"Books" #51 and #52 of 2005 finished

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#51: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. I don't know why I picked this one up! Sometimes things just call to me off the shelves, and I take them home. Maybe it's because a good friend of Zteen's wants to become a chef, and I wanted to have some insight into what it would be like.

Well, if this memoir is true, then it's no wonder that Z's friend's parents are worried about what he wants to do. The restaurant world is portrayed as a very seamy world unto itself, where the rules for the rest of the world just don't apply. Bourdain likens it to being the captain and crew of a pirate ship, and I'd say that's a pretty apt metaphor.

A couple of things cracked me up about this book: #1, his list of things he will not eat in any restaurant. For someone who will eat darn near anything, it is funny to read: "Buzzword here, 'Brunch Menu'. Translation? 'Old, nasty odds and ends, and 12 dollars for two eggs with a free Bloody Mary.' and then:

I won't eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn't a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurants can't be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.

The second thing that made me laugh was his utter contempt for Emeril Legasse and most of the other cooks on the Food Network. He never mentions Emeril by name, but it is beyond obvious who he is talking about. Of course, this book was written before Bourdain had his own show on the Fine Living channel. Wonder if his views have changed now that he's a "sell-out" too! ;-)

#52: Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley. This play won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is one of the finest things I've read this year. It is very short--only 58 pages total--taking less than an hour and a half to perform, per notes I have read.

Four characters, Father Flynn--a youngish priest, in his late thirties; Sister Aloysius--principal of the school, in her late 50's early 60's; Sister James--teacher in the school, very young nun, in her twenties; Mrs. Muller--a student's mother, in her late 30's. The setting is St. Nicholas, a Catholic school and church in the Bronx, in 1964.

Sr. Aloysius becomes concerned about Fr. Flynn and his actions regarding the school's first black student. Is he involved in impropriety? Or he is just a warm and caring priest, offering a helping hand to a student ostracized by others? Is she a clear-eyed seer of truth? Or is she a frustrated nun who sees nastiness everywhere? Is Sister James a young, warm, caring teacher? Or is she a "performer", getting her strokes from the kids--and being overly naive about the goodness of children. And what to make of the mother? Pragmatist, or someone willing to sacrifice her child to keep peace in her home?

The play was given to my good friend, M, by an openly gay guy who obviously read it one way: Nun bad, priest hounded. M read it completely differently--much more open-minded about the nuns, but definitely on the side of the young nun being right. I read it and was completely on the side of the older nun. That three people can read the play and have such completely different takes on it, is, I think, what makes it worth reading. Also brings up issues of dealing with problems in the hierarchy of the Church--how does a nun (in 1964) fight against the "good old boys" feeling that protected priests. On the other hand, what if this single nun is WRONG in her assessment?

The director, as I suppose is always true, has immense power in how this play will come out. It would take great integrity to cast the play so that the "doubt" would remain. I think it would be greatly tempting for most modern directors to not make Sr. Aloysius one of those "repressed and crazy nuns", thereby discounting the power of the play.

And when you read the dedication to the play, you see, I think, where Shanley's heart is:

This play is dedicated to the many orders of Catholic nuns who have devoted their lives to serving others in hospitals, schools and retirement homes. Though they have been much maligned and ridiculed, who among us has been so generous?

If you enjoy reading drama at all, go get this play!

1 Comments

Hmm...Doubt doesn't recommend itself to me if there is that much room for interpretation. Sounds like poor writing to me. But perhaps I'll just have to look it over for myself. And a ComBox really isn't the best place to discuss dramaturgy and directorial choices.

As to the restaurant world...well, I know lots of people who work in it, for what that's worth. It can be really horrible, or not. Like every other business. I can find a half dozen books that extoll the hedonism and immorality of working in theater, accounting, or finance. And let's not get started on IT. What I'm trying to say is that anyone can write a "tell-all" book. It doesn't make a word of what they write any less fictional. And if ZTeen's friend is who I think it is, she should go forth and conquer. She's got the personality and the temperament to do really well.

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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on October 18, 2005 9:36 AM.

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