Tiller and Val consume Victor’s Peking duck risotto and explode into carnal area, with Val “afterward torching me in our Thunderdome bed like I was just one of Victor Jr.’s cardamom crème brûlées in advance of cracking as a result of the candied shell to my whipped-custard main.” (Waiter, can I have an order of that risotto to go?)
It is overkill. Looking through “My Year Abroad,” a person begins to really feel, as Pete Townshend wrote in a recent Who track, “over-whole, generally sated, puffed up, elated.” The far too-muchness of food in recent fiction reminds me of a letter Lionel Trilling wrote to Norman Mailer in 1959, deploring the “new tendency to explicitness about sex” in novels.
Trilling acknowledged Mailer’s point, that sex is certainly important in fiction, but wrote: “Put it that I am in favor of a whole lot of explicitness for 10, perhaps 12 yrs then everybody shut up.” That is additional or less how I sense about the landslide of foodstuff in novels circa 2021. I would have vastly additional authority on this matter if my have crafting weren’t whole of metaphors drawn from the meal desk.
In his previous novels, Lee’s narrators have frequently been aged. This suits him in print, at the very least, he’s an previous soul. It’s among the negatives of “My Year Abroad” that Tiller almost never appears like a believable 20-calendar year-outdated. Granted, he’s been through a large amount. But Lee offers him so many groaning observations (“We’re beasts of our individual burdens, which in no way lighten”) that he’s tricky to acquire significantly. There’s no lightness in him. He’s all brakes and no gas.
Even harder to get significantly is this novel’s major expose, the minute when we find out what took place to Tiller on the junket abroad, the “harrowing journey” he refers to in the to start with chapter. I can’t give the very important scene absent, but it’s nuts.
Lee provides a tableau that could have been concocted by Peter Greenaway for his Grand Guignol motion picture “The Cook dinner, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,” or by Ian Fleming in an abandoned novel titled “The Spy Who Spatchcocked Me.” Suffice it to say that you will in no way search at dungeons, mortars and pestles, thongs, hairnets, curry, tennis umpires’ chairs and Jacques Lacan’s producing in the exact same way.