I’ve always believed that food–how we think about it, the role it plays in our lives–is the last strain of pure aesthetics left in this country. No one ever asks what food means. Why? because it doesn’t mean anything. It is too trivial. It is just there, on your plate. It is delicious, or it isn’t. You desire to know how it was made, or you don’t. You don’t eat expecting the experience to make you a better person. You’re not better than me if you like this meal over another. The only real question food demands that you answer is the one Walter Pater suggested we ask about all art: What effect does this have on me? and Why? And the answer for me is usually: heartburn, because I eat too fast.
Now, the flip side of this food talk comes when writers like Mallory Ortberg talk about food in books. For example, her article “Every Meal in Wuthering Heights, In Order of Sadness” is just the kind of lovingly meaningless literary chatter I like. Here:
Almost Not Crying Long Enough To Have A Bite Of Goose
“I waited behind her chair, and was pained to behold Catherine, with dry eyes and an indifferent air, commence cutting up the wing of a goose before her. ‘An unfeeling child,’ I thought to myself; ‘how lightly she dismisses her old playmate’s troubles. I could not have imagined her to be so selfish.’ She lifted a mouthful to her lips: then she set it down again: her cheeks flushed, and the tears gushed over them. She slipped her fork to the floor, and hastily dived under the cloth to conceal her emotion.”
I have a rather involved obsession with The Life of Norman. It’s a little internet gem that coasts at the speed of around 1997. No pictures. Simple text. Pure community brilliance. This sub-reddit consists of stories that feature Norman, a decidedly mediocre antihero engaging in unimportant failures. It’s obviously Ironic in tone, but the kind that garners sympathy, not ridicule, and it’s just trivial enough to avoid the Kafka-esque vortex. Here’s an example:
Norman was grocery shopping, where he decided to buy two cans of Coke, not diet or caffeine-free, just plain Coke. He knew the sugar was bad for him but he was feeling adventurous and wanted to treat himself. “One for Saturday night, and one for Sunday night.” he thought.
This infographic from New York Magazine made the top page of Reddit today. Turns out, you really can judge a book by its cover. In the case of Pride and Prejudice, the Twilight style cover sold 68,000 copies since 2009. That beats my copy of the Norton Critical Edition which has only sold 1000 copies since 2000. (Really, what are professors assigning?). Well, at least it beats this terrible idea.
Here is a technique for the representation of foreign speech chosen by Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Not often imitated, it is notable for its unconventional and mixed methodologies including 1) Archaisms, 2) Anglicization or direct translation of idiomatic elements, 3) Italicized foreign words.
Here’s an example:
As they came up, still deep in the shadows of the pines, after dropping down from the high meadow into the wooden valley and climbing up it on a trail that paralleled the stream and then left it to gain, steeply, the top of a rim-rock formation formation, a man with a carbine stepped out from behind a tree.
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