September 21, 2008

I cannot fathom what publisher thought that this book was worth publishing - or, Additional Proof That I Should Write a Book

Perhaps that sounded a bit harsh.  

The concept of The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn is a cool one - a woman feeling stifled by corporate America is fired from her job and decides to pursue her dream as a student at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  

Fine.  Woman pursues dreams.  Love it.  Very Eat, Pray, Love.  Elizabeth Gilbert is even quoted on the cover of the book praising the author for pursuing her dreams.

Imagine my dismay when, on a 3 hour train ride back from DC, I realized that this book was horrid.  Really just not good.  Poorly written.  Poorly organized.  Just really unreadable.  And a shame because I really love food books.  I love to read about cooking because I love to eat and it makes me hungry.  It's a shame because the concept had such potential.  And then it was butchered (cooking pun intended).  

I made it to page 94 because I was bored.  I was also hoping it would get better.  It did not.  It was equally bad on page 5 and 94 and I finally gave up and tried to subtly read over the shoulder of my seat neighbor, who was happily typing away on her laptop.

Here's why you should bypass this book:

1.  The book summary touts a woman leaving a thankless job to pursue a lifelong dream.  However, in the author's note Flinn mentions that "I waited to tell Le Cordon Bleu about this book until I had written and sold the manuscript.  As a journalist, I wanted to be treated like an other student so that I could tell an objective story."  She kept a journal of 600 pages and interviewed numerous students and alumni.  So basically, Flinn was a journalist and figured cooking school would be good material for a book.  This just really turned me off.  At least be up front about it and acknowledge that "my cooking dream" is really code for "my book dream."

2.  The writing is elementary.  Forced descriptions and metaphors all over the place.  

3.  It's poorly organized.  It's short and jumpy and passages really don't flow at all.  I couldn't follow it.  To be honest I don't understand why the chapters are broken up the way they are - I don't know why there are chapters at all.  Basically, it just seems like an excuse to put a recipe at the end of each one.  

4.  Amidst the cooking discussion, the reader is also blessed enough to hear about Flinn's love life.  I'm sorry, I'm happy that she found true love.  I am.  But if I were her I would probably make it a priority in life to keep these cornball moments to myself, not publish them for public consumption.  These passages are just straight out of a bad romance novel.  

A few terrifying examples:
  • " we got to know each other, something always lingered below the surface.  One night ears later, in my London flat, we began to kiss.  For the first time, neither of us was in a relationship.  After a moment, I pulled away and, from out of nowhere, I heard myself say:  'If you stay ... it will be forever."  
  • "After dinner the first night, we strolled along the Piazza del Duomo, gently lit by a hazy moon.  He asked softly, 'Are you OK with forever now?'  With a kiss in the middle of the shadowy piazza, we crossed the thin line between platonic and passionate.  It took three years to get to that kiss."
  • " 'Good morning, sexy,' he says groggily, tugged from sleep.  'Good evening, handsome.'  I try to make my voice light.  Across the Seine, I see the Eiffel Tower explode with strobes..."
  • "By 9:00 p.m., he's wide awake, so we bundle up and go out with a vague plan to find somewhere to kiss in the cold, clear night air along the Seine..."

I'm evil.  I know.  I don't care.  

This book is proof of one of a few things:
  • I should be publishing a book at any moment, since apparently ANYONE can write a book nowadays.  Keep your eyes peeled!
  • I should be an editor, and as such would do my best to prevent such literary terrors from hitting shelves.  (Honestly, this book could have been saved - it could have been rewritten into success - I could be that savior!)
  • I should just continue to write snarky book reviews since I am clearly narcissistic enough to think people care about my literary opinions.

Those are 94 pages I won't get back.  I hope that I can protect others from the same sad fate.  

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