stories where people, their interaction through food and with others, are chronicled. A woman stops eating because she stops trusting those who prepare the foods,believing creme brulee to be toxic, a man finds himself standing with one leg in a hole in the sidewalk, with amnesia, no sense of smell or taste, a woman gradually becomes a vegan and serves tofurkey at Thanksgiving to her family, a man, known for delicious andouille sausages becomes the target of vicious rumors because he appeared bloody after emerging from the bayou, are among some of the stories shared.

These 16 short stories could stand on their own, but as you read through, you realize that some characters circle back through other stories, and that this could also be read as a novel in 16 parts.
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