Sunday, March 14, 2010

Now that's what I call writing: Bret Easton Ellis

Now playing on the iPod: "Suite #3 in D, BMV 1068 - Air" - J. S. Bach

So I finally got around to reading Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. I'd always wanted to since its controversial publication. (To whom it may concern: it doesn't matter which end of the political spectrum you're on, if you tell me I shouldn't read a book or watch a movie or listen to an album, I'm going to be all over that book/movie/album like nobody's business. It's in my nature.)

Yes, there are some extremely gruesome scenes (one in particular I wish had never crossed my retinas, but it's too late to do anything about that now). But what no one ever told me is that this book is funny.

Probably the funniest aspect of the book is the descriptions of the food. (I nearly always love food descriptions in books.) Most of this food sounds so perfectly awful - oddball combinations like pinto beans with salmon and mint, or quail sashimi with grilled brioche - and it's clearly ordered just for the diners to show how affluent and stylish they are, not to actually EAT anything.

Which leads to the passage of the book that made me guffaw:

"The client had the boudin blanc, the roasted chicken and the cheesecake," he says.
"Cheesecake?" I say, confused by this plain, alien-sounding list. "What sauce or fruits were on the roasted chicken? What shapes was it cut into?"
"None, Patrick," he says, also confused. "It was...roasted."
"And the cheesecake, what flavor? Was it heated?" I say. "Ricotta cheesecake? Goat cheese? Were there flowers or cilantro in it?"
"It was just...regular," he says, and then, "Patrick, you're sweating."
"What did she have?" I ask, ignoring him. "The client's bimbo."
"Well, she had the country salad, the scallops and the lemon tart," Luis says.
"The scallops were grilled? Were they sashimi scallops? In a ceviche of sorts?" I'm asking. "Or were they gratinized?"
"No, Patrick," Luis says. "They were...broiled."
It's silent in the boardroom as I contemplate this, thinking it through before asking, finally, "What's 'broiled', Luis?"
"I'm not sure," he says. "I think it involves...a pan."

Reading over this passage, I'm realizing afresh why I let my subscription to a cooking magazine lapse: they started including recipes for things like green tea cheesecake, which sounds like something the characters in American Psycho would order.

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