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The Debt to Pleasureby John Lanchester
Synopses & Reviews
An Englishman of indeterminate age whose spiritual home has always been France, Tarquin 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 British palate, from cheese as "the corpse of milk" to the binding action of blood. As Tarquin peels away the layers of his past, he proves himself a master of sly wit and subversive ideas. Only gradually, insidiously, do the outlines of a distinctly quirky aesthetic and a highly eccentric moral philosophy emerge, until the truth becomes unavoidable: This is not the voluptuary's memoir it purports to be, and Tarquin Winot is a master of something more than wit and opinion, something infinitely, quiveringly, sinister.
"Cocksure, obtuse, increasingly sinister, Tarquin Winot is a brilliant creation — as compelling an unreliable narrator as we've had since Nabokov set the gold standard with Charles Kinbote in Pale Fire. They are alike in the grandiosity of their self-effacement and the monstrosity of their intentions....It was inevitable that somebody was going to write a high-toned serial killer novel with a literary pedigree, and considering the potential awfulness of such a book, we must be grateful to Lanchester for bringing it off so beautifully. He has conjured up an immensely stylish literary dish and served it with a wit and knowingness that will delight foodies and bookies alike. En passant,he has managed to compose a lovely English bouquet to French civilization; in this respect as in others, (the book) resembles another suave and intricate meta-novel of recent years, Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot." Gerald Howard, The Nation
"In his elegant and cunning first novel, Lanchester, deputy editor of The London Review of Books, disguises a sinister tale of fraternal jealousy as an innocent cookbook. Many of his ingredients and methods are indelibly linked to memories of his childhood and early life. As the stories and characters appear and reappear, subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in narrator Tarquin Winot's remembrances point to something slighly more threatening than a literary gastronome's memoir. The evocative connection between food and the past, and the act of writing and the past, is notable more for what it conceals than what it unearths. Lanchester's writing is to be savored, and the observations of his buffoonishly high-brow narrator merit more than one reading. Very highly recommended." Adam Mazmanian, Library Journal
Winner of the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel and a New York Times Notable Book, The Debt to Pleasure is a wickedly funny ode to food. Traveling from Portsmouth to the south of France, Tarquin Winot, the books snobbish narrator, instructs us in his philosophy on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of the menu. Under the guise of completing a cookbook, Winot is in fact on a much more sinister mission that only gradually comes to light.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1996
A Voice Literary Supplement Best 25 of 1996
Winner of the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel
Long-listed for the Booker Prize
About the Author
John Lanchesterwas the deputy editor of the London Review of Books and the restaurant critic for the London Observer. He is the author of a second novel, Mr. Phillips, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker. He lives in London.
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