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The Devil's Larder by Jim Crace

The Devil's Larder (2001)

by Jim Crace

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Showing 5 of 5
Fragments, ideas, vignettes... but definitely not short stories. Borrowed this book from a friend after loving Being Dead. Disappointing. ( )
  jonathankws | Mar 29, 2017 |
Sixty four tales, vignettes, essays or squibs about eating, related throughout in prose of unvarying dry elegance. Very few of these meals are delightful. Some are sinister, others disgusting. Crace is anything but engaging in this collection. ( )
  Pauntley | Mar 13, 2013 |
Wow, this book was a disappointment. With the 'foodie vignette' premise, the striking lipsticked mouth on the front, and words like 'erotic', 'funny', 'delicious', 'tender', and 'profound' floating around in the reviewer quotes on the cover, I had high hopes. I was expecting a kind of fusion of Joanne Harris and Laura Esquivel, something sensual and rich, maybe with a hint of magic and darkness about it. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. It was nothing like that. In fact, the food link in itself was rather tenuous at times. The book was just plain sick. Rather than touching tales, warmth and insight, these vignettes were bitter sour, riddled with food poisoning, sewers, various bodily functions, death and decay. A chef poisons his customers and enjoys thinking about how their bodies will violently reject his food later that day. A character watches a new set of neighbours unsuspectingly growing 'delicious' fruit and vegetables in the old owner's latrine disposal pit. A man watches through binoculars as schoolgirl shellfish-collectors and their teacher urinate on the beach. They're just a couple of the delights on offer.

This just goes on and on - even when the story starts out nicely, it's like Crace can't resist throwing something disgusting in there to drag it back into the gutter. After the first few vignettes it really started to feel unnecessary and gratuitous, and once or twice I nearly gave up on the book, it was making me feel so ill. I carried on in the hope that there might just be a 'chapter' or two that would touch me, offer something profound, and thus make the rest worthwhile. I didn't find one. The whole thing just left me cold. I am very open-minded, not at all easily shocked, and I usually appreciate the subtleties behind a disturbing read, but - sorry Crace enthusiasts - this time I have no qualms about offering it a paltry half a star (just for the effort of writing) and saying that this was possibly the worst book I have ever read in my life. ( )
2 vote elliepotten | Mar 11, 2010 |
An earlier Crace book that's clearly a precursor to his darker fiction. This is a foodie kind of book. Just enough to keep you wondering what he'll do next! This is not the book for everyone. I have recommended is to quite a few folks and only one person came back loving it. It can be quite visceral and evocative. It's clearly meant for folks not afraid of being on the edge. ( )
  stanlicious | Jul 11, 2008 |
This is a book of 64 vignettes about food. But it's not simply about food, it's about the emotions that go along with the food and the complex issues surrounding the food. The style is lyrical and poetic, and subtle themes of all flavors are infused throughout it's pages. Jim Crace has done a fantastic job of making these short essays, more often then not, foreboding and dark. There are stories dealing with death and love, indifference and hate, and just about any human emotion that can be played out. There is more than one story about poisoning, accidental or otherwise. Some of the stories are only a few sentences long, but in those sentences he has packed an emotional range and vivacity that some authors can't seem to find even after hundreds of pages. Some of the stories are subtle and refined, others vulgar and coarse. The one thing that these stories all have in common is some relationship to food either direct or tangential.

There are stories of a magic soup stone, it's granite flavoring hundreds of pots of stew and soup. Of cans missing labels that defy explanation of their contents. Tales of room service meals, and treachery played out in the form of sustenance. Stories of supernatural influences regarding food, and hungry nights out in the woods searching for anything that could be a meal. These stories have a rich feel, and many exotic ingredients pepper the pages: aubergines, morels and manac beans, razor clams, macaroons and a feast made of ingredients all of white. There are stories of fondue parties gone wrong, and stews made hearty with boiled leather. These stories are not for the touchy of stomach; they are a mash of devilish potency, spilling from the pages like verse.

This is the perfect book to dip into and out of noncommittally. The stories are perfect for when you can only do a little reading at a time, or between chapters of another book. I read the book in its entirety, and it did not suffer for having not been digested in small bits. The book was enticing, while at the same time being slightly repulsing. There is so much inside this book alongside of food, mostly our complex relationships to the food and the feelings that food inspires in us.

Though this was a strange book, and I have never read anything like it, it was pleasing and satisfying in it's own weird way. I had heard many things about it, and was eager to read it. Though it was short, it was unusually gratifying. I would recommend this book to those who are tired of the ordinary, and long for something that bites back. ( )
1 vote zibilee | Jun 10, 2008 |
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Someone has taken off - and lost - the label on the can.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374138591, Hardcover)

In The Devil's Larder, Jim Crace has put together an odd and artful little volume that encompasses more of the human experience than it really ought to, given its size and scope. Crace presents us with 64 short fictions about food, which add up to a picture of life that is at once diabolical and innocent, creepily sexualized and free of judgment. In one fable, a mother and her small daughter twist their tongues together, ferreting out the food in each other's mouths: they want to know if food tastes the same from another person's tongue. A game of strip fondue ends with guests covered in burns where the molten cheese has fallen onto their naked flesh. "A gasp of pain. The whiff of sizzling flesh and hair and cheese." Flesh and cheese, that's the stuff. Crace shows us the odd outer limits of desire, and revels in the sheer weirdness of the daily act of eating. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:14 -0400)

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Sixty-four short fictions about food, sex, desire and its death.

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