Archive for the ‘satire’ Tag

FUDS: What’s Not For Dinner   Leave a comment


FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia by Alfredo & Antonio Mizretti is neither for the weak of stomach nor the humorless. Let’s start with the fact it’s actually written by Kelly Hudson, Dan Klein and Arthur Meyer. This trio has taken the mystique and the occasional arrogance often associated with haute cuisine out of the kitchen and onto the equivalent of a culinary comedy stage.

The authors are irreverent, silly and occasionally gross in the manner of pre-adolescents. They’re also fun and creative. Although the book is “Dedicated to Food,” it could easily be earmarked for those who love food and don’t mind heavy-handed metaphorical flavoring.

The Mizretti personas assumed by the true authors are twin brothers who grew up in Denver eating Mama Mizretti’s homemade specialties, which, according to Alfredo and Antonio “was awful.” Eventually, they open a restaurant, FUDS, in Brooklyn with only three items on the menu.

The content is ridiculous, but for anyone interested in food, and not so full of him or herself that a good laugh can’t be appreciated, it’s entertaining.

The book is comprised of several chapters related to the Mizrettis’ background, food basics a la FUDS, satirical descriptions of kitchen tools and several chapters of recipes – the kind made up at summer camp or on a college campus. Some are, frankly, gross. All are absurd.

A little FUDS go a long way. Its 160 pages, of which many are illustrations, is just about the right length. Of course, it also lends itself to return reads.

FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia from Tickling Shrimp to Not Dying in a Restaurant
Four Bookmarks (0 plates)
Bloomsbury, 2015
160 pages

Wedding Nightmares   5 comments

Seating Arrangements

Anyone planning a wedding in the next few months, or ever, might consider avoiding Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead; but they would be missing a fun, albeit satirical, and poignant look at families under stress.

Shipstead’s debut novel focuses on Winn Van Meter, father of the bride-to-be, in the three days prior to the ceremony. Winn is a banker, a Harvard man whose greatest disappointments are that he didn’t have sons and has yet to be granted membership in a private golf club. His daughter Daphne, seven months pregnant, is marrying Greyson Duff. That name alone suggests privilege, which is an apt description for the entire wedding party.

The nuptials are taking place on a fashionable island off the New England coast. The Van Meters have long had a vacation home there, although, as it turns out, the Duffs have their own island. Yet, the only character concerned with one-upmanship is Winn. And, perhaps, his younger daughter, Livia, who was recently dumped by her boyfriend, Teddy Fenn – whose father, Winn surmises, is responsible for obstructing admittance to the private club.

Shipstead’s multiple talents lie in her ability to create distinct voices and flaws for each of her characters. The cast of which include friends, family, and the Fenns. Biddy Van Meter, Winn’s wife, is the voice of reason while humoring her husband. However, her patience and fortitude wane as his attraction to one of the bridesmaids waxes.

In Shipstead’s hands, humor and heartache are worn with the ease of a properly fitted cummerbund.

Seating Arrangements
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
302 pages

Puzzled by the Hype   Leave a comment


Satirical, dark, contemporary and poignant are apt descriptions of the 10 short stories by George Saunders, in a collection entitled Tenth of December. Consistent and pleasing, on the other hand, don’t make my list.

Writing in multiple voices, Saunders’s edge dulls by the end of the collection: too much anguish, disappointment and loss.  However, “Victory Lap” and “Puppy” tug at the soul. The narrators are very aware of what is missing in their lives. Saunders nails the internal struggles of the main characters. “Victory Lap” features two teens whose inner voices are imaginative, rebellious and forthright – unlike their true personalities. Kyle is a teenage boy grappling with whether or not to come to the aid of his next door neighbor as she’s being abducted. Before the inner struggle ensues, he cops an attitude toward his parents, extreme control freaks. This explains Kyle’s reluctance: his parents are likely to be disappointed at what others will perceive as heroism. Although it may not seem like a likely place for humor to reside, this is a laugh-out loud story. Saunders creates tension and humor effortlessly.

“Puppy” carries that same unlikely combination, but this time with a mother as narrator trying to appease her overindulged children. Spoiled kids, grown kids who make poor choices, parents who make bad decisions and adults knowing they need to do better with their lives are among the characters Saunders creates. They’re not people I want to know. Perhaps therein lies the problem: they are, in fact, all around us.

Tenth of December
Not-quite Four Bookmarks
Random House, 2013
251 pages

Lightning Strikes   Leave a comment

When reading Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods it’s important to keep in mind the various
definitions of satire: lampoon, irony, parody, among others. DeWitt’s novel offers several
examples of satire’s many faces: it’s far-fetched, addresses a significant topic, and throws in
occasional laughs. Unfortunately, this just isn’t enough.

DeWitt examines sexual harassment in the workplace through an idea known as lightning
rods. The genius behind the concept is Joe. Just Joe with no last name and not much of a
backstory. What’s known is that Joe is a down-on-his-luck salesman with a penchant for
sexual fantasies. Of course it makes perfect sense that he would blend his weak sales skills
with the latter to develop a service to improve workplace productivity while eliminating
sexual harassment. Joe’s idea: anonymous female employees (the lightning rods) available to
fulfill sexual needs. This may sound like prostitution, but Joe spends plenty of time trying to
convince people otherwise. Like their namesakes, the females provide resistance to potential
problems. One of the best explanations is from a lightning rod who later becomes a Supreme
Court Justice. She says, “… there’s nothing like being on the receiving end of a proactive sex-
ual harassment program …”

The story follows Joe’s climb from a hapless schmuck to a successful one. Among many ironies
in DeWitt’s tale is that most characters are identified by first name only. They engage in one
of the most personal ways people interact, but they are more like cardboard cutouts than living,
breathing humans.

Lightning Rods
Two-and-a-half  Bookmarks
By Helen DeWitt
New Directions, 2011
273 pages