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The Devil's Larder

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A sumptuous, scintillating stew of sixty four short fictions about appetite, food, and the objects of our desire

All great meals, it has been said, lead to discussions of either sex or death, and The Devil's Larder, in typical Cracean fashion, leads to both. Here are sixty four short fictions of at times Joycean beauty—about schoolgirls hunting for razor clams in the strand; or searching for soup-stones to take out the fishiness of fish but to preserve the flavor of the sea; or ...

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The Devil's Larder

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Overview

A sumptuous, scintillating stew of sixty four short fictions about appetite, food, and the objects of our desire

All great meals, it has been said, lead to discussions of either sex or death, and The Devil's Larder, in typical Cracean fashion, leads to both. Here are sixty four short fictions of at times Joycean beauty—about schoolgirls hunting for razor clams in the strand; or searching for soup-stones to take out the fishiness of fish but to preserve the flavor of the sea; or about a mother and daughter tasting food in one another's mouth to see if people really do taste things differently—and at other times, of Mephistophelean mischief: about the woman who seasoned her food with the remains of her cremated cat, and later, her husband, only to hear a voice singing from her stomach (you can't swallow grief, she was advised); or the restaurant known as "The Air & Light," the place to be in this small coastal town that serves as the backdrop for Crace's gastronomic flights of fancy, but where no food or beverage is actually served, though a 12 percent surcharge is imposed just for just sitting there and being seen.

Food for thought in the best sense of the term, The Devil's Larder is another delectable work of fiction by a 2001 winner of The National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Editorial Reviews

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Jim Crace, winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for his powerful novel, Being Dead, turns his hand to short fiction in this delightful collection of 64 stories revolving around the intense emotional connections we feel for food and drink. This is a richly realized collection, with characters that spring from the page.
From the Publisher
“Even by Crace’s standards, The Devil’s Larder is an extraordinary book.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The breadth and range of [Crace’s] inventiveness is astonishing.” —Chicago Tribune

“The writing is serenely, Nabokovianly accomplished; the imaginative range deeply impressive.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Crace creates in The Devil’s Larder an indelible sense of a living world, in which human culture is woven to its nonhuman surroundings through the strands of biological destiny and the texture of language itself.” —Boston Sunday Globe

“Cruel, lovely, full of passion and decay....With The Devil’s Larder, Crace has created a work where prose passes into poetry and back into prose, literature as both particle and wave.” —The Seattle Times

Charles Johnson
One of the brightest lights in contemporary British fiction.
Publishers Weekly
The line between nature and culture, according to Levi-Strauss, runs through our kitchens between the raw and the cooked. In Crace's book of 64 food fables, the raw and the cooked are sequenced in sometimes bizarre ways: a woman remembers her mother's version of "soup stone," its magic ingredient a stone found on the seashore; a famous restaurant in an isolated Third World locale becomes chic by supplying appetizers of "soft-bodied spiders, swag beetles, forest roaches" and, as a main dish, the famous Curry No. 3, which is rumored to contain human meat; researchers discover a food additive that causes sudden, unmotivated laughter and try it out at a waterfront restaurant on unsuspecting tourists. The gnomic pronouncements that often initiate these stories caan be strained. Not only is it not true that "there is no greater pleasure than to be expected at a meal and not arrive," it is not the kind of claim that leads us into an interesting paradox or thought experiment. Other pieces are successful at evoking the powerful childhood associations of food. A story about a boy whose neighbor becomes a suburban Thoreau, living outside, angling in a river, excreting on what he grows and then eating it and handing it out to be eaten by others, expresses elegantly the child's perception of the alien as both frightening and perversely fascinating. These fables are five-finger exercises simple, enjoyable, but lacking in depth. (Oct.) Forecast: Crace's previous novel, Quarantine, won the Whitbread Award, and Being Dead won a National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest is a diversion, but its subject matter and elegant jacket art may appeal to those who know Crace by reputation but were scared awayby the grimmer themes of Quarantine and Being Dead. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As evidenced by Being Dead, his National Book Critics Circle award winner, Crace is adept at creating unexpected worlds. In this tasty little collection, he has created many 64, to be exact. From the grandmother who tears off a bit of dough "for the angel" to the adventurers who risk a tiresome, slightly surreal hike to dine at an inexplicably famous restaurant to the manager who devises an ultimately self-defeating means of keeping his waiters from sampling what they are serving. Crace's tales all concern the relationship between people and food. Quirky, unsettling, and sometimes slightly macabre, these aren't stories, exactly; few run more than a page and a half, and the last one consists of two (admittedly loaded) words: "Oh honey." Instead, they are little scenes that capture the oddness of being human from a particular angle. This is not the big Crace we are waiting for after Being Dead each of his novels really is an event but is will certainly hold us. For larger literary collections in public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/01.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312420895
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/7/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 4.82 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Crace is the author, most recently, of Quarantine, which won the 1997 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Being Dead, which was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2000. His novels have been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Birmingham, England.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from The Devil's Larder by Jim Crace. Copyright © 2003 by Jim Crace. To be published in October, 2001 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Someone has taken of--and lost--the label on the can. There are two glassy lines of glue with just a trace of stripped paper where the label was attached. The can's batch number--RG2JD 19547--is embossed on one of the ends. Top or bottom end? No one can tell what's up or down. The metal isn't very old.

They do not like to throw it out. It might be salmon--not cheap. Or tuna steaks. Or rings of syruped pineapple. Too good to waste. Guava halves. Lychees. Leek soup. Skinned Italian plum tomatoes. Of course, they ought to open up the can and have a look, and eat the contents there and then. Or plan a meal around it. It must be something that they like, or used to like. It's in their larder. It had a label once. They chose it in the shop.

They shake the can up against their ears. They sniff at it. They compare it with the other cans inside the larder to find a match in size and shape. But still they cannot tell if it is beans or fruit or fish. They are like children with unopened birthday gifts. Will they be disappointed when they open up the can? Will it be what they want? Sometimes their humour is macabre: the contents are beyond description--baby flesh, sliced fingers, dog waste, worms, the venom of a hundred mambas--and that is why there is no label.

One night when there are guests and all the wine has gone, they put the can into the candlelight amongst the debris of their meal and play the guessing game. An aphrodisiac, perhaps; "Let's try." A plague. Should they open up and spoonit out? A tune, canned music, something never heard before that would rise from the open can, evaporate, and not be heard again. The elixir of youth. The human soup of DNA. A devil or a god?

It's tempting just to stab it with a knife. Wound it. See how it bleeds. What is the colour of the blood? What is its taste?

We all should have a can like this. Let it rust. Let the rims turn rough and brown. Lift it up and shake it if you want. Shake its sweetness or its bitterness. Agitate the juicy heaviness within. The gravy heaviness. The brine, the soup, the oil, the sauce. The heaviness. The choice is wounding it with knives, or never touching it again.

2

"This is for the angel," Grandma used to say, tearing off a strip of dough for me to take into the yard. "Leave it somewhere he can see." Sometimes I left the strip on the street wall. Sometimes I draped it on the washing line. Sometimes I put it on the outside windowsill and hid behind the kitchen curtain beads to spot the angel in the yard.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2002

    A Delicious Sampling of Short Stories

    I love Jim Crace - especially Quarantine, which is one of my favorite books. Devil's Larder, although a departure from Crace's novels, does not disappoint. The short (some very short)stories are inventive, entertaining, and deep all at once.

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    Posted December 26, 2008

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    Posted August 4, 2009

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