Entertaining Disasters

Overview


In print, FW, the unnamed freelance Food Writer of Nancy Spiller’s sardonic debut novel, Entertaining Disasters, lives high on the food chain in the heady realm of L.A.’s culinary journalism scene. She waxes poetic about her hip home gatherings, thinly veiling the identities of her Hollywood guest list. But in reality, FW’s been inventing the dinner parties she writes about because social paralysis sets in at the very thought of a real guest in her fabulous—or is it shabby?—hillside home. Enter the glossy food ...
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Entertaining Disasters: A Novel (With Recipes)

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Overview


In print, FW, the unnamed freelance Food Writer of Nancy Spiller’s sardonic debut novel, Entertaining Disasters, lives high on the food chain in the heady realm of L.A.’s culinary journalism scene. She waxes poetic about her hip home gatherings, thinly veiling the identities of her Hollywood guest list. But in reality, FW’s been inventing the dinner parties she writes about because social paralysis sets in at the very thought of a real guest in her fabulous—or is it shabby?—hillside home. Enter the glossy food magazine editor, new in town, who wants an invitation to one of her bashes, and the panic-stricken journey from fantasy hostess to reality bites is on.
Entertaining Disasters—at turns whimsical and deeply affecting—chronicles the struggle FW faces in the week before she hosts her first real dinner party in ages. At the same time, her estranged sister threatens to drop by, her husband takes off, and her house implodes. In the way of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, Spiller’s book is filled with the fabulous culinary lore and delicious-sounding recipes that have made FW’s writing such popular foodie mania. Now all she has to do is somehow bring this fantasy world into workaday reality.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Entertaining Disasters] is an extended brood on food, love, family, and the exhausting rat race of L.A. . . . it offers sharp, startling observations in a unique and very human voice." —Elle

"This zany novel (with recipes) will make you appreciate your own fallen souffles that much more." —Redbook

"With deftness and wit, Nancy Spiller delivers needle-sharp insights into middle-class life and marriage, while portraying the dissolution of a family and the rise of longing for a culinary salvation." —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black

"Cooking, we begin to see, allows FW to do what her family could not—meld warring ingredients into a harmonious whole. The looming dinner party is her bid for psychic as well as social redemption . . . Entertaining Disasters offers memoir's most potent pairing: the child's eye, sensual and vindictive, with the grown-up's aching heart . . . it's a testament to Spiller's skill as a narrator that tragedy and comedy begin to seem like a natural couple and that feeding a gathering of friends is the ultimate modern ordeal." —Ariel Swartley, Los Angeles Magazine

Publishers Weekly

The unnamed heroine of Spiller's debut is an L.A. epicurean who's made a career writing about her perfect dinner parties. The only problem? She hasn't thrown one in years-in fact, she dislikes socializing at all. But when a well-placed magazine editor asks for an invite, our heroine is forced to reproduce her fantasy life for a do-or-die dinner. What looks at first like a three-act rom-com spends hundreds of pages spinning its wheels, the paralyzed narrator pinging between food trivia and recollections of a neglectful, withholding mother. As promised, the novel contains recipes, but most are unexecutable and only some relevant. Aside from epicurean concerns, the heroine's focus sticks mainly to the flaws in her surroundings; there's no learning or growing, just a litany of worries over the coming party, lots of blame-throwing and unhappiness. Despite Spiller's clever way with words, her reach falls short of social satire, resulting in a static character study of a whining foodie. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A food writer prepares to host a dinner party. Step one: Grouse. Step two: Clear the skeletons out of the closet. The unnamed heroine of Spiller's debut novel is a journalist who made her reputation by living a lie-she's often written about the do's and don'ts of hosting the perfect dinner party but is terrified of hosting one herself. So when she's forced to entertain at her Los Angeles home to impress hotshot food-magazine editor Richard Cronenberg, she shifts into panic mode. In the early pages of the book, that means a lot of snarky commentary about the shallowness of Los Angeles, her estranged family and her nearly loveless marriage (she calls her husband "Somebody"), plus chapters that end with recipes whose directions add a dash of irony. What's initially set up as farce-Murphy's Law having its way with life-soon takes a severe tonal shift. The book integrates flashbacks to the heroine's mother, Lenore, whose sad, isolated life as a single mom led to institutionalization, electroshock treatments and the contempt of her extended family. This back story helps explain why the narrator is so high-strung about the dinner party: "I know what happens to women who can't do their job," she says. But Spiller never convincingly connects the Type A writer and the dour girl whose schizophrenic mom buried a botched Thanksgiving turkey in the backyard, though the writer tries a few metaphorical feints to sell the idea. (Both suffer wounds in a bathtub, for instance.) Naturally, the dinner plans go off the rails-Cronenberg cancels, Somebody goes on a business trip-but the story remains strangely bifurcated and static, with the narrator's present self smugly expounding about organicmarkets while her teenage self wrings her hands over her broken home. Her sister Hunter is something of a mediating influence, both in the narrator's life and in the novel's structure, but her role is heavily telegraphed-she's arriving with a mysterious present that's regularly referred to but not unpacked until the final pages. Earnest but undercooked.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582434513
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    Not what I expected

    "Entertaining Disasters" is not the witty tale of a food writer who is afraid to entertain, as I expected after reading the back cover. Rather, it is the story of a food writer who endured a horrible childhood that lingers with her still. This is a well-written book, with very moving passages about mental illness, neglect, abuse and loving in spite of that. However, the publisher should position it more accurately, so the reader can decide if that is what he/she wants to read, rather than the more escapist story that the cover (mis)promises.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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