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The Debt To Pleasure Paperback – 7 Mar 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Paperback, 7 Mar 1997
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Product details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (7 Mar. 1997)
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • ISBN-10: 0330344552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330344555
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 171,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

A gorgeous, dark, and sensuous book that is part cookbook, part thriller, part eccentric philosophical treatise, reminiscent of perhaps the greatest of all books on food, Jean-Anthelme Brillat Savarin's The Physiology of Taste. Join Tarquin Winot as he embarks on a journey of the senses, regaling us with his wickedly funny, poisonously opinionated meditations on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of a menu, from the perverse history of the peach to the brutalisation of the palate, from cheese as "the corpse of milk" to the binding action of blood. --Sue Sheph


" The Debt to Pleasure has no flaws. It is witty, frequently hilarious, and wicked." -- "The Boston Globe"

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Customer Reviews

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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 27 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
One's reaction to this book will, in large part, be predicated on how one reacts to cleverness and dark humor. For, while written with indisputable skill, Lanchester's novel is more than anything an exercise in droll, urbane, (dare I say smug) cleverness-at it's best (or worst, according to one's taste). Within the deliciously witty, snide, nasty, condescending, and rambling meditations of one Tarquin Winot lie dark kernels of truth regarding his true nature and past. Tarquin is both genius and gourmand, so his writings are loosely arranged around a seasonal menu, with tangential discourses on the various ingredients and much more. While his descriptions of food are certainly evocative, there's much more going on than a simple foodie travelogue. It's obvious quite early on that he's a pampered egomaniac, and indeed, after a while, his self-absorbed ramblings begin to grow wearisome. However, mingled with these are broad clues as to true megalomania and psychopathy. All of this emerges as he recounts an interview he grants his brother's biographer.
That some reviewers found the book disturbing or unsettling seems rather odd. Well-cultured and well-spoken psychopaths are hardly a new phenomenon in either literature or real life, and that's essentially what Tarquin is. It's possible that this disquiet comes from the reader becoming enamored of Tarquin and then finding out his true nature at the very end, but this seems exceedingly unlikely. For all Lanchester's skill, Tarquin's "secret" is fairly evident quite early on, via a number of extremely broad hints, so that readers who are paying any kind of attention will quickly realize that all is not as it might seem. In the end, it's a fairly clever and certainly well-written character study, with a dark secret that is unearthed rather too soon for the book to be entirely satisfactory. Still, it is clear Lanchester is a writer worth watching.
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Format: Paperback
One of my greatest pleasures is eating, so I must cook. I savour, therefore I cook. I like tasty food made with fresh ingredients that address all four of our tastes - salt, sour, sweet and bitter - to create a complementary whole. Of course, there is now the fifth taste, unami, the expanding universe within soy sauce, that can amplify other inputs. I have just made an English pie, with chicken, mushrooms, a little diced bacon, seasoning and fresh herbs. It was moistened with stock and an egg before being baked in my own short-crust. Fresh gravy and vegetables alongside is all it will need. It thus has sweet, salt and bitter, but lacks sourness. A squeeze of lemon on the vegetables will compensate.

For the expansion, take one novel closely related to cooking and read. Do try the recipes, but proceed with care. Cook things right through before committing to taste. John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure is my recommendation. It's a highly original, highly informative cookbook written by one Tarquin Winot, an expert in the field.

In one of the most original books I have ever read, John Lanchester creates a real anti-hero. Too often the concept is ironed onto a character who is just a naughty boy doing naughty, often repulsive things, the concept of "hero" being often ignored. Tarquin Winot, the anti-hero of The Debt to Pleasure, is a brilliant and learned cook. He is also highly creative, using ingredients that only those who might cook with a purpose would choose to use. He is also something of a psychopath, perhaps. That is for you to judge. But he has survived to write his cookbook and apparently savours his retirement, courtesy of those he has fed.

The Debt to Pleasure is a superb novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some reviewers here have complained that this novel is quite slight and unsubstantial. To me, that misses the point - things which are slight and inconsequential can be incredibly enjoyable.

Tarquin Wynot, the narrator, is an erudite, snobbish, foodie, psychopathic murderer. Sounds a bit 'Silence of the Lambs'? Not really. Wynot bumps people off for a variety of reasons but never just for fun. His fun he gets from the food and wine he so meticulously describes throughout the novel.

Like Tarquin's cooking, the prose is a fanciful, indulgent, and showy. Often fantastically funny, with a swift pace that still takes time for plenty of impressive asides, I found this unputdownable not necessarily because I wanted to know what happened next, but because I was enjoying myself too much. It is the literary equivalent of a meal in a very good but self-consciously experimental restaurant. You may not want to eat there everyday, you may think some of the combinations were a bit over the top, but you have to admit it was dazzling.

Finally, it is telling that when Lanchester published 'Capital' to much critical fanfare in 2012, this was the book, despite being his first novel and published in the nineties, that several reviewers held up as the measure of his full abilities. Unfortunately, I don't think he's lived up to the potential of 'The Debt to Pleasure' so far, but then it's a very high standard to have set yourself! If you enjoy 'The Debt to Pleasure', the meatier, more homely 'Mr. Phillips' is not a bad second course.
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