Monday, March 7, 2011

What is Writing?!

I am still reading Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery, a perfect book to be reading on the Blue Monday before the actual Fat Tuesday, let me tell you. And I'm not even Catholic, nor planning to give up anything for Lent.  Certainly not the Chocolate & Nut Frenzy array I got to serve to the Poetry Someday workshop I now teach at my kitchen table! (But what you see above is a Charlotte Russe.)

Last night I was even inspired by the book to watch Ratatouille, thinking it might somehow be a vague, uncredited source material for the film, which sometimes happens...but I have enjoyed reading about Ratatouille in Wikipedia and I applaud the on-the-scene research done by all those who made the film!

Of course, I fell asleep in the middle, so I will be watching it again, little by little, and as I continue to read the book. And will simply make mental notes of the remarkable coincidences.

Anyhoo, I was struck by this passage:  "What is writing, no matter how lavish the pieces, if it says nothing of the truth, cares little for the heart, and is merely subservient to the pleasure of showing one's brilliance?" Exactly!

The narrator of this section of Gourmet Rhapsody is reflecting on his work as a food critic and on the excellence of the tomato, but his words (which are of course the words of Muriel Barbery, a writer) apply to imaginative literature as well.

We could ask, "But who can know the truth?" and yet we know our personal truths and can be honest about those. Caring for the heart, to me, means caring for the hearts of others, not just my own. I wonder about this any time I read a virtuoso poem somewhere, enjoying it like a cream-filled, gloriously rich pastry. Afterwards, I remember nothing of it; it was a momentary delight, did not nourish me beyond the moment. Did it set up a craving? Not even that, in most cases. Will I enjoy the pleasure of such a pastry again? Yes, a thousand times, yes!

And so I do not judge the poem, nor write a critical review of the sort that Anton Ego writes in Ratatouille, the kind that can remove a star from a restaurant rating. I guess I simply note that this poem is a luscious dessert, and I will read others for sustenance.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Not being Catholic either, every day is Fat Tuesday for me! :)

Ratatouille co-inky-dinky: our food court is run by the culinary arts students. They served ratatouille last week and the student serving the food confessed to me that he had never heard of the dish, only the movie. :)

Kathleen said...

Life is good when you can say coinkydinky!

Julie Kistler said...

I wish I had a food court. I am wishing for ratatouille and Charlotte Russe when we will be having plain old spaghetti tonight.

Clearly I should not read your blog when I am hungry!

Collagemama said...

Oh, my! Words to live by.

"What is writing, no matter how lavish the pieces, if it says nothing of the truth, cares little for the heart, and is merely subservient to the pleasure of showing one's brilliance?" Exactly!

Mark Kerstetter said...

This reminds me of how I felt while plowing through one of Pynchon's books. It was like the Mother of All Wedding Cakes - huge, incredibly ornate, amazing really, but all sugar.

Kathleen said...

Mark, this is good to know. I have never made it all the way through a Pynchon book and didn't quite know why. Maybe this is why! I was much younger and thought I should try again later. We'll see. Not during Lent, anyway. And borrowed from the library, or my folks...