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Debt To Pleasure, The: A Novel Paperback – Mar 22 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (March 22 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805051309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805051308
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.9 x 19.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,703,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

A gorgeous, dark, and sensuous book that is part cookbook, part novel, 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 brutalization of the palate, from cheese as "the corpse of milk" to the binding action of blood. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Diabolically clever, Lanchester's debut novel more than lives up to its advance hoopla. This purported "unconventional" cookbook-cum-memoir is a brilliant portrait of its narrator, a man whose professed gentility conceals a cold-blooded obsession and a sinister agenda. In a dry, supercilious manner, meant to display his soi-disant refined taste and superb erudition, Englishman and Francophile Tarquin Winot sets out to produce his physiologie du gout, a book that will include bona fide recipes (blini, fish stew), arcane culinary lore (the history of the peach), etymological disquisition (the origins of the words for coriander?from a variant of bedbug?and vodka) and fawning references to such culinary stars as Brillat-Savarin and Elizabeth David. Tarquin's commentary is larded with acidic bon mots, astringent asides and frequent invocations of figures ranging chronologically from Aeschylus to Auden, and culturally from James Bond to Luis Bu?uel. But what lies between the lines gives the narrative its insidious fascination, for in his casual references to the accidental deaths of servants, a neighbor and various family members, Tarquin gives away his true character, suggested by his early statement that "[t]here is an erotics of dislike." It is only gradually that the reader deciphers those clues and realizes that Tarquin is revealing far more than sibling rivalry when he insists that it is he?not his brother Bartholomew, a celebrated painter and sculptor?who has the true artist's genius. For those who appreciate linguistic virtuosity and light-fingered irony, who enjoy constructing a jigsaw puzzle out of tantalizing clues, this novel will be a lagniappe, fit for connoisseurs of fine food and writing. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB featured selections; first serial to Granta; audio to Audio Literature; foreign rights sold to 16 countries; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Smith on Feb. 27 2000
Format: Paperback
This book impressed me first and formeost as the work of a Nabokov wannabe. The "unreliable narrator" ploy, the protagonist who is, at least in his own eyes, too good for this world, the slow unveiling of horror within a texture of polite erudition and so on all felt deeply familiar from the moment i picked up the book and it didn't take long to figure out where I'd run across them before. That said, my advice to Mr. Lanchester is, "Nice try John, keep workin' on it but... keep your day job."
I remember meeting a man called Alexis once on the island of Hydra. He was handsome, charming, witty and international. He had lived all over the world and had, to quote Roy Batty, "seen things you people wouldn't believe." He was instantly likeable and almost everyone in the gentle crowd of artists, rock stars, hippies and vacationing literati swirling around him liked him immensely in spite of the fact that, once you got to know him a bit, you realized that he was a cold-blooded, mercenary killer who specialized in working for governments engaged in the dirtiest of wars - Angola, Brazil, Chile and so on. Reading "Lolita" is a little like spending an afternoon with Alexis. The texture of the experience is so rich and luxurious, the pacing and plotting so deft that you are willing to forgive your companion almost anything just as long as you can continue to bask in the glow of the encounter. By contrast, reading "The Debt to Pleasure" is a bit like a first date with someone who turns out to be exasperating, self-absorbed and, in the end, not particularly interesting. By the end of the first chapter "A Winter Menu" there was, I'll admit, a bit of intrigue left.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Yau on June 19 2003
Format: Paperback
Do you know that word "barbecue" originates from Haitian "barbacado" that refers to a rack-frame system leaving off the ground a bed? Do you know that tomatoes, if imminently picked and allowed to ripe during transport, will turn plasticky and insipid? Do you know that the thickness requirement in preserving the juice in barbecued meat is an inch to 3 inches? Have you ever wondered why starch (such as rice) and fruits, and not a glass of iced water, serve to subdue the spiciness of curry?
John Lanchester's The Debt of Pleasure not only deftly answers all the above questions but also, in impeccable and painfully beguiling prose, embraces his readers into the world of Tarquin Winot. Strictly speaking, the book, which is nothing more than a scrumptious culinary reflection in thoughtful menus arranged by the seasons, cannot be deemed as a work of fiction if Winot is a real chef. From his menus, which embody different cultures, capture a man's psychology and thus his impulse to order, and witness the come-and-go of dining trends; Winot related the story of his life to the preparations of food.
The writing is as insatiating and titillating as the menus. Winot retreated to southern France and reminisced, papered his thoughts on the subject of food that evoked his childhood, his parents, his brother Barthomelow the artist, the beloved maidservant Mary-Theresa, and the home cook Mitthaug. Aroma of a particular dish could graciously tug his memory and coalesce the disparate locations of Winot's upbringing. Woven into his painfully and haughtily opinionated meditations on food was disheartening anecdotes of his family. His brother struggled as an artist who, like other artists in history, never felt adequately attended to for his work and died a tragic death of fungus poisoning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Sept. 5 2001
Format: Paperback
This book both enthralled me, and gave me the chills. It was much like reading "The Silence of the Lambs" from the point of view of Hannibal. You know, "I HAD to kill the census worker, his liver just went SO WELL with fava beans and chianti."
Reading the other customer reviews, I both loved and hated the book. I could agree with points on both sides. I'm not sure whether this means that it is a truly gifted book, or that I'm really twisted....
I'm sure that I would have liked it much more if I had had a knowledge of French or French cuisine. Some of the names of dishes he mentioned in passing would probably have added to the wit of the book if I had known what they were. I can understand what a pate is, but some of the more convoluted dish names had me saying "What the heck is that?"
Well worth the time and effort to read if you can get through the dense and convoluted prose.
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By A. Ross on Nov. 27 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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