These are two little books I read (or listened to actually) over the course of a work day. Neither are particularly great; the first because I struggle to find what is essential in the story or what stands out as the “thing” in the story at all; the second because it feels gimmicky.
This first small book is one that I got from the library in print forms a few times before actually committing to reading. It’s about a young, industrious, and intellectually curious young Frenchman named Mauro who becomes a line cook in a restaurant in Paris and begins working his way up in the field. As he does so, he begins to face the question of “Is this the thign I want to be doing with my life?” or is finishing up school and pursuing a more academic or intellectual life more what I want? And like a lot of young men he tries to have it both ways. He begins a new restaurant and pursues a kind of deconstructed understanding of cooking in a way that is novel (for the time of the story) conception. But this fades, and he must look for newer and different approaches.
I don’t actively dislike this book or anything, and would more so appreciate its subtlety, which it is quite subtle, if the kinds of thinking the character goes through isn’t the same tossed up “I am disrupting cooking” kind of talk that already permeates every cooking show I’ve seen. Also, in a lot of ways the story itself here is a lot like the story of Ratatouille, if Remy were not a rat.
Deal of a Lifetime
This very short novella (they keep calling it a novella, but it’s obviously just a short story — insert princessbrideinigoword.gif), and like a lot of short stories presented in whole book form, I am led to the question of why is this a whole book and not part of a book? But anyway. We get here a story of a middle-aged man (older middle age — the author is 38 but the character is 50 or so) looking back on his life and reflecting on his success as a businessman. He’s greeted by death, and understands the implications, and immediately starts trying to bargain. He’s presented with the option of trading his success and fame for the life of a small girl also dying. He’s not asked to erase his successes (the things he did and accomplished will still have happened, but for someone else) but to erase his fingerprints on the world. And he struggles with it.
So this is the one I really actually didn’t like very much. It has that kind of faux philosophical bent to it that feels like it’s trying to be deep, but ends up being “””””deep”””” instead. And if it were part of a longer short story collection I could forgive its weaknesses and move on, but it’s price tag and solo nature demand that it be reckoned with.