Friday, October 13, 2006

Amuse-Biatch Book Report: Gael Greene

We are reading a memoir by famed New York Magazine restaurant critic Gael Greene, Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, and we are quite sad to have to report that we are very dissatisfied indeed.

The pedigree and the title seemed promising, but once we got a look at the cover, we knew we were in for trouble. As you can see, it features a souped-up odalisque adorned with every vulgar visual cliché about female sexuality, viz. the papaya, the kiwi, and the pomegranate. These prove prophetic--the entire book is a vulgar cliché.

The back cover carries a blurb from, of all people, gossip columnist Liz Smith: "Gael Greene is the best food writer since the late M.F.K. Fisher. I predict a runaway hit for INSATIABLE, which has all the sex (plus food) that the law will allow. I simply couldn't resist it."

I mean, Liz, honey, we love that fact that you're from Texas and a blonde and a goodtime gal and a 90-something lesbian, but you and good writing, much less food writing, are strangers to each other, as proved by your own effort in the genre, Dishing: Great Dish -- and Dishes -- from America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist (oy, and the title! I would have gone with something along the lines of Dull as Dishwater or Dull-Ass Dish). A good Texas chili recipe does not make you A.J. Liebling.

It isn't so much what Liz Smith says as that fact that she is saying it that crystallizes what is wrong with Insatiable. The other blurbers are Sirio Maccioni, Tim Zagat, and Bobby Flay. Need we say more? This book is about the gossip of food, the celebrity of food, but fails as gossip and as food writing (though we will give her credit for a few bons mots, such as "soup opera," which we are stealing).

We really wanted to like the book; we swear. We certainly respect Ms. Greene, but the writing is not very good, and the whole book is sloppy, with poor copyediting (a food book that discusses fois gras is enough to bring on both a crise de foi and a crise de foie). We get to hear about her allegedly torrid encounters with Elvis, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds (and she brags of once seeing an issue of Time Magazine only to realize she had slept with both of the men on the cover). But there's no sensuality, no passion, in her rather limited descriptions. It's just belt-notching, and just as unattractive in a woman as it is in a man.

Trying to give us a bedroom and dining room romp, she makes adultery seem joyless and desperate (which it may very well be), and in the end comes across as an elderly aunt who's a bit of a lush and a perv. Get Helen Mirren or Jeanne Moreau to show her what true sensuality in an older woman looks like.

No one ever had to spell out for us the connection between food and sensuality. Trust us on this one. And here at Amuse-Biatch, we're all in favor of intelligent, empowered women who are in touch with their sexuality. In fact, that's pretty much the only kind of woman we consort with.

However, there's a difference between being a sensualist and being merely slutty. It's the difference between getting it and getting some. Gael Greene admits that she has never found food better than sex. That should come as no surprise. Based on Insatiable, it's clear that, no matter how much she got, she just doesn't get it.

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