Monday, May 23rd, 2011
The Short Take:
The true story of an uber WASP joining with his Korean wife and inlaws to purchase and run a deli in Brooklyn can’t help but be quite amusing. However, Howe made this journey a memoir about himself and , frankly, he’s the least interesting character.
The book is an enjoyable read. It is quite funny at times and peppered with those delightful characters that only come from the real world. But… OK, I admit I am not a memoir fan, though maybe I’ve just read the wrong ones. Reading about others’ self-examinations and insights simply tends to irritate me.
Howe didn’t go too terribly far in that self-analysis direction but whenever he did, I lost interest. I just can’t appreciate how miserable it must be working with George Plimpton (!) as senior editor for the highly prestigious The Paris Review. Wah, wah.
But I sure wish there had been more about the deli, his bulldog of a mother-in-law, Kay, his strangely forgetful wife, and the other intriguing characters in this book. Judging from the tantalizing small tastes Howe provided, a book centered on any of them could be a feast.
Reading along, one also experienced far too many “Wait a minute, what happened with…?” moments. Situations would be brought up, presented as important developments or potential conflicts, and then disappear unresolved. I kept expecting the tale to wind back to them again, but it never happened.
I wish Howe would write this book again, with himself in the background. Now THAT would be a grand read indeed.
A Little Plot:
Howe’s wife, Gab, decides she wants to thank her mother for all her sacrifices by buying her a deli (don’t ask me to explain the logic). Mom (Kay), she and Howe will be the owners. It takes awhile to find the right one and once they do things get off to a rocky start. Then unexpected debts start rearing their heads.
Meanwhile, Howe is trying to hide his waning interest in The Paris Review from owner Plimpton, and is worried about the literary magazine’s future as well as the deli.
In addition to juggling duties at the magazine and the deli, Howe struggles to reconcile his ancestors-on-the-Mayflower, conservative, Puritan upbringing with the social and mental skills necessary for a risk-taking entrepreneur.
I fyou want to know more, I found this interview with the author: Just click here.