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The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

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The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese Cover

ISBN13: 9780385337007
ISBN10: 0385337000
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets — usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.

It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong....

By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale–like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.

What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.

Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

Review:

“Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters — and, yes, cheese — in memory.” Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

Review:

“For my money, Paterniti is one of the most expansive and joyful writers around — big-hearted and humane and funny. This book is a wild and amazing ride.” George Saunders, author of Tenth of December

Review:

“The list of writers I would read even if they were to write about a piece of cheese has always been short, but it includes Michael Paterniti. He has proved here that if you love something enough and pay a passionate enough attention to it, the whole world can become present in it. That’s true of both the cheese and the book.” John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

Review:

“An amazing achievement, The Telling Room is an inspired, masterly epic that expands and refigures the parameters of the storyteller’s art.” Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

About the Author

Michael Paterniti is the New York Times bestselling author of Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Harper’s, Outside, Esquire, and GQ, where he works as a correspondent. Paterniti has been nominated eight times for the National Magazine Award, and is the recipient of a NEA grant and two MacDowell Fellowships. He is the co-founder of a children’s storytelling center in Portland, Maine, where he lives with his wife and their three children.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Lynn Lesperance, October 8, 2013 (view all comments by Lynn Lesperance)
Love cheese? Intrigued by a way of life you thought was long gone?Then this just might be the book you have been looking for.
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sharrona, August 30, 2013 (view all comments by sharrona)
Thoroughly enjoyable book -- a non-fiction account of stories, storytellers, storytelling, and listening. Oh yes, and a very special cheese. Beautifully written, with the most entertaining (though sometimes tangential) footnotes I've encountered for a long time. Ambrosio, the legendary, heroic, larger-than-life cheesemaker, dominates most of the book. He is such a compelling character that I did not want to read the latter sections the author gleaned from those who might contradict Ambrosio's stories and thus diminish him. But by the end of the book, I turned the last page almost expecting to see another chapter, or even a footnote, containing that single remaining hoped-for event.
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Lance Cromwell, July 30, 2013 (view all comments by Lance Cromwell)
I loved this book. I've now read it twice, and I loved it more the second time around. This is a book that deserves to be read twice - at least! - because it is so rich, so finely layered that it has more to offer than one could possibly extract in a single exploration of its pages.

What might well be a tiny nightmare for a marketing executive - there is no neat log line, no ten word summary, no one thing this book is - is what I find to be one of its many strengths. It limns a great tale, is a biography (biographies?!) of sorts, a travel narrative... it is about sumptuous, real food and wine, is a fascinating history, and is a story of its own creation. It even finds time to question and ruminate upon Truth and Memory. It contains multitudes. And while some apparently find this to be a problem (the 1- and 2-star reviewers... I don't get it, but to each his/her own), I submit that this is what makes the book a treat for almost anyone, for there is something for just about anyone in these pages, and for many, there is quite a lot. For me, certainly. I will be recommending this jewel far and wide amongst my reading friends and acquaintances. I was truly surprised to see negative or nonplussed reviews, though, again, to each their own. Maybe some people tore through the pages, in Drive-Thru fashion, checking it off the list, without time to digest? Or opened it up and found that it is not a single-serving, cellophane wrapped, bit of processed engineering, and despaired? At any rate, I am encouraged to see that some of the most thoughtful writers and readers out there - George Saunders, Dave Eggers, Susan Orlean, Elizabeth Gilbert - were similarly swept up and blown away by The Telling Room.

One of the truly wonderful aspects of the book, I think, is that Mr. Paterniti so delved into the fabric of the town and the people in this story, that his writing fully reflects the culture that it is about, and as such, the people, town, and story dictate the structure of the book. It is wonderfully digressive, wandering and unfolding like a great conversation in Castile:

"If one had an important revelation, or needed the intimate company of friends, one might head to the telling room, and over wine and chorizo, unfolding in the wonderfully digressive way of Castilian conversation, the story would out. On weekends, casual gatherings might last an entire day and night, with stories wandering from details of the recent harvest to the dramas of village life to perhaps, finally, the war stories of the past, all accompanied by copious wine. In this way, the bodega, with its telling room, became a mystical state of mind as much as a physical place."

Perhaps the author in this instance, is a modern mystic, subjecting himself to the austerity of years of observance, of seeking, without knowing the precise outcome. The book was a long time in the making, and while the author cites times where this was a frustration, and an obstacle to overcome, it is precisely the thing that allowed for so many layers, I think. Had Mr. Paterniti gone to visit and interview and been the soul of efficiency, knocking this project out, in a year, say, he would not have accomplished the depth of reflection and insight that came with a decade's worth of listening, absorbing, and living.

The story begins with a chance encounter with an allegedly 'sublime' cheese - Páramo de Guzmán - but it really takes on life when Mr. Paterniti encounters the Cheesemaker himself, Ambrosio Molinos. A wonderful, larger-than-life character, whose very essence is intertwined with the town of Guzmán as well as his cheese. I'll not take up time and space here to describe the man, for Paterniti has done so beautifully, thoroughly, and respectfully. He comments about Ambrosio:

"And although he loved the village as a parent, he always seemed to be seeing it for the first time, through the eyes of a child.

Perhaps this was his greatest accomplishment. He bent time until nothing was linear. So everything moved in circles, like the seasons. While clinging to the past, he always saw Guzmán as new and necessary. And he made you see it, too."

What was aptly penned in regards to the Cheesemaker, might also be said of the Writer. He may be the parent of the book in your hand (one of them, anyway!), but he comes to the story again and again, with new eyes. And he does make the Reader see it in this way, too. He bends time within the story, dexterously moving between eras, and narrative threads. You see this story, and the people within, throughout many seasons, thereby getting a real look, a true taste.

Just extraordinary.

Borrowing from one of the many, intriguing footnotes in The Telling Room, I quote Carlo Petrini's Slow Food Manifesto: "Against those, and there are many of them, who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of a sufficient portion of assured sensual pleasure, to be practiced in slow and prolonged enjoyment."

Three cheers for that sentiment, and for Michael Paterniti's book! I highly recommend reading this wonder, and reading it again (and maybe again), so as to prolong the enjoyment, and absorb all that it has to offer. A huge muchas gracias to Paterniti for giving us such a wonderful, textured book.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385337007
Subtitle:
A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese
Author:
Paterniti, Michael
Publisher:
The Dial Press
Subject:
Biography - General
Publication Date:
20130730
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
368

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Biography » General
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Cooking and Food » Regional and Ethnic » Spanish and Portuguese
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The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages The Dial Press - English 9780385337007 Reviews:
"Review" by , “Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters — and, yes, cheese — in memory.”
"Review" by , “For my money, Paterniti is one of the most expansive and joyful writers around — big-hearted and humane and funny. This book is a wild and amazing ride.”
"Review" by , “The list of writers I would read even if they were to write about a piece of cheese has always been short, but it includes Michael Paterniti. He has proved here that if you love something enough and pay a passionate enough attention to it, the whole world can become present in it. That’s true of both the cheese and the book.”
"Review" by , “An amazing achievement, The Telling Room is an inspired, masterly epic that expands and refigures the parameters of the storyteller’s art.”
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