Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage. ISBN: 9781566891813.
Firmin is a literary rat, he eats and reads books. There wasn't as much book eating and tasting as I was hoping for. I really wanted more descriptions of what the books tasted like to Firmin. The ones he did mention were from the perspective of a rat, so I thought I would share with you how I feel books would taste, by genre if nothing else.
Non-fiction tastes like broccoli. The bad kind is super raw broccoli. It's there on my plate, and I'm required to eat the roughage, sans ranch dip. Stomach aches, bloating and gas to follow. Good non-fiction is still broccoli, but it varies from lightly steamed, to covered in delicious cheese sauce (or humor as I like to call it) to make it more palatable. I've read some fabulous non-fiction in my times and it seems to be getting more palatable all the time. Part of this may because my palate has matured and I'm no longer forced to eat my broccoli and sprouts, but eat them gladly.
Memoir somewhat reminds of the Seder Plate. I'm not Jewish, but as a Unitarian we tend to explore the traditions of other religions and cultures. The Seder Plate consists of an arrangement of foods meant to symbolize the Exodus of Egypt. To me the act of writing a memoir is itself a ritual, so I find this particularly fitting to "taste" ritual when I read ritual. The plate is comprised of sweet, bitter, salty, and includes meat and egg. This very much summarizes how I feel about memoirs: some are more
balanced than others, while others tip more towards the bitter or sweet,
but I think it's a very fitting analogy.
Science Fiction reminds of the exotic foods (at least to American palate). It's definitely not for everyone, you have to have a taste for it, to be willing to eat squid and octopus and pigeon and rattlesnake (all things I've eaten by the way). It has a flavor that you can get close to describing, but not close enough. The only way you can truly experience it is to live it, but since you can't live science fiction (at least not yet), you can read the descriptions and imagine the reality as close as possible. Some of the flavors you can taste, but unless you actually go to the county the food is made in, you will be eating the version that is adapted to your palate. It is foreign and familiar at the same time.
Fantasy is kind of a hard one to peg down. I'd say it's the Jello or perhaps the Gelato of the literary world. It's delicious, that cannot be denied, but it's sort of amorphous as well, or it melts on the tongue too quickly and you feel compelled to shove another bite in your mouth. When you're done with the bowl there's a sense of satisfaction and an anticipation for the next time you can get your hands on a good one. As someone not overly fond of Jello, I would say that's what bad fantasy tastes like, but damn do I love Gelato.
Novels, they range in tastes. Maybe they're a buffet. Yes, a buffet like Golden Corral. You mostly get the basic flavors, the mac'n'cheese, the green beans, roast beef, and some dessert to boot. We also tend to glut on novels (or general fiction) and ignore other genres. It's easy to do because they tend to be pushed on us as being closer to
our lives than science fiction or fantasy, so they must be more
"valuable." But everything in moderation, dear reader (I know, I'm not very good at moderation either).
Horror/Suspense is kind of like the new dish you've been wanting to try, but it's so out of your usual tastes that you're never sure if you should take the leap of faith. The pleasure of thinking about eating it is sometimes more delicious than the actual eating. Even when it's good you sometimes regret eating it because of the results (oops, who knew I was allergic to conch?*).
Mystery is like bread. White, tasteless, non-nutritious bread. It's formulaic and dull and boring, but sometimes you can make a damn fine sandwich with it. But then, the focus is never really the bread, now is it? I prefer novels that have an element of mystery without it actually being A Mystery. There are rare exceptions that are more like a nice pumpernickle or French loaf, maybe even some raisin bread if you're lucky. Mystery lovers will disagree with me here, but to me - white bread. It's obviously a library staple, though, and I respect it as such, but I wouldn't eat it on a regular basis.
Young Adult, oh I love YA Fiction. It is dessert. I try to eat sparingly, but I have such a bad sweet tooth. Books like The Hunger Games are more of a cheese tray or a frozen yogurt
- a slightly healthier choice, but oh so good. You have books like
Twilight, which are like penny candy: I'll eat it if it's around, but
it's certainly not my first choice and sometimes I'll skip it
altogether. But I love most the truly enjoyable reads that have a certain denseness to them like a good brownie or rich cake. I'm drooling, how about you?
Romance, strangely, is like whipped cream. There is nothing good in those calories, but damned if I don't eat it anyway. It goes well with other genres, but on it's own there's something shameful about just eating whipped cream. At the worst it's like a Diet Coke: not only is it overly sweet and bad for you, but there's no caloric value at all.
*Surprise! Oh the horror. PS: I don't know if I'm allergic to conch, but this is supposedly how most people find out...and on vacation.
**Dayna Ingram asked me to blog about this book, although she did not recommend a topic (this time). Send me a recommendation at email@example.com or my Twitter account @libs_lib.