Denise Morland, August 9, 2011 (view all comments by Denise Morland)
On the surface My Korean Deli is about the experience Ben Howe has owning a deli in New York with his wife and her Korean parents, but its really about so much more! In his funny, self - effacing way he talks about the issues his in-laws faced as immigrants, what it was like for his wife to grow up with immigrant parents, and how that shaped what they wanted the store to become. While trying to make a go of the deli (no easy task) Ben works at the Paris Review for George Plimpton, so sprinkled throughout the story are tidbits about George and his eccentric, delightful beliefs and the extradordinary experience of working for him. By the end, Ben Howe has written a new kind of coming-of-age story in which the owning the deli has given him unusual insight about himself and changed who he is.
First, this book is just really funny and endearing. Ben is so honest about his own faults and unrealistic dreams that you can't help but like him. Plus, a deli in New York has to be one of the best places to find every variety of crazy out there, so the stories are highly entertaining. Ben's commentary on the publishing industry and immigrant issues deepen the book, giving it a more satisfying heft. The beginning was a little slow to get going for me, but after that the book had me laughing and cheering for Ben and his Korean in-laws.
I listened to My Korean Deli on audio, narrated by Bronson Pinchot. There was nothing striking or fancy about the reading which suited the book perfectly. By the end the voice matched the story so well I would have sworn that the book was read by Ben Howe himself.
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Shannon Geiger, March 20, 2011 (view all comments by Shannon Geiger)
Mr. Howe, an editor for the Paris Review, is married to a Korean-American woman. She is trying to be a dutiful Korean daughter, so she talks her husband into staying in her mom's basement, not using their savings to buy a house, and instead buying a deli in Brooklyn. The book is a memoir of that time and Mr. Howe does an excellent job describing all the wacky people that come to inhabit his life while he and his family try to successfully run a deli. The city and the neighborhood become characters as well. The book not only provides insight into the Brooklyn neighborhood where they have purchased the deli, but the last year of George Plimpton's life - who happens to be he owner of Paris Review. The clashing of the different cultures, lifestyles, values and traditions is a great subplot to the story as well.
My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store
Ben Ryder Howe
0 stars -
Henry Holt and Co. -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Former senior editor of the Paris Review, Howe recounts his stint as owner and beleaguered worker of a Brooklyn deli in this touching memoir. Howe and his wife, Gab, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decide to buy a deli for her parents as a gesture of goodwill for the sacrifices they have made. His mother-in-law, Kay, whom he describes as 'the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers,' is gung-ho from the start, and when a store is finally purchased in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, she immediately takes charge. The work (including manipulating the devilish lottery machine) is more trying than Howe anticipated, not to mention dealing with the eccentric neighborhood characters who complain bitterly about any changes, from coffee prices to shelf rearrangements. Mostly working the night shift, Howe also maintains his position at the magazine. Both establishments are sinking ships: the deli hemorrhages money as bills pile up and revenue falters; the Review grows more disorganized, and subscribership plummets. Howe ably transforms what could have been a string of amusing vignettes about deli ownership into a humorous but heartfelt look into the complexities of family dynamics and the search for identity. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
by Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara,
"In this WASP-out-of-water tale of a Paris Review editor moonlighting as deli owner — or is it the other way around? Howe plunges boldly into life's ultimate mysteries: marriage, money, cohabitation with in-laws, the yin-yang currents of striving and slacking, and — perhaps the biggest mystery of them all — why the store can be empty of customers for hours and hours, and then twenty show up at once. Read this book, and you'll come away wiser not just in the ways of the world, but of the human heart as well."
by A.J. Jacobs, author of The Know It All and The Year of Living Biblically,
"My Korean Deli is about a Korean deli, as I expected. But it's also about love, culture-clashes, family, money and literature. Plus, it happens to be very funny and poignant. So buy a Slim Jim and a Vitamin water and sit down to enjoy it."
by P.J. O'Rourke,
"I don't know how else to explain My Korean Deli except to say that Ben Ryder Howe has made kimchi. As in that splendid staple dish of Korea, the mundane (cabbage/Brooklyn) is combined with the piquant (crazy spices/families) and pickled (natural fermentation/a job at the Paris Review). The result is overpoweringly good. But My Korean Deli will sweeten your reading rather than stinking up your house and will give you deep thoughts not breath that can kill mice in the walls."
"Poking fun at everything from his stereotypically WASP upbringing to his 'tank' (he said it) of a mother-in law....Howe has created a smartly measured and propulsive read."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Howe's portrait of the septaugenarian [George] Plimpton is priceless....Howe's combining of the Upper East Side's old world with immigrant survival skills conveys what is absolutely the best of New York. Delightful."
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