The Devil's Larder Paperback – 4 Jul 2002
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Jim Crace remains one of the most individual and elegant writers at work today. His books customarily defy category and the new one, The Devil's Larder, is no exception. The cover shows a sensuous female mouth crammed full of berries, with the juice running down her chin and the book's attitude to food is correspondingly erotic. The concept of a literary feast (i.e., a novel in which food is central to the structure) is not new but has never been handled with the sheer imagination and indulgence we find here.
This is a cumulative novel in 64 parts, in which the reader's cultural, culinary and sexual appetites are fully catered for in a discursive, episodic narrative. There is no plot as such, more a vividly realised series of anecdotes in which the briefly appearing characters come to life before our eyes through the indulgence of their various appetites. In these pages, a whole community and its varied inhabitants are vividly conjured by evocative fragments that coalesce into a rich tapestry. The reader may not always be sure about what is going on but the journey is highly pleasurable. We are invited to a restaurant that offers dishes going far beyond the borders of good taste; we can sample the delights of blind pie, a dish created for revenge; and we may try the fruit of the love-leaf tree that can do wonders for a relationship. The language has a Nabokov-like precision and resonance (although the refusal to deliver a straightforward narrative recalls Borges):
The atmosphere is sexual. We're in the brothel's waiting room. The menu's yet to be paraded. We do not speak. We simply wait and hike and climb. We are aroused...--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A cumulative novel in 64 dark, unsettling tales through which Crace explores our foibles through our relationship with food. A critically acclaimed patchwork portrait of a community where meals are served with lashings of passion and recipes come spiced with unexpected challenges and hopes.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Or so I thought. Picking it up again after an unnatural hiatus brought on by the World Trade Center attack - when books were put down, and TV became *the thing* - I'm afraid The Devil's Larder finally turned to ashes in my mouth. I could say, accurately, that reading gluttonous, lustful, avaricious prose seemed somehow fraudulent in the immediate aftermath, but I admit that even on its own undoubted merits, my enthusiasm for it was beginning to wane. Despite Crace's pre-emptive protests that The Devil's Larder is a novel because it has "unity of theme, unity of style, unity of setting - everything except unity of character," I know a glorified (albeit glorious) book of stories when I see it. And I'm looking at one right now.
However hard you try, it's hard to make people want to read 64 "chapters" in a row - ranging from two words to 10 pages - without either a plot to follow or at least one character to root for, frown upon or squirm with. The problem with The Devil's Larder is that, although some of the stories do contain interesting twists or developments, they're all narrated effectively in parenthesis, the kind of thing that would usually be one character's aside or prehistory, swagged in subquotation marks. There is, to appropriate a crashingly obvious food metaphor (but at least applaud me for keeping them to a minimum), nothing to get your teeth into.Read more ›
These eggs are produced by hens that are:
Protected from extremes of heat and cold;
Free from hunger and thirst;
Free to range and forage on green pasture;
Free from pain, injury and disease;
Free from fear and distress.
A slum family eats a family meal of rice with grated cheese and a single egg for flavouring, two children to each spoon. The story ends: "We stay at home and contemplate the life of hens."
Other stories contain examples of human venality disguised as generosity: the gift of unwanted food for refugee families includes the discards from the larders of the town and a proclamation goes out that the town donated 200 kilos to its `unfortunate guests'. Crace continues:
"And that's not counting all the problems solved, all the larders tidied up at last, the daughters satisfied, the heartburns eased, the diets honoured, the separations finalised, and the blunders of the past concealed as gifts."
Readers of this measured and easy-to-read book will enjoy the superb accomplishments of this marvellous writer, but in some of these tales, as well as laughter, disguise, sensual delight and deep human despair there is a sting too sharp for the comfort zone. Oh, and I like the cover too.
Jim Crace's ingenious collection of situations, characters and stories are neat, potted commentaries and descriptions which use the theme of food to illustrate bigger ideas. He often doesn't complicate the issue by building up a story and character when this is not required, but he will drop us right in the middle of a situation, with no loss of atmosphere and detail, and draw out a brief and effective allegory.
Crace plays with the format of the short story in a way which matches the way we deal with things everyday, drawing inference, moral and conclusion in the things that we see and experience. That is why it is so effective.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Crace at his inventive best. Stories that make you smile, long after the reading, ..Published 3 months ago by Linda Neeson
A good book of vaguely linked short stories by a great writer. Don't expect a complete novel but this food-related series of very short stories is good if you want a quick, light... Read morePublished 14 months ago by W. Osborne
It makes me want to throw the thing in the bin.
Who on earth thought this was a good idea?
Crace's books are variable. 'Being Dead' is a masterpiece. Read more
There is so much in this book. An impossible range of little stories that convey so many emotions and feelings, all connected with food. Read morePublished on 29 Nov. 2010 by KurtMcGowan
I seem to be very much in the minority here, but wow, this book was a disappointment. With the 'foodie vignette' premise, the striking lipsticked mouth on the front, and words like... Read morePublished on 11 Mar. 2010 by Miss E. Potten
Jim Crace has done it again! This author's richly faceted mind manages to find succinct stories from the most bizarre premises. Read morePublished on 3 Mar. 2010 by Grady Harp
The ever-imaginative, ever-inventive Jim Crace presents us with a full menu of short stories, several of which are quite thought-provoking.Published on 18 Jan. 2009 by New Zealander