Monday, December 23, 2013

Scenes from the rural Finger Lakes

Heavy fog and cold winds, but this time of year I'd rather have snow.  It's frustrating how dependent we are on vehicles to be mobile, though between the holiday shopping crowds and visits to the suburbs, I welcome the open fields and quiet roads.  These are shots from my iPhone, but I also took some at the lake with my Olympus camera.

A sole white swan drifting about with the Canadian geese on Honeoye Lake.

Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch (2009)

A few weeks ago, I received a bookstore gift card from our school’s study abroad office for winning one of the categories in their travel photo contest.  Rather than purchasing more branded gear, I took my time perusing the shelves for an actual book.  I didn’t quite know what I was looking for; I was all too tempted by cookbooks, travel novelists, and YA fiction… but I figured it was time to graduate to adult novels (what can I say, leisure reading hasn’t come easy to me since I’m always reading peer-reviewed journals or cultural theory texts).  The Dinner, by Danish author Herman Koch (2009) and translated by Sam Garrett (2013), leaped out to me because it’s a fiction novel that has food at the forefront, though obviously has much more to do than the course of one meal.  This is a tenet I explored this past semester in an applied theory course on Food Literature, and we had noted a larger absence of food fiction as a genre, vs. non-fiction memoirs.

The Dinner is told from the perspective of a Danish man named Paul Lohman.  It’s a quick read, as Paul vacillates between each course of the present meal with his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, and flashbacks that define his motivations in the situation.  The finely-constructed meal at the trendy restaurant is juxtaposed by the instability of the family’s relationships and the fact that they met to discuss the violent crimes of their sons. Like any novel, we are at the mercy of the narrator; their tone, their consciousness, what they wish to reveal or hide— and Paul’s family secrets prove to be particularly sinister.  But these secrets are not necessarily inhumane, which I believe is Koch’s way of rupturing the idealism we place on high society, and imagery of so-called “happy” and “normal” families.  Ultimately, we must ask ourselves to what extent do we hold loyalty to those we share blood, and how far would we go for them?  

I honestly was left a bit disturbed, not quite decided on how I felt about the narrator and his family.  If you’re interested in more official reviews, check them out at The Guardian and The NYT.  Next year, Cate Blanchett is directing an on-screen adaptation.

// New found freedom is being dedicated to music exploration, leisure reading, cooking, revisiting my water colors from China, and blogging.  

Listening: Thomas Jack, a Miam/Sydney-based DJ on Soundcloud.

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